Environmental Education between Responsibility & Sustainability

Dr. Emad Saad
Social Responsibility & Sustainability Consultant for Organizations

Introduction

Environmental education is an on-going process as long as man's life goes on. Children and adults equally need it. As such, it aims at conveying environmental awareness. Knowledge, behaviors and ecological values to the target groups at the governmental and private educational sectors, in addition to the question of adhering to the moral responsibility towards the matured use of resources for the sake of sound and continual development.

Environmental education is considered an integral part of the programs and strategies of sustainable cities because it is concerned with committed treatment of the different aspects of life (at home, school, office, street, or park) in a friendly manner to the environment. Consequently, environmental education is one of the priorities and challenges of sustainable cities in modern age. Thus, most governments and competent authorities in developed countries gave special importance to include environmental education among their curriculum particularly in the primary stage since the effect of learning in early age is like engraving on a stone, as the saying goes according to the rule of social responsibility.

Environmental education is an advance educational vision, which tries to find balance between human and economic prosperity and cultural traditions of the community and the sustainability of natural resources and the environment for a better life for the individual and the society at present and for the coming generations. The application of awareness principles for a sustainable development requires dependence on multi educational methods and approaches to provide long – life ethical learning for all the categories of society and its districts and to encourage respecting human needs that conform and agree with the sustainable and balance usage of natural resources so as to maintain them for the sake of the presence and future of humanity and to feed the sense of environmental citizenship and solidarity at the national, regional and international levels.

We are all Partners

Undoubtedly, we aspire to attain balanced primary environmental education (even – pre-school) that leads to living within sustainable cities that would benefit our homeland and its children. Focus shall be on learning by playing as one of the most important tools used to communicate and convey the idea scientifically and practically so that the child would like and satisfied with what he has learned, and thus the sense of responsibility is grown with the child and influential behavior on the individual regardless of his professional or personal position in society so as to help the child to benefit from it on all occasions and does not forget what he has learned. Learning is either a desire or freight, and we are in the age of openness and desire trying to provide for our children positive and attractive background to learn and to make use of all of his potential. This will contribute in the process of the community sustainable development.

With the beginning of the third millennium new initiatives and strategic plans for awareness and learning have recently appeared and they were based on the standards and rules of excellence whether at the Federal level (as per the Emirates Vision 2021) or at the local level in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (as per Vision 2030) which focused on the building of people as the basic component of society and not in his build-up. Entity is the basic pivot in the society build-up whereas formation is the component that is most transferable and changeable in the society under circumstances.

Social Responsibility

Recently we started seeing an increasing growth of the idea of social responsibility in the local community in the UAE at some governmental sectors and private sector companies in application of quality requirements (ISO 26000) and the standards of institutional excellence (EFQM) wherein the establishment is in charge of the effects resulting from its decisions and activities on the community and the environment since that is an administrative method and part of the strategic plan of the establishment through a behavior of transparency and morality, and in this way the establishment contributes in the sustainable development, health and community prosperity taking into account the interests of stakeholders.

Very recently Milton Friedman in his "Capitalism and Freedom" (1962) stated that the goal is always to gain as much profits as possible by the company owners or its shareholders in a manner that is appropriate for the provisions and regulations in force.

Whereas in the last decade and according to Daniel Franklin, the corporate social responsibility is considered now as the prevailing trend after it was only an exposition of welfare. Very few corporates exercise this responsibility quite well. Corporate social responsibility has become one of the most important indicators of economic competition among companies and countries at world level.

National and ethical obligations oblige companies and establishments to have a positive roles and better image , and these obligations raise the level of satisfaction of the society on the corporate which is socially responsible and increase its profits on the long term , whereas the public has the right to expect from these corporate to play positive role in its energetic background, and this helps in finding preventive procedures to avoid social problems between the company and the local community and to create a better work environment and a better quality of life more sophisticated to the society as a whole.

Green Schools

With the rise of world interest in the issues of the environment and the increase of claims to face effectively the urgent environmental problems, at the top of which is the increase of consumption, climate changes, Global Warming connected with the rise of the atmosphere pollution by gases to the threshold level, and the rise of the number of the ecological footprint, the concept of adjustment with the age challenges and the requirements of the next stage, and the necessity of spreading responsible environmental culture appeared through what is known as the Green Schools or Sustainable School with the aim of developing educational establishments environmentally and to accept the philosophy of adjustment and governance world wide (and we part of it) willingly.

Many countries in the world started to establish Green (Sustainable) Schools particularly in Europe in response to the invitation of the Earth Summit 1992 and the Environment Fund to generalize the plan of green schools with the aim of evaluating schools according to the ecological standards in respect of the educational process, administration and establishments and the way of dealing with natural resources. Early in 2005, this plan was generalized.in more than 700,000 schools in 42 countries around the world.

