World Resource Institute

Education and Outreach

Education and outreach include shaping values through environmental education in schools, building knowledge and skills through outreach to communities and industry, and raising public awareness and support for political action through targeted communication campaigns.

Environmental Education

Environmental education helps shape values and raise environmental awareness from an early age. It focuses on teaching the inherent value of the environment; the interconnectedness of environment, economy, culture, and health; and how human actions affect the environment. Environmental education may be the most important avenue for addressing the indirect drivers of eutrophication. It informs people about how the choices they make ultimately impact the environment and can lead to changes in individual behaviors and lifestyles that reduce nutrient pollution.

While some countries incorporate environmental education into primary and secondary school curricula, many do not. For instance, environmental education is lacking in many former Communist countries in the Black Sea region; as a result, social attitudes reflect the low value placed on the environment (McQuatters-Gallop and Mee 2007). Despite efforts by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in countries such as Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, and Ukraine, environmental education is still not widely incorporated in school curriculums.

In contrast, environmental education is an important component of efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay in the United States. As part of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, states within the Chesapeake Bay drainage area agreed to incorporate Chesapeake Bay issues into school curriculums. For example, Chesapeake 2000 stipulates that every student residing in the Chesapeake Bay region should have a “meaningful Chesapeake Bay and/or stream experience” before graduation from high school (Chesapeake Bay Program 2001).

Public Awareness

Raising awareness can change public perceptions of eutrophication, alter individual behavior, and pressure governments to take steps to mitigate eutrophication. The first step in raising awareness is to pose the question: “Why does it matter to me?” Relevant and reliable data and research are needed to underpin and create compelling messages. While messages should be based on sound science, they should be expressed in terms and concepts that are easily understood by the public.

In the Chesapeake Bay, for instance, public awareness efforts include iconic images of crabs and slogans such as “Save the Bay” and “Treasure the Chesapeake.” Other efforts in the Chesapeake Bay include marking storm drains that carry runoff into the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries (in an effort to prevent dumping); marking watershed boundaries with road signs; offering license plates with a Chesapeake Bay theme; implementing subway advertising campaigns and educational displays; and garnering newspaper and television media coverage of the issue.

Outreach and Technical Assistance

Outreach activities and technical assistance are important for building the knowledge and skills required for individuals and industries to begin addressing nutrient pollution. For example, outreach to the agricultural community can educate farmers on nutrient-related pollution issues and farm-level management practices that mitigate nutrient losses. In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides support to educate farmers on conservation practices and provides technical assistance to farmers implementing nutrient-reducing management practices, such as appropriate manure handling and fertilizer application rates. As with most policies, the success of outreach and technical assistance will vary depending on the effectiveness of the outreach strategy, suitability of the technology or practice being promoted to meet community needs, ease of adoption, and willingness to change on the part of the targeted community.