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Down with World Environment Education Day!
Are you tired of the fashion for more or less far-fetched “world days”, which are increasingly difficult to escape? So are we. And yet, we are nevertheless going to talk to you about January 26th, World Environment Education Day. But don’t worry, we’ll also tell you how to get rid of it.
It all began in 1972 in Stockholm, where the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held. At this conference, it became clear that there was a need for an international framework to promote environmental education.
In October 1975, the International Symposium on Environmental Education was held in Belgrade. In November 1975, the 65 participating countries unanimously adopted the Belgrade Charter, which set out the principles and guidelines for environmental education worldwide.
According to the Belgrade Charter,
“The purpose of environmental education is:
To develop a world population that is aware of, and concerned about, the environment and its associated problems, and which has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations and commitment to work individually and collectively toward solutions to current problems, and the prevention of new ones”.1
The United Nations proposes the date of January 26th as World Environment Education Day to recall and reaffirm, year after year, the need to make individuals and governments alike aware of their responsibility to preserve the environment.
Since that date, and with varying degrees of strength depending on the country, meetings and events have been organized to publicize original and successful educational and awareness-raising projects or, more simply, ingenious environmental protection experiments worthy of being known and capable of being reproduced throughout the world and on different scales.
One example is a Spanish initiative led by the NGO Ecoembes, which specialises in the recycling of packaging. The NGO promotes and supports concrete actions, carried out directly from educational centres (more than 1,800 throughout the country), organised in a network: selective sorting centres set up in schools, but also the organisation of activities, projects and competitions related to recycling and environmental protection.
In a school named María Auxiliadora de Zaragoza, the teachers have thus organised a recycling project, which involves not only the children but also their parents. After asking the children and their families to bring a certain amount of daily waste to class, the teachers taught the younger children how to classify the different types of waste and how, in some cases, it was possible to give them a second life. Teachers and students made a collection of instruments from plastic bottles, straws and spoons, rolls of paper towels, cans, … and created a real orchestra of maracas, drums, pan flutes and others. These same instruments were then used to perform a song of their own invention: “To nature’s rythm”, on the theme of Queen’s song We will rock you.
A beautiful illustration of what environmental education can be, without great means. As the Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire wrote, “Education does not change the world, it changes the people who will change the world”.
You will tell us that all this still does not tell you how to end this famous World Environment Education Day once and for all. Nothing could be simpler! Let’s make it absolutely pointless. Let us make environmental protection our daily routine and we’ll no longer need this symbolic day. Let us take action whenever we can, let us talk around us, let us imitate good ideas and let us get rid of this day and, at the same time, of the days for “wildlife”, “forests”, “water”, “bees”, This list is a reminder of our shortcomings, year after year, in terms of “ocean”, “combating desertification and drought”, “protecting the ozone layer” and so many others. Let’s all do our part.
Belgrade Charter, 1975. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000017772 ↩