ESD is more than a knowledge base related to environment,
economy, and society. It also addresses learning skills, perspectives,
and values that guide and motivate people to seek sustainable livelihoods,
participate in a democratic society, and live in a sustainable manner.
ESD also involves studying local and, when appropriate, global issues.
Therefore, these five (i.e., knowledge, skills, perspectives, values,
and issues) must all be addressed in a formal curriculum that has been
reoriented to address sustainability. Simply adding more to the curriculum
will not be feasible in most schools; they already have a full curriculum.
Deciding what to leave out - what does not contribute to sustainability
or is obsolete - is an integral part of the reorienting process. Let's
look more closely at these five components of an education reoriented
to address sustainability.
Sustainable development encompasses
environment, economics, and society. Therefore, people need basic knowledge
from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to understand
the principles of sustainable development, how they can be implemented,
the values involved, and ramifications of their implementation. Knowledge
based on traditional disciplines supports ESD.
for communities in the process of creating ESD curriculums will be to
select knowledge that will support their sustainability goals. An accompanying
challenge will be to let go of those topics that have been successfully
taught for years but are no longer relevant. In the event that your community
has not defined sustainability goals, you can substitute principles and
guidelines for sustainability. (See following box.) Section XII of this
to Create Community Sustainability Goals through Public Participation,
includes exercises that will assist communities in identifying community
for Sustainable Development
identify a knowledge base that will support sustainability goals,
citizens must first select goals. To help in this process, here
is a list of statements, conditions, and guidelines for sustainability,
which have been identified by prominent authors.
Daly, author of For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy
toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future,
gives three conditions of a sustainable society:
Rates of use of renewable resources do not exceed their rates
Rates of use of nonrenewable resources do not exceed the rate
at which sustainable renewable substitutes are developed.
Rates of pollution emission do not exceed the assimilative capacity
of the environment.
authors consider peace, equity, and justice necessary for a sustainable
Meadows, author of Limits to Growth, outlined these general
guidelines for restructuring world systems toward sustainability:
Minimize the use of nonrenewable resources.
Prevent erosion of renewable resources.
Use all resources with maximum efficiency.
Slow and eventually stop exponential growth of population and
Monitor the condition of resources, the natural environment,
and the welfare of humans.
Improve response time for environmental stress.
Agyeman, Assistant Professor at Tufts University, interprets that
"[sustainability] places great emphasis upon the need to: ensure
a better quality of life for all, in a just and equitable manner,
whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems."
course, communities must choose culturally appropriate and locally
relevant sustainability goals that reflect their current and future
life conditions and needs. With time, major guiding principles selected
for the curriculum will become infused into local worldviews.
ESD focuses largely on the major social, economic, and environmental issues
that threaten the sustainability of the planet. Many of these key issues
were identified at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and are found in Agenda
21. Understanding and addressing these issues are the heart of ESD,
and locally relevant issues should be included in any program related to
educating for sustainability.
21: Chapters, Statement, and Conventions
1 - Social and Economic Dimensions
cooperation, Combating poverty, Changing consumption patterns, Population
and sustainability, Protecting and promoting human health, Sustainable
human settlements, Making decisions for sustainable development.
2 - Conservation & Management of Resources Protecting the atmosphere,
Managing land sustainably, Combating deforestation, Combating desertification
and drought, Sustainable mountain development, Sustainable agriculture
and rural development, Conservation of biological diversity, Management
of biotechnology, Protecting and managing the oceans, Protecting
and managing fresh water, Safer use of toxic chemicals, Managing
hazardous wastes, Managing solid waste and sewage, Managing radioactive
3 - Strengthening the Role of Major Groups Women in sustainable
development, Children and youth, Indigenous people, Partnerships
with NGOs, Local authorities, Workers and trade unions, Business
and industry, Scientists and technologists, Strengthening the role
4 - Means of Implementation Financing sustainable development; Technology
transfer; Science for sustainable development; Education, awareness
and training; Creating capacity for sustainable development; Organizing
for sustainable development, International law; and Information
for decision making.
the 40 chapters of Agenda 21 were the Rio Declaration and
the following conventions and statement of principles: Statement
of Forests, Convention on Climate Change, Convention on Biological
Diversity, Convention on Desertification.
21 clearly identifies many of the critical issues that governments
around the world agreed to address, additional issues were discussed for
which no formal international agreement or plan of action could be reached.
In addition, issues that are important to enhancing the understanding
of sustainability (e.g., globalization) have continued to emerge since
the Rio de Janeiro conference. These additional issues, not included in
Agenda 21, are part of international discussions of sustainability
and include, but are not limited to, topic such as war and militarism,
governance, discrimination and nationalism, renewable energy sources,
multinational corporations, refugees, nuclear disarmament, human rights,
and media influencing rapid change of worldviews. These issues are pertinent
to reorienting education to address sustainability and should be included
when relevant. Including local issues will foster innovative solutions
and develop the political will to resolve them.
The last major content area in educating
for sustainability stems from the major UN conferences in the 1990s and
new millenium that expanded our understanding of sustainable development.
