Is There a Concerted Effort in Congress to Wipe Out Environmental Education Funding?

At first glance it seemed to me that environmental education spending cuts in Congress must be symptomatic of the broader trend to reduce federal spending in light of our nation’s deficit.  But looking at the bigger picture over the last few months, I’m not so sure anymore…

Why, as the budget is being trimmed by 10-20%, is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) environmental education program being eliminated entirely? (This national program has been modestly funded for nearly 20 years, recieving just $9.7 million last year.)  Why are some in Congress attacking basic environmental protections like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, climate change research and the Endangered Species Act?

And please tell me why Congresswoman Adams of Florida is offering amendments to prohibit education about energy efficiency of all things?  Here’s the official summary of that amendment that was fortunately defeated!

“An amendment to prohibit the use of funds for maintaining, developing, or creating any Web site which disseminates information regarding energy efficiency and educational programs on energy efficiency specifically to children under 18 years of age.”

Why are some in Congress so averse to balanced, age-appropriate, engaging environmental education?

I have my theories…

Part of me fears that there is indeed a concerted effort by ultra-conservatives in Congress to stop education about the natural world. I hope I’m wrong!  And there is actually some strong evidence of the growing bi-partisan support for environmental education.

Did you know that more than 70 Republicans have co-sponsored legislation or voted in support of environmental education in the last three years?  Many on both sides of the aisle see sound environmental education as critical to America’s competitiveness and ability to innovate in a global economy.

I frankly believe that we in the environmental education community (myself included!) must do a better job in telling a compelling story in Congress about why environmental education is critical, not just “nice to do.” The research that so clearly shows the multiple benefits of environmental education for student achievement, creativity, innovation, America’s competitiveness, interest in science and math, and so much more.  Yet our key programs are the first to be cut, and not just cut, but completely eliminated.

Without this critical support from EPA, and other agencies that support environmental education like the U.S. Forest Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others, we will be leaving future generations in the dark, missing critical knowledge to be successful in life.

We will leave them in the dark about how to make good decisions that impact the air they breathe, the water they drink and new opportunities of the clean energy economy.  We could lose a generation that will be faced with monumental environmental challenges and no skills or knowledge to not only adapt, but thrive in this new reality.

The good news is, there’s still time to act, to fight back, to tell your Representative and Senators that we are not going away, that environmental education will not be eliminated.  Future generations will rely on our advocacy over the next few weeks as we try to turn around these proposed House cuts when the Senate considers their spending bills.

I hope you will join us by calling your Members of Congress, signing up for regular updates and calls to action for environmental education funding or following me on Twitter @PatrickNWF.