Today 19th May is the first day of the World Education Forum in Incheon (Korea) . It is definitely a great opportunity to work and develop a Global Action Programme on ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). Currently, Education in sustainability has not a programme, even if it´s a part of UNESCO´s goals as a way to support education formal or informal. However with a focus on sustainability and not as a part of a global development agenda. This is the goal of this Forum.
Only through Education, sustainability’s values and principles could be introduced in an effective and long-term perspective. The role that Education plays goes beyond knowledge and awareness on the threatening advance of climate change but also by rising sensibility and passion. This emotional aspect plays a key role on the road to achieve results. Climate change is not a technological or economic problem anymore. On one hand, the right tools have already been developed, on the other, they can be applied without compromising world economic stability. Now, political will is the real burden in which only by individual action and public institutions could be able to change it. It is only by a personal involvement that we could get to the correct political road for investing and designing strategies able to meet current challenges.
Political will is the real burden. Only the individual action could change this uncertain situation that climate change challenges posed to the world.
There is a convincing research done on the influence of the emotions and their role on shaping our political orientation. It would be good not to take it for granted and give the important place that deserve. If emotions become paramount in the context of political elections, all the more reason for allowing emotions to be part of Education on sustainability, that in many aspects do not affect population in a direct and tangible way, except in an emergency. It is very important to work on awareness and prevent emergency situations, or at least be prepared by correct political decisions on allocation of resources and why not on emotional aspects too.
The feeling that what was certain is not any more, that our flora and fauna could disappear, that temperatures rise and agriculture production could change or disappear, forces us to be also prepared at a psychological level. Uncertainty is the basis of climate change and experiment fear and consequently paralysis on an effective response is a normal human reaction, reducing substantially the possibilities for an effective response on emergency situations. Basically, by mitigating and not adapting.
In developing countries Education becomes even more important for achieving goals in sustainability and climate change mitigation, as UNESCO has highlighted: in 29 developing countries people that express concern of the environment are: 25% has not finished secondary education, 37% has finished and 46% has higher studies.  In developed countries like Germany, 46% of population with higher studies has participated in public acts or sign a petition regarding climate change, in comparison with the 12% that has not completed secondary education.
There are more chances that educated people get involved in environmental healthy practices and being more motivated to participate than people with less educational levels. As one of the main goals that we ought to have in climate change prevention is our personal habits and consumption. There are many examples of this “individual mitigation”: use of water, public transport, recycle, and general use of energy. To achieve this goal we need to be informed, be interested in being informed and finally get involved.
The only path to get to a better and sustainable world is by effective individual actions that care of the environment as well as a strong and solid political will, driven by a clear focus on the catalyst role of the Education system. It is under this perspective that passion works as a powerful tool that lead the process. Don´t underestimate the power of emotions to start political processes and what´s more to push political will towards a goal. Strong individual commitment followed by institutional arrangements are the natural and logical guide that lead to a real change.
Let´s welcome the conference on World Education Forum as a first step into the big challenge of mainstreaming sustainability principles and values into a global education framework.
* Picture: Nele Azevedo, “Melting men”. Exhibition in Berlin (2009) of 1000 icemen to bring awareness on climate warming through the short time taken to melt them.