Albertans are becoming more aware of the serious consequences of
environmental issues like climate change, and they want the government
to do something about it, starting in our elementary schools.

A new Ipsos Reid poll released Friday by the Alberta Council for
Environmental Education indicates an overwhelming
percentage of Albertans want environmental education and citizenship
skills taught in Alberta’s schools.

The poll findings were reported at
the “Building Bridges, Crossing Boundaries” International
Eco-Conference, presented by the Faculty of Social Work at the
University of Calgary, May 7 through 9.

“Our research clearly shows that Albertans want the government to make
environmental education a bigger priority in our school systems,” says
ACEE executive director Gareth Thomson.

“Fortunately, the elementary
science curriculum is currently under review. It’s imperative that
revisions to the curriculum include more environmental education and
opportunities for student action projects, so we can build the
sustainable society that we Albertans say we want.”

Mishka Lysack, Eco-Conference co-chair and assistant professor at the
University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work, says it's
imperative to move from mere understanding of environmental issues to
behaviour change.


“Starting from an early age, people need to learn how
to encourage government to ‘do the right thing’ to protect the
environment,” he says.

Poll findings include:

• Two-thirds of Albertans believe that more government action is needed
to solve the environmental problems facing Alberta, and 75 percent
believe that “schools in Alberta should give top priority to providing
students with opportunities to do environmental action projects.”

• Support was high for projects such as neighbourhood clean-ups (90
percent), educating others about local environmental issues (78
percent), and presenting to politicians on environmental issues (67
percent—over two-thirds of Albertans).

• Most Albertans also believe that environmental education should help
students increase their environmental knowledge and understanding of
environmental issues (88 percent), and build citizenship skills that
can help develop solutions to our most pressing environmental issues
(81 percent).

• Albertans are generally
uninformed about important environmental issues. Less than half of
Albertans claimed to know a great deal about any of the issues they
were asked about, including global climate change (45 percent), urban
sprawl around Alberta towns and cities (42 percent), pollution of water
in Alberta (33 percent), and endangered species in Alberta (29
percent). The majority of Albertans (53 percent) incorrectly believe
that “recycling all your paper and tins helps the environment more than
moving to a smaller, more fuel-efficient home.”

• The polling also shows a deficit in Albertans’ skills and
participation in public action to protect the environment. Only eight
percent of Albertans say they organize community action to protect the
environment as much as they can and 14 percent
of Albertans say they communicate their concerns about the environment
to their elected officials as much as they can.

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