Education can save environment

July 08, 2004, vol. 30, no. 6
By Carol Thorbes



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Many people, even some world leaders, do not believe climate change is encircling the globe.

Canadian Conservative party leader Stephen Harper and U.S. President George Bush have, in recent years, raised questions about whether climate change is a serious concern. But that does not exasperate David Zandvliet.

Instead, it intensifies the Simon Fraser University environmental educator's conviction that conferences, such as the one coming up at SFU, are necessary.

“The environmental crisis we're facing is largely due to a problem with education,” says Zandvliet, an assistant professor of science and technology in SFU's faculty of education, and a former wildlife biologist.

“We have CEOs and industrialized nations making environmentally damaging decisions because our education system focuses on educating people about economic and scientific advancements, but not environmental sustainability.”

Developmental Education for a Sustainable Future, from Aug. 19-22 at the Burnaby campus, aims to address that lack of education.

It will update a new breed of educators on the latest holistic and non-confrontational strategies for educating people, particulary school children, about environmental degradation and preservation.

“A holistic approach doesn't try to indoctrinate people or tell them the right way to live,” explains Zandvliet. “It tries to raise awareness about the complexity of our environment and generate discussion about many perspectives on how to preserve it.”

This holistic approach to environmental education rests on six principles, including teaching students about environmental ethics and helping them directly experience the environment.

“A classroom discussion about the benefits of recycling is a very different experience from students witnessing the volume of garbage coming into a waste transfer site compared to the trickle of items being recycled.”

The four-day conference will feature four keynote speakers:

Thom Henley, founder of the Rediscovery program, a back-to-nature program for at-risk First Nations youth in the Queen Charlottes.

Joseph Cornell, author of Sharing Nature with Children, a book of activities connecting children with the outdoors.

Laurie Vaughan, a First Nations leader and coordinator of native resource development in Bella Coola.

Simon Jackson, director and founder of Spirit Bear Youth Coalition, an activist youth group.

For more information see: www.educ.sfu.ca/eecom/

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