The natural environment has been critical in shaping our species and how we have evolved over millennia, yet in our relatively short history, we have lost sight of the importance of nature. With the planet facing the dire consequences of climate change and a global effort underway to reduce emissions and create a sustainable future for new generations, the question must be asked: How do we include the environment and sustainable development in our educational system? Educational reform including environmental education in several countries is providing some enlightening insights.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently signed an agreement with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to cooperate in integrating renewable energy and sustainable development into the UAE's education system. In the UK, school districts have started implementing courses that aim to educate students about the causes, risks and solutions of climate change. In India, schools have included the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in their curriculum and encouraged students to create their solutions to meet the goals.
The belief that “conservation begins with education” has become firmly entrenched in many programs around the world that seek to improve environmental health, as well as the way people interact with nature. Generally promoted by local non-governmental organizations or private companies, environmental education has now been embraced by schools that recognize that students have a lot to gain from understanding sustainable development and its associated technologies.
In addition to providing more information on the solutions available to mitigate climate change, environmental education gives power back to the younger generations. Programs in the UK and India are paving the way for a generation of problem solvers. With global student demonstrations and a new push to drive sustainability in everyday activities, younger generations have become more active in defending the planet.
But giving them the knowledge they need to tackle the issues ahead is not the only benefit of bringing sustainability into the classroom, as Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, shows: “Incorporating Renewable energy and Sustainable development in educational curricula will not only enable us to tap into the minds of young people and prepare them to become stewards of the environment, but will also spark their interest in pursuing careers in emerging fields.
A sustainable future
Education has always led to revolutions in science, technology, and the arts, so why not the environment? By providing pathways for students to learn about renewable energy, low-carbon technology, and sustainable living, we are allowing younger generations to choose how they develop, as David Attenborough explains:
“Young people: they worry. They know that this is the world in which they will grow up, in which they will spend the rest of their lives. But I think it's more idealistic than that. In fact, they believe that humanity, the human species, has no right to destroy and plunder despite everything.
As nations around the world continue to tackle issues related to climate change, many have identified that the next generation of decision-makers will need to be educated about the challenges that await them. Environmental education will become the greatest and most effective tool to combat environmental damage and promote sustainable development.
James Ellsmoor, Article in English