Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Sunday 1 July 2007

WEEC 2007 - first impressions

World Environmental Education Congress 2007 - 1 Good morning, welcome to Durban”. A very friendly South African lady smiles at me and helps me. Since over 1000 participants are expected, I came in early this Sunday morning to register. But I am lucky- there are no long lines of people waiting. In one minute I have my badge and my bag. So I sit down in the coffee corner of the Durban International Conference Center – a modern facility, I remember from the 2003 IUCN World Parks Congress. I slowly sip on my cappuccino and take a closer look at the conference documentation. Soon old and new friends join me at the table.

There are still people who adhere to the old fashioned idea of behavior change, that is indoctrination. Environmental education should provide students with democratic competences and mental ownership of action competences for sustainable development”, says a university professor from Northern Europe. “Poor people are not helped with those competences, they need to change some of their ways to ensure clean water and nutritious food from their natural environment, preferably with some extra income generation”, I hear a bit later from a woman working in rural Africa.

The conference ‘Learning in a changing world’, is a huge undertaking. Participants come from 100 different countries. The documentation contains 455 abstracts of papers and workshop presentations. Apart from a one day plenary sessions, there are two and half days of hundreds of parallel paper presentations, a few dozens one and two hour workshops and many poster presentations. I will have to make some hard choices. Themes include ESD, cultural changes, new learning, research, ethics, curriculum transformation, communities of practice, biodiversity, sustainable schools, poverty, globalization etc.

I read in the program: “Look for the footprint symbol and find out more about Greening the WEEC 2007!” At one o’clock two buses wait to take me and another participant back to the hotel in our section of town. The driver of the small bus decides that his colleague, driving the larger bus will take us. He would wait for the next trip.

At the hotel I had already noticed that the environmental management is more or less limited to the usual notice in the bath room advising guests that towels in the bath tub stands for: “please change”; and towels on the rack mean: “I will use them again”. Most lights are not energy efficient. My windows offer a spectacular view of the harbor but have no double-glass.

Tomorrow I will definitely have a look at the greening of the conference. We should practice what we preach and walk the talk. Or is that too old fashioned a behavior approach to education?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thanks you for your first thoughts, sights and sounds of the "Learning in a Changing World Congress". It brought up some memories of the work that we at the Foundation for Our Future did back in the 1990's with k-12 education and higher education in trying to bring the concept of Sustainable Development into the mainstream and have it be the central focus for managing learning change.

Since I cannot be at the Congress physically with you, I decided to share on my Blog (www.sustainability thoughts,org) a snapshot of the k-12 education system in the US as it relates to sustainability and a role that higher education can play to help catalyze the change necessary in our mainstream.

I look forward to more postings from Durban!

Wishing I were there with you...

Keith Wheeler