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Necessity of a Charter of Environmental Education

Monday 17 January 2005

Our co-operation with people and organisations all over the world, through the Polis network, led us to the conclusion that a Charter of Environmental Education is necessary. Between 1994 and 2001 with the help of publications of the Polis network, in Greece and France, in three languages (books and the bulletin “Dialogues for Environmental Education”) and other communication activities (website, press releases), we presented educators’ experiences and views which were based on divergent and sometimes contradictory views about the role of Environmental Education, starting from a purely naturalist or intuitive approach and reaching a political and active view.

The necessity for the formulation of basic principles, shared by those working in this field, was brought forward in a particularly intense way during the preparation of our latest book, “Environmental Education: six proposals for citizens’ action”2, which was published in 2001.This book was written in a collective way by an international group that exchanged thoughts and proposals for six months through the Internet and met in June 2001. Although it seemed that the participants agreed on some basic principles about the objectives and methods of Environmental Education, a number of views became the object of an animated discussion and were not unanimously acceptable.

We also found out that, very often, those who educate about the environment do not possess the necessary knowledge to analyse the social, economic and political parameters of environmental issues and, in addition, they usually consciously chose not to mention these parameters. The consequence of this attitude, for educational practice, is a neutral, fragmentary and sometimes naive speech.

A Charter of basic principles for Environmental Education would allow those working in this field to clarify concepts that have remained ambiguous until now, become conscious about their own responsibility, identify people who share the same ethical approach and co-operate with them. We refer to Environmental Education in all its forms: formal (in schools), non-formal (in the family, recreation grounds, work, etc.) and informal (through the mass media).

The first draft of a Charter of Environmental Education that we submit to you falls within the scope of a citizenship education, based on the principle of responsibility as a fundamental element of an ethic approach that could allow humanity to face the challenges of the 21st century. This Charter defines a reference framework for the action of individuals and social groups involved in education and communication for the environment.