I said I was going to relax and enjoy the luxury of a quiet hotel room with the kids while I'm here at the Environment Virginia conference in Lexington, Virginia. But I cannot resist sharing my experience with you all. It's too important not to!
Better World Betty is here as a honored guest and grantee of the Virginia Environmental Endowment, who gave us our first kick-off grant in the fall of 2010, without whom Betty would not be where we are today! (SO FIRST, THANK YOU!)
And so far, so... interesting and multi-faceted. I want to share with you some highlights and takeaways from the conference which runs from today, April 10-Thursday, April 12.
To begin the conference, a panel discussion was held of former Secretaries of Natural Resources (W. Tayloe Murphy, L. Preston Bryant,Jr., Becky Norton Dunlop, John Paul Woodley, Jr.) hosted by the current Secretary of Natural Resources, Doug Domenech. All had very different things to say about their biggest accomplishments and obstacles while in public service leadership position and even more interesting the top environmental challenges facing Virginia.
I won't bore you with every detail, but want to share some highlights with you.
It was inspiring to hear from M Tayloe Murphy and Preston Bryant about their land conservation successes (under Gov. Kaine the number reached 423,000 acres! Added parks and civilwar battlefields and Nature reserves - yeah)and the pivotal legislation on pollution reduction/clean water strategies in the monumental effort in Saving the Bay (still continuing -we're over halfway to eradicating the dead zone, but still have a lot of work to do).
The top environmental Challenges voiced by these folks?
*WATER supply and pollution concerns
*The possibility of lifting the ban of Uranium Mining in Virginia
AND my favorite (Thank you, Mr. Murphy):
*Getting leaders to DROP their partisan-driven idealogies and join in bi-partisanship and AGREE that there are some things in life (clean air, clean water, trees and greenspace) that supercede any political agenda. We MUST join together and agree! When we are able to do that, we are all better off knowing that the world we are leaving to our children will be secure and the natural beauty of the environment will be remain for generations upon generations.
Speaking of those generations... the afternoon session I chose was about the future of Environmental Education. As a former middle school teacher and with future Betty programs to include young people in sustainability action at the local level here in Charlottesville, I had to attend this session! (other session were Uranium Mining in Virginia - VERY concerned about this as well; Developing Renewable Energy in Virginia - my carpooling colleague from Albemarle County had this one covered; Manure to Energy - despite my desire to hang out with grass-fed roaming cows, more this didn't seem altogether applicable; and Stormwater Toolbox for Municipalities - my city partners/colleagues were in attendance here).
I enjoyed the session lead by Department of Environmental Quality Outreach Education folks, Ann Regn and Angela Neilan (who had HEARD OF BETTY! How cool was that?). We got to hear from Don Baugh of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation whose helping head up the No Child Left Inside Coalition (AWESOME - more to come on this!), Eric Pyle of JMU Prof, Eric Rhoades from VA Dept of Education in Richmond. Don has been in environmental education for over 30 years!
The highlight here for me was this inside scoop:
FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER there will be a summit at the White House (On MONDAY!) about the need for an environmental literacy plan for our schoolchildren in America!
Listen to this: Maryland (the state where I was born, incidentally) was the FIRST state to pass legislation that REQUIRES that all students in that state graduate with some level of proficiency in environmental literacy.
I hadn't been thinking in terms of a plan to have kids be required to have a basic level of understanding about their environment, I guess partly because that's common sense, right? But THIS IS SO FUNDAMENTAL. We have a DAILY relationship with the Earth, the place we live, work and play, that is totally in need of some serious couples therapy! We are still so disconnected from each other. How is the t-shirt I'm wearing right now connected to the planet? The water I just used to brush my teeth... where does it end up after it drains through the pipes? The turkey they served at dinner tonight. What's the connection. It's like I'm on some sort of blind date with the Earth, when we should at least be talking on a regular basis.
We are at a game changing moment in history, people, and we need to TAKE THIS STUFF TO SCALE, in Don Baugh's words, but HOW?
1-ENGAGE THE KIDS
2-DON'T DO IT AS AN ADD-ON CLASS, HAVE IT BE AN INTEGRAL PART OF EDUCATION - HAVE IT BE AN EXPECTATION
3-TEACHER TRAINING IS CRITICAL
4-POLICY! TO TAKE IT TO A NEW LEVEL WE MUST HAVE STANDARDS OF QUALITY WE WANT TO REACH
We need a HANDS-ON, embodied, experiential approach to environmental education!
An active and informed citizenship is essential
We need COLLABORATION and PARTNERSHIP and BI-PARTISANSHIP to move policy and action forward
WE NEED A LOCAL and CONTEXTUAL approach which should include Environmental Justice, History, Poetry, Literacy, Movement
i.e. We need BETTY to get funding for more programs! (Among other things. :-)
More from Environment VA tomorrow!
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Posted by BWB at 5:42 PM