Environmental Education Coalition

See also the Education Coalition Report from the Volos Assembly

At the Loccum Assembly in 1999, the Education Coalition acknowledged that there will have to be fundamental changes in the culture and lifestyles of the industrialised world if environmental disaster is to be averted; current consumption patterns as well as production processes are simply unsustainable. The Coalition hoped 'to provide a forum within which to share educational initiatives that encourage these fundamental changes at the level of personal - and organisational - vision, values and priorities'. At the Assembly itself, and again at the Assembly in Raubichi in 2001, there was a very useful exchange of ideas and strategies, illustrating different approaches in a variety of contexts, covering both formal and informal educational settings and including those in church circles. It was hoped that this exchange could be continued via the website, but the links between us have proved too fragile.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) has reinforced the urgency of the educational task. It exposed the political and economic forces that link the global economic system, the inequality and poverty within and between nations, the high levels of insecurity and conflict, and the irreversible damage to essential ecological processes. But ideological perspectives and the motives influencing decision-making were left largely implicit. In fact, if there is to be any hope of fulfilling the targets and timescales in the Plan of Implementation (inadequate as these are), there will have to be educational programmes that stimulate critical thinking, address core beliefs, challenge dominant ideologies, and encourage a profound respect for all that can help safeguard life for future generations.

It is precisely here that christians and churches have a contribution to make, modelling forms of education that touch people's hearts as well as minds, that start by listening to those on the underside of 'development', and that focus on the sustainability of the diversity of human communities and their dependence on the Earth's natural resources and ecological processes.

The recognition of the importance of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has resulted in the adoption of a United Nations Decade of ESD, due to begin in 2005. UNESCO is taking the lead role in its promotion and in consultations with national governments, relevant international organisations and NGOs.

At Volos, in response to the presentations on WSSD and Water, the Education Coalition will themselves try to be a learning community, helping each other reflect on significant action that could be taken in their own lives, in their local communities, and in relation to national and global issues, paying particular attention to core beliefs and commitments. Drawing on this experience, the task of the group will be to formulate ideas as to how education for sustainability could be promoted in church circles. This could then form the basis of a discussion with UNESCO on a possible project to engage the churches in the UN Decade of ESD.

Ruth Conway