USA: Benedictines engage students in civic eco-action
In 2000 the Catholic Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania offered the Sacred Gift of expanding their innovative environmental education programme to cover three states in Canada and the USA.
In 1999 the Glinodo Earth Force Programme (GEFP) was based in just 30 schools in Western Pennsylvania.
A year later, as a result of the Sacred Gift, the Benedictines more than doubled their existing programme in Pennsylvania and, subsequently extended it to New York State and Ontario, Canada.
It has had particular impact already on Lake Erie - one of the Great Lakes of North America which between them contain one fifth of the world’s fresh water. Students carry out water monitoring as an important part of the Gift, and are encouraged to engage in civic action to change public policy and achieve more environmentally sustainable management of these important freshwater resources.
The GEFP is supported by local government departments, universities and environmental groups, and involves students identifying local problems related to the overall health of the Lake Erie area, and taking action to address them. Through this Gift fifty new educators will be trained to develop watershed projects in schools – reaching out to a student population of approximately 50,000.
The sisters of Erie, Pennyslvania belong to a worldwide religious order founded in the 6th century by St. Benedict. It is an explicit policy of Benedictine monasteries and communities worldwide to apply environmental stewardship principles to their land, buildings and work. In Erie, the Benedictines’ commitment to ecological practices includes promoting forest stewardship schemes as well as using FSC materials and renewable energy resources, including wind generators and geothermal heating.