An educated and informed public is our nation's most
powerful resource for meeting the challenges created by increasing
environmental, economic, and social equity demands. Recognizing the
importance of education, the President's Council on Sustainable
Development (PCSD) established the Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education
Task Force (PLTF).
PLTF's policy recommendations focus on education,
access to information, outreach, and development of sustainable
communities and a sustainable workforce; these are described in depth in
the body of this report. The following summarizes how the Task Force
achieved its first mandate - that of public outreach and dialogue. Through
that process, which was consensus building in nature, the PLTF was able to
accomplish its second mandate - the formulation of policy recommendations
for consideration by the President.
As consumers and producers,
individuals make choices that cumulatively have local-, national-, and
even global-scale impacts on societies, economies, and environments.
Without education and outreach among the public, the societal consensus
needed to redirect our nation toward a sustainable path cannot be
attained. Education and outreach thus are necessary for a sustainable
future. PLTF aimed its outreach to the public at large, with specific
reference to the following key constituencies:
youth of today are the nation's future. It is important that they
acquire the substantive knowledge and skills needed to become responsible
citizens who can help bring about sustainability in their homes,
workplaces, and communities.
- Business leaders and employees
can have a significant effect on consumer and product choices which will
ultimately affect - positively or negatively - our nation's ability to
become more sustainable.
- Federal, state, local, and Native
American tribal policy makers and local community leaders are primary
target audiences because their active leadership is essential.
- Researchers and educators help youth and adults acquire the
knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for sustainability.
- Civil rights, religious, environmental, and nonprofit
organizations are important links to community and grassroots
The PLTF outreach effort encouraged fresh
approaches to increase public dialogue; served as a catalyst for
developing local, regional, national, and international sustainability
agendas; facilitated the flow of information; and provided a central point
for disseminating information on the Council's deliberations. To this end,
- involved Council members in a variety of conferences,
- identified and promoted dialogue among states and local regions that
had developed sustainability plans or were in the process of doing so,
- initiated demonstration projects that reached out directly to educate
our nation's young people and teachers about sustainable development, and
- distributed written information from and about the Council via print
and electronic media.
PLTF also hosted dialogues, roundtables, and fora around the country,
thereby providing a valuable opportunity for the Council to hear about
the lessons learned in local communities -- which are often considered
the breeding grounds for innovative ideas on sustainability. Several
landmark PLTF dialogues and fora are highlighted below:
- In March 1995, approximately 200 people from across New England
attended a public PCSD forum -- Achieving a Sustainable New England -- at
Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford,
Massachusetts. The purpose of the forum, which PLTF co-hosted, was to
inform citizens about PCSD's work and to hear testimony on issues related
to New England's sustainability efforts. Citizens were invited to voice
their hopes and concerns about New England's future and their ideas for
achieving sustainable development in the region. Testimony -- which has
now been compiled into a report, Achieving Sustainable Development in
New England -- was given on regional issues, such as fisheries and
defense diversification, that are affecting or promoting community
sustainability. A public comment period followed the testimony, allowing
environmental representatives, health officials, and citizen leaders from
around New England to advise the Council.
- An international roundtable, which included a diverse group of
citizens from the San Francisco Bay Area, was hosted by PLTF to focus on
international issues. Many of the topics discussed became the basis for a
chapter on international leadership in the Council's report,1
and helped formulate the Task Force's action item on international
education for sustainability. In particular, the participants noted that
part of shifting to sustainability requires an examination of the root
causes of the "global eco-crisis," including massive media,
"techno-worship," and the lack of a geological time frame. Overcoming
obstacles requires a global understanding of the effects that one
country's actions and policies have on the health and well-being of
another country, coupled with domestic solutions to unsustainable
practices. The roundtable concluded that this was best achieved through a
"think globally, act locally" credo -- a message to be explained and
publicized through strong educational programs emphasizing individual,
community, business, and national responsibilities to the global community.
