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:

  • The 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 constituencies.

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, PLTF:

  • 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.

Chapter 1
Table of Contents