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Toward Better Stewardship of our Planet

Better Living through Environmental Education

By OWJ Staff Writers, reporting from Clinton, WA

It's been more than 30 years since the emergence of the mainstream environmental movement. Yet today, while awareness of environmental issues is extremely high many people fail to recognize that personal choices and personal consumption are the major factors contributing to many of our most pressing environmental issues.

In order to make significant progress, how do we begin changing lifestyles and habits harmful to the earth's health? How can we change attitudes and influence others to follow a more sustainable path?

While there is no magic bullet or answer, one clue might be found in a study of animal behavior during the 1950s.

Known as the 'Hundredth Monkey" project, researchers studying a population of monkeys on an island in Japan noticed that if the younger members of the troupe learned a new behavior - in this case, washing sand off a sweet potato - the behavior quickly spread to other members of the troupe.

However, when a few stalwart old-timers refused to adopt the behavior, it stopped short of being adopted by the entire population. It was later learned that as the old-timers died off, the behavior did eventually reach the whole population.

Taking a lesson from the animal kingdom, it was apparent that behaviors could change within a generation if the right individuals received and adopted the new information. And who were the "right" individuals in this case?

The youth!

The implications are clear. By giving people - young as well as old - the opportunity to communicate and share their stories about nature and the environment, we can facilitate changes in attitudes and behavior that can benefit the planet. The Learning Our World channel was developed to provide youth, environmental educators, teachers, authors, journalists and conservation groups with a place to share stories that might reveal solutions to some of the environmental problems that we face today.

Together, our stories can influence change.

In addition to the stories contributed by members of the Journeys Corps, we will present Feature Articles in the Learning Our World channel introducing outstanding Environmental Education programs like Langley Middle School's Adventure Education Program, the Four Corners School in the Colorado Plateau and the Water Habitat Project in Pullman, Wash.

We will also provide educators with the information they need to become involved with youth oriented global networks like the Jane Goodall Institute's Roots and Shoots program. The Jane Goodall Institute's international environmental and humanitarian program for young people currently has over 3000 Roots and Shoots groups registered in more than 68 countries around the world. If education focused eco-travel is what you're interested in we'll be introducing you to field expedition experiences of organizations such as the Children's Environmental International, the Earthwatch Institute and many others.

Learning Our World will also introduce you to non-profit groups in need of attention, and eager for help. For instance, one such organization we'll report on is the Songbird Foundation, a conservation group working with global coffee corporations to address declining numbers of songbirds and acres of rainforest impacted by coffee production.

Through our stories and yours, we can share knowledge and inspiration, and nurture in our youth in particular a concern for the natural world. Then perhaps, like the monkeys in Japan, we can foster within a new generation changes in behavior that impact the health of the world around us.

About the author
One World Journeys is an award-winning online presentation about our natural world. Featuring their trademark "live" expeditions, and the new Journeys Corps of Storytellers, One World Journeys is building connections between people and groups through inspirational storytelling.

Send us a Letter to the Editor.

Langley Middle School - Service Learning Leader
The Jane Goodall Institute's Roots and Shoots Program
The Earthwatch Institute
Earthwatch in the Arctic, by Mimi Hassett
Learning, Fun and Adventure, by Bane Sansted, 7th Grade


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