Key examples of the issues explored are Environment and Development (Rio
de Janeiro, 1992), UN Global Conference on the Sustainable Development
of Small Island Developing States (Barbados, 1993), International Conference
on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), World Summit for Social Development
(Copenhagen, 1995), Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1996),
Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Istanbul, 1996) and World Food
Summit (Rome, 1996). Each conference advanced understanding of issues
that cause much suffering and threaten global sustainability. Each conference
also developed a series of requests for public awareness and understanding
and identified the individual responsibilities and behavior changes that
would ameliorate each issue.
creating ESD curriculums cannot teach all of the issues associated with
Agenda 21, the statements of principles and conventions, and these
major UN conferences. The quantity of study would be overwhelming. Communities
should, however, select a few issues in each of the three realms - environment,
economics, and society. The issues selected should be locally relevant.
For example, a land-locked country could study sustainable mountain development
and either ignore or lightly cover protecting and managing the oceans.
Some topics, such as women in sustainable development or combating poverty,
have relevance to every country.
for Teaching or Analyzing Environmental Issues*
should be equipped to help pupils identify and think about the complexities
of issues from the perspectives of many stakeholders. Older pupils
and university students need to acquire skills to analyze issues,
analyze proposed solutions to those issues, understand the values
underlying opposing positions on issues, and analyze conflicts arising
from those issues and proposed solutions. The following framework
of 13 questions is for analyzing an environmental issue whether
the issue confronts a local community or a country on the other
side of the world.
What are the main historical and current causes (i.e., physical/biotic,
social/cultural, or economic) of the issue?
What is the geographic scale, the spatial distribution, and
the longevity of the issue?
What are the major risks and consequences to the natural environment?
What are the major risks and consequences to human systems?
What are the economic implications?
What are the major currently implemented or proposed solutions?
What are the obstacles to these solutions?
What major social values (e.g., economic, ecological, political,
aesthetic) are involved in or infringed upon by these solutions?
What group(s) of people would be adversely impacted by or bear
the costs of these solutions?
What is the political status of the problem and solutions?
How does this issue relate to other environmental issues?
The next two questions help people integrate knowledge into daily
What is a change you can make in your daily life to lessen the
problem or issue?
Beyond changes in your daily life, what is the next step you
could take to address the issue?
framework for teaching, studying, and analyzing environmental issues
was developed for North American university students through a research
process by Rosalyn McKeown and Roger Dendinger.
successful, ESD must go beyond teaching about these global issues. ESD
must give people practical skills that will enable them to continue learning
after they leave school, to have a sustainable livelihood, and to live
sustainable lives. These skills will differ with community conditions.
The following list demonstrates the types of skills pupils will need as
adults. Note that skills fall into one or more of the three realms of
sustainable development - environmental, economic, and social.
to communicate effectively (both orally and in writing).
to think about systems (both natural and social sciences).
to think in time - to forecast, to think ahead, and to plan.
to think critically about value issues.
The ability to separate number,
quantity, quality, and value.
The capacity to move from awareness to
knowledge to action.
The ability to work cooperatively with other people.
The capacity to use these processes: knowing, inquiring, acting, judging,
imagining, connecting, valuing, and choosing.
The capacity to develop
an aesthetic response to the environment (McClaren, 1989). In addition,
pupils will need to learn skills that will help them manage and interact
with the local environment. Such locally relevant skills may include learning
Prepare materials for recycling.
Harvest wild plants without jeopardizing
future natural regeneration and production.
Grow low-water-need cotton.
Draw water from unpolluted sources.
ESD carries with it
perspectives that are important for understanding global issues as well
as local issues in a global context. Every issue has a history and a future.
Looking at the roots of an issue and forecasting possible futures based
on different scenarios are part of ESD, as is understanding that many
global issues are linked. For example, over-consumption of such consumer
goods as paper leads to deforestation, which is thought to be related
to global climate change.
The ability to consider an issue from the view
of different stakeholders is essential to ESD. Considering an issue from
another viewpoint besides your own leads to intra-national and international
understanding. This understanding is essential for creating the mood of
cooperation that will underpin sustainable development.
is a partial list of perspectives associated with ESD. Students understand
Social and environmental problems change through time and have
a history and a future.
Contemporary global environmental issues are
linked and interrelated between and among themselves.
Humans have universal
attributes (e.g., they love their children).
Looking at their community
as well as looking beyond the confines of local and national boundaries
is necessary to understand local issues in a global context.
differing views before reaching a decision or judgment is necessary.
Economic values, religious values, and societal values compete for importance
as people of different interests and backgrounds interact.
and science alone cannot solve all of our problems.
global citizens in addition to citizens of the local community.
consumer decisions and other actions effect resource extraction and manufacturing
in distant places.
