Sustainability and the Environment
with Jeff Rosalsky of the Pocono Environmental Education Center
Studies show that 80% of the world’s wastewater is dumped back into the environment, polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans.
Jeff Rosalsky of the Pocono Environmental Education Center underscores the importance of sustainability in day-to-day life, and discusses resources and programs available to promote environmental education to students.
Feb 03, 2020
Lisnek: According to the National Resources Defense Council, the U.S. currently consumes 50 billion disposable plastic water bottles every year. And if those bottles go into landfills, it takes 500 years for them to degrade. Hi. Welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I'm Paul Lisnek. Recycling and reducing the use of plastics is part of the solution, but sustainability is about balance -- finding ways to protect the well-being of humans and the environment. Joining me to discuss programs that promote the importance of sustainability and environmental education is Jeff Rosalsky. He's the executive director of the Pocono Environmental Education Center. Jeff, good to see you. Thanks for being with me.
Rosalsky: Thank you very much for having me.
Lisnek: So, some people watching us might say -- well, I mean, I gave some statistics, I'm sure you were nodding -- "How bad is this problem, and how how quickly do we have to address it?"
Rosalsky: Well, the problem is bad, and we need to address it right away. And part of the way we need to address it is by educating youth, as well as adults, about the importance of clean water and why it's important to our environment and, obviously, all of our lives.
Lisnek: So, there are many fragile ecosystems that are out there, right? But I know you especially like to emphasize the importance of water. And why water over other parts of what might be the ecosystem?
Rosalsky: I mean, basically, it's essential for all life on the planet and certainly essential for human life on the planet. And clean drinking water is a crucial problem throughout the world. And you know, if we pollute the water, it is very, very difficult to clean it. That's one of the things we've learned.
Lisnek: When I use a word like "sustainability," I think everybody knows the word "sustainability." But what does it actually mean with regard to functioning as a human being -- a responsible human being -- on this planet?
Rosalsky: I think it's really about using resources wisely. I mean, we're not all going to go back to the Stone Age, here. You know, we want to have our creature comforts, but, you know, make conscious choices as to resources and how you use them and which ones you use, because they're not inexhaustible.
Lisnek: So fixing the problem is something, obviously, that can't be done overnight. And it means that you've got to engage people from their younger days in order to get them in on this. I know you run a program for young people from elementary school all the way to graduate school. That's also kind of a model for programs that happen really all around the country. So, talk about what it is people can have young people get involved in, no matter where they might live in the country.
Rosalsky: So there are centers like ours throughout the United States. We sit in a national park. There are many centers that do, as well, you know, from California to Ohio, up in Alaska, all over the country, focused on educating the next generation of environmental stewards -- these students that need to want to preserve the land, preserve the water. And we focus on educating them with hands-on experiences. And like I said, there are centers around the country that do this.
Lisnek: So you've got kids all over the country, right? I mean, Ohio and California, Pennsylvania, where you guys are. One thing that is consistent, even though they live in different environments and different places, they all have technology as a resource available to them -- their phones, their computers. Is that a good thing?
Rosalsky: So, we're -- I'm a little bit torn about that. I mean, I don't want students in the woods doing forest ecology, looking at their phones. But if they see an interesting plant, the ability to look on their phone to see what that plant is, for plant identification, you're basically using the technology in that case to supplant the old-fashioned book, field guide. That, to me, is good. You want to take a picture of it, you want to show it to your friends, great. But you need to live in the moment, when you're in the woods, to appreciate the wilderness and what we still have managed to preserve in this country.
Lisnek: So, when you do your program, when others do similar programs around the country, is there -- is that message made? Is it sort of like, Yes, we all know you have technology, and let us teach you how to use it"?
Rosalsky: So, more and more, we are doing that. I will admit that, initially, when students started bringing their phones, we would lock them in a safe in our offices. But, you know, we've adapted. It is their camera. It is their field guide. It's a lot of things. And it allows them, you know, if they see something something special in nature, to get that out to a broader audience who then might get engaged. So we do it as a staff. We discuss these sorts of things, and then we just try to let the students use their their technology responsibly.
Lisnek: And as these young people leave you, you're trying to make an impression on them. So I guess I just want to say, when they leave you, what message do you send them out into the world with?
Rosalsky: So, we try to send them out to the world with a message that there is hope and there's something that not only that they can do but they should do when they get back into their communities. And whether that is getting involved socially or going into a STEM field, you know, later on in their careers, where they can make, you know, a scientific impact of some sort.
Lisnek: All right, Jeff Rosalsky from the Pocono Environmental Education Center, thank you for the great work you do.
Rosalsky: Thank you very much.
Lisnek: It's appreciated around the country. And thanks to you for watching, as well. If you want more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, just go to comcastnewsmakers.com. You'll find them there. I'm Paul Lisnek. Thanks for watching.