A sharp environmental education

A sharp environmental education

By Luis Quintanar Medina

Environmental education (EA) must acquire depth, strength, be an educational activity that contributes to cutting these shadows that hang over life: it must be a sharp weapon for those of us who do not want nature to be further degraded and not they undermine the development possibilities of the majority of the earth's population. It is no longer a matter of conserving or correcting, as far as the environment is concerned, it is a matter of counterattacking the sources of environmental calamities that are devouring the planet; making EA without these ingredients is no longer very useful.

Environmental education (EA) as we know it now had a beginning linked to the exacerbation of environmental problems, characteristic of the second half of the 20th century; For this reason, it was born with a conservationist and anti-pollution character, that is, with an ecological orientation. This conception was in accordance with the concept of environment of that time, which includes the ecological but not the social and cultural.

As time went by, a series of events and meetings were organized worldwide where plans are drawn up for EE to be incorporated into formal education, especially basic education; At the same time, the concept of environment is being configured towards that of the environment and incorporates elements of the social (Giolitto, 1984); The world situation is also changing and new environmental problems appear, at the same time that the idea that it is necessary to consider the differences between countries, at least as highly polluting, developed and polluting underdeveloped countries, is becoming increasingly clear.

The last paradigm, which appears a little before the Rio Summit, is that of Sustainable Development, which, despite the criticism it has received, is, in relation to the pessimistic view of the environment-development relationship, an optimistic view .

In Latin America there are very particular conditions in relation to the origin and development of Environmental Education; Although they are framed in the climate that all world conferences printed, there was a lag in the measures that have been taken, with respect to the guidelines emanating from those meetings (González, 2000).

We find a teaching staff not prepared to take on the challenges of EE, but above all, with a political action that collides with those challenges and is that EE is a political issue, which requires non-educational decision-making, which they include the economic and that should drag the educational system; so there is no surprise if EA attempts in America (not including Cuba, which is a separate case) are not effective.

However, global advances in EE are remarkable, despite the few years that have elapsed since 1972, and EE is playing its social role, whether at a formal or non-formal level (as it has been in the past). case of many places in Latin America).

EA “presents the possibility of a fundamental transformation of society. This is a process that provides the individual with the necessary elements to understand the relationships between a society, its economy, its ideology and its dominant power structures in the context of the natural environment ”(Espinosa, 1999)

EA is here to stay because it responds to a global need, directly related to the existence of society; Written in philosophical terms, it is about the relationship between the human being and the environment that surrounds him, a relationship that now needs to fall into the field of reflection due to the evolution of society; EE is the pedagogical medium with which society knows and directs, always within the educational framework, the most appropriate course of the medium-society interaction and that interaction was already about to go out of the way in the seventies of the twentieth century.

Current conditions

EA is here to stay but not inert, static. The countries that have the least or that are looted the most require EE as an instrument of knowledge, reflection, defense, and survival; the cultures of Latin America must not be erased from the continent, the natural resources must not be polluted or looted; It is not possible for foreign countries to try to establish companies, factories or processes in Latin America, which in their respective countries are prohibited; In all this, EE plays its role and also in the formation and consolidation of an ecological and environmental awareness; and it is that in recent years we are witnessing the process of "homogenizing the world", although this homogenization is charged towards achieving control, by a few, of it.

Along the way, natural systems have already been strongly affected and unfavorable changes are already present in the disappearance of animal species and climatic changes; But this path is just the beginning of the search for total control over the world, call it world government or whatever you want, control that implies the super-exploitation of the already limited resources for life, to the benefit of small social groups and to the detriment of Most of the inhabitants of the planet, we see how, little by little, they take over our lands, waters, air and even prey on our culture.

Environmental education (EA), an activity that for some years now has acquired, by natural means, great importance, must also acquire depth, strength, be an educational activity that helps to cut these shadows that hang over life: it must be an edged weapon for those of us who do not want nature to be further degraded and the development possibilities of the majority of the earth's population not undermined

Without neutrality and without warmth

For these reasons, environmental education already requires at this time not to navigate in neutrality:

The harmful changes that various social groups are carrying out in ecosystems and, in general, in the planet, must cease and a great role corresponds, at least in reporting, in exposing the true causes, to EE, in the classroom or where it takes place.

