gallon saved is a gallon that does not have to be treated to drinking water standards, according to Hubert.


Speakers during the session on the natural environment noted the need for long-term solutions. One way would be to develop a grassroots base, think holistically in addressing environmental problems, and build greener and healthier cities, asserted Cath Conlon, founder and director of the Blackwood Educational Land Institute (Hempstead, Texas), and her colleague Jackie Hall of the Hall Group, a business development consultancy. Blackwood Educational Land Institute may bridge the gaps by providing a “living classroom” for teaching children and adults alike to explore the natural web of life and develop a healthy relationship with nature—or, according to the institute’s mission statement, “a reverence for and accountability to nature.” Forming such bonds between the environment and people, suggested Conlon and Hall, helps strengthen our communities—urban and otherwise—as well.

Forming such bonds between the environment and people helps strengthen our communities—urban and otherwise—as well.

Cath Conlon and Jackie Hall

Blackwood offers school curricula, workshops, retreats, and seminars to Houstonians (the 23-acre tract is located some 45 minutes from the city), based on the belief that the land is the true teacher. When children experience nature so directly, said Hall, they can then become ecologists. They appreciate conservation and become more aware of their surroundings. Also, although most of the city kids who learn at Blackwood don’t have so much as a postage stamp of land of their own, the important thing is the state of mind they have acquired—likely, for a lifetime—about their environment, wherever and whatever it may be.

This learning is not a one-time-only affair. Consistent with its message of sustainability, Blackwood establishes relationships with students, usually when they are in middle school that last throughout their high school years. By the time they graduate, they have spent 150 days at Blackwood. The resulting legacy not only elevates environmental awareness in general but cultivates a child’s own health and well-being, on into adulthood, by having profited from such practical lessons as good nutrition at the institute, said Conlon. This consciousness in interconnectedness and sustainability, Conlon suggested, may also promote preventive measures for many of the diseases and conditions bemoaned by earlier speakers—asthma, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression—that are caused or exacerbated by degraded environments.

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