This Earth Day evening, I have just returned from Scouts where I am currently the Varsity Coach in our ward. I have realized that many do not give due credit to the Scouting organization for its significant environmental component. The LDS Church recognizes Scouting as the official activity arm of the Church for the young men. We often hear the funny ‘pyromaniac’ stories around the campfire but rarely hear of the impact and respect taught to young people regarding the outdoors and environmental stewardship.
Many love Scouting, including the newly sustained President Monson. Conversely many would like to see Scouting and the Church sever their ties. Either way, a significant amount of the Scouting program is directly focused on stewardship and respect for the environment. One of the main focuses in Scouting is the Leave No Trace concept, increasing awareness and outdoor ethics with an award for both youth and leaders. Additionally, about one out of every five merit badges deals directly with the environment.
The most significant of these is the Environmental Science merit badge required for Eagle. Requirements focus on Ecology, Air Pollution, Water Pollution, Land Pollution, Endangered Species, and Pollution Prevention, Resource Recovery, and Conservation.
Additional Merit Badges with an environmental flare:
-Fish & Wildlife Management
-Pulp and Paper
-Reptile and Amphibian Study
-Soil and Water Conservation
The goal with many merit badges is similar to that of General Education, providing a wide array of knowledge, with most involving some type of career research to help channel young men into important and interesting career paths.
Are Scouting leaders in the Church appropriately conveying this message of environmental stewardship to the young men? Is the right message being taught? Is Scouting having a positive influence by teaching them correct principles about the environment?