Environmental Action Civics is at risk

As we approach the celebration of Environmental Action Civics Week (April 29 – May 3), our virtual event dedicated to recognizing the vital role of civic engagement in environmental stewardship, several concerning trends loom on the horizon. One issue in particular sparked my interest in writing. Over the last two months the Iowa State Legislature has been debating House File 2330 which would ban action civics and focus exclusively on a curriculum that emphasizes a reading list of documents from U.S., Greek, Roman, and Hebrew history that teach basic concepts and “Western civilization’s exceptional and praiseworthy history.” 


This legislative effort, and many others like it, represents a challenge to the foundational principles to educational approaches that prepare young people to be the citizens we need today. In an age characterized by rapid climatic change presents an unprecedented challenge for humanity, with recent data highlighting the swift pace of these changes and the disproportionate impact on underrepresented and vulnerable communities.


At the same time, the political landscape in the U.S. is fraught with obstacles that impede effective climate action, including policy gridlock, inconsistent commitments, and challenges in fostering public awareness and cooperation. Overcoming these barriers requires a unified effort to bridge political divides and prioritize climate action through collaborative and comprehensive strategies at all levels of government. Environmental Action Civics is positioned to address the current political climate by empowering students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and agency to tackle pressing environmental issues. Environmental Action Civics creates the foundational skills necessary for active and informed civic participation in the face of escalating concerns about climate change, environmental justice, and sustainability.


Despite the clear benefits of Environmental Action Civics, a concerted effort by a coalition of organizations aims to remove such programs from our schools. Instances include the Civics Alliance’s push for the repeal of any state legislation that supports service-learning, action civics or project based assessment for fear that they will open the door to “woke civics.” The National Alliance of Scholars has developed model legislation that can be adopted at the state level to strip civics educators of their ability to engage their students in the discussion of current events or that leads students to meet with public officials to discuss their concerns. These movements have already led to significant legislative changes, notably in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma, signaling a troubling trend towards diminishing the role of action civics in our educational system.


Yet, it’s not all bleak. Several states, including Massachusetts, Utah, Kentucky, and notably Washington DC, have enacted legislation that champions the integration of real-world issues into civics education. These initiatives underscore the importance of participatory civics in nurturing informed citizenship and directly engaging with environmental justice through experiential learning.


In response to these challenges, Earth Force is stepping up its commitment to advancing a supportive environmental learning ecosystem that champions Environmental Action Civics. Looking ahead, we are expanding our focus to include enhancing the visibility and understanding of Environmental Action Civics among decision-makers and cultivating coalitions to advocate for supportive legislation and standards. This advocacy is crucial for securing the investments necessary to foster an environmental learning paradigm that encourages active civic engagement among young people on issues of paramount importance to them.


We stand at a critical juncture where your support can make a tangible difference. Your support enables us to expand our effort to advocate for Environmental Action Civics, expanding its visibility among decision-makers, and cultivating the coalitions needed to secure a more sustainable and equitable future.

Written by -

Vince Meldrum, Earth Force's President/CEO, is a leading advocate for the incorporation of civic engagement into environmental education. Vince has a passion for youth engagement that borders on obsession and is committed to ensuring that every young person has the opportunity to engage in environmental policymaking. Vince spends his time exploring the world (especially vineyards) with his wife, daughter, and dog.

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