Employing the precautionary principle by taking action
to avoid the possibility of serious or irreversible environmental or social
harm even when scientific knowledge is incomplete or inconclusive is necessary
for the long-term well-being of their community and planet.
to a generation of pupils, such perspectives will become infused into
Values are also an integral part of ESD. In some
cultures, values are taught overtly in the schools. In other cultures,
however, even if values are not taught overtly, they are modeled, explained,
analyzed, or discussed. In both situations, understanding values is an
essential part of understanding your own worldview and other people's
viewpoints. Understanding your own values, the values of the society you
live in, and the values of others around the world is a central part of
educating for a sustainable future. Two common techniques - values clarification
and values analysis - are useful to the values component of ESD.
values have different roles in the curriculum. In some ESD efforts, pupils
adopt certain values as a direct result of instruction or modeling of
accepted values. In other cultures, studying the relationship between
society and the environment leads pupils to adopt values derived from
their studies. In cultures where inquisitiveness is encouraged, pupils
come to value curiosity and questioning. In democratic societies, pupils
also develop shared values around concepts of democratic process, community
participation in decision making, volunteerism, and social justice. Each
of these approaches contributes to the overall goal of sustainability.
Citizenship: A Global Ethic for Sustainable Development
some countries, the religious values and ethics of the dominant
religion are taught in schools; in other countries they are not.
The Bahá'í International Community has articulated a statement of
ethics, which follows, that supports sustainability.
greatest challenge facing the world community as it mobilizes to
implement Agenda 21 is to release the enormous financial, technical,
human and moral resources required for sustainable development.
These resources will be freed up only as the peoples of the world
develop a profound sense of responsibility for the fate of the planet
and for the well-being of the entire human family.
sense of responsibility can only emerge from the acceptance of the
oneness of humanity and will only be sustainable by a unifying vision
of a peaceful, prosperous world society. Without such a global ethic,
people will be unable to become active, constructive participants
in the world-wide process of sustainable development."
Citizenship... encompasses the constellation of principles, values,
attitudes and behavior that the people of the world must embrace
if sustainable development is to be realized. "World Citizenship...
encourages a sane and legitimate patriotism, it also insists upon
a wider loyalty, a love of humanity as a whole. It does not, however,
imply abandonment of legitimate loyalties, the suppression of cultural
diversity, the abolition of national autonomy, nor the imposition
of uniformity. Its hallmark is 'unity in diversity.'
citizenship encompasses the principles of social and economic justice
both within and between nations; non-adversarial decision making
at all levels of society; equality of the sexes; racial, ethnic,
national and religious harmony; and the willingness to sacrifice
for the common good. Other facets of world citizenship - all of
which promote human honor and dignity, understanding, amity, cooperation,
trustworthiness, compassion and a desire to serve - can be deduced
from those already mentioned."
long as disunity, antagonism and provincialism characterize the
social political and economic relations within and among nations,
a global, sustainable pattern of development can not be established."
Social justice is another
realm of study that involves values. Social justice, which is considered
a central part of ESD in most countries, includes meeting basic human
needs and concern for the rights, dignity, and welfare of all people.
It includes respect for the traditions and religions of other societies
and cultures, and it fosters empathy for the life conditions of other
peoples. Ecological sustainability and resource conservation are considered
part of social justice. Preserving and conserving the resource base of
others prevents people from living in disadvantaged circumstances. Social
justice concerns related to preservation of resources (e.g., fossil fuels,
old-growth forests, and species diversity) extends to future generations;
this is called intergenerational equity.
Values taught in school need
to reflect the larger values of the society that surrounds the school.
Where appropriate, the opinions of community members can be solicited.
Then, a full range of values influenced by local traditions, aboriginal
groups, ethnic populations, immigrants, religions, media, and pop culture
will be revealed, inventoried, and considered for relation to and inclusion
in ESD. In addition, curriculum decision-makers will decide if new values,
which will help communities reach their goals of sustainability, need
to be included in the curriculum.
Earth Charter is a synthesis of values, principles, and aspirations
that are shared by a growing number of women, men, and organizations
around the world. Drafting the Earth Charter was part of the unfinished
business of the Earth Summit. The Earth Charter was written with
extensive international consultations conducted over many years.
Currently, the Earth Charter is being disseminated to individuals
and organizations in all sectors of society throughout the world
and it says in part:
urgently need a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical
foundation for the emerging world community. Therefore, together
in hope we affirm the following interdependent principles for a
sustainable way of life as a common standard by which the conduct
of all individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and
transnational institutions is to be guided and assessed."
Respect and care for the community of life
Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.
Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion,
Build democratic societies that are just, participatory,
sustainable, and peaceable.
Secure Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future
Protect and restore the integrity of Earth's ecological
systems, with special concern for biological diversity and
the natural processes that sustain life.
Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection
and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.
Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction
that safeguard Earth's regenerative capacities, human rights,
and community well-being.
Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote
the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.
Social and Economic Justice
Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental
Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all
levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable
Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable
development and ensure universal access to education, health
care, and economic opportunity.
Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural
and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily
health, and spiritual well-being, with special attention to
the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.
Democracy, Nonviolence, and Peace
Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide
transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation
in decision making, and access to justice.
Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the
knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way
Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.
Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.