Playing the Long Game: Achieving Conservation Goals through Environmental Education

  • Published on Nov 17 2017 |
  • This article is tagged as:

By Jaclyn Angotti,
Education Director, CPAWS Southern Alberta

Environmental Education in Alberta

Canada is fortunate to still have large areas of wilderness, but we are not immune to the global biodiversity crisis. All ecosystem types in Canada are declining in health and the number of species at risk of extinction continues to grow each year. The main threat to biodiversity in Canada, like in the rest of the world, is the destruction and fragmentation of habitat. Rapid climate change is posing a further threat. Parks and protected areas play a key role in addressing these environmental problems. Canada committed to protect at least 17% of land and inland waters by 2020 and to more effectively conserve nature by improving the quality of their protected area systems. With only 10.6% of our landscape currently protected, Canada lags behind the global average of 15%.

These are hard truths that can be difficult for children to handle. They are inheriting an earth full of problems that will rest on their shoulders. Fear-based campaigns are usually ineffective, as people tend to deny, minimize or avoid the problem. This is especially true for children, who may not yet be equipped to process these feelings. 

So what role can children have in helping Canada achieve our 17% target?

Children CAN take effective environmental action today. In fact, taking positive action can provide hope for this generation. CPAWS Southern Alberta (SAB), through environmental education programs, teaches children that they can make a difference.  Our Action Challenge Initiative inspires students to engage in positive environmental stewardship. Each year, we not only provide meaningful learning that connects youth with local conservation, we empower them to be part of the solution. Action projects range from school fairs to community gardens to writing letters to the government.

Today, children can be a voice for the wilderness by advocating for the 17% target to government and building awareness in their communities about the importance of habitat protection. Tomorrow, today’s children will be the leaders who strive to achieve our conservation goals. Environmental education plays an important role in encouraging children to choose this path. According to Louise Chawla (2007, p. 144), “a growing literature shows that active care for the environment in adulthood is frequently associated with positive experiences of nature in childhood or adolescence, along with childhood role models who gave the natural world appreciative attention.”

CPAWS SAB’s education program strives to do just that, to connect youth with nature and provide them with role models that love nature and take care of it.  One of our hiking guides recounted the story of a hike participant who exclaimed, “You really love your job!” Clearly, this youth observed her enthusiasm for nature and was inspired by it.

Through our environmental education programs, CPAWS SAB aspires to enhance the lives of Southern Alberta youth and create a community of knowledgeable, empowered citizens who engage in stewardship and positive environmental action to conserve our local environment. Children have an important role to play, both now and into the future.

Learn more about our education initiatives by visiting our website and consider showing your support of environmental education with a donation.