Environmental Education from a Taxi Cab Driver in Bermuda?

Bermuda! The British oversees island territory, home of the Rum Swizzle, Crystal Cave, several protected species such as the white-eyed Viero, the endemic Shield Fern, and where men wear high socks paired with Bermuda shorts.

What started out as merely accompanying my partner for a corporate work trip turned out to be an impactful education about the local environment.

We took a taxi cab ride from our hotel in the capital city of Hamilton to tour the famous Crystal Cave and hike Walsingham Nature Reserve, aka “Tom Moore’s Jungle”.

Bermuda Roof

Our taxi cab driver was a local named Craig. Ten minutes into the drive he pulled over on the road to show us the unique Bermuda roof that is designed to catch and purify rain water. He stopped at a trash incinerator plant to show us where non-plastic rubbish is burned and the ash used to make cement for building around the island. The plastic waste is separated out and recycled. In his strong creole slang he told us about the salt water desalination plants, and how climate change has been increasing the frequency and strength of hurricanes on the island, but that thankfully the reefs protect it somewhat.

He also pointed out the Bermuda Aquarium and Natural History Museum where we can go to learn more about sustainability efforts on the island. All of this was completely unprompted. We had no idea that getting from point A to point B would include a heartfelt discussion about the sustainability of his island home.

The EPA defines Environmental Education as having the following components:

  • Awareness and sensitivity to the environment and environmental challenges
  • Knowledge and understanding of the environment and environmental challenges
  • Attitudes of concern for the environment and motivation to improve or maintain environmental quality
  • Skills to identify and help resolve environmental challenges
  • Participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges

By these standards, our cab ride certainly had elements of environmental education.

Shawn McCrohan

Crystal Cave

The EPA also says that environmental education does not advocate a particular viewpoint or course of action. Rather, environmental education teaches individuals how to weigh various sides of an issue through critical thinking and it enhances their own problem-solving and decision-making skills.

I sometimes wonder if these parameters are slightly at odds with the human experience of integrating our hearts and minds to create the world we want, because the attitudes we model as a society are impactful and important, and sometimes that includes advocating a particular viewpoint. Participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges may indeed include a course of action. By these standards, whether we received environmental education from our taxi cab driver becomes more grey, as is often the case when exploring the fascinating realm of non-traditional EE.

Never the less, as part of my exploration of environmental education efforts around the world I decided to use this EPA checklist to decide if what I’m experiencing is environmental education, or environmental information.

Environmental Education

Environmental Information

Increases public awareness and knowledge of environmental issues

Provides facts or opinions about environmental issues

Does teach individuals critical-thinking

Does not necessarily teach individuals critical-thinking

Does enhance individuals’ problem-solving and decision-making skills

Does not necessarily enhance individuals’ problem-solving and decision-making skills

Does not advocate a particular viewpoint

May advocate a particular viewpoint

So, did we receive environmental education from our taxi cab driver in Bermuda? I’m not sure! But I will say it was impactful, and it made me appreciate the environmental efforts taking place on the island of Bermuda. It also got me fired up to want to help protect this beautiful landscape.

Hamilton, Bermuda

The area of non-traditional environmental education may be the next frontier for the field of EE to embrace and support.

The North American Association for Environmental Education lists the following careers as being environmental education related on their jobs and career page.

Zoos and Aquarium Educator, Park Naturalist, Architect, Environmental Engineer, Journalist, Youth Worker, Artist, Environmental Educator, Conservation Biologist, Farmer, Musician, Religious Leader, Fashion Designer, Forest Ecologist, Community Liaison,  Activist, Teacher, Director, Education Manager, Development, Volunteer Manager/Coordinator, Botanist/Horticulturalist, Journalist/Communication, Camp Staff, Consultant, Formal Educator (Professor, teacher, etc.).

I think that makes our taxi cab driver Craig a community liaison extraordinaire!

Also while in Bermuda we were able to catch up with environmental educator and interpretive guide at Cooper’s Island Reserve, Lynn Thorne. We asked her a few questions relating to environmental education in Bermuda. Here is what she shared.

Environmental educator, Lynn Thorne.

The field of environmental education(EE) encompasses many professions and interests. How do you define EE?

I would define environmental education as a constant state of awareness about our stewardship role in protecting our resources through sight, sound, taste and smell mainly accomplished by trips into the field and studies within the context of the whole.  No matter what the interest or profession in EE, collaboration and sharing information functions as the catalyst for growth and a more complete picture.

What is the most successful EE program or initiative in Bermuda?

Probably the most successful EE program here is within the schools who liaise with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), the Underwater Exploration Institute (BUEI) and the Bermuda Zoological Society Education Department, all vested in teaching the young to care and appreciate their island environment.

What has been the biggest challenge connecting people to nature?

The biggest challenge connecting people to nature is getting them away from their electronic devices!  Fear of the unknown can be a factor too.  Also, giving up or modifying conveniences to be more eco friendly is uncomfortable and some people simply don’t want to do it.  Recycle, Reuse!

What professional development opportunities have you found to be most useful in your field of work? 

I have found the best professional development opportunities are environmental conferences like the BirdsCaribbean conferences, the World Seabird Conference and the International Sea Turtle Symposium for example.  A great way to “network learn” and share experiences in an energizing setting.

Check out this list of Bermuda flora and fauna under the protected species act: