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Silent Spring, Again

A little more than half a century ago, the ecologist Rachel Carson publishedSilent Spring about the devastating impact of industrial pesticides on the natural environment and human health. Her book caused a national outcry, changed public awareness of chemicals in our daily lives, and contributed significantly to the modern environmental movement.

Green Schools National Conference, March 2017

In March I had the good fortune to join the seventh annual Green Schools National Conference in Atlanta, the leading gathering of environmental educators focused on school sustainability.  Having attended every one of the Green School conferences since the movement was launched in Minneapolis in October 2010, at the beginning of my new career developing sustainable schools, I was pleased and proud that the conference itself was one of our best.  We were challenged in the early years to run big conferences in cities across the country, from Boulder to Sacramento, from West Palm Beach to Virginia Beach, but this conference was directed by the U.S. Green Building Council and its new, young leader of the Center for Green Schools Anisa Heming. 

People’s Climate March: A Report from the Field

In the new year, I made a pledge to intensify my efforts on behalf of our environment and to fight climate change.  The new administration has made plain its plans to roll back the progress we have made over the past fifty years--in sharp rhetoric, threatening executive orders, and the appointment of anti-environmentalists to lead the EPA, the Departments of Interior and Energy, and in calls to abrogate our commitments to the Paris Climate Accords.  My pledge includes my own continued education, lobbying elected officials, direct action, and support for the church green team I lead.  As someone raised in a Republican household in the Midwest, I find it troubling that all these efforts serve to undermine the significant contributions the environmental movement has made to our economy and now threaten to cede leadership in renewable power to China.

Citizen Science: Real World, Hands On Environmental Education

Last fall I joined my friend Alan Fish, director of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory at the Marin Headlands, to watch the annual hawk migration.  Having just read the haunting memoir H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald about raising a goshawk to help deal with the pain of losing her father, I wanted to see some of these magnificent birds up close.  On any given day from August to November, it is possible to see hundreds of raptors--Red-Tailed and Sharp-Shinned Hawks, Peregrin Falcons, Northern Harriers and Turkey Vultures--as they funnel over the narrow Golden Gate on their way south.   Since founding GGRO in 1985, Alan Fish, who has a background as an evolutionary and conservation biologist trained at UC Davis, has been the ambassador for one of the country’s most successful programs to engage citizens as volunteers to count, band and track hawks.

Discovering Energy Star Portfolio Manager

For years I have recommended that schools use the EPA Portfolio Manager to establish baseline data on energy and water use and to benchmark their performance.  This spring I conducted the analysis for a church in Berkeley CA in order to learn the details of how to use this instrument.  The article below provides a snapshot of the findings and the impact.  For more information on Energy Star, visit https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/facility-owners-and-managers/existing-buildings/use-portfolio-manager.

 

First Church Awarded an Energy Star

Building the Environmental Education Movement: The National Green Schools Network

In the fall of 2010 just after I retired as principal of Head-Royce School in Oakland, California, I began a journey to help grow greener, more environmentally sustainable schools.  That fall I joined the first gathering of the newly-formed Green Schools National Network (GSNN, https://greenschoolsnationalnetwork.org/), a collaboration of public, private and parochial schools from around the country working to promote environmental education and sustainability.  The meeting attracted some 800 participants from across the country in four different areas: formal school-based educators, environmental educators from the non-profit world, corporate representatives, and higher education.

The conference created a vision for our nation’s 132,000 schools to reduce their footprint, develop healthy operations, and adopt an ecological curriculum.

We Can Do This: Education, Energy and Climate Change

In early May I participated in an inspiring conference at Stanford called “Setting the Climate Agenda for the Next U.S. President” and came away with renewed optimism.  Joining with several hundred educators, researchers, government officials and business leaders, we reflected on the “strategies the next President might employ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the United Stated’ pivot to a clean energy economy.”  At a time when the challenge of climate change can seem daunting, especially to those like me who work with the rising generation in K-12 schools, this meeting gave me renewed hope.  As keynote speaker and former secretary of state, George Schultz, observed, “Climate change is a big problem, we have the technical know-how to address it, and we can do this.”

A Time to Choose

When I was the Head of Head-Royce School in Oakland, I worked closely with a gifted architect, Jeff Horowitz, who as chair of the board of trustees helped inspire our effort to make the school greener and more environmentally sustainable.  After his service at the school, Jeff created a non-profit in 2007 called Avoided Deforestation Partners (http://adpartners.org/) along with a group of internationally recognized tropical forest experts.  They understood that one of the best ways to mitigate the impact of climate change is to stop cutting our forests.

 ADP has had a significant impact in the movement to address climate change, most recently screening a short, powerful film at the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris called “Stop the Burning.” 

NAIS Green Ribbon Schools Receive National Recognition

On Earth Day U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. announced that five NAIS schools had been selected as Green Ribbon Award recipients for 2015-16, a recognition that they are among the most environmentally sustainable schools in country.  This year’s NAIS Green Ribbon Schools include:

California Environmental Literacy Blueprint Released

This past year I was glad to serve on Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s Environmental Literacy Task Force, and I was delighted the new California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy was released to the public on September 15, 2015 by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
The plan presents a vision for how all 6 million students in California can become environmental stewards and help address the significant environmental challenges we face.  California is our nation’s largest and most diverse state, with a legacy of pioneering work in the field of environmental education and green and sustainable schools.  I am proud of the new Blueprint for Environmental Literacy, and I hope it informs not only our work in the state, but across the nation. 

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