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


Friday 11 July 2008

1970s: Developing the concepts of Environmental Education

The seventies were marked by the Stockholm UN Conference on the Human Environment(1972) and the Tiblisi UNEP/UNESCO Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education (1977). IUCN EduC took part in the preparation of both of them and organized some preceding expert meetings in Europe and North America, where the concepts of environmental education have been further elaborated. Of special importance was the UNESCO-sponsored IUCN World Seminar on Environmental Education in School Curricula (Carson City, Nevada, USA, 1970) with a considerable number of participants from the South. IUCN EduC was also heavily involved in the first ever World Youth Conference on Environment in 1971 (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) preceding the Stockholm Conference. Another major event was the First European Conference on Environmental Conservation Education (Rueschlikon near Zurich, Switzerland 1971 attended by 109 representatives of 21 European countries and 9 international organizations, and 13 observers from countries outside Europe. In late sixties and early seventies EduC was supported by grants from the WWF.
The participants of the IUCN/Field Studies Council international course in environmental education for teacher trainees, Bets-Y-Coed, North Wales, UK, August 1971, interviewing locals about their environment. - Photo Jan Cerovsky. Education Commission Handbook of Environmental Education, Educ Conference Proceedings.

The NWEC was now meeting yearly. Governments and conservation institutions in the host countries provided financial support. One of the persons instrumental for the success and continuity of NWEC was Chris Maas Geesteranus (Netherlands, 1945) as its long serving Secretary (1975-1982) and later Chairman. The EduC continued its activities in Eastern Europe. Thanks to IUCN and its EduC activity at that time even in the Soviet Union some conservationists and educators appeared who strongly supported development of west-east mutual understanding and environmental collaboration . Both committees were in practice increasingly driving the global commission that still had a very small membership. The conceptual development of environmental education focused very much on pedagogy and the role of nature in personal development in various learning situations, and much less on conservation as the overarching objective.

Internationally the IUCN EduC was at that point in time in a strong position in starting up the IEEP (International Environmental Education Programme) of UNEP/UNESCO. But it did not capitalize on it, partly because of its conceptual focus and partly because it did not manage to avoid the ensuing leadership struggles. The position of EduC in the IUCN Secretariat was weakened by Jan Čeřovský having been retired by his government (for political reasons) back to Prague in 1973, and after that the EduC matters were administerd by Alfred Hoffmann who at the same time served the Commission on Landscape Planning. 1975 saw a major upheaval in the IUCN Secretariat and confusion during the General Assembly in Kinshasa.

In 1978 during the General Assembly of Ashkabad, USSR, Shaposhnikov gave up his chairmanship, with the result that there was no CEC candidate to vote for. In its next session after the General Assembly Council appointed a “an excellent Scottish Environmental Education expert Don Aldridge (UK, 1930-2008) as the new Chair. This appointment however was blocked by rival candidates”, as Martin Holdgate – maybe a bit biased - put it. Council then appointed the Swiss Representative to the IUCN Council as Acting Chair. Pierre Goeldlin (Switzerland, 1937), tried hard to find a new permanent chair. Reporting about EduC to Council, Pierre Goeldlin attributed – not surprisingly - the problems to “the abstract nature of educational concepts and the wide scope of the subject”. In hindsight the problems IUCN had at the time to position itself vis-à-vis UNESCO, UNEP and WWF may also have been a factor in the conflicts.

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