According to Leif Utne in World Changing (2006, p.313): “Access to education, or rather the lack of it, is one of the greatest barriers to sustainability.
According to Lester Brown, director of the Earth Policy Institute, 115 million children do not attend school and 800 million adults are illiterate”.
All this in a world where information access is the key to success, irrespective of whether a person is a taxi driver or a factory worker, an organic farmer or a hairdresser.
“To be illiterate and unschooled is to be excluded from the possibility of a better future. If we want a safe and sustainable world, we need to provide everyone with the mental tools they need to better their condition.
As Nobel-Prize winning economist Amartya Sen warns, “Illiteracy and innumeracy are a greater threat to humanity than terrorism” (Brown, 2006)”.
The beginning of the 21st century marks a technologically networked age in which new tools emerge almost daily.
As Leif Utne states (2006), this helps to revolutionize teaching and learning, tear down the walls of libraries and academies, and democratise access to knowledge in unprecedented ways. “Innovations like cheap laptops for children and vans outfitted with on-demand book printers are bridging the last mile of the digital divide in villages across the Global South.
Online communities are making the off-line work of teachers and literacy practitioners easier, allowing them to share course materials and lesson plans. And the open-source movement…provides distance-learning tools that enable autodidacts [self-directed learners] anywhere on earth to take the same classes – from Latin to Laser Holography – as students at elite Western universities” (p.313).
We’ve all heard the cliché that “knowledge is power”. But when knowledge rides through diverse community relationships, it can become a powerful leverage point for social change for sustainability.
As Leif Utne says, “If a sustainable global democracy is to emerge in the years to come, sharing that power among vastly greater numbers of people” is essential (p.313). We must achieve it. Failure is not an option.
The good news is that building community relationships (social capital) and sharing knowledge is now more possible than ever before.
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