2.2 Introducing your learners to ecoliteracy

Floods, droughts, hurricanes and other weather-related disasters have sadly become more commonplace over the past decades. The climate crisis and its effects have become difficult to ignore as they are constantly reported on. As global citizens, we must all take responsibility for the state of the environment and we are all expected to take actions to protect the environment. Unit 2 is entitled Promoting Ecoliteracy and sets out to explore ideas and initiatives for protecting the health of our planet.

Greta Thunberg has been the face of fighting climate change for several years now and has inspired thousands of young people to join her movement. The young Swedish woman protested on the steps of the parliament in Stockholm when she was still in school and has triggered the global phenomenon that we now call Fridays for Future. Students across the globe protest on Fridays to demand that politicians and citizens take action against climate change and to protect our planet (Mlaba 2021). It is a movement strongly associated with students’ and young people and is thus relevant for everyone involved in education. Her story is proof that a single person’s action can inspire a worldwide movement and lead to awareness and actual change.

Sustainable development goals

To structure societal and educational work towards a sustainable future for the planet, the UNESCO has created a framework to drive a global initiative of change. The framework articulates 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agreed upon by all United Nations Member States as “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future” (UNESCO, n.d.). They address issues related to poverty, hunger, gender equality, biodiversity and consumption. They represent tangible goals that the UN member states hope to achieve by 2030 to increase the sustainability and wellbeing of our planet. Unit 2 draws on the SDG framework and connects the issues around the theme of ecoliteracy.

Unit 2 also introduces you to the concept of intergenerational justice. This is the notion that, “present generations have certain duties towards future generations […] such as which risks those living today are allowed to impose on future generations, and how available resources can be used without threatening the sustainable functioning of the planet’s ecosystems” (UNICEF 2012, paragraph 4). It serves as a reminder that current generations need to be aware that decisions of today not only affect us but have lasting consequences for several generations to come. We are simply caretakers of our planet and must leave behind a planet that is healthy and has the resources to host future generations.

Environmental issues are often complex, but they can be addressed beginning with topics such as pollution, waste management or biodiversity. There are also resources available aimed at all levels and ages of learners making it easy to find resources. Starting local and thinking global is an especially easy way to approach this for school-aged learners considering environmental issues in their local communities before reflecting on possible parallels on a global level.