Monday, June 23, 2014

Unexpected Happy Place -- by Lauren Campbell Kong

(This post is dedicated to Mandy, Missy, Sheila, Steven, James, Bill, Rich and the rest of the crew that came out and busted their asses to clean the Ohio River on Saturday, June 21st 2014.)

I haven’t been too inspired to write for a while and have been in my own head busy adjusting to life here in Cincinnati. One would think moving only 2 hours away from home meant that the people, culture, and the environment wouldn’t be so different. But things are very different here and it has required some serious adjusting on my part. It’s been hard to make new friends and to meet people who have passion about the environment.
Thank You Mandy from KCB for the photo
This past Saturday was finally a moment when all things I love converged, creating a trifecta of acceptance, passion, and activism for me in this city.

I was active in the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Indianapolis. Since I moved to Cincinnati, I was a little disappointed in the Sierra Club here. Both the Northern Kentucky group and the Miami Valley group don’t have much of a ‘politicking’ presence. The members here enjoy hiking together or walking on trails. Once a month they will invite a speaker into town to put on a presentation about a crusade. Otherwise, there was no way for me to get directly involved and be active in the way that I am accustomed.

I got involved in Environment Ohio when we first moved here, but their campaign disbanded in January of 2014 and finding something else has been difficult. I did eventually discover the River Sweep 2014 through the Sierra Club’s Northern Kentucky chapter's monthly e-newsletters.

River Sweep is an annual event organized by the Ohio RiverValley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO). It took place this year on Saturday June 21st.

The River Sweep began in 1989 and it spans the entire Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cairo, IL. During the event, thousands of volunteers descend onto the Ohio River to pick up trash and debris. It is a multi-organizational effort to help clean the Ohio River and to create awareness about how polluted and dirty the river is.

In addition to the Sierra Club being in attendance, there was also Keep Covington Beautiful (KCB), and volunteers from the City of Covington municipality. It was rejuvenating to see all the wonderful, friendly people coming together to help keep this beautiful river clean.
Thank you Mandy from KCB for the photo
I was the most surprised by KCB. This group truly does what it can for the city of Covington, keeping trash and pollution from entering the water ways. They have a good relationship with the municipality and they work diligently together to address many environmental issues here. Anytime I see a government agency and a non-profit working together productively and holistically to address environmental issues, I get inspired.

It was a hot day and there were some seriously gross stuff down by the river bank that needed picked up: doors, buried tires, a broken kitchen sink, an old fence, nasty insulation that had been there for months if not longer, deteriorating and probably contaminated with asbestos, more Milwaukee’s Best beer cans than I ever knew existed, shoes, clothes, a pair of old underwear, and so, SO much more.

That’s just the stuff I saw in the quarter of a mile I traversed through. When you think about the entire river spanning the border of 6 states, I can't begin to imagine what else was found.

Thankfully we had a decent turnout at our location. We managed to clean a good chunk of the river bank. I have faith that other parts of the Ohio River were cleaned too by equally passionate people. At times it was overwhelming, disgusting, and depressing to see so much trash, to think there are still so many people who don’t think twice about throwing their garbage out of their cars, boats, and homes.

But that's not important now. What is important, is the truly inspiring people I met, people who care about this city and about our environment. These people volunteered their time to come out and make a difference; people of all different colors, sexual orientation, social economic status, and backgrounds, converging on the river as one to make it a better place for everyone. It is a selfless act that made me forget how difficult it is to adjust to a new city and new people I don't know; it made me forget just how many people don't care about this river and their city. 

Thank you Mandy from KCB for the photo
At the end of the day, I realized how much is left to do. Not just the trash, but how much educating, motivating, and inspiring that must be done for others to see the importance of our waterways and the value they add to our eco-system. My back pain proves it and the irony rings loud and clear.

So to leave you with something to ponder, there are multiple river clean up events that happen along the Ohio River and I for one hope to participate regularly as my schedule permits. If something is stopping you from coming to support us, you are underestimating the possibility of these good people, people that you would want to get to know.

After all, we will make a bit of difference and together, I've found my new happy place, I found it down by the river, I found it in the people I met there and in the hard work we did together. I hope you find yours as well, on this planet, in this place we all call home.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cherish the Day and Believe -- This is Not A Dream.

(yes, I'm in one of my weird crazy mood. This one is for the believers, not the dreamers. This one is for my wife, my best friend, and my constant companion on this quest to change the world--Lauren Campbell Kong. The believers steps over the dreamers and actually DO!  - jin)

To all you sleepers,
Coming from the speaker.
Be prepared to liftoff,

To know fear and
To love experimentation.
To all you sleepers then.

This is the century,
This is the day,
This is the imaginary time that we know to be real,
Probabilistically not sealed.

Travel then,
Friends, to be asleep but know that you control a dream,
Have faith in waking to find your soul.

Hear yourself sing,
Taste the delight and the bitter rain drops of yesterday’s tomorrow.

To all you sleepers,
Coming from the master of disaster, the Maharishi mediator, the salted chew free from concerns,
Be prepared to be lifted,
To abandon fear,
To love LOVE.

This is the color of your faith.
Be kind to paint it as tall and deep as you dare.

Because this is YOUR FAITH. It is not a hope.



(I wrote this one a long time ago. . . funny how things have a way of singing back to me in time)

No matter how long, how high, how grim,
If I can sweep, nearly free, let my mind be tricked and story be told.
My life too precious, but it never leaves;
On solid ground, I let my words flow.

I am here, I am rotting, I am illness-stained;
I listen without pity, hear me not;
I bury without a shovel, smell of garbage, but it really don’t matter no more.

