Jennie Turner Garlington’s EcoSense for Living is still helping school-age children across the country connect to nature 15 years since its beginning.
As a Turner, your entire family is extremely philanthropic, especially when it comes to environmental causes. How was caring for the planet ingrained in you from a young age? Growing up, our dad would stop the neighbors in their car and ask why we weren’t all carpooling to school. He always made sure we were outside. Now that I’m married with children of our own we’ve made it a point to emulate that. Everyone needs to make a bigger effort to engage their children with nature so that they learn to love and respect it and want to protect it.
For anyone who hasn’t watched EcoSense for Living, what should they expect from the show? One of our first episodes was about Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods. It was written in 2005 and documents decreased exposure of children to nature in America and how this ‘nature-deficit disorder’ harms children and society. We take for granted one of the biggest gifts, and that’s watching all the creatures on a nature hike and the time we spend together in nature. Bonds between families are so much greater when you have some epic discoveries in the woods.
Can you share how you’ve been able to help students across the country, including Atlanta Public Schools?
Our daughter Hope is 16. She ran downstairs in March so excited that all of her friends were watching EcoSense as part of their environmental science assignment. I started crying. I have always been passionate about our show, but the fact that we launched on PBS LearningMedia just as the pandemic mandated online learning was beyond my imagination. We watched teachers turn to EcoSense in a time of crisis. To help educators, who are unsung heroes, in some small way, was emotional for me. Last month, we launched the four newest episodes—two featuring sustainability in and around Atlanta.
What does it mean to you to have Atlanta-based organizations paying attention to things like conservation?
My home state of Georgia has incredible biodiversity. Our family foundation (turnerfoundation.org) has been supporting so many incredible efforts by nonprofits there for more than 30 years. The work going on at the Georgia Aquarium and Zoo Atlanta is having global impact. And another episode, “Wild Healing,” profiles Dr. Cassandra Quave, an Emory University ethnobotanist, who leads an international team searching for plant-based medicines to replace failing antibiotics. Both of these episodes are among the newest ones that became available on PBS LearningMedia in August. We have so much to be proud of in Georgia, [including] the incredible work many folks in the state are doing.
The 50th anniversary of Earth Day was in 2020. What do you hope is in store for the earth and Earth Day for the next 50 years? It gives me the chills that we celebrated the 50th birthday of Earth Day this past spring. We can all save the planet. It’s not a daunting task. We use shampoo bars in our house to cut down on plastics. We don’t throw food away. Composting is fun and easy. We have a competition to see how little trash we can throw out every week. Saving the planet is fun! ecosenseforliving.com
Photography by: Brooke Jacobs Photography