CELF, Environmental Literacy, and Water

Water Map Photo
Photo courtesy of celfeducation.org

At Sustainable Summer, we’re focused on developing the future leaders and advocates of environmental sustainability through experience-based environmental education programs. There are many other great environmental education organizations out there. One of those is CELF, the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation. “CELF’s mission is to make sustainability education an integral part of every school’s curricula and culture, from kindergarten through high school.” That’s a mission we can definitely get on board with

CELF is also doing some great work raising awareness about water-related issues. I’ve posted previously on the subject of water; as a whitewater kayaker and river advocate, it’s a subject that’s near and dear to my heart. But water as an environmental issue is frequently off the radar of many of Americans. Of the “big three” sustainability issues – agriculture, energy, and water – I feel like water is least often in the media and a part of everyday conversation. There are reasons for that. Food and energy have geopolitical dimensions that water does not, at least not in regions of the US outside of the arid west. Food and energy are subject to much wider and frequent fluctuations in consumer price and are purchased by consumers on a daily or weekly basis, whereas our monthly water bill is usually pretty predictable. Celebrity chefs, reality TV, and a well-organized organic movement have elevated food into a center of focus for many Americans. Similarly, as the subject of climate change has increasingly become a part of regular conversation, consumers have looked at their own energy consumption as a way to reduce their environmental footprint.

But for the majority of Americans, water is something that comes out of the tap reliably, cheaply, and harmlessly. Not so for billions of people around the world. 1 billion people don’t have enough access to clean drinking water. Another 1 billion don’t have access to enough water for sanitary purposes. And these problems will grow in scope as population increases and freshwater supplies decrease due to climate change and pollution. Even in the US, one the most resource rich nations on the planet, we don’t have enough water in dry western regions, like Southern California and Arizona. The Colorado River hasn’t reached the ocean since the mid-1980s, its water siphoned off for (highly inefficient) agricultural purposes. But that’s a subject for another day…

For students and teachers interested in water issues, check out CELF’s Water Guide, which has lots of great resources. For students and parents looking to explore this issue in depth over the summer, check out our program for high school students on natural resource management in Ecuador’s Amazon, which features a focus on water uses in the region.