A different sound I hear, like milk and honey;
I asked myself if I am made for this world.

Golden roads, fixed, crumbled, fixed again,
A different taste, like spring freshness at the end of autumn;
Winter is here again, smelling and tasting cost the grown man his patience.

Play that song again, lock up them folks in the cells again;
But it really don’t matter no more.

All my life, cycles cooked onions in dreadful tears,
Cutting with a smile, square fits a few short years.

No matter how long, how high, how grim,
Let me sleep, nearly free, let my mind drift into the thicket plot untold.

Any day now, late night shadow remembers where the path leads.

Convince me to walk into the sun again,
The future is just that part of history.
Think sharp and preach slow,
Remembering but it don’t really matter no more.

Because this is the dreamer's dream and I'm a believer and I BELIEVE.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Equity Crowdfunding in the International Space - Interlude, A Special Consideration for Social Enterprises

In a recent survey conducted by the European Commission on financial and security markets, a majority of respondents felt that crowdfunding campaigns with social objectives merit special treatment from the regulators.

The consensus is that social ventures and those behind the ventures should not be limited to the donation or lending based funding opportunities. Equity crowdfunding should be a viable option. However, a need to define social enterprise and the kinds of social objectives are critical and respondents agree that transparency is a must if social ventures are to get special treatment. Most suggested ex post verifications (e.g., audits, social impact assessments, or periodic reporting). Some respondents call for a favorable tax treatment for these social ventures, some prefer lighter regulations, and few mentioned the need to harmonizes impact measures and warned against any sort of regulatory interventions in this sector. The commission stated that it will explore this in more detail in future efforts.

And so, as I ponder and explore the future of equity crowdfunding in this series of blog posts, we recognize the concept of “crowd” is a powerful one.

Crowdfunding and crowd-sourcing ingeneral are about a group of people getting together led by their convictions so strong that they are willing to invest time, money and effort to make it happen. It’s something not taught in school; not because the schools don’t try, but because finding such convictions is a private affair. The intrinsic interest is something, if taught extrinsically, would defeat its very purpose.

We leave the schools then. Outside in this open global community of ours, in finding this intrinsic motivation to do something, we discover the power of the crowd is beyond financial gains.

We realized the crowd is only inspired to act as if it makes a difference somehow. Well, it does. No one knows how we can shape tomorrow for the better, but everyone knows we must try. Technology is only a tool and equity only an extrinsic factor. Success of equity crowdfunding is not depended on these things or the laws that regulate them. The success of equity crowdfunding is in what we as a people can do with this very powerful idea. 

But where do we begin?

The Internet has ended the Industrial era and ended mass marketing. It has revived a human desire to be connected and we are now in a struggle to find our shared ideas and values to allow ordinary people the power to lead and make big changes. A struggle means opportunity and is beyond the spirit of the law. New laws will have to conform to our hopes, not the other way around.

After all, the “unselfish and noble acts are the most radiant epochs in the biography of souls.”


Monday, June 16, 2014

Equity Crowdfunding in the International Space - Pt. 5 China

(Note: this is generally available public knowledge. For the specifics on how Chinese platforms are regulated and how the regulations work, please contact a licensed Chinese attorney.)  

The Chinese Company Law and Securities Law are applicable to EBCIs in China and the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) has over 50 rules and regulations on securities and future markets. In addition, there are hundreds of circulars on the topic and other laws such as Property Rights Law, Criminal Law, Enterprise Bankruptcy Law, and Anti-Money Laundering Law that may also apply.

Technology and emergence of equity based crowdfunding has blurred the line between public offerings and private placements. Under Article 10 of China's Securities Law, public offerings of securities must be approved by the regulatory bodies. Public offerings are defined to include any issuance of securities to more than 200 non-specific targets. The issuer must be a LLC that has been authorized to issue shares.

Chinese EBCI platforms seem to get around the securities regulations by arranging investment deals as private contracts on an ad hoc basis. For example, Make V, a media start-up company underwent two rounds of crowdfunding on Taobo (a retail website similar to Amazon and eBay) and raised 1.2 RMB for 6% of the company. The deals were structured as private contracts where investors hold the shares and dividends are paid according to the contracts. Supposedly, Make V consulted a law firm and the Beijing Municipal Lawyers Association before they undertook the crowdfunding efforts. They knew such issuance of securities were illegal but went ahead with it anyway and promised to buy-back the shares that were illegally purchased if the government should crack down on their crowdfunding efforts.

Similarly, Mirror Fun, a retail store operating off Taobao, recently raised 15 million RMB through 红岭 (“Hong Ling”). Hong Ling is an interesting entity because they seem to be an online crowdfunding service. Although they do not specifically list their services as such, and they avoid stating any laws re securities, they do blatantly list investment opportunities as sort of private lending and governed under Contract laws of China.

There are a number of risks in issuing and buying public offerings in China. While there are not specific criminal provisions dealing with illegal fundraising, there are a number of provisions that may be interpreted to sanction the activity. Going forward, equity platforms will have to be very careful in issuing securities publicly without approval, in an disguised form, or exceeding the other regulatory requirements. However, the bulk of the work are for the regulators to clarify the line between public offerings and private placements, clarify the definition of equity platform offerings and specify how they should be regulated, and balance the interest in promoting capital formation and equity ownership by the rising middle class with the risk of fraud and the crowd effect of following the wrong investment trends. The consumers will also have to be cautious and educate themselves on the various interplays between securities offering and their potential high risk nature. The regulators must promote transparency, but the crowd must develop its own independent compass with respect to the success potential of fundraising enterprises.   

