The Asian-Pacific region is particularly susceptible to the effects of global climate change. It is not just an ecological problem, however, but also a social problem, considering that it is generally the poorest members of society who are affected the most. Despite this fact, they rarely receive any government assistance or support. NGOs and adult educators in the region have therefore joined forces to launch an education campaign. Their work to increase awareness about ecological aspects of the climate crisis is also a contribution toward combating poverty and promoting sustainable development.
Climate Change is a looming global threat. It endangers not only all of
our ecosystems, communities, and cultures, but the future of humanity itself.
The grave impacts of global warming are differentiated across countries and hemispheres. The hardest hit are the geographically and economically vulnerable communities, which have little resources and the least access to support, technology, basic social services and financial resources to respond to impacts of Climate Change.
This is a stark reality in the Asia-Pacific region, the largest and most populous continent worldwide with almost 4 billion people or 60 % of the world’s population. Here, a significant portion of the population live in low-lying areas or in dangerous hilly terrains and small islands which are most vulnerable to sea level rise, flooding, diseases, drought, super typhoons and other extreme weather events. These areas are often home to the most destitute peoples of the globe, such as peasants, rural women, indigenous peoples, fisher folk, and urban poor, already reeling from the negative impacts of globalization.
Policies, programs and funds to help alleviate their plight are hardly coming to these people. They are left to fend for their own survival and parry the blows that these challenges have dealt on the natural resources, their livelihoods, and ways of living. The current climate negotiations, controlled by powerful world leaders who represent the world’s top emitters, have likewise failed to arrive at genuine solutions to lower greenhouse gas emissions to levels needed to stabilize our climate.
It is in this context that we bind ourselves together to promote learning and action on global environmental concerns to keep the fire of sustainable development burning.
We are environmental educators in the Asia-Pacific, coming from civil society, people’s organizations, academic institutions, and government. Our work ranges from analyzing development issues and programs, forging scientific and technological knowledge and breakthroughs, and fostering values and actions to affirm equity, human rights, and ecological defense.
We come from diverse contexts, but share the collective concern over growing poverty, underdevelopment and vulnerability of the people amid the depletion and destruction of the region’s rich resources. We are compelled to act upon these problems, confront their root causes, and create measures to address the situation.
We believe much more has to be done in the field of education for addressing Climate Change and achieving sustainable development. By working together to help bridge knowledge, values and skill gaps among the peoples of the world, especially among the poor people of the region, we hope to understand and effectively address serious environmental challenges of our time.
The UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in September 2009 finds a bridge in education to address the global realities of our time, to wit:
“Despite unprecedented economic growth in the 20th century, persistent poverty and inequality still affect too many people, especially those who are most vulnerable. Conflicts continue to draw attention to the need for building a culture of peace. The global financial and economic crises highlight the risks of unsustainable economic development models and practices based on shortterm gains. The food crisis and world hunger are an increasingly serious issue. Unsustainable production and consumption patterns are creating ecological impacts that compromise the options of current and future generations and the sustainability of life on Earth, as climate change is showing.”
“…All countries will need to work collaboratively to ensure sustainable development now and in the future. Investment in education for sustainable development (ESD) is an investment in the future, and can be a life-saving measure, especially in post-conflict and least developed countries…”1
As early as 1992, the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro that yielded the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), while unequivocally declaring that “that change in the Earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of mankind,”2 recognized the key role of education, training and public awareness,3 in the fulfillment of the commitments of countries who are parties to the Convention.
Agenda 21, another Earth Summit document emphasized that the climate crisis is not solely an ecological problem; it acknowledged that the world’s peoples are additionally “confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being.”4
The importance of education as a response to these interrelated problems is summed up in the 1992 Treaty on Environmental Education for Sustainable Societies and Global Responsibility, which states that:
“...[E]nvironmental education for equitable sustainability is a continuous learning process based on respect for all life. Such education affirms values and actions which contribute to human and social transformation and ecological preservation. It fosters ecologically sound and equitable societies that live together in interdependence and diversity. This requires individual and collective responsibility at local, national and planetary level.”
“[P]reparing ourselves for the required changes depends on advancing collective understanding of the systemic nature of the crisis that threatens the world’s future. The root causes of such problems as increasing poverty, environmental deterioration and communal violence can be found in the dominant socioeconomic system. This system is based in over-production and over-consumption for some and under-consumption and inadequate conditions to produce for the great majority.”
Still, with the situation of underdevelopment and environmental destruction unabated, governments in 2000 adopted the achievement of environmental sustainability5 as its seventh goal in the global Millennium Development Goals to be ultimately assessed five years from now.
Yet, alarming is the silence about education for sustainable development of the global documents on the current Climate Change discourse. Surely education on the issue about Climate Change is not just about building capacities on emerging technologies. Education on the issue of Climate Change is Education for Sustainable Development. It is the development of awareness of peoples on continuing causes and effects of the problem, and harnessing context-specific knowledge and practices and melding this with viable technological advances whenever possible, all in the hope of finding the most effective solutions to the global problem.
In order to attain equitable and sustainable development and address Climate Change, our work shall be guided by the following goals:
1 Bonn Declaration, UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, April 2009.
2 Preamble, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992.
3 Annex 6, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992.
4 Preamble, Agenda 21, 1992.
5 Goal 7, United Nations Millennium Development Goals, 2000.
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