Sign up to our newsletter:

International Agendas: Implications for Botanic Garden Education

Volume 2 Number 1 - April 2005
Daniella Tilbury and Susana Calvo

French

Spanish

Résumé en Français

Resumen en Español

The international community has been the driving force behind Education for Sustainable Development.  Unlike most education movements, Education for Sustainable Development did not begin with the education community. Its main thrust came from international political and economic forums, such as the UN and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with IUCN playing an important role in mainstreaming it as an agenda for the environmental community.
 
Education for Sustainable Development provides the means by which we engage people in a more sustainable future.  It provides a framework to assist with meeting commitments set out in the international conventions on biological diversity, climate change, desertification, cultural and natural heritage, CITES and Ramsar.  Furthermore, many of these conventions are committed to work programmes on Communication, Education Participation and Awareness - more commonly referred to as CEPA.
 
Many working in botanic gardens are familiar with Communication, Education, Participation and Awareness; but the concept of linking it with Education for Sustainable Development is a new challenge. This paper explores the implications of this, particularly in the context of a UN Decade in Education for Sustainable Development which asks educators to link international agendas such as the environment conventions and the Millennium Development Goals, through education.

An International Platform

The years 2005-2014 have been declared the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The Decade’s International Implementation Scheme (UNESCO, 2004) asks educators to link international agendas such as the environment conventions, Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals, through education (Pigozzi, 2003)

Education for Sustainable Development provides not just a perfect platform for working with a range of international agendas; but also an opportunity to find synergies between groups of people who have been working towards the same goal under different labels. Often many educators get caught up with debates about whether their work should be identified as ‘Environmental Communication’, ‘Environmental Education’ or ‘Education for Sustainable Development’. The Decade provides a space for educators, including those involved in botanic gardens, to go beyond terminology differences and to concern themselves with how their work contributes to addressing local needs in the context of international goals.  The driving force behind Education for Sustainable Development was the international community.  Unlike most education movements, ESD did not begin with the education community. Its main thrust came from international political and economic forums, such as the UN and the OECD, with IUCN playing an important role in mainstreaming it as an agenda for the environmental community.

Although the concept of ‘sustainable development’ dates back to the 1980s, it was not until 1992 that Education for Sustainable Development began to emerge as a concept. It owes much to Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 and the work of the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) Work Programme, both of which gave credibility to Education for Sustainable Development as a process. The OECD’s efforts and its focus on sustainable consumption over the past decade has been a constant reminder that Education for Sustainable Development is more about social change than about environmental protection.

More recently, IUCN, through its Commission on Education and Communication (CEC), has been mainstreaming the concept of Education for Sustainable Development, particularly in the lead up to the Johannesburg World Summit. It lobbied at the Bali and New York Prep Coms and encouraged its membership to seek national support for the Decade’s proposals presented at the Summit. Simultaneously, IUCN has invited an internet dialogue on Education for Sustainable Development bringing practitioners and experts together to further define thinking and practice in this field (Hesselink et al, 2000). It has also produced a number of publications, relevant to practitioners, concerned with issues from plant conservation, to cultural and natural heritage concerns, to health and environmental sustainability (Tilbury et al, 2002, Tilbury and Wortman, 2004)).  These publications support practitioners through clarifying concepts, identifying good practice studies and communicating complex thinking, all of which underpin Education for Sustainable Development.

IUCN has also championed the need to find common ground between the international agendas. It has worked closely with the Secretariat of the Convention of Biological Diversity to ensure that education goes beyond awareness-raising and addresses important components, often associated with Education for Sustainable Development, including capacity building.

A Common Agenda

Education for Sustainable Development provides the means by which we engage people in a more sustainable future.  It provides a framework to assist with meeting commitments set out in the international conventions on biological diversity, climate change, desertification, cultural and natural heritage, CITES and Ramsar.  Furthermore, many of these conventions are committed to work programmes on Communication, Education Participation and Awareness - more commonly referred to as CEPA.

It was the Johannesburg Implementation Plan which highlighted the role that effective CEPA could play in meeting the Convention obligations signed off at Rio.   The Rio Conventions – Climate, Desertification and Biological Diversity – all have articles pointing to the need for education. Underpinning these documents is an implicit recognition that sustainable development is a social issue to be fought and won through peoples’ participation.

