The Toolkit is based on the idea that communities and educational systems within communities need to dovetail their sustainability efforts. As we created the ESD Toolkit, we knew that if sustainability were to be successful in a community, the education community would have to support the effort. As communities develop sustainability goals, the local educational systems can create programs or modify existing curriculums to reinforce those goals.
History of natural resource conservation management has shown us the efficacy of education programs. For example, when dams were built in the Tennessee Valley, farming practices were such that erosion and the accompanying deposition of sediment in waterways would eventually fill the reservoirs behind the dams and limit their lifetime and usefulness. Extensive agriculture education through the extension service and reforestation efforts significantly reduced erosion and extended the life of the dams. The same efficacy is pointed out in public health success stories in vaccination programs and the prevention of the spread of disease. These successes prove the point of using education to achieve sustainability goals.
As we wrote exercises to reorient the curriculum to address sustainability, we found ourselves repeatedly thinking that we needed to have a list of the community's sustainability goals to use in the activities. When we searched for community sustainability goals, it became apparent that many communities do not have sustainability goals or action plans on which to base educational change. Without such a list, the newly reoriented curriculum would support only general principles of sustainability; therefore, the resulting curriculum would not be as satisfactory as a curriculum that supports local community sustainability efforts. To successfully design, reorient, or implement an ESD program, communities must create sustainability goals.