The development of what we nowdays known as environmental education started at the end of the sixties and beginning of the seventies, a period of the time characterized for a global concern about the severe environmental conditions suffered by the world. So, it is said that environmental education is the daughter of environmental degradation.
In the Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education organized by UNESCO in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Tbilisi in 1977, environmental education was defined as “a learning process that increases people’s knowledge and awareness about the environment and associated challenges, develops the necessary skills and expertise to address the challenges, and fosters attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decisions and take responsible action.”
Nowadays, environmental education can be simplified as the education for a sustainable development which includes ecological foundations and awareness of society, but it is necessary to advance much more in this subject to be able to achieve a society whose life style follows the environmental education objectives.
Even in the twenty-first century, environmental education is not considered an essential study area at schools or in society in general. Parents must look for an alternative way for their children to learn about the environment and the same for adults. In this way, only the society sector more interested in environment really gets to learn and be aware about the environment, while the society sector that more needs this education continue being uninformed.
I remember that when I was a child and I was at school (about twelve years ago) the only education related with environment was, excluding some field trips, to participate in growing a garden and I must say my school was average when it comes to environmental education. Years after, at high school I studed “Earth sciences and the environment”, an optional subject and that I choose because I was interested on it. But very few students choose. Consequently, years after this subject disappeared of syllabus. Things haven’t unfortunately changed a lot and I askmyself: Is this way to educate the future caretakers of the environment?.
The environmental education is remarkably necessary at school, and even though I am not saying it should be taken as a mandatory subject (though why not?), it is important to start to leave a mark on the students little by little. It is ilogical to make the students to learn the most important species in Madrid mountains without explaining that these species’s populations are decreasing because of human impact or to explain that it’s possible to obtain energy thanks to a hydroelectric plant without explaining its environmental and socio-economic advantages and disadvantages.
But this could apply to society in general, incluying the adult population. What’s the point of having a low-energy consumption bulb marketing For what to do a campaign giving a low-energy bulb without explaining why the replacementof high-energy consumption bulbs is necessary? Without explaining that these bulbs consume 75% less than traditional bulbs? Do we want people continue buying the cheapest bulb after the campaign without thinking about its implications, advantages and disadvantages? Do we want people acept a waste recycling rate if they don’t really know that recyling is very necessary? Without people knowing that recycling glass helps to reduce air pollution by 20% compared to the use of new bottles made burning fuel? How can we ask for a responsible consumption without explaining that we are exterminating some species because of ahighly great commercial demand? How are prohibitions and obligations imposed without giving a reaso or without explaining what is behind them? How could we get avoid these prohibitios and obligations because the society promote these actions by itself? Wouldn’t it be better to educaterather than banning? Wouldn’t it be better to educate rather than to impose?
Only by means of environmental education we will be able to aware society about the importance of preserving the environment and so to help citizens to find the right motivation to collaborate with environmental preservation.
Environmental education concerns all of us, children, youth, adults and elder, both during academic life and during our whole life, since the human being is responsible of environmental degradation and at the same time is a victim of its consequences but more importantly he is the key stone for its conservation.
We can’t live without an appropriate environment, clean air and water, animals vegetation; That is why we all should collaborate to preserve these resources. Anyone and everyone can make a difference and like Gandhi said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”