Izabela Pacheco Cardoso

Why environmental education?

Masked behind colored bins of selective collection or ecological gymkhanas and protest parades in the yearly commemoration of Tree Day, environmental education has evolved and became as encompassing as the human capacity for creation and ambition. Gandhi argued that nature is capable of satisfying all human needs, except ambition.
More technologies are available to educate in mass about the need to consume superfluous products of short duration and acquiring equipment consuming energy and producing more residue. In such a short space of time so many species have become extinct, different sources of pure water have run dry, so many forests have been flattened and the hunger of all has not been appeased, and even less the survival of previous cultures has been guaranteed. Nature is no longer harmoniously keeping up with the consumption process of the current economic development model of which the speed is exceeding the safety limit required to maintain life and what it entails. The need to change the development model is not only from economic to sustainable, but also how to alter the standards which define the satisfaction of people as citizens, as part of a society occupying a limited space with some non-renewable resources and others renewable within a determined time.
Dias (2004) shows how a North American baby consumes as much as 2 Swedes, 13 Brazilians, 35 Indians or 280 Haitians. The population of "North American babies" is increasing, not only in the USA, but also in the shopping centers of the cities of any country. Culture is part of the environment, it comes from the way of living acquired by a group of people that uses a determined space and the resources available in it. The cooperation of the individuals of the group is indispensable to allow the generations to continue. This cooperation requires standards of conduct and codes of ethics, what leads to the creation of a system based on behavioral standards.
The constant learning "about how to behave on the planet" is environmental education: motivating the behavioral changes required to start the new actions of a human sustainable development model.
How much time remains to create this reflection and readjust the quality of use of the time of human life on the planet? The consequences of tsunamis, floods or droughts, new viruses and scientific discoveries show the sensitivity of the threads of this web, which resists. Up to a certain point.
In order for changes of attitude to occur, the individual needs to perceive himself or herself as an integral part of a system/environment, which must be balanced to ensure its existence. Individual conduct leads to interventions that can contribute to the balance of the system/environment or have a negative effect on it.
So, environmental education helps to form values in the individual so that he or she acts in a responsible manner, through his or her conscious behavior for the balance of all the environment and thereby "knows how to be" a human being.

DIAS, Genebaldo Freire. Educacao ambiental: principios e praticas (Environmental education: principles and practices). 9. ed. Sao Paulo: Gaia, 2004.