Environmental Education as an Agent of Change in the Developing World
It is no secret that Earth is facing a massive environmental crisis. Changes to the environment have resulted in climate change that has affected weather across the world. Pollution sickens children and creates thick layers of smog that envelop entire cities.

Climate change hits hardest in the developing world, where it kills 8.4 million people a year, which is more than HIV/AIDs and malaria kill. Many in developing countries still use more traditional fuel sources like wood and coal instead of cleaner energy. The issue has dropped off the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals, the successors of the Millennium Development Goals that expire this year.

What is the answer to all this doom and gloom? While there might not be a one-off solution to climate change, education on the issues facing the planet is certainly a big step in the right direction. Sadly, a recent study found that 40 percent of adults on earth are not aware of the idea of climate change. Lack of education also hits home in Africa and Asia, where people “are more likely to consider global warming a personal threat if they notice changes in the local temperature.”

It is often only by sensing a change in temperature that people deem climate change a threat. In Malawi, the local language does not have a word for the phenomenon. One way to combat climate change through education might be to explain the forces moving behind the slight temperature changes that people sense in order to make them understand the issue on a bigger, global scale. Knowledge on the subject can have an impact on a range of decisions that individuals might make – which crops to plant or where to place a new port, for example.

Environmental education can provide people with the necessary knowledge, behavior changes and skills that are needed in order to successfully carry out climate change mitigation and adaptation: it “can enable individuals and communities to make informed decisions and take action for climate-resilient sustainable development.”

The education of women and girls about the issues related to climate change is important. Recent studies have shown that when this happens, communities “are better able to adapt and thus be less vulnerable to extreme weather events and climate change.” When women are educated, they and their families are less likely to be vulnerable to death or injury during natural disasters.

More education on the specifics and intricacies of how natural environments function and change is needed in the developing world. Along with this, more knowledge must be spread on how individuals have an impact on their climate and the environment around them. With more of this in curriculae around the world, the effects of climate change might lessen.

Environmental education is an untapped resource when it comes to combating climate change. Those behind creating policy have not yet really utilized education as a sector that can fight climate change. Over the course of time, education has been used as a tool for social change. Today is no different – the planet needs a change in ideas and attitudes, and education is a way by which these changes can begin to sprout.

Greg Baker

Sources: Washington Post, Brookings, AllAfrica, IPS News
Photo: UC San Diego News Center