EarthTalk: I’m thinking about starting
an environmental club in my middle school. Can you give
me some ideas about how to start? Can you connect me with
other school clubs?
-- Rosemary, Andover Township, NJ
an environmental club at school is a great way to
get fellow students involved in environmental issues.
Pictured: students and an advisor from REEF, an environmental
club at Rye Neck (NY) high school in front of the
banner they made for "Save Our Shoreline,"
a rally held on the shores of Long Island Sound.
© StepItUp, Courtesy Flickr
an environmental club at school is a great way to get students
energized about taking care of the Earth and helping their
community while learning about some of the most important
issues facing the world in the 21st century.
a non-profit environmental network for teens, teachers and
youth leaders, offers many tips on how to start an environmental
club. First and foremost is to make sure there are at least
a half dozen or so other students interested in forming
such a club to begin with, and then also finding a teacher,
community leader or parent who is willing to serve as an
adult sponsor. The sponsor’s role is to provide advice
along the way and to help ensure the stability of the group
from year-to-year given that all of the students, even the
founders of the club, will eventually graduate, or move
on to other interests or endeavors.
the core membership and adult sponsor have been established,
EarthTeam suggests all sitting down together to decide on
the club’s vision (“Why are we here?”)
and to brainstorm about possible activities or projects
to undertake (“What do we want to accomplish?”).
Once these questions have been answered, it’s time
to hold the club’s first official meeting, which should
be advertised as widely as possible to other students who
may be interested in finding out what the group is about
and how they can get involved, too.
next step, according to EarthTeam, is to forge an action
plan that focuses on one group-oriented, year-long project
that has measurable benefits to the school or community
and that can keep the interest of the student members—who
will no doubt be spending long hours volunteering. Whatever
project(s) the group decides on, members should develop
a timeline that clearly lists goals, dates and responsibilities.
addition to undertaking the one major project, clubs can
also host or sponsor special events for extra visibility.
EarthTeam suggests getting students outside for a river
or beach clean-up, a tree planting day, or a field trip
to a local wetland, zoo or nature reserve. Another popular
idea is to hold an Environmental Awareness Day to educate
the entire student body about relevant green issues.
is also a networking platform so clubs can work together
and share experiences with each other to help get a sense
of the bigger picture beyond one individual school’s
locale, given the global nature of most environmental issues.
Another great networking resource is the Greenspan website,
which lists clubs in 21 different U.S. states as well as
in Australia, Canada, Japan, Ghana and Malaysia.
great resource for those starting up new or managing existing
school environmental clubs is the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency’s (EPA’s) Student Center website, which
offers dozens of ideas for projects that both stimulate
and enlighten participants while helping the local community.
The website also provides links to several partner non-profit
groups with club-worthy activities.
Environmental Club Network; U.S.
EPA Student Center.
EarthTalk: How can the new Obama administration
and/or Congress undo the many anti-environmental actions
the Bush administration undertook over the last eight years,
including the obstruction of Bill Clinton’s landmark
“roadless rule” legislation?
-- Ann Lyman, Lake Tahoe, CA
Before he left office, President Clinton issued the
"roadless rule" executive order in an attempt
to protect 58.5 million acres of national forest land
from commercial logging. George Bush spent much of
his eight years tying it up in the courts (while also
opening up millions of acres of public land to other
forms of commercial exploitation like oil and gas
exploration). Barack Obama promised during his campaign
that he would work with Congress to codify the "roadless
rule" as the law of the land.
The Bush administration
has certainly been no friend to the environment. Besides
working for eight years to overturn the Clinton administration’s
“Roadless Rule” that prevented road building
(and the logging that usually follows) on 58.5 million acres
of national forests, the Bush White House has opened up
45 million additional acres of public land across the American
West to oil and gas drilling during its tenure.
Right now Bush
is pushing to open up thousands more acres in sensitive
areas around three national parks in Utah to more oil and
gas extraction. According to The New York Times, these new
oil and gas “leases” (the government leases
drilling rights on public land to private companies) will
be auctioned off on December 19, 2008, the last day the
White House may carry out such transactions before leaving
team insiders have already hinted that they will work to
overturn the Utah oil and gas leases once they are in power.
Obama’s trump card might be the fact that Bush failed
to give his own National Park Service (NPS) sufficient opportunity
to comment on the proposed leases before forcing them through.
Green leaders hope that Obama can at least re-set the decision-making
process to give the NPS and other interested parties time
to voice their concerns before the oil rigs and gas pipelines
move in. Green leaders also hope that, beyond stopping the
Utah leases, Obama will curtail the number of leases sold
altogether, in part by forcing extraction firms to develop
sites they already have rights to before leasing more acreage.
Oil companies have already leased 68 million acres of lands
they have yet to access.
On the Roadless
Rule, itself an 11th-hour executive order by Bill Clinton
that has been mired in the courts since Bush tried to overturn
it in 2001, Obama promised during the campaign that he would
work with Congress to codify it as the law of the land.
Luckily for greens, the back-and-forth on the issue over
the past eight years has meant that only seven miles of
new roads—yielding access to just 500 acres of timber—have
been cut on lands slated for protection under the Roadless
Rule during Bush’s tenure.
Obama also has
his work cut out on a number of other environmental initiatives
ignored or opposed by the Bush White House. Chief among
them is taking action on global warming. If one can believe
the campaign rhetoric, Obama will work to get the U.S. on
track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050
through a number of initiatives. Jason Grumet, the Obama
campaign’s lead energy and environment advisor, has
indicated that the president-elect plans to move quickly
on getting climate change legislation through in 2009 and
working to make the U.S. a leader on mitigating global warming.
Another way Obama
can win green friends is to undo a Bush proposal, slated
to take effect in December, to cut wildlife experts out
of decisions affecting plants and animals protected under
the Endangered Species Act. Bush has faced sharp criticism
for disregarding or ignoring the input of scientists on
many issues. Obama seems likely to want to re-assert the
importance of science in policy decision-making.
Obama on the Issues; U.S.
Forest Service Roadless Rule Information.