Monday, May 29

Environmental education: walking together, at the same time and in the same direction

How many times have we heard the expression the nature is wise? Throughout history we have witnessed its regeneration against the intervention of human beings, different natural phenomena and catastrophes and the passage of time. But, given the vertiginous advance of climate change, we cannot allow nature itself to protect itself from something in which human beings, whether we want to accept it or not, are largely to blame. It is time for us to assume our responsibility: we must change the way we interact with our environment and learn to care for and protect it. For this reason, in this learning, the concept of environmental education is presented as essential so that we can acquire knowledge and, of course, put it into practice, to minimize the human impact on the environment.

Thus, and to prevent these purposes from remaining in the air, on a day like today in 1975, World Environmental Education Day was celebrated for the first time, an event that has its origin in the celebration of the International Seminar on Environmental Education in Belgrade where the principles of this education were established within the framework of the United Nations programs. There, a topic was discussed that, 47 years later, is still totally valid: the need to form a world population that is aware of and concerned about sustainability, with sufficient knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivation and commitment to work individually and collectively in the search for solutions to problems related to the natural environment.

The question now is unavoidable: Has this purpose of educating the population on the environment been fulfilled? The answer – on which I think there is a clear consensus – is no, at least not entirely. But this, however, does not necessarily mean that there has not been exceptional work during this time or that the awareness and will to do so has not been acquired. There are many experts in the world of education who have been working on this collective awareness for some time, and more and more people are joining them. For example, those mothers and fathers -7 out of 10 according to the study “Environmental education in the family environment”, carried out by More Than Research for Naturaliza- who consider it essential that their children receive training in environmental matters in schools, carrying out activities that allows them to get closer to the natural environment and to learn to value the richness and teachings that it can bring them. And, of course, the thousands of teachers who, day after day, against the wind and open windows, strive to naturalize their classrooms so that boys and girls, from a very young age, come closer, get to know, care for and, definitely, integrate into their lives the environment. Or, what is the same, they try to make every day the Day of Environmental Education.

But on this path that was undertaken almost five decades ago, we cannot leave all the responsibility in their hands exclusively: we must all be part of that purpose. And that is precisely what moves us at Ecoembes, through Naturaliza, to make ourselves available day after day to teachers from all over the country, listening to them, accompanying them and giving them the tools to be able to carry out the great work of raising awareness that they are doing. But it is also necessary that institutions and governments at all levels take a step forward to be part of this process of greening the educational system.

Fortunately, in recent times great progress has been made in this regard, to the point that just a few days ago the European Commission made a proposal to help Member States, educational centres, non-governmental organisations, and, in short, all body that offers training, to incorporate skills and knowledge on sustainability, climate change and the environment, thus guaranteeing access by students.

Here, in our country, we closed 2021 with a milestone in terms of education that, from Naturaliza, we hope will be the prelude to something bigger that is yet to come: the new Organic Law for the Modification of the Organic Law of Education (LOMLOE) that incorporated environmental education as one of the fundamental tools to face the climate challenge, considering that “the educational system cannot be oblivious to the challenges posed by climate change on the planet, and educational centers must become a place of custody and care of our environment”. This text, whose application will begin in the 2022-2023 academic year, joins the implementation of the Environmental Education for Sustainability Action Plan (PAEAS), in which different working groups have helped to incorporate a multisectoral and broad vision of environmental education and in which both the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) and the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP) have collaborated.

But this does not stop (cannot stop) here: we have parents, teachers, experts from the world of education and institutions advancing in that purpose set in Belgrade; but we must add all the others. Environmental education goes beyond the doors of schools and is something that includes and involves us all and of which, necessarily, we must be a part. There is no doubt that there is an enormous amount of work to be done, today’s date reminds us of this, but there are already many of us who strive to contribute everything we can to this mission. Hopefully we can live the moment when it is not necessary to mark Environmental Education Day on the calendar because, simply, it is not necessary. Until then, let’s continue working, let’s keep walking together but, also, at the same time and in the same direction.