Despite the potentials, Chinese platforms and potential investors face cultural, economic, and institutional forces that suppress entrepreneurial activity. Specifically, the World Bank found perception and understanding of entrepreneurship, education, and cost of doing business and resolving insolvency correlate with the number of crowdfund investment platforms (there is a small negative correlation between cost of starting a business and number of platforms and a slightly positive correlation between number of platforms and cost of resolving insolvency). Social normative variables such as face-saving and collectively mentality translates to risk-averse behaviors negatively impacting the number of investment vehicles in high risk ventures. World Bank also found infrastructure such as Internet access, social medial penetration, and hiring and firing efficiency positively correlate with the number of EBCI platforms. However, remittance inflows and the amount of venture capital transactions negatively correlate, slightly, with EBCI platform count.

I reserve my hopes for China and crowdfunding at the moment. Until the culture and moral values of Chinese businesses align with a sense of social responsibility, I do not see crowdfunding successful or purposeful in China.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Broadening Perspectives - a collective work

Bringing back an old but good one written by TGE and Eric Wilson. 

Eric Wilson is a doctoral candidate in science education at the University of Colorado, Denver’s School of Education and Human Development. Eric is driven to see fundamental changes in our energy consumption patterns. He has leveraged his gift of communication and understanding of technology to teach science and sustainability for the last several years. His doctoral dissertation looks at buildings as teaching tools. Eric has a Masters degree in Teaching from New York University’s Steinhardt School with a focus in secondary science education. His received a BS in Anthropology and Human Biology, with a secondary focus in Art History from Emory University. 

2nd Green Revolution is dedicated to presenting pertinent information on sustainability and the clean energy economy. With a focus on renewable energy, clean technology, energy efficiency, and sustainable development, 2nd Green Revolution provides analysis, insight, and an informative viewpoint on how sustainability affects you. The “Green Revolution” usually refers to the agricultural transformation of the last half of the 20th century. 


Table of Content

1.      Awakening to the World of Sustainability - by Jin Kong

2.      Fear and Creativity, the Pre-Arranged Dichotomy - by Lauren Campbell Kong  

3.      Education and Fairness, Fear the Possible - by Jin Kong

4.      Education for Sustainability - "I Think therefore I am" - by Eric Wilson


Awakening to the World of Sustainability 

- by Jin Kong

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. . . . It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today [education] is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him [or her] for later professional training, and in helping him [or her] to adjust normally to his environment.[1] 

Al Gore and David Blood in 2011defined sustainable capitalism as “a framework that seeks to maximize long-term economic value by reforming markets to address real needs while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics throughout the decision-making process.” Gore and Blood argued that such capitalism should apply to the entire investment market scope, from small entrepreneurial ventures to large public companies, across landscapes to include micro investors and institutional account holders. In fact, they are calling for a broad sweep of involvement from all market participants: “employees to CEOs, activists to policy makers,” sustainable capitalism should transcendent “borders, industries, asset classes and stakeholders.”

I wholeheartedly agree. But I would also add that there is no other stakeholder more vital, more decisive to the success of such a transcendent transformation, than our educational system and the generation that will follow our footsteps in burdening the responsibilities of caring for our planet in the next decades. In today’s society, we face, amongst many other uncertainties, economic[2] and ecological[3] crisis, war and hunger[4], unemployment and increasing costs of our basic necessities. In the United States, however, our education system is failing; cost of secondary education has gone up but its relative value has decreased. Today, you need a Master’s degree to even begin looking for a reasonable white-collar job. All the while, there is a sense of growing divergence between the educational system and the world outside: while employers struggle to better bridge the gap between their operational needs and pedagogical focuses, newly-grads are struggling to find their competitive edge over the more skilled and experienced displaced-workforce. Somewhere in the middle, there is an opportunity—there is synergy to be said for having willing minds and growing businesses; perhaps we’ve just been looking into the wrong places.[5]

What are the right places to look then? This precise question surfaces within the industries with the key question of why sustainability adds value. Gore and Blood suggest that we should be asking "Why does an absence of sustainability not damage companies, investors and society at large?" They go on to argue that industries that would integrate sustainability into their business models are finding their profitability enhanced over the longer term and “embracing sustainable capitalism yields four [specific] kinds of important benefits for companies:

• sustainable products and services increase profits, enhance brand recognition, and improve competitive positioning;

• sustainable capitalism promotes efficiency and reduces waste, and by improving human-capital practices, costs of training new employees decreases;

• sustainable business models give companies a holistic understanding of the material issues affecting their business and their sector economy thus giving them distinct advantages in market downturns; and

• sustainable businesses realize lower cost of debt and lower capital constraints. 

To being our understanding of where to look for these four specific benefits between willing minds and growing businesses, we must first change the way we approach business in our educational and institutional systems. Business is a process. It takes materials and transforms them through production and propels society. This much we already know. What we haven’t caught on, but slowly we are becoming aware of, is the fact that the process is very much a part of the overall ecology that houses the human eco-system. The balance between maintaining a human-ecology with the broader sense planetary ecology is finding a way to overlap the two; the interest of our families, of our communities, and of our businesses, is the interest of this planet as a whole—engaging in this holistic process to improve the way we engage production and society is our duty and responsibility.

