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Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force Report

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Report of the Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force of the President's Council on Sustainable Development

February 1997

Table of Contents
Task Force Members and Liaisons
A Letter from the Task Force Co-Chairs
Executive Summary

Chapter 1. Dialogue and Education: Keys to Sustainability

Steps Toward Sustainability
The Need For Public Dialogue on Sustainability
Overcoming Barriers Through Dialogue and Education

Chapter 2. Education for Sustainability: Definition and Goals
What is Education for Sustainability?
What are its Objectives?
How can Education for Sustainability be Accomplished?
Environmental Education and Education for Sustainability
Task Force Policy Recommendations and Actions

Chapter 3. In the Classroom: Restructuring Formal Education
Defining Essential Learnings
Emphasizing Interdisciplinary Learning
Expanding Professional Development
Serving as Models of Sustainability

Chapter 4. In the Community: Encouraging Nonformal Learning
Encouraging Lifelong Learning
Raising Public Awareness
Providing Outreach
Expanding Community Visioning
Fostering Workforce Training

Chapter 5. And Beyond: Improving and Enhancing Sustainability Education
Forming Partnerships
Expanding Information Networks
Fostering Global Understanding
Integrating Multicultural Perspectives

Chapter 6. Continuing the Dialogue
Toward Sustainability
Expanding the American Dream
Consumers and Institutional Stewardship
Fostering Grassroots Leadership
Hope for the Future
Bridges to a Sustainable Future

Appendix A: Endnotes
Appendix B: Acknowledgments
Appendix C: Resource Guide


This report of the Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force (PLTF) is one of seven Task Force reports prepared for the President's Council on Sustainable Development. The Council was established by President Bill Clinton through Executive Order No. 12852 on June 29, 1993 and charged with the following missions:

  • make recommendations to the President to advance sustainable development, including a national sustainable development action strategy;

  • expand public awareness of the challenges inherent in moving toward sustainability, including the need to manage the nation's natural resources carefully;

  • institute a Presidential Honors Program recognizing exemplary efforts that advance sustainable development.

President Clinton also appointed the individual members of the Council -- leaders drawn from business and industry; government at all levels; non-governmental organizations; education and research institutions; labor and civil rights groups, and communities.

Shared responsibility for success was a hallmark of the eight Task Forces, organized by the Council. Their purpose was to provide advice to the Council on major issues, spur dialogue, and involve the public. Individual Council members served on various Task Forces. At their discretion, Task Force chairpersons invited others to participate in various capacities. The expertise and resources of the Council members were expanded and enhanced with a cadre of volunteer leaders and experts, as well as citizens representing diverse domestic and international interests. Through local and regional conferences, workshops, roundtable discussions, demonstration projects, case studies, and other public meetings -- conducted around the country -- hundreds of other leaders and experts, and thousands of citizens were involved in the dialogues and deliberations of the Task Forces.

Each Task Force developed a work plan corresponding to the opportunities and challenges reflected in the subjects and issues to be addressed. The eight Task Forces were:

  • Eco-Efficiency;
  • Energy and Transportation;
  • Natural Resources Management and Protection;
  • Population and Consumption;
  • Principles, Goals and Definitions (administrative function -- no report prepared;
  • Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education;
  • Sustainable Agriculture, and
  • Sustainable Communities.

The Task Force reports serve as a record of each group's dialogues and deliberations, and their respective contributions to the information needs and interests expressed by the Council. The work of the eight initial Task Forces culminated during the spring of 1996, subsequent to their transmittal of policy recommendations and suggested actions for consideration by the full Council. After review of each Task Force's work by the Council, recommendations were transmitted to the President for his further review and action. Thereafter, President Clinton requested that the Council continue its work, and he asked it to undertake aspects of implementation related to the Task Forces' recommendations.

In addition to seven Council members who served on the PLTF, there were six PCSD member's liaisons, and fifty-eight additional non-PCSD members who participated. Another forty-seven leaders and experts were invited to participate in special meetings. Extensive public participation was invited throughout the period of the PLTF's work.

This report is intended to summarize the observations, findings, and recommendations made by the PLTF to the Council and the President, and to provide additional ideas, information, and examples which may prove helpful to others interested in sustainable development matters. The PLTF hopes that the ideas, recommendations, and suggestions found within this report will be publicly discussed and debated, and further refined over time. Although its work was comprehensive, for practical reasons the Task Force did not seek to provide policy recommendations or suggest actions intended to address all of the significant issues associated with its mission. Rather, the report and recommendations are intended to be a call for action on strategic issues, and to stimulate further public dialogue and debate that will carry us to the next levels of public linkage, dialogue, and education for sustainability.



This report reflects the observations, findings, and recommendations made by the Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force (PLTF) of the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD). The mission of the PLTF was twofold:

  • to foster a two-way dialogue between the public and the Council, ensuring that interested stakeholders were kept informed about the PCSD process and encouraging public comment on that process, and

  • to formulate policies on how to integrate sustainable development into the nation's formal and non-formal education systems.

