The Problem of Environmental Education

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 talk or write about teaching environmental education. This cannot be carried out. One can teach concepts about this problem, but not environmental education.

The lack of consensus on what environmental education is may be a reason for such misinterpretations. Often outdoor education, conservation education, and nature study are all 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.

In reality, the term Education for Sustainable Development would be a more understandable term, since it clearly indicates the purpose of the educational effort: education about sustainable development, which is actually the goal of environmental education.

Environmental problems have accelerated and worsened in recent decades, in a context in which economic globalization imposes new guidelines for the production and consumption of resources. In this context, education is a useful and necessary way to maximize environmental training and training in different areas of society, from those who have important decision-making in their hands, to the citizen levels, in which daily action has a direct impact on the environment.

Education, training and research constitutes a strategy aimed at the formation of a new environmental culture that affects consumption preferences and coexistence patterns.

The components of Education for Sustainable Development are:

A) Ecological foundations: This level includes instruction in basic ecology, Earth systems science, geology, meteorology, physical geography, botany, biology, chemistry and physics. The purpose of this level of instruction is to give the student information about ground life support systems. These life support systems are like the rules of a game. Suppose you want to learn how to play a game.

One of the first tasks you need to do is learn the rules of the game. In many ways, life is a game that one plays. Scientists have discovered many ecological rules of life, but new rules are frequently discovered. Unfortunately, many people do not understand many of these ecological rules of life.

Many human behaviors and developmental decisions appear to violate many of them. An important reason why the field known as sustainable development education was created is the perception that human societies were developing in ways that broke the rules. It was thought that if people could be taught the rules, then they would play the game by the rules.

B) Conceptual awareness: How individual and group actions can influence the relationship between quality of human life and the condition of the environment. That is, it is not enough for one to understand the life support systems (rules) of the planet; One must also understand how human actions affect the rules and how knowledge of these rules can help guide human behaviors.

C) Investigation and evaluation of problems: This involves learning to investigate and evaluate environmental problems. Because there are too many cases of people incorrectly or inaccurately interpreting environmental issues, many people are confused about what is the most environmentally responsible behavior.

Is it better for the environment to use cloth diapers than disposable diapers? Is it better to have your purchases put in a paper bag or a plastic one? Energy recovery from discarded resources, is it environmentally responsible or not? Very rarely are the answers to such questions simple. Most of the time, specific circumstances and conditions complicate the answers to such questions and can only be understood after careful consideration of much information.

D) The capacity for action: This component emphasizes providing the student with the necessary skills to participate productively in the solution of present environmental problems and the prevention of future environmental problems.

It is also responsible for helping students understand that, often, there is no one person, agency or organization responsible for environmental problems. Environmental problems are often caused by human societies, which are collectivities of individuals.

Therefore, individuals turn out to be the primary causes of many problems, and the solution to the problems will likely be the individual (acting collectively).

An adequate process of Education for Sustainable Development should lead people to acquire a more objective vision of the functioning of the society to which they belong, and of human societies in general.

Furthermore, it should encourage them to take a more active part in the life of the community, raise their desire to assume their share of responsibility and make them understand that the first rule in the management of natural resources is to avoid waste.

Education for Sustainable Development is an effective instrument to achieve that unavoidable challenge that is assumed in daily work, turning citizens into responsible beings with respect to the natural, cultural and social environment in which they live. The growth of this discipline must be based on the sensitivity and awareness of broad groups of professionals - scientists, technicians, teachers - as well as the incorporation of the environment into institutional policies.

In this order of ideas, education for Sustainable development It has a very important role in the formation of individuals, since it facilitates the construction of significant knowledge and the appropriation of the realities in which all social groups operate.

This process must be based on “learning to learn”, which include experiences where play, action and direct contact with the environment are the fundamental pillars. It allows children to be introduced to the bioliteracy process. From an early age, the first ideas about the conservation of flora, fauna and other components of the environment should be instilled in the child. The teacher must carry out his or her work in a way that forms in students respect, love and interest in the conservation of all the elements that make up the environment. This conservationist awareness of the man of tomorrow must be forged at school and at home.

The child grows and develops under the influence of a complex teaching-educational process, in which the school fulfills a social task that has the objective that the future citizen receives teaching and education, and integrates into the society in which he lives. a harmonious way, formed politically and ideologically in correspondence with the principles of our society. In this sense, the child must be educated to fully occupy his or her rightful place in nature, as a component element of it. He must understand that he is an integral part of the ecological system and that, as such, he has duties to fulfill.

In addition, education and training must be offered for adolescents and adults. The program has to include workshops for children, workshops for teachers, short courses, seminars, national and international symposiums and talks.

This process is aimed at the community in general and is outlined as an orientation of issues linked to development processes that tend in the short, medium and long term to establish tools that prevent the natural deterioration of natural resources and integrate awareness-raising changes in the forms of conduct, always towards the environment towards the achievement of sustainability.

Humanity has recently become aware that the Earth, our habitat, has limits and is fragile. In light of the explosive growth of the world population, the enormous technological progress, the uncontrolled use of resources and human activities, intolerable pressure is being exerted on the Environment; An important factor that distinguishes modern society from those that preceded us is the pace of changes to which the environment is subjected and the universality of its consequences.

Ecology, pollution, deforestation, trafficking of flora and fauna, pollution, hazardous waste, ozone layer, alternative energy and quality of life are terms that, currently, are read and heard continuously. This has a positive aspect, which is awareness at all levels of the existence of real and serious problems, both in the present and in the future.

It is important to be aware that the prevention of humanity and the quality of life of future generations depend, to a large extent, on the options and alternatives that human beings provide during their own lives:
-Instruments of analysis, reflection and action must be developed aimed at understanding, preventing and correcting the damage suffered by the environment. This must include the search for concrete actions or at least a deep reflection on preventive, curative or alternative solutions to environmental problems.

-That we can reconsider the responsibilities that must be assumed, individually and collectively, so that the problems can be solved together.

-Basic knowledge must be acquired on how to solve environmental problems.

-That it is understood that man is inseparable from his environment, so that altering the latter will have an indirect effect on man himself.

Each individual can be a player of the conservationist message, set an example by not throwing away garbage and always seeking recycling as an alternative to saving and protecting the environment.

Education for Sustainable Development channels and guides all the concerns that exist to protect and conserve the environment, offering appropriate tools to communicate messages that achieve the necessary change in the attitude of each individual, which guarantees that existing resources can be enjoyed. for future generations.

* By Cristian Frers.
Higher Technician in Environmental Management and Higher Technician in Social Communication.
Lt. Gen. Juan D. Perón 2049 7th. 55.
(C1040AAE) Autonomous City of Buenos Aires.
Republic of Argentina