What is the most important question facing environmental education in light of climate change?

This week’s question from the EECapacity Climate Change Education Course:

What is the most important question facing environmental education in light of climate change?

Some responses from participants:

Here’s one question I wonder about: How can we (environmental educators) advocate for climate change action at different scales while maintaining credibility and trust among varied audiences? How much should funding (or risk of losing funding) determine what actions we do or do not advocate for? — Sara Cole

I’m taking a second stab at what’s the key question facing environmental educators in light of climate change: Who do we most need to influence, and who are we most capable of influencing? If we try to teach everyone everything they need to know to mitigate and adapt to climate change, we’re bound to fail. We need to focus, and focus especially on the people who can and will do something now to make a difference. This could be partly an environmental justice issue–we need to be taking the case to the perpetrators, such as the CEOs of companies involved in deforestation, more than raising awareness of deforestation in impoverished schools which need to focus on their local issues. It could have ethical ramifications too in the common EE focus on school children–is it ethical for educators to raise fears of, say, global famine, among children too young to participate in solutions? Given the limited resources of EE, focusing on the “gatekeepers” of change seems more likely to be a fair and justified approach, and more likely to succeed in rapid change (if only we can figure out how to do it!). This new tool from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications may be helpful to get started, because it helps identify current attitudes and beliefs at a very local level. — Julie Dunlap

From my point of view I think it is not only ONE the important question that the EE is facing regarding climate change. Because results of scientific studies indicate that the current state of pollution because of emissions of greenhouse gases already have inevitable consequences in the mid-term, environmental education programs must simultaneously target the mitigation of impacts and adaptation processes for purposes of global warming.
Given this conditions, EE should target the diverse audiences in the country (from political levels to rural and urban communities).

For example, schools should not have “Environmental Education” as a separate subject from mathematics or sports. Contrary, curriculum should be “different” from the traditional approach by disciplines and have “integrated” curricula, enhancing students to be more analytical in the resolution of complex problems while leading to structured explanations to issues such as climate change.

In rural areas, EE should not focus its programs in showing the consequences of inadequate agricultural practices but instead come up with new and effective techniques that improve crop development in a sustainable way with the environment. This would contribute further, to minimize the emigration to cities for lack of opportunities in the rural area.

In urban where an unsustainable consumption model is marked and pronounced, EE programs need to be addressed differently.

Not less important, and being aware of our disappointment about politics and policies, advocacy and civic engagement is a huge challenge for EE. (Rocio Gutierrez)

Regarding the most important question facing Environmental Educators in light of climate change, my first answer would be that it’s impossible to narrow down to one question. Environmental Education can be an important route for increasing climate change awareness and concern but of course it’s not the only means. It’s important, I think, to keep in mind that it’s such a complex and trans-disciplinary issue that crosses so many sectors. While I may have come into climate change concern via environmental education, others may be more motivated by seeing it through lenses such as physics, economics, social-justice, religion, or public health. It’s our challenge as educators to know how we can frame it most effectively for our audience -and to collaborate effectively across sectors. The other struggle we have is how to communicate the importance and urgency of this “wicked problem” without scaring, alienating or numbing those who might be willing to listen. Oh and of course, leading by example (i.e. walking the talk ourselves) -not always easy given current structures and boundaries. — Beverly Helen

I can honestly say that the question: “What is the most important question facing environmental education in light of climate change?” overwhelmed me. There were so many important factors listed in our readings for this week. However, I have to say that the most important factor to me is the political climate. Conservatives have the power to cut funding and control government rules and regulations. For example, Senator James Inhofe is the author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. He has also stated that the Bible refutes climate change. Unfortunately, Inhofe is the chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Therefore, he has a lot of power to limit climate change legislation. The budget of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has cut environmental education as well as other environmental functions. The officials of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have been ordered to not use the terms “climate change” or “global warming.” — Lenore Hitchler

To me the most important question facing environmental education in light of climate change is to ask why there are not more active citizens around the globe who value the environment and are speaking up about climate change and changing their own behaviour, AND recognizing that, how can EE help to foster that in the next generation? — Chelsie Amy

More soon!


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