"We're losing 50 acres of tropical rain forest a minute," explained Bruce Calhoun, a biology teacher at Wisconsin's Dodgeville High School. "That translates into half a million trees every hour."
For Calhoun and two colleagues--Gari Walz and Jack Harrison--that also translates into action, according to an article in the December issue of NEA Today, the news magazine of the National Education Assn.
In 1988, the three Dodgeville science teachers established Save the Rainforest Inc., a national, grass-roots advocacy group made up solely of teachers and students.
The group started with a mass mailing to 32,000 biology teachers, inviting them to join efforts to stop deforestation. Barely two years later, Calhoun reports, the group has grown to involve 250,000 people at more than 7,500 schools in the United States and has several important victories to its credit.
Save the Rainforest members have raised more than $50,000. That money--along with contributions from other organizations in other countries--has purchased and so protected 40,000 acres of Costa Rican tropical rain forest. The group has established summer courses in Costa Rica and Belize for teachers and students interested in learning about the rain forest firsthand.
And by writing letters and threatening consumer action, they have helped pressure the Scott Paper Co. into canceling plans to raze 2 million acres of rain forest in Indonesia.
"Because we're a school-based organization made up of educators and students, not professional environmentalists," said Calhoun, Save the Rainforest has been influential with policy-makers and effective in bringing new people into the environmental movement.
"We hope that through our efforts, we can save what's left of the world's tropical rain forests," Calhoun explained. To help realize that dream, the group has begun efforts to create children's rain forest education centers around the world.
"We focus on rain forests," Calhoun said, "but we're doing many things to help the environment close to home too. You could say our work has a circular effect."
For more information, write to Save the Rainforest Inc., Dodgeville High School, 912 W. Chapel, Dodgeville, Wis. 53533.
"Give me a place to stand and I will move the world."
--Archimedes (287-212 BC),
Greek mathematician and inventor