On the other hand, in the expositions and analyzes on these problems, the explicit consideration of the current context must be present: the neoliberal and therefore atihumano character of that context in which environmental issues are unfolding must be shown.

It is no longer a matter of conserving or correcting, as far as the environment is concerned, it is a matter of counterattacking the sources of environmental calamities that are devouring the planet; making EA without these ingredients is no longer very useful.

Ask key questions, discuss and research

It is convenient to work with key questions when carrying out the EA, questions that must be known and answered in the process, regardless of the way it is carried out, due to their importance; María Novo (2006) includes a group of them that are basic and refer to:

-Development: why, for what and for whom is development?
-Progress: What do we understand by progress?
-Wealth and poverty: What is the origin of both? Should poverty exist?
-Success: What is understood and what should be understood by success?
-Needs, compulsive / consumer desires and limits of nature (and their relationships)
-Who owns the world?

Get to the discussion and investigation

An adequate treatment of AD should lead to the discussion and investigation of the core issues, by all those who participate in it, of the causes of current problems, some of them are included in the key questions that we must ask ourselves and that were just mentioned; among other things.

It should be clear, for example, that environmental problems are not the result of technological development, something inevitable, as they want us to see: it is the use of this technology by some, albeit very powerful, which, at the same time, Over centuries (and with an acute manifestation, in recent decades) it has unleashed what we currently see as an environmental crisis. Osvaldo Martínez (2007) writes that “The trend towards the global environmental crisis -… - accompanied capitalism from its cradle. This crisis has the profit of the market as its engine, wasteful opulence as its major aggravating factor, and poverty that destroys the forest because it has no other fuel to cook, as its minor aggravating factor ”, so that the liberated market, the style of unbridled consumption, as an ideal of happiness and success, and the consequences of poverty, generated by the same system, are at the base of the present environmental excesses; As long as environmental policy is subject to economic policy, there is no hope that a balance can be returned.

It should also be clear that the majority of environmental problems are due to developed countries and that over the decades they have evaded their responsibility “and made great efforts to divert international attention to those environmental issues that are of interest to them, without duly take into account the objectives and priorities of underdeveloped nations ”(Pichs, 2006).

Another important question is the content of the Sustainable Development concept, which implies the Development concept, which implies necessarily considering economic and social dimensions; for sustainable development, the environmental dimension must also be considered, depending in a decisive way on the economic dimension.

The time has come, for the good of the planet, for environmental education to be incorporated into educational activities, as a necessity, despite the obstacles that have and continue to exist, above all of a political nature, let alone educational; Espinosa establishes in 1999 that “The analysis of the educational systems of Latin America and the Caribbean showed that the topic of EE is particularly difficult to incorporate into the curriculum, since it is directly associated with national political power and the conflict of interests regarding to the location of national assets and resources "and then the EA becomes" a victim of benign negligence, making it ineffective, not systematic and without application ". If this trend persists, the necessary spaces for environmental education should be sought or made according to the murky years that Our America lives.

Luis Quintanar Medina - Technological University of Valle de Chalco - Mexico


-Espinosa M del C (1999). Environmental Crisis, Society and Education, in: Ecology and Society. Studies. C. Delgado and T. Fung Editores, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana

-Giolitto P. (1984). Pedagogy of the Environment. Herder, Barcelona

-González E. (2000). Keynote Paper presented at the III Ibero-American Congress of Environmental Education, Caracas, Venezuela.

-Martínez O. The complex death of neoliberalism. Editorial of Social Sciences, Havana. 2007

-Novo M (2006) Environmental education. Sustainable development and globalization. Environmental Education Magazine, year 4 No 6

-Pichs R. Internationalization of the debate on environment and development, in: Free trade and underdevelopment. 2006

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