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Educating by degrees: raising public awareness about climate change

Volume 5 Number 1 - April 2008
Luiza Chomenko, José Fernando Vargas, Elisabete Monlleo M. da Silva

French title: Instruire petit a petit: sensibiliser le public au changement climatique

Spanish title: Educando por grados: creando concienciación publica en cuanto a cambio climático


Rio Grande do Sul is located in southern Brazil and contains some of the world’s most important ecosystems, ranging from tropical forests in the north to savannah in the south. The impacts of global warming are marked throughout the state and this can be seen in the loss of agricultural land and changes in distribution of some species of plants and animals. The Zoological-Botanical Foundation in Rio do Sul (FZB) places great importance on raising awareness about the issues associated with global warming and runs a variety of activities with target audiences, mainly teachers and students. Activities include themed video presentations, lectures and discussions with teachers and professionals specialising in climate change. FZB is responsible for administrating Porto Alegre's Botanic Garden, which is a partner in this awareness campaign.


Brazil is South America’s largest country and almost certainly hosts the greatest degree of biodiversity on the entire planet. It contains six biomes, of continental proportions (the Amazon rainforest, the Cerrado, the Caatinga, the Pantanal, the Atlantic Forest and the Pampas) and ranks first in the world for numbers of species of mammals, freshwater fish and plants, second for amphibians, third for bird species; and fifth for species of reptiles (Lambertini, 2000).

Rio Grande do Sul is the southern most state of Brazil. Its territory is formed by the Atlantic Forest, which occurs throughout Brazil (from the south to the northeast), and the Pampas which is restricted to the southern half of the state. Its environmental riches, make Rio Grande do Sul one of the most prosperous states in Brazil and in particular, it is famous for its grain production and cattle rearing. Rio Grande do Sul is also well known for its Gauchos, natives of the state named after cattle herders and ranchers who settled in the Pampas regions.

Climate change and Rio Grande do Sul

Climate change has become an increasingly important topic for discussion in Rio Grande do Sul. Research and climate modelling carried out in Brazil demonstrates that Rio Grande do Sul will be adversely affected by sea level rise, particularly in relation to biodiversity, farming and human settlement along seaside and lagoon regions. Data is already revealing land loss and its consequences in the use of these regions. There are also indications of changes in the composition and range of native or migratory flora and fauna that come to the State at some stage during their life cycle.

Global warming is of concern to everyone and its consequences to future generations demand an urgent change of attitude from the population. Politicians and business people are not the only ones responsible for this serious situation. We all are. Since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm1972 and the world's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education in Tbilisi, 1977, there has been a growing world movement concerned with environmental issues. In Rio Grande do Sul, we have found that environmental education is proving to be an effective way to promote large public discussion and to allow internationally evaluated concepts to be broadened. In particular it ‘generates a clear conscience, social and environmental independence, giving human beings the opportunity to gain knowledge, values and attitudes that allows them to change their behavior patterns in order to protect and improve their environment’ (Dios 2001) .Through acknowledging values and concepts, environmental education promotes abilities and attitudes that understand and appreciate the natural and social relations between humans and their environment.

Public awareness campaign on climate change

The Zoological-Botanical Foundation in Rio do Sul (FZB) is part of the State Environmental Department (SEMA), which administrates Porto Alegre’s Botanic Garden, the Natural Science Museum and the Zoo. FZB works with different sectors of society to participate in many activities related to climate change. It also contributes towards developing worldwide strategies related to climate change in accordance to the National Climate Change Policies of Brazil.

In 2007, FZB initiated a public awareness campaign on climate change by promoting a series of environmental education actions through formal and non-formal processes. The campaign involved different departments of the institution, in partnership with other public and private institutions. The focus of the campaign was to show the importance of individual and collective contributions by each citizen, as well as to explain causes and consequences of climate changes. The first set of activities consisted of academic lectures and discussion meetings with students and teachers of state public schools. The campaign was officially launched during the state’s Environmental Week, in July 2007, with a meeting and tree planting in Farroupilha Park, one of the largest parks of Porto Alegre, the State’s capital, with the participation of politicians, hundreds of students, teachers and park visitors.

