Although opinions differ about the existence of global warming, fact remains that human activity has a profound effect on our natural surroundings. These repercussions are potentially irreversible, and widespread. The clearest and most talked about example of such effects is of course the slow destruction of the Ozone layer. Additionally, human life and development have destroyed ecosystems, rendering the extinction or endangerment of many animal species.
Environmental education seeks to address such, and other, environmental problems. On a global scale, environmental education is not interpreted to only mean that teachings about the environment should be incorporated in school curricula. On the contrary, it refers to a wider scale of increasing knowledge about the environment and sustainable living. Any method used to achieve this can be labeled ‘environmental education’.
This definition was incorporated into the Tbilisi Declaration compiled by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1978, after the first Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education. Page eight of the document states that environmental “… education should help to shape the behaviour required of all, by protection and improvement of the environment…”. Also, it should be adjusted to local circumstances, as the Declaration states on page 6 “[it] must look outward to the community.”
Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) attempts to contribute to regional and local knowledge of environmental challenges through its Good Water Neighbors (GWN) program, and does so in a cross-cultural setting. As so much of this region’s water resources are shared between Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, the focal point of many environmental lessons are on this topic. For example, the specific goals of FoEME’s Resource Guide discussed during the Regional Teacher’s Seminar hosted in Jordan in mid-July, were to inspire critical thinking on water related issues, and enhance appreciation and respect for nature and water.
Additionally, workshops being offered at FoEME’s 3 EcoParks – the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh Ecopark in Jordan, at our Environmental Education Center in Auja, Palestine, and at our Ein Gedi EcoPark in Israel – all concentrate on environmental education. Different topics are addressed, such as gray water use, composting, and solar power, to name but a few, with greater understanding of the environment and sustainable possibilities as the main goal. The Amman office is currently working on expanding the program being offered at SHE Ecopark, while FoEME’s Bethlehem office is doing the same for the Auja EcoCenter and the Tel Aviv office for the Ein Gedi EcoCenter. Activities will overlap with the curriculum being taught in the three countries, according to the WaterCare book, and additionally, with the GWN Teacher’s Resource Guide, currently under final development stages.
The Teacher’s Resource Guide and EcoPark efforts are not the only methods FoEME uses, however. Informal methods are also part of the environmental education strategy. The most popular and effective informal method today is social media. Thus through FoEME’s Facebook page, it attempts to promote awareness of the environment by way of sharing news clippings related to current events and developments in the region.
FoEME hopes that through its environmental education efforts, awareness and knowledge become more widespread in the region with positive effects to follow.
This blog was written by FoEME intern Lidwien Wijchers, who is based in the Amman office.