- In April 1995, the PCSD held a meeting in San Francisco which focused
on education for sustainability. Part of that focus was to incorporate
youth into all facets of the dialogue. A youth-led roundtable was held
with local area youths to discuss issues and problems that were barriers
to sustainability. Concerns were raised about increasing societal ills
such as drugs, violent crime, teen pregnancy, lack of access to education
and jobs, and the environmental degradation of the earth. The youth were
hopeful that by continuing to talk and work together to find common
solutions, a more sustainable environment could be created for future
generations. Two youth representatives to the Council, James Hung (a PLTF
member) and Amy Weinberg (a member of PCSD's Sustainable Communities Task
Force) communicated the results of the forum to the Council members
during the PCSD meeting.
These -- and many more -- meetings, roundtables, dialogues, and other fora
were central to shaping the Council's work and PLTF's policy
deliberations: the goal was to make the Council's work as inclusive as
possible. Thousands of people from multiple sectors responded to the
Council's request for participation in the PCSD process. Participants
drafted, reviewed, and commented on the work of the Council at each stage
of development. They also shared project information, materials, and
success stories -- all of which greatly enriched this process.
The Task Force members took all the information from dialogues and
roundtables, coupled with their personal and professional expertise, and
embarked upon an ambitious process to develop policy recommendations.
Their goal was to identify the potential policy areas that needed to be
addressed and highlighted in the national sustainable development action
strategy being developed by the PCSD. This process was unique in that it
brought together the different components of education -- formal (K-12 and
postsecondary); nonformal (media, museums, extension, and continuing
education); workforce and vocational training, and outreach. Within each
education component, a variety of education stakeholders were represented
-- teachers, the private sector, NGOs and environmental organizations.
This approach enabled a variety of innovative ideas to be represented and
it fostered a sense of ownership of the product -- the recommendations for
policies and associated action items.
- The January 1995 education-related meeting kicked off PLTF's policy
process. The focus of that meeting was on nonformal education. PLTF
members heard from a variety of formal and nonformal educators about the
benefits of linking the community to education efforts. To further their
education for sustainability efforts, the Task Force hosted a community
forum in Chattanooga which was moderated by a local student.
- In February 1995, the Task Force led a forum sponsored by S.C.
Johnson & Son, Inc., and hosted by the Global Rivers Environmental
Education Network in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At the forum, a group of
visionary leaders from academia, public relations firms, nonformal
education programs, business, government, and non-governmental
organizations gathered to formulate policy recommendations that looked
beyond incremental educational reform to focus on lifelong learning
emphasizing holistic relationships with the environment and communities.
- In February 1995, PLTF members teamed up with a diverse group of
educators from around the globe to participate in a workshop to develop
principles of sustainability in higher education. This PLTF forum was
hosted in Essex, Massachusetts, by Second Nature, a nonprofit
organization that helps universities craft sustainability plans. The
forum helped shape the Council's recommendations on higher education and
sustainability and produced a booklet entitled Workshop on the
Principles of Sustainability in Higher Education.
- In March 1995, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., hosted a forum held in
Washington, D.C., chaired by Madeleine Kunin, Deputy Secretary of the
U.S. Department of Education. Educators and administrators attended this
roundtable, whose purpose was to review the policy recommendations
formulated at the Ann Arbor meeting and determine whether the paradigm
shift outlined in those recommendations was realistic. There was
consensus among the participants that the policies were on the right
track for directing the nation's efforts at educating for sustainability.
This report is a compilation of the consensus findings, including policy
recommendations and suggested action items, arrived at through the
efforts of the PLTF outreach and dialogue process. It expands upon
recommendations in the PCSD report, Sustainable America: A New Consensus,
by highlighting more examples and success stories of sustainability in
action. This report also provides a resource guide, found in "Appendix
C," to assist individuals and organizations in making new linkages to
advance sustainability initiatives and programs.
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