But to adapt our existing anthropocentric production process to a more sustainable ecopocentric model, willing minds will have to learn how the existing system works and decide how to best adapt. They will need to engage the business aspect of their learning from an ecological whole. To do this, the student must be mindful of process improvement and engage in civic duties from a business perspective to understand how to best overcome our social, economic, and ecological challenges. Businesses will have to be willing to accept the creativities and innovative energies these willing minds bring forth to the table. Yet, despite the various school programs, civic organizations, and public campaigns, civic engagement overall is on a slow decline alongside of our economies.[6] Traditional internships, community service activities, and advocacy work also fail to inspire change. Without civic engagement, the very core of our republic may be at risk; the very foundation of our society is thus endangered.

Universities and market institutions may have an obligation to address business needs for short term growth—solving the economic and employment issue through their academic curricula; but they must also encourage civic participation mindful of the greater production process and the science[7] of sustainability. But we note in a more and more irrelevant and resource scarce economy, entrepreneurs continue their pursuit of opportunities “exploiting change” “without regard to [scarce] resources currently controlled.”[8] Because of their role as change agents, entrepreneurship is ever more recognized as one of the major players of economic development today.[9] According to economists, entrepreneurial start-ups accounted for most of the positive net job growth in the United States during 1992–2005.[10] In addition to job creation, entrepreneurs and their start-ups also promote market efficiency and serve the economy by “correcting market errors or inefficient uses of market resources.”[11] They also facilitate new knowledge in the market place by commercializing innovations otherwise unnoticed.[12]

Entrepreneurs are thus critical to our transition from a resource scarce economy to a sustainable one by exploiting our current opportunity for change without regards to the methods of our exploitations or our scarcity. They cannot achieve this without civic engagement and empathy for social improvements. Encouraging students to become social entrepreneurs, then, will likely inspire inclusive, diversified, and unique solutions to our most pressing problems.

In a vacuum of civic discontent and economic recession triggered by lack of accountability, social entrepreneurship is becoming more and more popular. Armed with a “heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created,” social entrepreneurs are “change agents in the social sector” and they create and sustain social values, pursuit new opportunities to service social missions, and engage in continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning.[13] Where traditional internships, community service activities, and advocacy works failed to inspire change, business school’s focus on social entrepreneurship may just provide the right amount of empowerment of innovation. With a keen focus on creating viable start-ups, a tailored business incubator for social start-ups can bring new innovations to solve real world problems while creating jobs to benefit the disadvantaged demographics.

Judge McLaughlin of the Second Circuit wrote in 1996 that there is a legitimate state interest in teaching students the values and habits of good citizenship, and introducing them to their social responsibilities as citizens.[14] In the spirit of Brown v. Board of Education[15] and under the current circumstances we face, the legitimate state interest becomes a duty of every corporate and private citizen, of the universities and market institutions, to enhance and empower social entrepreneurial and intrapreneurs, to allow them to lead our transition from an old world capitalism into a new age of sustainable and productive capitalism—one that balances people and their communities with the interest of our planet and the interest of our economic progress.


[1] Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954).

[2] See generally Yale Global Online, Global Financial Crisis (Last visited Oct 15, 2012) (“The current financial crisis is the worst the world has seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s . . . . “In an Interconnected World, American Homeowner Woes Can Be Felt from Beijing to Rio de Janeiro,” observed the International Herald Tribune at the onset of the crisis. “Chinese Steelmakers Shiver, Indian Miners Catch Flu,” noted the Hindustan Times. “US and China Must Tame Imbalances Together,” suggested YaleGlobal, as the frenzied search for a solution continues around the globe.).

[3] Edmund S. Muskie, The Global Environmental Crisis, 19 B.C. Envtl. Aff. L. Rev. 731 (1992), available at

[4] Coleman-Jensen, et al., Household Food Security in the United States in 2010, ERR-125, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. September 2011 (noting that in 2010, approximately one in seven U.S. households were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the United States) available at

[5] See Sir Ken Robinson, Do Schools Kill Creativity (TED Video), available at (“I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth, for a particular commodity, and for the future, it won’t serve us.”).

[6] See Nathan Conroy, Applying the Entrepreneurial Model of Experiential Learning in Political Science Courses, (2009), available at

[7] R.W. Kates (Ed.), Center for International Development, Harvard University, Readings in Sustainability Science and Technology – An Introduction to the Key Literatures of Sustainability Science, CID Working Paper No. 213, 2010, available at:

[8] Gregory Dees, The Meaning of “Social Entrepreneurship”, (1998) (funding provided by The Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership with assistance from the members of the Social Entrepreneurship Funders Working Group). 

[9] Haifeng Qian, Kingsley E. Haynesb, The Small Business Innovation Research Program as Entrepreneurship Policy, (Working Paper) (August 30, 2012) available at: 

[10] Haifeng Qian, Zoltan J. Acs, Roger R. Stough, Regional systems of entrepreneurship: the nexus of human capital, knowledge and new firm formation, Journal of Economic Geography 1-29 (2012) (referencing data from Haltiwanger, et al., Who create jobs? Small vs. large vs. young, (NBER Working Paper, w16300.) (2010).). 

[11] Qian & Kingsley, at 2. 

[12] Id. 

[13] Dees, The Meaning of “Social Entrepreneurship”. 

[14] Immediato v. Rye Neck Sch. Dist., 73 F.3d 454, 462 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1996); see also Ambach v. Norwick, 441 U.S. 68, 76-77 (U.S. 1979). 

[15] Supra n.1. 


 Fear and Creativity, the Pre-Arranged Dichotomy

- by Lauren Campbell Kong 

‘Green’ has become the buzzword of the decade. The color green is the hottest color of the year, at least in the advertising business, and the image of Earth is on more billboards and commercial property then one could ever count.

Going green is everywhere. Or is it?

