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By Cristian Frers
Education for sustainable development, rather than being limited to a specific aspect of the educational process, must become a privileged basis for developing a new lifestyle. It must be an educational practice open to social life so that members of society participate, according to their possibilities, in the complex and supportive task of improving relations between humanity and its environment.
Education is, at the same time, a social product and an instrument of transformation of the society where it is inserted. Therefore, education systems are both agent and result of processes of social change. However, if the rest of the social agents do not act in the direction of change, it is highly unlikely that the educational system will transform the complex framework in which the socioeconomic structures, the relations of production and exchange, the patterns of consumption and , in short, the established development model.
To understand what environmental education is, it is convenient to explain what it is not. Environmental education is not a field of study, like biology, chemistry, ecology, or physics. It is a process. For many people, this is a concept that is difficult to understand. Many people speak or write about teaching environmental education. This cannot be done. One can teach concepts about this problem, but not environmental education.
The lack of consensus on what environmental education is may be one reason for such misinterpretations. Outdoor education, conservation education, and nature study are often topics considered environmental education. At the same time, part of the problem is also due to the fact that the very term environmental education is a not entirely appropriate name.
Actually, the term Education for Sustainable Development would be a more understandable term, as it clearly indicates the purpose of the educational effort: education about sustainable development, which is actually the goal of environmental education.
This implies the need to include environmental education programs in planning and general policies, drawn up through effective social participation. Too many times one falls into the temptation to carry out attractive actions, with a showy staging and large mass movements that do not compromise too much or question the management that is carried out. Environmental education must be integrated with management and not be used as a justification for its possible deficiencies.
To make possible the purposes of education for sustainable development, that is, to improve all ecological relationships including those of man himself with nature and man with each other; As well as generating awareness, interest, skills, motivations and commitments to the environment, environmental education must transmit basic concepts such as: The challenge that we must pose today is to favor the transition towards sustainability and equity, being aware of that this transition requires profound economic, technological, social, political, as well as educational changes.
A fundamental purpose of education for sustainable development is to ensure that both individuals and communities understand the complex nature of the environment resulting from the interaction of its different aspects: physical, biological, social, cultural, economic, among others; and acquire the knowledge, values and practical skills to participate responsibly and effectively in the prevention and solution of environmental problems in the management of environmental quality.
Environmental education is key to understanding the relationships between natural and social systems, as well as to achieving a clearer perception of the importance of socio-cultural factors in the genesis of environmental problems.
Along these lines, it must promote the acquisition of awareness, values and behaviors that favor the effective participation of the population in the decision-making process. Environmental education understood in this way can and should be a strategic factor that affects the established development model to redirect it towards sustainability and equity.
Environmental education for a sustainable and equitable society is a lifelong learning process, based on respect for all forms of life. It is an education that affirms values and actions that contribute to human and social transformation and to the preservation of natural resources and the environment.
Therefore, education for sustainable development, rather than being limited to a specific aspect of the educational process, must become a privileged basis for developing a new lifestyle. It must be an educational practice open to social life so that members of society participate, according to their possibilities, in the complex and supportive task of improving relations between humanity and its environment.
Much more is written and spoken than in the past on the subject. Is an advance. Environmental education has taken on a certain relevance in the development of society in recent years and is included in school curricula but does so from a transversal line, not as a new discipline.
In everyday life, industries daily produce tons of pollutants that spread in the atmosphere or throw as waste into the seas and rivers. We frantically consume disproportionate amounts of energy for production or transportation. We generate excess garbage for packaging. In establishments that sell or produce food, consumers do not take due care of their health. Materials derived from threatened species or environments are constantly used (when they have no longer been consciously extinguished or destroyed). Pesticides are overused on crops and diluted in irrigation water. We scattered everywhere, especially on the streets and beaches, tons of waste that has progressively littered the landscape and deteriorated public health. We do not foresee catastrophes, floods and other natural phenomena and we indiscriminately exploit our valuable natural resources without realizing that they are not inexhaustible.
We are systematically and collectively deteriorating and poisoning our own living conditions and the urgent measures that are required have not been taken: we have not had an environmental policy, we have abundant but fragmented legislation, there are gaps in environmental information, there is excess permissiveness for pollution and insufficient effort in schools and society to create a national consciousness that allows us to face the ecological suicide in which we are persevering… beyond all good words. What happens in Argentina is reproduced, with less or more gravity, on a planetary scale.
It is necessary to consider a change for the 21st century, a change that involves a breakdown of the current system to evolve towards a new society based on real, not utopian, sustainable development. But through our compartmentalized vision of the world, our technological, economic and mercantile egoism, the anthropocentric system that dominates the natural one, the fierce struggles between ethnic groups, the consumerism and exacerbated waste of certain societies while others go through periods of hardship, we never We will address the process that culminates in a new paradigm of universal subsistence.
Only when we reflect that we are part of a global ecosystem where there are multiple bidirectional relationships, through which we act on the environment but also the environment conditions them, will we be predisposed to change, we will be on the path of rational action with the environment, we will place ourselves in a new paradigm necessary for the 21st century, the paradigm of the reconciliation of human beings with nature for joint survival.
* Cristian Frers He is a Senior Technician in Environmental Management and a Senior Technician in Social Communication