Science Wednesday: I’m an American and Environmental Protection was “My” Idea

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

The genius behind the Microsoft advertising slogan, “I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea,” is that it takes a basic, nonspecific truth—companies use customer feedback when updating their products—and gives it a brand-specific identity. Whether Windows 7 was developed with more user input than were other versions is besides the point. More important is that users feel ownership over the product because Microsoft made their contributions central to its Windows 7 roll-out campaign. The clever way the TV commercials do this is to have individuals claim they personally invented Windows 7, while we all know that many people had a hand in creating the product.

JeffMorrisPortrait-2010As a nation, let’s send a similar message with environmental protection. One can debate whether the roots of environmentalism can be traced back solely to the United States, since global movements nearly always have multiple origins. Yet history is clear that over the past several decades U.S. leadership has been central to the development of the environmental protection laws and practices that exist today around the world.

The value of communicating that environmental protection is an American idea is not in selling the rest of the world on the notion of U.S. environmental leadership, but rather is in reminding ourselves that taking responsibility for safeguarding the air, water, and land on which all life depends is part of who we are as Americans. We as a nation are all about stepping up to responsibilities with a positive, can-do attitude that is not content with accepting how things are, but rather demands forward movement toward what can be. 40 years ago we didn’t just create an EPA: we articulated a vision for the world of what a clean and healthy environment could be. With that vision we built an environmental protection “operating system” that for decades served us reasonably well.

Today we face new and complex environmental challenges. However, new thinking and advances in technology provide opportunities to address those challenges. Central to this new thinking is a growing recognition that environmental sustainability is an essential element of future prosperity and well-being. These challenges and opportunities require that we upgrade our environmental protection OS to version 2.0. It’s appropriate that the roll-out begin here. After all, we are Americans and we are proud to join others in claiming that environmentalism was our idea.

About the author: Jeff Morris is National Program Director for Nanotechnology Research in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Question of the Week: What does “environmental protection” mean to you?

EPA was established on December 2, 1970 and since then the nation has made enormous strides in protecting the environment. But every day, we all make individual choices that can affect the environment. One of Administrator Jackson’s priorities is broadening the definition of “environmentalism.”  Share your thoughts about what it means to you.

What does “environmental protection” mean to you?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Young Students Engaged in Environmental Stewardship

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

During a recent visit to K.W. Barrett Elementary School in Arlington, VA, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson met with a diverse group of young students from the school’s 4-H Club and the LNESC Young Readers Program. It was very exciting to see these young students actively engaged in environmental protection activities like school recycling projects, garden clean ups, tree plantings, to name a few.

When Administrator Jackson asked them about our environmental challenges, many hands eagerly shot up! The children highlighted numerous concerns like global warming, climate change, dependence on fossil fuels, water quality, recycling, etc. I was impressed by their grasp of the issues given the fact that they ranged from first graders to fifth graders. What most struck me was that they were not parroting what they had heard from their teachers in school or from parents at the dinner table. They were truly engaged in the discussion.

Image of Administrator Jackson talking with children seated in a circle around her.

During the Administrator’s visit, the students proudly spoke of their activities. We even saw a video they produced at the school entitled “Hug a Tree”. It was adorable. It warmed my heart to see these young children speaking and acting as concerned citizens of today and tomorrow. I definitely saw future scientists, researchers, engineers, teachers—working together to better protect our home, Planet Earth. Who knows, maybe some of these young students will be future awardees of EPA’s P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability. Anything is possible.

So let’s go green every day of the year, at school, at home, and in our communities.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Jóvenes estudiantes comprometidos con el civismo ambiental

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Durante una reciente visita a la Escuela Elemental K.W. Barrett en Arlington, VA, la Administradora de EPA Lisa Jackson se reunió con un grupo de jóvenes estudiantes de diversos grupos étnicos participantes en el Club 4-H de la escuela y del Programa de Jóvenes Lectores de LNESC. Fue muy emocionante ver estos jóvenes estudiantes trabajando activamente en actividades de protección ambiental como proyectos escolares de reciclaje, la limpieza del jardín, el sembrado de árboles, entre otras actividades.

Cuando la Administradora Jackson les preguntó acerca de nuestros retos medioambientales, muchos levantaron sus manos entusiastamente. Los niños destacaron numerosas preocupaciones tales como el calentamiento global, el cambio climático, la dependencia en los combustibles fósiles, la calidad del agua, el reciclaje, etc. Me impresionó ver su manejo de estos asuntos dado el hecho de que la mayoría estaban en los grados del primero al quinto. También me sorprendió el que no estaban repitiendo las cosas al papagayo que quizás habrían escuchado de sus maestros en la escuela o de sus padres en casa. Estaban totalmente enfrascados en la discusión.

Image of EPA Administrator Jackson speaking with children sitting in a circle around her

Durante la visita de la Administradora, los estudiantes hablaron orgullosamente acerca de sus actividades a favor del medio ambiente. Hasta nos mostraron un video que habían producido en la escuela titulado “Abraza a un árbol”. Era enternecedor. Me emocionó ver estos jovencitos hablar y obrar como los ciudadanos preocupados del hoy y del mañana. Definitivamente ví futuros científicos, investigadores, ingenieros, maestros—trabajando juntos para mejor proteger nuestro hogar, el Planeta Tierra. Quién sabe, quizás algunos de estos jóvenes estudiantes serían futuros galardonados del concurso P3 de EPA: la Competencia de diseño estudiantil para la sostenibilidad de EPA conocida como Pueblo, Prosperidad y Planeta. Cualquier cosa es posible.

Por ende, obremos a favor del Planeta Tierra. Seamos verdes todos los días del año, en la escuela, en el hogar, y en nuestras comunidades.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.