Even though we are bombarded with the positive aspect of people ‘going green’ daily, actual education on environmental issues and information on how to address them is hard to find; not to mention how difficult it has been to convince the broader public that those issues are really there.

The lack of Environmental Education (EE) in our culture is alarming, especially given that EE has been going through 40 years of evolution.[1] During the Nixon administration, when EE was still in its infancy, the Tbilisi Declaration defined the objective of EE as

“to prepare the individual for life through an understanding of the major problems of the contemporary world, and the provision of skills and attributes needed to play a productive role toward improving life and protecting the environment with due regard given to ethical values.”[2] 

The Tbilisi Declaration provides important guidelines for EE: fostering a holistic approach to environmental awareness, recognizing the interdependence of our communities and the environment, and understanding the need to create new behavioral patterns among groups and individuals.[3] However, even with a strong environmental education foundation and government support for such educational programs, pro-environmental behavior has not improved enough to make the positive impact needed on our environment.[4]

Some of this lack of pro-environmental behavior can be attributed to an insufficient understanding of human motivation during the early formation of EE. Early environmental behavioral models (1970’s) were based on linear progression: environmental knowledge leads to environmental awareness and concern, which in turn leads to people behaving pro-environmentally. It wasn’t until Fishbein and Ajzen announced their theory of planned behavior in 1980 that individual attitudes toward a behavior were introduced. Fishbein and Ajzen pointed out that attitudes are influenced and shaped by social norms, thus linking attitudes and social norms to the likelihood of a behavior. This idea was picked up in the late 80’s and introduced in many pro-environmental behavioral models, yet individual action still rarely initiated. It appeared that even with knowledge, a concerned attitude for the environment, and community (social) support, pro-environmental behavior was not establishing itself in our culture.

In 1992, the EPA, recognizing the need for a connection between knowledge and action, defined EE as: “Increasing public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues and providing the skills necessary to make informed environmental decisions and to take responsible actions.”[5] In accordance with this idea, Dr. Short reminds us that any educational endeavor that endures, “must ultimately serve the social function of transmitting knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that provide long-term benefit to the individual and community.”[6] We all know that educating an entire generation of children and teaching them to be productive members of society cannot happen overnight. Environmental Education, which is to serve as creating productive environmental stewards, is no different; however, even after 40 years of development, EE has not rooted itself as an educational norm.

Dr. Short explains that “education ‘for’ the environment should, in no manner, imply coercing prescribed behaviors that are unduly influenced by individual teacher perspectives”[7] and “the pinnacle of many canned environmental programs in schools involves a cheering session to motivate students toward participation in pre-arranged sets of activities focused on consumer or ecosystem behaviors.”[8] This external push by the teachers disengages students, creating a dichotomy between ‘wanting’ to help and ‘being forced’ to help; the latter ending in an unmotivated student who has a lack of vested interest. He gives many examples of successful environmental initiatives created by students, whom given the ability to see the project through in its entirety, even as long as 18 months, would step up to the challenge. This process alone provides young adults and children with the experience to follow through and builds confidence. As this confidence grows, he states, “using a well-established curricular framework based on the Tbilisi principles would help the teacher’s influence fade as students gained more skills and confidence in their own investigations, conclusions, and actions.”[9] This process enhances student empowerment and motivation toward action, as well as builds self-confidence through critical thinking and creative application.

Young children are especially motivated to get involved when given creative freedom to address environmental issues; they are more motivated to pay attention to the topic, they delve deeper into research, and during the exercise, experience deeper cognitive processing which leads to better memory retention. In the video by the World Wildlife Fund, children are given three days to creatively research an environmental issue, present their findings, and develop how to raise awareness on the topic. Working collaboratively, children chose topics ranging from endangered animal habitats to carbon emissions. The three day creative experience ended with children retaining much of what they had learned and recognizing how animals, humans, and the environment are interconnected; a by-product of deep cognitive processing and demonstrating the importance of creativity, not only in our educational system as a whole, but to the development and implementation of Environmental Education.

Ken Robinson, a well-known author and public speaker on the topic of creativity in education, discusses creativity in children and the impact it can have on our future, emphasizing creativity as a vehicle for adapting to change; which is crucial when dealing with the environmental crisis we have today and the changes in weather, natural resources, and the impact it has on human health, that come with it. Robinson points out that creative children are not frightened of being wrong, and “if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with something original.” The innovative necessities of our future depend on originality and creative design. He also points out that the lack of fear causes more children to ‘give it a go” when they do not know the answer; motivating themselves to try even when facing the possibility of being wrong.

According to Dr. Slohova and colleagues, the creative process fosters the “capability to take risks, the readiness to overcome obstacles,” in addition to enhancing intrinsic motivation.[10] Ideas that push societies forward are creative ones, and people who are creative tend to have less fear of taking risks, this combined with the collaborative, diverse atmosphere that many EE programs provide students, one would think great environmental solutions would be readily available.

Steven Johnson, author of the book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, explains how patterns of innovation occur in the most biodiverse situations. We see it in nature in the rain forest, where species are the most biologically diverse than anywhere else in the world; we see it in space, where elements form in the most molecularly diverse areas of space; and we see it in humans, where the best ideas come from learning from one another and the ‘stitching’ together of individual ideas. Historically, ideas originated from urban areas and spread via word of mouth to rural areas. Now, because of technology, those ideas are able to spread across the globe in minutes, offering us the benefit of diversity without having to actually leave and go anywhere; making diversity easily accessible and just as critical as creativity to successful EE programs.

