A simple way of looking at environmental literacy is that it is the act of learning about the environment and then using that knowledge to make conscious decisions in one’s day-to-day life. It is also the acknowledgement and care taking of our surroundings, especially because they everyone and everything.
The other day I was taking a hike in a local park. I stopped by a pond pouring over a break of reeds and enjoyed the quiet and calm rushing water. I looked around and found a small brown newt walking across the bridge near me. I nearly stepped on him. I suddenly became aware of everything around me. I walked a little further and found a sign that gave the history of the park I was in. It used to be a lumber operation. What they didn’t realize is that the trees they were cutting down left many animals without a habitat. It became a marsh and was starting to lose all its soil. Luckily, the area became protected under the state and they started replanting the area. The beavers came back and dammed up the pond, the newts and birds came back, and the landscapes were slowly restored. The large mosquito populations went down as well.
I bring you this story because without environmentally literate people, this place wouldn’t exist. These animals and structures they have created wouldn’t exist. It’s important that we teach our children and future generations about these things because they are rapidly disappearing. I fear that one day, the elusive polar bear will become extinct. They will tell stories about it much like the dodo. They will treat it like a unicorn, a mythical beast that only fantasy can capture and make living. The thought that such a large and powerful animal could be disappear in a few decades is quite a frightening idea. Now, I’m not saying go and donate all your money to an animal organization, although you’re free to do so. I’m saying go and read. Read to your children. Take them outside into the beautiful parks that so many cities offer. Teach them about polar bears and tigers. Teach them about trees and birds and the weather. Help them explore the open landscapes and become future stewards of the forests, seas and mountains.
Here at The Dignified Learning Project, we care deeply about what will impact our students. It is only natural that we include an environmental literacy portion to our literacy program. A man named Gandhi once said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
In other words, learn and do. Become environmentally literate. Help your children become environmentally literate and help make a change.