Addressing the Sustainable Development Goals Through Environmental Education

Addressing the Sustainable Development Goals Through Environmental Education

Carolyn N. Stevenson (Purdue University Global, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7727-0.ch006

Abstract

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 Quality Education has increased awareness in pre-university environmental education efforts. Environmental education is important to not only creating awareness of world environmental issues, but taking action towards fostering positive change. Environmental education programs such as SeaTrust Institute's AWARE (Action Within a Resilient Environment) assist teens in learning about issues that directly impact their communities and their world. AWARE combines environmental education with hands-on experiential learning projects that help promote environmental awareness in their communities. Through education and experience with active scholars and professional practitioners, students gain an increased understanding of environmental challenges and ways to make a positive impact – both domestically and globally. This is especially critical to developing countries which lack the educational programs and resources to address the impact environmental changes have on their nations and communities.
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Introduction

Research and a review of the literature conclude that there is a need for promoting environmental education at the pre-university level. This effort is also supported by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG4 Quality Education (United Nations Division for Sustainable Development Goals, 2018). Youth have strong concerns about climate change issues and want to not only increase individual awareness but take steps toward improving their communities. The purpose of the case study presented in this chapter is to describe and explain pre-university perspectives on climate change issues and ways to take awareness into action. The findings of the study will inform pre-university administrators, teachers, environmental youth group leaders, and other environmental educators of ways youth can have an active role in creating positive change. The findings will also inform current and future environmental educators of ways to integrate environmentally-based service learning projects into the curriculum. The study will provide the basis for greater understanding of the ways a pre-university environmental programs can assist in promoting both individual and community awareness of climate change issues. Finally, the findings of the study can draw attention to taking action through the standards set forth by SDG4 in promoting quality education and access to all by increasing understanding of the need for creating sustainable communities.

The exploratory questions that guided the study are:

  • 1.

    What elements constitute pre-university student perspectives on climate change issues and environmental education?

  • 2.

    What variables influence this perspective on climate change issues and environmental education?

  • 3.

    What beliefs do these pre-university students hold which support or negate this perspective?

This chapter discusses ways environmental education for pre-university students is essential for creating change and fostering awareness in local communities. A case study based on the perspectives of four teenage youth from a large urban city in the United States is presented. The teens’ perspectives of not only creating awareness of climate change issues but taking action toward making local change is also provided. The chapter describes SeaTrust Institute’s AWARE environmental education program and ways youth can directly impact their communities. While there is no panacea to resolving issues related to climate change issues, individuals can adapt to these changes and take action towards improving individual communities.

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Background

As the earth’s temperature continues to rise, climate change is an issue of great concern for individuals of all countries. These changes can be seen in the large number of floods, drought, and extreme hot and cold temperatures. The results of climate change are great and impact human health, ecosystems, agriculture, transportation, forests, coastlines, adaptation, and migration of people. There is a need to become resilient or build “the capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multihazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment,” (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2014, p. 1). The world is faced with an increased vulnerability and is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2014). As a result, environmental education for pre-university students is imperative to help plan and prepare for the environmental changes in the future. It is important to inform future generations on ways to meet the challenges of climate change issues through education and awareness.

Promoting action and awareness through environmental education also aligns with the United Nations SDGs. “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity, (United Nations Division of Sustainable Development, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Greenhouse Effect: Trapping and build-up of heat in the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface.

Energy Efficiency: Using less energy to provide the same service.

Emissions: The release of a substance (usually a gas when referring to the subject of climate change) into the atmosphere.

Alternative Energy: Energy derived from nontraditional sources (e.g., compressed natural gas, solar, hydroelectric, wind).

Ozone Layer: The layer of ozone above Earth that shields it from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Global Average Temperature: An estimate of Earth’s mean surface air temperature averaged over the entire planet.

Fossil Fuel: A general term for organic materials formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth's crust over hundreds of millions of years.

Resilience: A capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment.

Global Warming: The recent and ongoing global average increase in temperature near the Earth’s surface.

Adaptation: Adjustment or preparation of natural or human systems to a new or changing environment which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Otherwise known as the Global Goals, the SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

Ecosystem: Any natural unit or entity including living and non-living parts that interact to produce a stable system through cyclic exchange of materials.

Landfill: Land waste disposal site in which waste is generally spread in thin layers, compacted, and covered with a fresh layer of soil each day.

Adaptive Capacity: The ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.

Recycling: Collecting and reprocessing a resource so it can be used again. An example is collecting aluminum cans, melting them down, and using the aluminum to make new cans or other aluminum products.

Vulnerability: The degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes.

Climate Change: Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among others, that occur over several decades or longer.

Renewable Energy: Energy resources that are naturally replenishing such as biomass, hydro, geothermal, solar, wind, ocean thermal, wave action, and tidal action.

Sensitivity: The degree to which a system is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate variability or change.

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