In an experiment performed by Professor Marc Stern and colleagues, 7,000 students were serviced at NorthBay Adventure Center in Maryland over a two year period. NorthBay offers week long student camps that combine diversity, environmental issues, and character building to promote pro-environmental behavior, while simultaneously finding common ground between the diverse students hoping to accomplish environmental issue resolution.[11] This is achieved by relating outdoor environmental issues to family, school, or other in home issues; providing an understanding that everyone in the group can relate to, thus helping students have a more rounded understanding of environmental issues in a culturally diverse context. This also helps develop collaboration and critical thinking skills to address our environmental problems, while constructing an underlying understanding that we are all are responsible for our environment.[12] The understanding that we are all responsible for our environment encourages students to work collaboratively to address these issues, sparking creativity, leadership, and critical thinking.

Learning to think critically about environmental issues is vital to fixing environmental problems. However, motivating the critical thinkers to act is where EE has had problems in the past. Breiting and Morgensen[13] agree and claim that EE needs to foster the development of critical thinkers who can participate in environmental issue resolution through personal choice of action; this combined with an emphasis on creativity and diverse collaboration, environmental educational programs may finally get the results they have been striving so hard to achieve.


[1] Short, P.C. Responsible environmental action: Its role and status in environmental education and environmental quality 41 The Journal of Environmental Education 7-21, (2010).


[3] Potter, G. Environmental education for the 21st century: Where do we go now? 41 The Journal of Environmental Education, 22-23 (2010) available at

[4] Id. See also Kollmuss, A., & Agyeman, J. Mind the gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? 8 Environmental Education Research, 239-60 (2002) doi: 10.1080/1350462022014540 1.

[5] Potter, 2010.

[6] Short, 2010, at p. 8.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 12.

[9] Id. at 13.

[10] Slahova, A., Savvina, J., Cacka, M., & Volonte, I. Creative activity in conception of sustainable development education 8(2) International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 142-54, available at

[11] Stern, M. J., Powell, R. B., & Ardoin, N. M. Evaluating a constructivist and culturally responsive approach to environmental education for diverse audiences, 42 The Journal of Environmental Education 109-122 (2011) doi: 10.0180/00958961003796849.

[12] Id.

[13] Breiting, S., & Sorensen, F. Action competence and environmental education 29 Cambridge Journal of Education 349-53 (1999).


Education and Fairness, Fear the Possible

- by Jin Kong

We are living now, not in the delicious intoxication induced by the early successes of science, but in a rather grisly morning-after, when it has become apparent that what triumphant science has done hitherto is to improve the means for achieving unimproved or actually deteriorated ends.

--Aldous (Leonard) Huxley, Literature and Science (1963)

Thomas Kuhn once famously said that science is shaped by the prevailing values and norms in specific social and historical contexts.[1] We’ve experienced momentous scientific progress in the last few decades. We put men on the moon and machines on Mars; we cured incurable diseases and we catapulted ourselves into the modern age with the advent of industrial and informational revolutions. Yet our prevailing values and norms seem blind. We march forward with our air polluted, water contaminated, and land depleted. Now, we sit quietly waiting for the world to end; we sit silent waiting for our children to carry the burden.

What selfish creatures are we?

One educator and scholar noted this phenomenon in her quest for better environmental education (EE). Ms. Anna Gahl Cole in her 2007 article wrote: “environmental education is traditionally found in schools as an add-on to science curriculum . . . [and in order] for my students to understand environmental processes and systems, we had to first come to terms with the human histories that contextualize, shape, and define those systems.” To do this, and thus allowing us to define problems in our environmental educations, Ms. Cole reasoned that we must employ “alternative methodologies and ways of understanding how people experience and understand their environment.”[2]

In response to this call for alternative methodologies through multidisciplinary lenses of critical pedagogy, Ms. Cole pleas for a revisit to the environmental justice movement and place-based education. This is to put emphasis on localized and relevant educations that will make impacts in children’s lives as opposed to creating an irreconcilable difference between teaching children mere science yet giving them the prevailing norms that have done us harm in the first place.

With that in mind, we shift our focus on environmental education. We note that while traditional EE programs develop understanding of the environment through science, inspire individuals to take personal responsibility for environmental preservation and restoration, and solicit collective responses to shift policy decisions, environmental justice education (EJE) fosters a critical understanding of the environment within the context of human political and social actions thereby making science based education, and the policy decision making process based on that education, meaningful to the locality.

Under EJE initiatives, educators thus have a unique role in coaching environmental justice to students as relevant to their locality thus empowering them to act accordingly and intrinsically. Mere EE programs often create the dichotomy of us/them phenomenon, making students in poor and depleted areas feel what they have learned is irrelevant to their circumstances, thus making their pro environmental actions extrinsic to their education and motivation. This is because they have not been taught to see environmental impacts with their own conditions; they have not been taught environmental justice as relevant to them locally and how it is related globally. Yet some of the areas most impacted by environmental and social injustice are the same ones requiring the most policy shift towards sustainable goals; and by empowering students who live in these areas of both environmental and social injustice, the educators’ aim is to build strong communities of resistance and planning to change our current market models that depletes and exploits, thus avoiding problem shifting perpetuating the same knotty prevailing social and value norms to some other less privileged place.

