Taking environmental action

Discover what it takes to be an environmental steward. Find ways to take positive action toward environmental issues and identify some examples of how to get involved.

The ultimate goal of environmental education is to produce environmentally literate and responsible citizens who are willing to take action toward environmental issues. Numerous people have taken this upon themselves and there exist many organizations that contribute to this cause. Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Rachel Carson, Gaylord Nelson and Jane Goodall are famed individuals who have all championed environmental causes. Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Audubon and Greenpeace are among the more notable environmental organizations with membership.

The fifth and final goal of Environmental Education (EE) as determined by the Tbilisi Declaration of 1977 is participation. The goal states: to provide social groups and individuals with an opportunity to be actively involved at all levels in working toward resolution of environmental problems. It is the opinion of Michigan State University Extension that this goal creates good stewards of the earth and develops an environmentally responsible lifestyle while helping resolve environmental issues. Environmental action is a culmination of the previous four goals of environmental education (awareness, knowledge, values, skills). 

Ways to get involved in environmental action fall into five main categories.

Persuasion: trying to convince others that a certain course of action is best. Examples include writing a letter to an editor or expressing your opinion at a public forum.

Consumerism: buying or not buying a product as a statement of one’s philosophy toward the product or manufacturer. Examples include refusing to buy non-recyclable containers; boycotts; buying products from companies trying to reduce waste/pollution. Every time you spend money, you are “voting with your dollars” and encouraging businesses to continue current practices.

Political Action: any action that brings pressure on political or governmental agencies in order to persuade them to take positive environmental action.

Legal Action: any legal or judiciary action taken which is aimed at some aspect of environmental law enforcement. Examples include law suits and injunctions.

Eco-management: any physical action taken with respect to the environment. Examples include planting trees, building and installing bird houses; you can get ideas for conservation projects by working with a local conservation district or conservation club. You can also help by raising funds to buy and preserve land through a conservancy effort.

There are many opportunities to get youth involved in environmental action and the process is simple and rewarding. Eco-management participation is probably the most common and easiest. Litter clean-ups, planting trees, lake restorations, building wood duck boxes and recycling drives are all good example of projects to involve youth. Consumerism is possibly the most difficult concept for youth to understand. It gets to the heart of wants versus needs along with economic impacts. Persuasion provides great opportunity to practice writing and speaking skills that can last a lifetime. Legal action is not as common with youth but can be seen in the news at local, state, national and international level. Political action affects all people as voters and citizens. The Michigan 4-H Youth Conservation Council provides an outstanding experience for youth working to resolve environmental issues.

Participation toward environmental issues is something we can all do and something we should do. All people should have a sense of responsibility to take care of the world we share with others. Big or small, at home, school or work, there is always some measure of environmental action we can participate in to foster a better quality of life. Involving youth will help create good stewards for the future and insure a good quality of life for generations to come.

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