Education should emphasize our interdependence with other peoples,
other species and the planet as a whole.
More than anything else, education should explore the connections
between peoples, between people and other species, and between people and
the planet. When we appreciate how dependent we are on having a healthy
global environment, we will want to take steps to preserve biodiversity,
reduce global inequalities and promote cross-cultural understanding with
Education should help students move from awareness to knowledge to action
Knowing about the environment doesn't necessarily lead to action.
Students must have opportunities to "act" on their knowledge. It is only
when we try to solve environmental problems that we can fully understand
them. This can't be done solely by studying from textbooks. When students
try to solve environmental problems, they discover that these issues are
not black and white, and learn why these problems have not been solved
already. This provides them with opportunities to develop the critical
thinking skills needed to develop solutions.
Teachers, students and schools in the world's richer countries should
reduce their consumption of the world's resources.
It's estimated that the 20% of the world's population in the richer
countries consume 80% of the world's resources. Does our planet have enough
resources for everyone to have the same living standards as this 20%?
Besides asking students to consider this question, we can challenge them to
think of ways their school can save energy and can use less water, paper
and other resources.
Students must have opportunities to develop a personal connection with
It's impossible to save the environment if you don't know it. Yet,
most people live in cities where it's difficult to develop an emotional
bond with nature. Environmental education can help people recognize that
there is more nature in cities than we realize. Many North American schools
are replacing the concrete in their school yards with nature study areas,
full of native trees and plants. This is cheaper than taking students on
trips to nature areas.
Education should be future-oriented.
Traditionally, we have studied history in order to understand the
present. But to solve environmental problems, we need to think about the
future. As British educator David Hicks says, "the future is that part of
history that we can change". One way is to ask ourselves what kind of
future we want to leave our children. Native peoples in North America based
their decisions on what would be best for those people born seven
generations after them. Another method is to develop alternative views of
the future. We can consider where our current path of development is taking
us, then consider environmentally-friendly alternatives. This allows
students to consider what future they prefer, and how we might get there
We must relearn "old wisdoms" from native peoples to re-connect to the
In our communities, there are grandparents and other elders who can
tell us what life was like before today's consumer society. It is important
for young people to realize that our consumer society is a very recent
development in human history and that many people enjoyed happy, satisfying
lives before this. In North America, many educators invite aboriginal
elders from native Indian or Inuit tribes to class to share their views
Teachers should incorporate media literacy into every school subject.
In North America, young people encounter 2,000 advertisements each
day - on TVand radio, on outdoor ads and on consumer products. These
advertisements help form the self-image of boys and girls, and promote
materialism as a goal in itself. We need to remember that our "mental"
environment can get as polluted as the natural environment.
Teachers should be facilitators.
We don't need to be experts to teach about the environment. As we
study environmental problems with our students, we can learn about these
problems at the same time. One role is to provide opportunities for
learning - we don't need to tell students what conclusions should be
Teachers should be good role models for their students and "walk their
As role models, teachers have an enormous influence on their
students. Research shows that if students know that teachers and other
adults care about the environment, it lessens their anxiety about
discussing and acting on environmental issues. We thus need to practice
what we preach and "walk our talk".