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Switzerland - Environmental Education for a sustainable development

2004, by A. Torkel, Raoul Gagliardi

Research conducted by the International Labor Bureau concerns adult education (professional training and community education) in the field of environment at an international level, with a view to sustainable development. This type of development has two objectives : to promote economic and social development of a whole population while protecting the environment. It implies the integration of economic, social, environmental, ethical elements in the formation systems and in the traditional systems of transmission of knowledge. The examples presented here concern successful educational projects in developing countries.
The project of "Health and Happiness" in the state of Santarem in Amazonia, Brazil, combines health education, education about the environment, art, communication and rural production. An interdisciplinary team composed of doctors, nurses, veterinarians, educators and artists, run a circus called "Circus Mocorongo of Health and Happiness". The sessions which occur in the evening are the mirror of everyday activities. The means of communication are dance, folk arts and the public discussion of community problems. The objective is to improve the capacity of community people to understand the environment, to provide the tools for action while promoting local culture and identity. The program encourages the formation of groups of study who then act as educational agents and help people to find solutions to sanitary and environmental problems in their community.
In some developing countries women suffer from a discrimination which sees them undertaking all hard tasks like gathering in water or wood. Deforestation in some regions increases the difficulty of obtaining wood and the tiredness of women. Afforestation would allow an amelioration of their condition, ameliorating at the same time the quality of life and economic conditions by the exploitation of new resources, as well as the resolution of environmental problems such as the one of reduction of biodiversity. In Kenya, an afforestation campaign was supported by some fifty groups of women who put forth nursery gardens and planted trees. They have also received training about new technologies in afforestation and agriculture. One of the obstacles to the development of this campaign has been of socio-cultural order. The planting of trees is considered in some regions as an essentially masculine activity. There exist some taboos against tree plantation by women. For instance, the belief that women would become sterile or that their husband would die as well as the tree. These taboos are probably maintained because they favor exclusive land ownership by men. A group of women, defying the tradition, found a way to overcome these taboos by making young men plant seeds, while they were occupied by other works.

COMMENTS : These examples give an insight into the diversity of situations that can be presented concerning the education for a sustainable development as well as the role played by community conceptions which can either slow down or stimulate the adoption of proposed solutions. These conceptions can not be dispelled by a simple transmission of information. Ecological disasters have shown that a corrective form of politics concerning environment is not sufficient any more. A preventive form of politics, of action "at the source", requires that the training and education in the field of environment are not limited to the preparation of "experts in environment", but aim at the "scientific literacy" of every citizen. The extraordinary novelty of the concept of "sustainable development" (that can be assimilated in a real epistemological revolution) is that it aims to associate the objectives of development and environment, objectives considered to be in conflict), during 1970s and 1980s.

SOURCES : 1) Article of R. GAGLIARDI et A. TORKEL in "Sciences et Techniques en spectacle", A. GIORDAN & al (éds), Fabrègue, France, 1993, 2) Speech of R. GAGLIARDI et A. TORKEL in the congress "Sciences et Techniques en spectacle", Chamonix, France, 1993 and conversation with the authors.
KEY WORDS : Environmental Education; Sustainable development; Popular education; Environmental literacy; Association.
LOCALISATION : Brazil; Kenya.
AUTHOR: Yolanda Ziaka, Polis Network, P.O. Box 4, 84100 Ermoupolis, Syros, Greece, Fax: 30 / 281 / 87804, e-mail:
DATE : 1993