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Shaping the future we want: Education for sustainability

31 August 2015
Healing Earth is a living environmental science e-textbook to heighten awareness of our planet’s environmental issues through the added perspectives of ethics, spirituality and action. Written by 90 scholars from Jesuit universities around the world, it is a free online e-textbook for first year university students, fourth year secondary school students and adult learners. Photo credit: Jesuit Ecology Project/Loyola University Chicago

Healing Earth is a living environmental science e-textbook to heighten awareness of our planet’s environmental issues through the added perspectives of ethics, spirituality and action. Written by 90 scholars from Jesuit universities around the world, it is a free online e-textbook for first year university students, fourth year secondary school students and adult learners. (Photo: International Jesuit Ecology Project/Loyola University Chicago)

GIAN-Ecology

The post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals serves as a framework for global development efforts for the next 15 years. The post-2015 education for all agenda  is an integral part of the sustainable development agenda, which was developed through a broad and inclusive consultative process.

In shaping the future we want, we have to create a transformative learning process that integrates the principles and practices of sustainable development goals into all aspects of education and learning. A learning process that encourages change in knowledge, values, and attitudes of youth, educators, and education systems enables a more sustainable and just society for all with a deep sense for “care of our earth.”

Education has a transformative characteristic  that, if delivered properly, can significantly trigger equitable economic development, increase social inclusion, foster environmental sustainability and improve governance.

In the papal encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis admits that there is an “educational challenge that stands before us” emphasizing however that it demands that “we set out on the long path of renewal” (202). “There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices” (211).

The policy track is not always successful in achieving the change needed (COP 15 to COP 21). Awareness is not enough for political commitment to happen. The focus now begins with changing personal values and lifestyles, which is increasingly recognized as critical elements in learning and curriculum design.

There is also a growing interest on a broader sense of “the good life” or buen vivir, emerging in different forms globally. Buen vivir is based on the classical ideas of a good quality of life but with a specific focus on wellbeing as possible within community. In most approaches, “community” is understood more broadly and includes nature.

The precautionary principle helps us in addressing the right response as with the installation of hydro dams that is viewed as ecologically sustainable but often results in the disruption of local ecosystems.

We need an understanding and appreciation of the common good, our common home, to establish the attitude of seeking specific resolutions, to reject systematic and arbitrary exclusions, and to enable and engage conditions that allow the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

Critical competencies are needed in strengthening: (i) youth, self-evaluation, and culture; (ii) awareness as the first step of solidarity; and (iii) engagement as a way to know and understand other people’s lives and the vocational capacity to learn new skills and form values.

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