To promote environmental education actions among students and teachers, materials were produced including a CDRom and flyers explaining the contributions you could make to improving life on the planet. The CDRom consists of two elements:

  1. Life in a warmer planet which looks at conceptual subjects, causes and consequences, emphasising that the problem of climate change is part of our everyday life and showing the reality already found in Rio Grande do Sul
  2. How to reduce global warming which provides suggestions of easy-to-follow actions to reduce global warming.

The materials were distributed to state public schools by the state’s Education Office and are still being used in different events throughout the state. In recognition of the fact that teachers and educators will play a significant role in spreading the campaign, FZB ran a number of workshops to present the materials and activities that could be carried out in schools. A slogan contest was also developed with local schools as a strategy to improve the participation of students. ‘Global warming: Our planet is sick. We are the cause and the solution’ was created by a 13-year-old and chosen as the best slogan.


Running this campaign has demonstrated a high level of commitment that exists within many parts of society to resolving climate change. For example, public departments with professionals directly involved in the activities and private companies that contribute financially to supporting the activities and donate prizes to students and teachers. The campaign has been an enormous success and we believe that it can serve as a model for other institutions. Because this subject is highly relevant and critical, the campaign will continue and we will gather new partners and broaden its range to regions not yet involved.


  • Brasil (2000) Decreto nº 3615, de 20 de junho de 2000 relativo a criação do Fórum Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas. Acessed 22 de janeiro de 2008.
  • Brasil (2007) Decreto nº 6263, de 21 de novembro de 2007. CIM – Comitê Interministerial sobre mudanças do clima. Acessed 22 de janeiro de 2008.
  • Chomenko, L. (2007) Educação Ambiental na América Latina, in III Seminário estadual e VI Seminário Regional de Educação Ambiental Saber Ambiental. Santa Cruz do Sul, Brasil.
  • Chomenko, L. (2007) Pampa: um bioma em risco de extinção, in Ihu-on-line(247), 5-8 Acessed 22 de janeiro de 2008.
  • Dias, G. F. (2001) Educação Ambiental: princípios e práticas. Gaia, São Paulo Brasil.
  • Lambertini, M. (2000) A Naturalist’s Guide to the Tropics, University of Chicago Press
  • Ricardo, C.A. , Campanili, M. (2004) Almanaque Brasil Socioambiental. Socioambiental, São Paulo Brasil.


La situation géographique de Rio Grande do Sul au sud du Brésil est propice à la présence d’écosystèmes d’une importance mondiale. Par conséquent, différentes actions liées au réchauffement climatique et à ses interactions avec le quotidien se mettent en place dans l’état. Celles organisées par la Fundação Zoobotânica do Rio Grande do Sul (FZB) sont très importantes, notamment par la promotion d’activités auprès de différentes fractions de la société, surtout les enseignants et les étudiants, sur les places publiques, vidéo-projections à thèmes, conférences et discussions avec les enseignants et professionnels spécialistes de la problématique. La Fundação Zoobotânica do Rio Grande do Sul (FZB) gère le Jardin botanique de Porto Alegre, une institution qui prend part à cette campagne de sensibilisation.


La situación geográfica de Rio Grande do Sul en el sur de Brasil hace que se encuentren en esa localidad algunos ecosistemas de importancia global. Por esta razón, se están realizando acciones sobre el aumento global de las temperaturas y su relación con la vida cotidiana. Las actividades organizadas por la Fundação Zoobotânica do Rio Grande do Sul (FZB) son de gran importancia, fomentando las actividades con varios elementos de la sociedad, sobre todo con profesores y estudiantes, en las plazas públicas, con presentaciones temáticas de video, charlas y debates con profesores y profesionales especializados. La Fundação Zoobotânica do Rio Grande do Sul (FZB) administra el Jardín Botánico de Porto Alegre, una institución que participa en esta campaña de concienciación.

Luiza Chomenko
Natural Science Museum/FZB-RS

José Fernando da Rosa Vargas
Head of Environmental Education
Jardim Botânico de Porto Alegre
Av. Dr Salvador França, 1427
Porto Alegre - RS Brasil

Elisabete Monlleo M. da Silva,
Head of the Communication Department