Comprised of experts representing diverse public- and private-sector organizations, the PLTF engaged in a two-year process to accomplish its mission. Internal deliberations as well as public dialogues were conducted. Included in the dialogues were grassroots leaders; business, community, and government representatives; educators and school administrators; education consumers, and others involved with formal and nonformal education and training -- at all levels -- ranging from pre-school to the university level, and beyond.

From those dialogues, the Task Force concluded that our citizens do want a sustainable future, and that many already have the fundamental, conceptual underpinnings and motivation to drive needed change. In some communities, there has already been significant progress made to effect change for sustainable development. However, when viewed from a state, regional, or national perspective, movement toward such change is still very nascent. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, President of The George Washington University, put it this way: "Most of us do not lack a philosophical commitment for sustainability, we lack the knowledge necessary to make decisions for sustainable actions." Therein lie some of the challenges for our academic and research institutions and our education systems.

The PLTF report focuses on the important role that formal and nonformal education plays in equipping citizens with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to move our nation -- indeed the world -- towards a sustainable future. Education for sustainability must be a lifelong endeavor that goes beyond classroom walls, enabling students, teachers, and entire communities to turn learnings into commonplace, everyday sustainable choices and actions.

To effectively drive and frame nationally needed change for sustainability education, new policies and actions were determined to be needed at all levels. From its dialogues, the PLTF developed three policy recommendations and a total of thirteen suggested action items. The full text of each recommended policy and suggested action items appears in a section of the report, beginning on page twenty, and they are individually discussed at length in the chapters indicated below. These recommendations and suggestions were included in the PCSD's report Sustainable America: A New Consensus (February 1996), which was transmitted to President Clinton for his review and action. During the spring of 1996, the President requested the Council to continue its work, and he asked it to begin aspects of the implementation process. Implementation at local, state, national, and international levels, should be a coordinated effort to make the best possible use of all available resources. The policy recommendations and an abbreviated version of each action item follow:

Policy Recommendation 1: Formal Education Reform. Encourage changes in the formal education system to help all students (kindergarten through higher education), educators, and education administrators learn about the environment, the economy, and social equity as they relate to all academic disciplines and to their daily lives. [Chapter 3]

Action 1: ...identify the essential skills and knowledge that students should have at specified benchmark grades...
Action 2: ...support education reform; emphasize systems thinking and interdisciplinary approaches; pursue experiential, hands-on learning...
Action 3: ...incorporate education about sustainability into pre-service training and in-service professional development for educators...
Action 4: ...promote curriculum and community awareness and follow sustainable practices in school and on campus.

Policy Recommendation 2: Nonformal Education and Outreach. Encourage nonformal access to information on, and opportunities to learn and make informed decisions about, sustainability as it relates to citizens' personal, work, and community lives. [Chapter 4]

Action 1: ...encourage lifelong learning about sustainability...
Action 2: ...develop an integrated approach for raising public awareness and support for sustainability goals, conveying information on indicators...encourage people to adopt sustainable decision making...
Action 3: ...a national extension network should be developed to provide needed information to enhance the capacity of individuals and communities...
Action 4: ...local and state governments should expand partnerships with community organizations and other levels of government to support community sustainability planning processes and assessments.
Action 5: ...employers, through partnerships, should develop training programs to equip the workforce with skills and abilities needed to adapt to changes brought on by national and global transition to sustainability.

Policy Recommendation 3: Strengthened Education for Sustainability. Institute policy changes at the federal, state, and local levels to encourage equitable education for sustainability; develop, use, and expand access to information technologies in all educational settings, and encourage understanding about how local issues fit into state, national, and international contexts. [Chapter 5]

Action 1: ...government at all levels should form partnerships to develop and implement coordinated strategies supporting education for sustainability.
Action 2: ...public and private sectors should support the development of, and access to, enhanced multimedia telecommunications technologies and improved clearinghouse capabilities that promote an understanding of sustainability.
Action 3: ...educators should help students understand the international factors that affect the nation's transition to a sustainable society.
Action 4: ...educators should ensure that education for sustainability invites and involves diverse viewpoints, and that everyone has opportunities to participate in all aspects of the learning process.

The report also provides many specific examples of diverse sustainability education projects and initiatives, currently underway, domestically and around the world. Additionally, an appendix contains a resource guide which lists the organizations and groups cited in the examples; it includes mailing addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and e-mail addresses -- when available at the time of publication.

Although the Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force completed its mission during the spring of 1996, the members hope that the recommendations, examples, and resources cited in this report will encourage individuals and organizations to develop their own sustainability visions and commitments to action.

The views expressed in this report are those of the Task Force members, and were not the subject of endorsement by the full Council. Many of the federal officials who serve on the Council also serve on the Council's Task Forces and participated actively in developing the Task Force's recommendations, but those recommendations do not necessarily reflect administration policy.


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