Environmental Education and Green Citizenship
The 1st Earth Day and Promotion of Environmental Education
The 2015 celebration of #EarthDay not only reminds us that we must do something to protect our environment but appreciate the efforts of thousands of colleges and universities that protested against the deterioration of the environment in 1970 or the 1st Earth Day.
Earth Day is also considered by many as the anniversary of the modern environmental movement that was formally organized in the United States in April of 1970. The day when different environmental groups that had been fighting for oil spills, air pollution, toxic dumps, loss of wilderness, and others realized their common values and together, as a modern environmental movement, campaign on environmental issues and promote environmental education.
The aim of modern environmental movement’s educational initiative is to create “green” citizens that are environmentally knowledgeable, motivate to find a solution and aware of how to help solve environmental problems. It has gained international recognition and in 1977 the right of every citizen to environmental education is officially embraced and stated in Tbilisi Declaration. The international community’s strong commitment to the promotion of environmental education led to the publication of the Brundtland Report recommending the formalization of environmental education in school as part of the sustainable development framework in the late 1980s.
The value of developing students’ sense environmental responsibility and knowledge in environmental monitoring, protection and improvement in attaining sustainable development led to the 1992 Earth Summit’s Agenda 21, Chapter 36 expanding the scope of environmental education in colleges, universities, professional and vocational training, and in all levels, stages and aspects education. This “greening” of the curriculum led to emergencies of other “green” ideas such as “green citizenship”.
Education, Citizenship, and Environment
Environmental education in school started in the late 1980s and the inclusion of environmental concerns in the curricula ignited the debate over the nature of “green citizenship”. Initially, green citizenship only demands acquisition and maintenance of values, attitudes, and positive concern for the environment but as new ideas and models of environmental education emerged, it became specific to personal responsibility, participation, and engagement in economic and political aspects of environmental issues.
Green or environmental citizens in practice are those that critically evaluate and attempt to limit the economic and social impact of the environmental issue. This citizen can be an individual or businesses that are truly concern with public
welfare and ethical use of the environment such as “green corporations” where environmental considerations override profit motive.
Human beings are completely dependent on the earth’s environment and natural support system. Environmental activities such as logging, fishing, manufacturing, and others to support human needs, wars, and massive industrialization has caused the depletion of earth’s natural resources and pollution of air and oceans.
Environmental initiatives that started in the 1970s effectively addressed some of these problems but the degradation of the Earth continues and seems at a more rapid rate than before. For example, the Earth according to recent study lost about 500 million acres of tree cover and billion tons of eroded topsoil due to housing needs of increasing human population, air pollution, and acid rain. Since population growth and pollution is both personal and national problem, the personal contribution of green citizens, individual commitment, and collective effort is, therefore, critical in ensuring a cleaner, fresher, and a brighter world to live in. Let us begin with solid waste, sewage, and other pollutants produced at home.