Across the world, communities face a diverse range of sustainability challenges. Access to adequate food, water, education, health and housing are just the beginning.
Irrespective of whether people live in the richest or poorest of nations, the problems that beset our communities seldom arise from a single source.
Almost all our sustainability issues, however, rely on the power of education to help ameliorate their impacts and change the social behaviours that led to these problems in the first place.
Consider food security, for example.
Beyond the urgent challenge of global poverty, the long-term provision of food throughout the world is a growing concern. Whether we can ensure diverse nutritious food stocks long into the future is a question that arises from a plethora of economic, social and environmental issues.
From the diminishing (or outright suppression) of traditional agricultural and environmental management methods, to the planting of monocultures and transformation of landscapes; from globalised free-trade that wipes out local economies, to the consumer behaviours that fuel demand for processed and engineered foods rather than fresh produce – the sustainable food problem is complex to resolve.
We should also consider how these factors interface with government regulation and funding, family welfare, economic well-being, health-care access, and the list goes on. Who’d have thought that so many factors relate to food security when it seems so simple to grow a tomato in your own garden?
Like any sustainability issue, if we attend to just one factor (eg. government increases funding to local food projects), all we’ve done is apply a Band-Aid to the problem; we haven’t yet solved the long-term challenges.
Amongst other things, education for sustainability strives to engage people with the holistic problem-solving required to address our environmental, social and economic ills. In the interest of securing a healthy and prosperous future for all, education is a valuable and essential tool to making a difference.
When we share sustainability knowledge, skills and experience, we have the opportunity to tighten the fabric of our communities. To do so, we must pull together the diverse threads that weave our global world and local communities together. This means educating people to be aware that the world is diverse in rich ecological systems – environmental, social, technological, and more.
In educating for sustainability, we strive to empower younger generations, support families and promote diverse literacies. In educating for sustainability, we aim to improve healthcare and well-being, and work together to build cultural vitality and create safe and healthy neighbourhoods.
In World Changing: A User’s Guide to the 21st Century (2006), Sarah Rich and Zaid Hassan offer gripping examples of “communities that have embraced a holistic approach in order to ameliorate challenges” – from the Finnish School System and Harlem Children’s Zone, to the Kufunda Learning Village in Zimbabwe. At the heart of these is the power of holistic problem-solving expressed through community-based education for sustainability – education that touches people’s lives and no doubt transforms them as well.
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