Explain the international events that contributed to the development of environmental education and education for sustainability. 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A number of events in world history have contributed to the development of environmental education and sustainability education. Discussions about the environment, and more specifically, man’s impact on the environment, predate the modern period. For example, in his play Antigone, the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles lamented man’s increasing control over nature. In the early thirteenth century, Saint Francis of Assisi preached for equality among all creatures and against human arrogance and dominance over the environment. Scholars from the late Ming dynasty in China (1368–1644 BCE) railed against deforestation because of its adverse effects on stream flow and soil quality. In the early eighteenth century, observers of French and British colonialism on the Caribbean islands warned that rapid deforestation to expand sugar plantations was altering the regional climate. All of these anecdotes reveal that discussions about the environment and sustainability certainly predate the modern period.

However, environmental education as we know it today developed out of the Industrial Revolution and the advent of the use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. In the nineteenth century, fossil fuels began to have enormous ecological effects on the planet. Much of environmental and sustainability education has revolved around grappling with these effects, their implications, and potential solutions. Some of the most important and oft-discussed effects include oil spills and air pollution from the drilling, transporting, refining, and burning of oil; the warming of the global atmosphere; and devastating climatic phenomena such as El Niño which have led to draught and famine in some of the poorest regions of the world. Much of contemporary environmental and sustainability education therefore revolves around grappling with the environmental crisis caused by the Industrial-era advent of the use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Throughout the past century, there has been a number of international environmental education events and activities that have greatly impacted environmental policies and education on sustainability.

One of the most notable events was in 1975, when the United Nations Environment Program (UN Environment) and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) came together to create the International Environmental Education Programme (IEEP). IEEP has since carried out several significant activities with the involvement of over 150 countries. One of the most significant projects of IEEP was organizing the International Congress on Environmental Education and Training in 1987, which took place in Moscow. The International Congress on Environmental Education involved the work of international leaders discussing the best methods to educate universities, students, and members of the general public. These methods would eventually be carried out in the 1990s to educate more than 250,000 students and 12,000 teachers.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Though writers and philosophers as far back as the 1700s (such as Rousseau in his work Emile, or On Education) stressed the importance of nature in children's education, the movement for environmental education accelerated during the Cold War. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, published in 1962, revealed the dangerous effects of pesticides on the environment and on humans.

The first Earth Day in 1970 involved people in communities across the United States and grew to involve countries across the world. In 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden, recognized the importance of environmental education in promoting environmental sustainability. This conference produced The Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, known as the Stockholm Declaration. In 1975, the Stockholm conference was followed up with the International Workshop on Environmental Education, which was held in Belgrade to define the goals, methods, and importance of environmental education. This education was not only to be emphasized for schools, but also for the general public. In the United States, the National Environmental Education Act of 1990 allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create federal-level programs in the area of environmental education. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, Sweden.  This meeting led to the creation of the Stockholm Declaration, which clearly enumerated and defined twenty-six guiding principles that were purportedly essential to the sustainability of modern human society.  The nineteenth principle describes the important role youth education has in the development of responsible environmental practices.  This international collaboration in the creation of this document preceded, and perhaps inspired, the creation of environmental regulatory departments by several nations.  It can be challenging to precisely identify how the United Nation's influential role has directly contributed to the development of specific environmental education curricula.  Nonetheless, it is clear that the UN will continue to be a prominent international leader in developing in defining and refining important concepts relating to environmental and sustainability education.

 

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team