However, in practice, education was not seen as a priority by those implementing the Conventions. It is only  recently that the conventions have begun to address articles on education. The Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity approved a work programme on CEPA in April 2002 to address commitments in Article 13. The parties to the Convention on Climate Change are still discussing the development of a work programme for Article 6 on education and training. Of course, many parties are undertaking communication and education about these issues; but the trend has been to focus on the more technical aspects of the conventions. In contrast, the Desertification Convention has embarked on a ‘bottom-up approach’ to involve people in seeking solutions. Other international agreements on cultural and natural heritage, CITES and Ramsar also recognise the role of education and training in change for a more sustainable world. However, interestingly, no bridges have been built between those involved to ensure that experiences and lessons learnt in education across these issues are shared. Without this learning, it is often difficult to advance education efforts or indeed to attain environmental or sustainable development impacts.

Educators in Botanic Gardens

Many working in botanic gardens are familiar with CEPA but the concept of linking it with Education for Sustainable Development is a new challenge. The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development asks educators to link international agendas such as the environment conventions and the Millennium Development Goals, through education.  It asks educators to recognise that moving towards sustainability will require changing the way we think, live and work (UNESCO, 2002), not just our understanding of the issues. The emphasis of the Decade is not only on strengthening knowledge in sustainable development across stakeholder groups; but also on challenging mental models that lead us to un-sustainability. 

Many education programmes undertaken in botanic gardens need redefining. They can no longer afford to be confined to educating people about ecology – social realities and consumer choices need to be embedded within such programs.  Raising awareness among adults and children about plant ecology or ecosystem management is only one part of the equation. Learning to change and assisting others to build skills for making change is also a core responsibility of educators working in botanical gardens.

There are key features associated with Education for Sustainable Development process which encourages people to explore the complexity of these areas and consider change. The literature (Huckle and Sterling, 1997, Tilbury and Wortman, 2004) argues that learning for change requires:

  • a focus on the future and ability to create a sustainable futures – more than just focusing on problem-solving our way out of our current situation
  • less emphasis on science and technology solutions and more on participatory and citizen action
  • less emphasis on seeing people as the problem to seeing people as agents of change
  • less emphasis on awareness-raising approaches and more emphasis on critical reflection, systemic thinking and values clarification approaches
  • a focus on individuals influencing structural change – not just on individual environmental actions
  • more focus on changing mental models that influence decisions and actions rather than solely changing individual attitudes.

The aim of Education for Sustainable Development is to empower citizens to act for positive change.  This implies a process-oriented, participatory and action-oriented learning approach. This approach has implications not only for what we learn but also how we learn.

Finally…

UNESCO emphasises that the effectiveness of the Decade will ultimately be judged not just by the degree of change in the lives of communities and individuals at the local level, but the changing patterns of development and progress towards more sustainable models of living.

Eleven outcomes are expected from the UN Decade as outlined in the International Implementation Scheme. These outcomes, although stated in broad terms in the plan, should guide the basis of indicators for monitoring and evaluating progress during the Decade.  Some of the indicators are:

a) integration of education into sustainable development strategies and plans of action
b) cooperation and a growing consensus on the strategic importance of ESD as a tool for social change
c) broad understanding of the nature and principles of sustainable development and regular media coverage of the issues
d) ESD-specific approaches increasingly adopted in learning situations of all kinds
e) ESD as a core component of training of educators at all levels.

National activities are planned in many countries (visit http://portal.unesco.org/education for more information). The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development will offer further opportunities for those working in botanic gardens to reflect on, share experiences of and learn about the implications of sustainable development for their work. The Decade provides not just a platform for combining agendas, but also a direction for assuring that the type of work we undertake does contribute to change (and not just understanding) for a better world.

References

Hesselink, F. van Kempen, P.P.and Wals, A. (2000) ESDebate:International Debate on Education and Sustainable Development. IUCN, Gland
Huckle, J. and Sterling, S (1997) Education for Sustainability London: Routledge
Pigozzi, M.J. (2003) ‘UNESCO and the International Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2015)’ Connect Vol.XXVII No.1-2, p.1-6
Tilbury , D. Stevenson, R, Fien, J. and Schreuder, D. (2002) Education and Sustainability: Responding to the Global Challenge, IUCN, Gland
Tilbury, D. and Wortman, D. (2004) Engaging People in Sustainability, IUCN Gland.
UNESCO (2002) ‘From Rio to Johannesburg: Education for a Sustainable Future’ Paris: UNESCO.
UNESCO (2004) ‘UN Decade in Education for Sustainable Development: International Implementation Scheme’ UNESCO, Paris

