National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Honors in Practice, volume 5. Copyright 2009 National Collegiate Honors Council.


In 2005, the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation (NEETF) released a summary of a decade’s worth of research into environmental literacy among Americans, collected in collaboration with Roper Reports. The report included some disturbing statistics: 45 million Americans think the ocean is a fresh-water source, for example, and only 12% of those surveyed were able to pass a basic quiz on energy awareness. As the report’s author laments, “Our years of data from Roper surveys show a persistent pattern of environmental ignorance even among the most educated and influential members of society” (Coyle v). Like most Americans, honors students are often only superficially aware of environmental concerns. Those who have developed some degree of environmental awareness may be praised or derided for “thinking outside the box,” but as Amory Lovins, an energy analyst, argues, “There is no box” (qtd. in Brown xi). We are at a tipping point in our human interactions with nature, a crisis that demands we be more attentive than ever to interconnections and systems-thinking and move beyond the compartmentalization of knowledge that is characteristic of many university curricula.