The objective under the EJE model, therefore, is to empower students to understand and exercise their own individual rights in relation to their global community; the notion of environmental justice, then, must be incorporated into the curriculum and embedded into the wider scientific literacy programs so encapsulates the environmental studies. In essence, educators have to educate students of environmental progress and justice that it is their right to have access to open space, clean air and water, nutritious food as opposed to making them believe they’re supposed to be living with only a small park with a basketball court with no nets and fast food around the corner. Educators will have to stop convincing them that the only way to escape their condition is to accept the prevailing social and value norms so indoctrinated into their scientific programs and get ahead by any means necessary. Educators have to convince them that they have to take up ownership in their own environments and make a difference for themselves in meaningful ways in the greater context of global scarcity. More importantly, educators will have to convince their students to see the injustice done in relation to the interconnectedness of their conditions, avail themselves to the veil of ignorance and emerge with a fresh perspective of what is to be undone. Failing to do so, we would simply shift the problems around; one area’s pollution is migrated to the next poorer neighborhood and one country’s over consumption and human injustice shifted to the next country’s developing complications.

The EJE model thus requires both a scientific literacy as well as an embedded social literacy. Scientific literacy is the “knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision-making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity."[3] Social literacy involves the need to focus on the living process of a community in context of the broader global development incentives. To put it simply: “think globally and act locally”; the educators must help students investigate their social context, local issues of injustice, impacts of developments and modernization—essentially incorporating the issue of environment, human rights, and economic incentives into one fundamentally sound EJE curriculum within the global context.

Something else to consider: EJE model is not only urgently required in poorer neighborhoods, but is also immediately necessary in the apparently rich and well-to-do areas. Often times we forget that individuals, and even small communities, are not aware of their conditions and relative disadvantage at the hands of global over consumption and over development. Living in a million dollar home does not immunize one from polluted air blown from neighboring areas and having a higher standard of living does not prevent global scarcity issues from reaching into their water supplies. At the end of the day, whether rich or poor, we all seem to face the same set of global problems distributed unevenly into disparate communities. John Rawls[4] noted this in his discourse on “Justice as Fairness” that as the result of our original position, we are behind a “veil of ignorance” and are completely unaware of our relative status among peers. Thus no individual has the distinct advantage in establishing the requisite principles of “justice”; and since everyone lacks the relative advantage, the few malintended individuals are able to establish norms and prevailing values behind such veil without ever acknowledging the effect.

EJE is therefore a globally required model and ought to be introduced locally with a keen eye on the complexity of our modern societies. Everyone is obligated to undertake this task and unveil their own ignorance. To proceed, we are reminded by the Dalai Lama that

“We have to think and see how we can fundamentally change our education system so that we can train people to develop warm-heartedness early on in order to create a healthier society. I don’t mean we need to change the whole system, just improve it. We need to encourage an understanding that inner peace comes from relying on human values like, love, compassion, tolerance and honesty, and that peace in the world relies on individuals finding inner peace. The power of the environmental justice movement lies in grassroots neighborhood organizations that have worked for change. Therefore, a focus of this work is empowering individuals in urban environments to build communities that stand for environmental justice.”


[1] THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS, University of Chicago Press; 3rd edition (December 15, 1996).

[2] Cole, A. G., Expanding the Field: Revisiting Environmental Education Principles Through Multidisciplinary Frameworks, 38.2 The Journal of Environmental Education 35-44 (2007).

[3] National Academy of Sciences, 2007, para. 14.

[4] See COLLECTED PAPERS: JOHN RAWLS (Samuel Freeman ed., 1999).

Other resources:

The US EPA defines environmental justice as

“fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, culture, education, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

The EPA further defines “fair treatment” to mean that “no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies”; and “meaningful involvement” to mean that “people have an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health; the public’s contribution can influence the regulatory agency’s decision; their concerns will be considered in the decision making process; and the decision makers seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected.”

The first national study on environmental racism was published by the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice in 1987 titled: “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.” The study provided data that matched waste facility sites to demographics demonstrating a strong pattern of environmental racism. (Environmental racism “refers to any policy, practice, or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages--whether intended or unintended--individuals, groups, or communities because of their race or color.”)

Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-income Populations" (2/94) requires certain federal agencies, including HUD, to consider how federally-assisted projects may have disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority and low-income populations.

The Department of Education’s draft on Environmental Justice (EJ) strategy focuses on healthy learning environments for students, energy-efficient school facilities, sustainability education and environmental literacy, and energy efficiency in the Department’s facilities. This draft EJ strategy is the Department’s plan to address environmental justice concerns and increase access to environmental benefits through the Department’s policies, programs, and activities. The Department is committed to meeting the goals of Executive Order 12898, and in August of 2011, several federal agencies signed the “Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898” (EJ MOU), which committed each agency to, among other things, finalizing an EJ strategy and releasing annual implementation reports.


Education for Sustainability - "I Think therefore I am"

- by Eric Wilson

Sustainability and Sustainable Development are amorphous concepts, with the latter having more than 80 definitions in the scholarly literature.[1] Much like Sustainability and Sustainable Development, Environmental Education (EE) is equally nebulous and has numerous definitions. However, to overcome this, Environmental Education and its embracing movements—namely Educating for Sustainability (EfS)—aim to put human-environment interactions at their core. Yet the issue remains as to how to focus these endeavors: is it inherently anthropocentric, or does it engage the biotic and abiotic components as partners?