The main goal of the Green Schools (sustainable) is to grow awareness in environmental issues with students, teachers and parents so as to make them accustomed to deal with environment seriously in their life and to strengthen the sense of responsibility and social belonging wherein they live and the necessity of protecting and maintaining it against threats, risks and challenges coming at the top of which are the environmental challenges. Moreover, they help in growing the spirit of environmental citizenship, participation, and collective work among students and to provide them with various skills that enable each one to deal with the environmental challenges positively to reflect the positive image of the local and global environment.

Educational studies mentioned that children in the primary stage are much more ready than young and old people to accept new environmental values and concepts and to modify their behaviors at the rate of 85% in respect of environmental standards if they made aware of what they shall do so as to plant the spirit of responsibility in them and employ their spontaneous enthusiasm towards environmental issues giving them a pioneering role in instructing and urging other categories of society to participate in solving the problems of their environment and society, and in this they are unlike young and old people. Scientific studies confirm that we can’t bet if we can change the latter behaviors at the rate of more than 5% because "what’s bred in the bone cannot come out of the flesh" and science at a young age as the inscription on the stone as the sayings go.

The roles of the Green Schools are not restricted to merely making students aware of environmental issues and problems and the ways of dealing with them or just to develop their environmental skills, but as such they represent attempt to create a practical mini- model of life type and of how all the society should be.

When the student participates in cleaning his school and learns how to deal with waste of all kinds and to plant trees, and when he learns the ways of economizing the consumption of water and electricity and when he depends on natural light and to shut down his computer when not using it, all of this will be reflected on his behavior outside the school whether at home or in the street. Therefore, the child will be the sustainable pioneer in environmental education, and he has great power to influence adults and not the other way round. When this child becomes young, he will make his family and children get used to the wise use of environment and its resources. Thus, environmental education is sustainable because its results are sustainable on man his society and the globe as a whole.

If the majority of the advanced countries, at the top of which are Canada and countries of the European Union have applied successfully the experiment of Green Schools (Sustainable) in some schools and are trying to generalize the experiment to all schools, the application of this experiment in the developing courtiers which have not adhered yet to the international environmental standards and requirements, will face many economic, social and cultural difficulties, but at the same time the same experiment would be considered a step towards building up new generations aware of the environment and of their responsibility towards issues and problems of the environment.

This has been recently realized by the UAE where Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, applied successfully the imitative of the sustainable schools in 2009 when the schools succeeded in participating in the initiative of the sustainable schools during the first four years with the participation of 115,000 students in minimizing waste at the rate of 23% and to reduce water consumption to 54% , and minimize carbon emissions by using pubic transport.

The initiative of the sustainable schools carried out by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi aims at enhancing the abilities of schools, teachers and students to influence positively on the environment. The example of Abu Dhabi was followed by the schools of Dubai and Sharjah and some other schools in other Emirates in cooperation with Education Councils and the Ministry of Education.

Summary

Comparative studies refer that among the best green practices and applications is the change of the daily behavior of the different classes of society to be friends with the environment in all aspects of life to maintain and protect resources and reduce the environment footprint in facing environmental challenges and achieving sustainable development. We find out that there are many factors, which are influential in achieving the goal, and these shall be taken into consideration and they are:

1. A package of environmental regulations that organize the environmental work on a institutional base.

2. Including the concept of sustainable development and social responsibility in the curricula of all stages.

3. Empowering society classes or groups to effective participation in protecting and developing the environment through a package of procedures and incentives for the best green applications and practices which reach different aspects of life.

4. Enhancing the principle of active social partnership between the society components (Public and private sectors, Civil Society, Families and individuals) on the base of we are all partners in responsibility and construction.

5. Strategic plan (not seasonal) for awareness and sustainable environmental education focusing on students of primary stage through what is known as the initiative of the sustainable schools since awareness is an on-going action.

6. Empowering the institutions of Civil Society (domestic) to contribute to spread environmental awareness.

7. Creating a positive work atmosphere that permits all classes of society, particularly groups and individuals to present initiatives friendly with the environment that contribute in achieving sustainable development.

8. Launching awards and contests that motivate and encourage competition in applying the best green practices.

9. Spreading the culture of environmental footprint and the role of the individual in impacting.

10. Enhancing the culture of social responsibility among all components of society (governmental sector, private sector, Civil Society m families and individuals) on the base of we are all partners in responsibility to achieve sustainable development because the responsible behavior leads to sustainable success.

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