The Alberta Council for Environmental Education conducted a robust poll of 801 Alberta adults in 2009; and a similarly robust poll of 459 Alberta youth in 2010.
The results from the poll of 459 Alberta high school students and older youth (ages 18 to 24), indicated that youths’ knowledge of environmental action—and their reported level of participation in public action—is markedly low. Further, the majority of youth were not interested in traditional approaches, such as presenting to politicians, participating in public meetings or debates, or participating in petitions. In addition, youth engagement in most of the eight environmental behaviours assessed was moderate to low, and youth do not seem to have a strong drive or desire to take personal responsibility to protect the environment. Alberta youth ranked themselves least responsible out of six groups for looking after the environment in Alberta, and believe that government, industry and environmental groups are the most responsible.
“Teachers strive to help students develop the knowledge and skills they need to be active citizens,” says ATA President Carol Henderson. “However, just as important is developing a personal commitment to act, both in one’s personal life as well as in the public sphere. This is especially true for environmental issues and it is not something schools can or should do alone. We owe it to our young people to create more opportunities for hands-on learning that actually means something to them and to society.”
“These polling results have one simple message for Albertans: We need to do better,” says ACEE Chair Jeff Reading. “This is a wakeup call for politicians, educators and parents who want to help the next generation create a sustainable future in the face of growing environmental problems.”
As 2019 approaches, ACEE will conduct a new poll to evaluate progress made in the last decade.