To address that question properly, we note first that our dominion over nature has a deep and lasting influence over the way in which we interact with our environment. Positivism and its successors dictate western paradigms and pervade our relationship with the natural world. Usher points out this dissonance, the dualistic, fractured relationship between western man and nature; that positivist, and empirical “epistemology projects a picture of the natural sciences and generally of any research carried out in the ‘scientific’ way, as essentially an individualistic enterprise, as something carried out by individuals who can detach themselves from the world they are researching.”[2]

This predates, but is aptly captured by Descartes and the syllogism “Cogito ergo sum,” which famously, or in this case infamously, distinguished man from nature. It effectively qualifies the relationship of man to his domains as outside his realm, as being a separate entity and implicitly one that is not integrated into humankind and our experiences. This dualism has created a fissure in western paradigms that does not exist by in large in nonwestern populations. As Suzuki recounts from his travels, there is a connection between the indigenous people and their place, not a disconnect.[3]

If western societies are to overcome this split, seemingly isolated to the western Cartesian deconstructive paradigm, a shift must occur within the positivism driven EE, which in and of itself treats the environment like an “other”; the shift must occur to bring us closer towards EfS—which represents a more holistic and integrated approach and does not treat the environment as “other,”[4] but as the self from within.

This is not to say that EE remains culpable for the dualism. Environmental education itself is a step in the right direction no matter the ontological presumption. However, a leap is needed in these fractious times. While all education is environmental education, until we actually place the environment at the center of our curricular designs, EE will be seen as a liberty and not a necessity.[5] A holistic approach that integrates the environment, economic sustainability, and social equity, will provide a cohesive – and more importantly – coherent model, for students.

There is another issue to explore: learning is inherently a social activity; creating jarring divisions among the sciences, humanities, and arts, and failing to integrate them ultimately harms the learner—the supposed centerpiece of education. Current models of EE, like outdoor science schools, expose students to the natural world, but fail in large part to solidify this connection due to their intermittent nature. EE in this instance becomes an example of “other” and not an integral, acknowledged partner in the educational process.

Place-based education can thus help fill the void by connecting students to their surroundings on a daily basis.[6] Until EE and EfS acknowledge this, attempting to educate students to care for the earth may well be a nonstarter. The vision of the natural world as "other," much like science and western man treated people of color as “other” in our recent history [7], has undoubtedly led us to the perilous crossroads we now face vis-à-vis environmental degradation. A strictly science based view, and isolation of sustainability in the sciences, creates this false dualism from the start. Sustainability is, and has to be, much greater than a scientific enterprise, for it encompasses the humanities, arts, and mathematics, as well as physical education.

Environment as an Integrating Context (EIC) serves as a wonderful model of what EE looks like and how, in this era of high-stakes assessments, it can improve student performance, even close the dreaded achievement gap.[8] Whether one likes it or not, accountability driven by standardized tests exists as the dominant milieu in which children grow up. Demonstrating proficiency and improving test scores is part and parcel of the current trend and often serves as the defining feature of programmatic changes. If a curricular intervention does not support improved student learning,[9] then it will ultimately fail to gain traction and be relegated to the proverbial sidelines. Fortunately, as in the case of EIC, and effective daylighting in classrooms, data supports these ecological and environmental supports to learning and student achievement.[10]

Economic and social issues comprise the other two legs of the sustainability triumvirate. In economically stringent times such as these, reducing energy expenditures plays a large role in making schools financially solvent. With utility bills at $8 billion annually for schools, "green schools" can save 20-30% on utility costs ($1.6-2.4 billion) per year.[11] Most schools can't afford new facilities though, so getting students to do the work of retrofitting, thereby learning a trade that can improve their employability and their own community, may perhaps encapsulate the holy grail of sustainability—economic, environmental, and social equity.

Environmental justice can then arise from the work of students naturally; learning substantive content and gaining employable skills will students break the cycle of their environmental, economic, and social poverties.


[1] C. C., Williams & A. C., Millington, The Diverse and Contested Meanings of Sustainable Development, THE GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL, 170, 2, 99-104 (2004).

[2] R. USHER, (1996). A Critique of the Neglected Epistemological Assumptions of Educational Research, UNDERSTANDING EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, 9-32, 15 (Scott & Usher eds. 1996).


[4] E. Wilson, Environmental vs. sustainability education: Shifting the focus (2010), available at


[6] A. G. Cole, Expanding the Field: Revisiting Environmental Education Principles through Multidisciplinary Frameworks, 38.2 THE JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION 35-44 (2007).

[7] S. J. Gould, The Mismeasure of Man. (W.W. Norton & Company, 1981).

[8] G. A. Lieberman, & L. L. Hoody, Closing the achievement gap: Using the environment as an integrating context for learning, San Diego, California: State Education and Environment Roundtable (1998).

[9] The merits - or inability - of a single standardized test to assess this are really beyond the scope of this short article.

[10] Heschong Mahone Group, Daylighting in schools: An Investigation Into the Relationship Between Daylighting and Human Performance, Fair Oaks, CA: Pacific Gas and Electric Company (1999).

[11] C. Westcott & B. Egan, [Re]-Build It and They Will Come, Presentation at the National Association of Independent Schools Institute for Leadership in Sustainability, Woodward Academy, Atlanta, GA (Jun. 2009).

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Echoes of a Time

Today we remember the echoes of a time.

Poem by Li Yu (AD 936-978): Lang Tao Sha (Waves Scouring the Sands)

帘外雨潺潺,  春意闌珊.
梦里不知身是客,  一晌贪欢.

独自莫凭栏, 无限江山.
流水落花春去也, 天上人間.

Rain drips and dribbles outside these curtains, spring withers away.
The thin silk quilts could not stand the frigid dawn.
What once dream I dreamt of being a honor guest, I clench to those pleasures in vain.

I must not lean alone by the railings, I do not mourn these lands. 
A land I left so lightly yet so hard to return to again.
As blossoms shatter on the rippling waters, spring is spent; heaven on earth remains.

translated by Jin Kong, 2014