S T A T E O F N E W Y O R K
2011-2012 Regular Sessions
I N S E N A T E
January 10, 2011
Introduced by Sens. OPPENHEIMER, SERRANO -- read twice and ordered
printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Environ-
AN ACT establishing the New York state environmental sustainability
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "New York
State Environmental Sustainability Education Act".
S 2. Legislative findings. The legislature finds and declares that:
1. In recognition of the United Nations Decade of Education for
Sustainable Development (2005-2014), as declared at the Johannesburg
Summit of 2002, New York state deems it imperative to develop and imple-
ment an educational program geared towards improving the capacity of
people to address environmental issues in the 21st century.
2. Our ability to fulfill our responsibility to equip New York's citi-
zens with the required knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to
create a sustainable future and enhance our quality of life have never
been more critical.
3. More than any other time in recent history, New York's citizens
have the capacity to dramatically affect their natural environment, and
mitigate and possibly reverse our society's negative impact on our
4. New technologies and research have availed unparalleled opportu-
nities for us to develop and protect resources in a manner that enables
people to meet current needs, while also providing that future gener-
ations can meet future needs.
5. To successfully confront these environmental concerns and sensitiv-
ities, we must put forth a vision of education that seeks to empower
people of all ages to assume responsibility for creating a sustainable
EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
[ ] is old law to be omitted.
S. 1571 2
S 3. Definitions. For the purposes of this act, the following words
shall have the following meanings:
1. "Sustainability" shall mean development that meets the needs of the
present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their own needs. Development that occurs in such a way ensures the
capacity of the natural environment to meet present and future needs.
2. "Education for sustainability" (EFS) means to promote an under-
standing of the interconnectedness of environment, economy and society.
EFS links this understanding with inquiry and action to help students
build a healthy future for their communities and for the planet. EFS
fosters the ability to integrate scientific, economic and social know-
ledge and makes education more pertinent to the changing world by moving
beyond institutional boundaries of the disciplines and their content
bias. EFS helps students identify their role in local communities and
suggests ways to get involved. EFS shall consist of educational activ-
ities and training activities involving elementary and secondary
students (K-12), as such terms are defined in the education law and by
environmental education personnel.
S 4. Legislative directives and programs.
1. The department of education is hereby required to establish a model
program to guide the development, implementation and evaluation of a
comprehensive environmental sustainability education program to be made
available to public schools, and assist them in developing curricula and
training staff to adequately prepare students to participate as active
and involved citizens in building a sustainable future.
2. The program shall be developed by the department of education, in
conjunction with the department of environmental conservation, and
modeled to promote and enhance an understanding of the concepts of
sustainability and improve understanding of the natural and built envi-
ronment, and the relationships between humans and the environment,
including local and global aspects of environmental problems.
3. The education for sustainability program shall be constructed in
line with the following principles:
a. A program that fosters clear awareness of, and concern for, econom-
ic, social, political and ecological interdependence in all regions of
New York, the United States and the world.
b. One that endorses an approach to teaching and learning that inte-
grates the goals and benefits of conservation, social justice, renewable
energy, cultural diversity and sustainable development into a vision for
c. One that ensures that students appreciate and respect the intrinsic
value of the whole environment, and develop an ethic of personal respon-
sibility and stewardship towards all aspects of the environment.
d. One that encourages students to participate as active and involved
citizens in building a sustainable future.
e. One that fosters appropriate applications of technology that help
solve, not create, problems.
4. The sustainability education program shall include, but not be
limited to, the following specific features:
a. The program shall be designed and tailored appropriately to suit
all age groups covered by the K-12 state curriculum and the department
shall design lesson plans and teaching strategies that are age appropri-
ate. The department of education shall reserve the right to include or
omit certain specified program requirements (listed below in this subdi-
vision) when tailoring the principles of sustainability to be taught at
S. 1571 3
each grade level, depending on the suitability of the lesson's instruc-
tion at each grade interval.
b. The program shall specifically enumerate the key topic/issue areas
to be studied, and shall integrate environmental education for sustaina-
bility issues and topics into specific key learning areas/subjects
located within the broader curriculum framework such as creative arts,
English, health and physical education, languages, mathematics and
economics, science and geography, history and studies of society, envi-
ronment and technology. The principles of sustainability shall be
presented and integrated wherever appropriate.
c. The program shall promote education for sustainable development
'perspectives' across learning areas to include cross-curricular units,
complementary teaching across several subjects, special projects,
performances, excursions, and visiting experts. The program may also
provide for collaborative projects with other schools (locally and
globally) to promote equity, inclusivity, and respect for all people.
d. The program shall raise awareness of the nature and function of
ecological, social, economic and political systems and how they are
interrelated in addressing environmental and sustainability issues.
e. The program shall underscore the impact that people, business,
industry and government have on environments and how the environment
shapes human activities, with particular reference to unique and
distinctive New York heritage traditions and settings, connecting past,
present, and future perspectives and/or impacts.
f. The program shall emphasize the role of cultural, socioeconomic and
political systems in environmental decision-making.
g. The program shall reinforce the value of innovative technologies
with the aim to produce places, products and services in a way that
reduces use of non-renewable resources, minimizes environmental impact,
relates people with the natural environment, and conveys the importance
of creating and maintaining a sustainable lifestyle.
h. The program shall include assessment strategies that emphasize
problem-solving, teamwork, decision-making, holistic thinking, clarify-
ing and analyzing values and opportunities for action, in order to gauge
and improve the effectiveness and relevance of the program.
S 5. This act shall take effect immediately.