Economic Progress Commands Commitment to Environmental Education, Green Jobs Training

U.S. Capitol (via Flickr's Krossbow)

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama pledged to fuel our economic recovery through clean energy investments.

“We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time,” Obama said.

Obama also encouraged innovation in America through investments in education. “We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time.  We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” he said.

This quote left me wondering, can we have a green economic turnaround without a green education turnaround?   The United States must invest in clean energy technology, new research and its education systems, but if we do not integrate education with the environment, will we actually be competitive in the global clean energy economy?  The answer is “no”.

Why not?  Because surveys (PDF) tell us that Americans do not have a firm understanding of how energy and their environment impacts our lives, communities and wallets.  Without this understanding, and without strong environmental education in our classrooms, how will Americans take full advantage of the opportunities for a green economic turnaround and make it a reality?

Today the federal government invests just pennies per capita in environmental education.  Yet environmental education is a method of teaching that we know increases interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, improves critical thinking skills, boosts motivation to learn, and boosts test scores across the board

While the 112th Congress and President Obama are calling for flat-lining or cutting federal spending in 2011, National Wildlife Federation and its partners will work to ensure that the federal investment in environmental education grows in the coming years.

In addition to supporting funding, passing legislation like the No Child Left Inside Act will help integrate environmental education into K-12 and STEM education.  Whether or not Americans have this foundation in environmental education will be a significant factor in our nation’s success at remaining competitive in the global, clean energy economy.

I hope you will join us in the coming year in supporting environmental education for a green economic recovery.  Please consider signing up for policy updates on environmental education and reconnecting children, youth and families with nature at You can also follow me on Twitter @PatrickNWF.