About the Authors 

Daniella Tilbury is the Director of Australian Research Institute in Education for Sustainability (ARIES) and Chair in Education for Sustainable Development, IUCN Commission on Education and Communication, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. Email: dtilbury@gse.mq.edu.au

Susana Calvo Roy is the Head of Education and Communication Unit, Ministry of Environment of Spain and Chair in CEPA Conventions, IUCN-Commission on Education and Communication. Email: scalvo@mma.es

French Résumé

La communauté internationale a été la force motrice accompagnant le concept d’Education au Développement Durable (EDD). Contrairement à la plupart des mouvements d’éducation, l’EDD n’a pas vu le jour aux côtés des organismes traitant d’éducation. Ses principales avancées proviennent des forums politiques et économiques internationaux, tels que ceux organisés par les Nations Unies et l’OCDE, ainsi que l’UICN qui a joué un rôle important notamment pour maintenir son courant d’idées sous la forme d’agenda pour la communauté environnementale.

L’ESD nous fournit une méthode pour engager les gens sur la voie d’un futur plus durable. Elle apporte aussi la trame nécessaire pour nous aider à réaliser les engagements communs dressés dans le cadre des conventions internationales sur la diversité biologique, le changement climatique, la désertification, le patrimoine culturel et naturel ainsi que les conventions CITES et Ramsar. Par ailleurs, chacune de ces conventions comporte un volet portant sur la mise en place de programmes de communication, d’éducation, de participation et de sensibilisation du public, plus communément appelés CEPS.

De nombreux acteurs des jardins botaniques sont familiers de la CEPS, mais l’idée de la lier avec l’ESD représente un nouveau chalenge. Cet article explore les implications de ce nouveau défi, particulièrement dans le contexte de la Décennie des Nations Unies pour le Développement Durable comprenant une participation attendue des animateurs pour effectuer le lien entre les agendas Internationaux tel que les conventions sur l’environnement et les Objectifs de Développement du Millénaire par le biais de l’éducation.

Spanish Resumen

 La comunidad internacional ha sido la fuerza fundamental para llevar a cabo la educación para el desarrollo sustentable (ESD). Distinta a la mayoría de los movimientos educativos ESD no comenzó con la educación comunitaria. Sino su origen fue los foros políticos y económicos internacionales, como son los de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) y la OECD, que junto con la IUCN tuvieron un papel muy importante en este movimiento a manera de una agenda para la comunidad medioambiental. 

ESD proporciona los medios para atraer gente a un futuro mas sostenible.  Asimismo proporciona un marco de trabajo para organizar por medio de reuniones los compromisos internacionales como la convención de diversidad biológica, cambio climático, desertificación, patrimonios cultural y natural, CITES y Ramsar.  Además, cada una de estas convenciones están comprometidos a trabajar con un programa de comunicación, concienciación y participación en la educación – comúnmente llamada CEPA. 

Numerosos trabajadores en los Jardines Botánicos conocen CEPA, sin embargo, el concepto de ligar CEPA con ESD es un nuevo reto. Este artículo explora las implicaciones de este objetivo, particularmente en el contexto de las NU una Década en Educación para el Desarrollo Sostenible, el cual pregunta a los educadores el conectar las agendas internacionales como son la del medio ambiente y su desarrollo de metas en el milenio, a través de la educación.

 
International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation
The International Agenda is a global policy framework for botanic gardens worldwide to contribute to biodiversity conservation. Find out more about how botanic gardens are contributing here.
Receive Roots Regularly
Roots is a bi-annual international education review and essential reading for anyone working in the area of environmental education. Content is in English, French and Spanish. You can receive your own personal copy hot off the press, with the BGCI Education Pack. Click the pic to find out how...
"Education for Sustainable Development: Guidelines for Action in Botanic Gardens"
BGCI has published Guidelines on Education for Sustainable Development. Suitable for those working in botanic gardens and other site-based education centres, it features tips and case studies from botanic gardens around the world. The Guidelines are freely available to all in PDF and printed format.
Education for Sustainable Development
Develop the necessary knowledge and skills required in order to teach on the subject of sustainable development. BGCI earns credit for your purchases on Amazon.