The Missing Piece: Education
It is useless to create the best recyclable technology that can recycle trash 20 seconds after waste is thrown away if people do not know how to separate their waste in the first place.
It is useless for us to create biodegradable plastic but not know how to dispose of it.
It is useless to know how to convert cooking oil into biodiesel for cars but not have people aware of this option.
It is useless to have thought through, drawn out, and meticulously planned the biggest sustainable plan to decrease our carbon footprint but there is a lack of understanding about how our actions of today can impact the people of tomorrow.
Yes, man have stepped on the moon and technology will disrupt our lives over and over and over again. But what does all of this mean if the main foundation is not there? What do we do when we have the tools but no education about how to use them or how to think about them?
The problem facing our world stems largely from a lack of education around it.
Sustainability, the environment and the world around us should be introduced into schools curriculum. To understand and foster our connections with the environment, which is changing drastically, education is crucial to create a better world in the future.
Education is the bridge we need to create tangible change, not only for kids but for skeptics, college students and professionals.
According to a research study conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change, about 70% of Americans accept that climate change is happening. Yet, very few Americans, 6%, say they believe that nations can and will combat climate change. At first glance, 70% seems like a big part of society; however, it's one thing to know about it; it is another completely different, however, to act upon it. Make no mistake, no action at all is action enough.Thus, we need to foster younger generations to be leaders and change makers of the future.
It is clear that the way we live now will drastically change in the future because circumstances are rapidly shifting. Logically, then, we need to create leaders that can deal with future challenges, taking into account that world population will only increase and the strain on the environment will as well. Sustainability and education needs to be integrated now more than ever, not only for future leaders, but for all human beings. Our customs and culture need to change because we as individuals and societies need to learn to live sustainably. The actions we have today already have implications on lives of people and the planet in the future.
I believe one of the biggest questions the 21st century poses is regarding our duty towards strangers. What is our duty to the ones that will come after us? What is our duty towards the kids of today? What legacy does our generation want to leave behind? The funny thing is, when we are gone there is absolutely nothing that we leave behind, nature erases all of us, but maybe we are the ones erasing nature with nothing to show for.
The only thing we can and must leave behind is an opportunity for future generations to experience the wonders of our planet.
I believe the way we do this is through education. Not only in K-12 levels, but also in higher education. Why doesn’t UCLA apply sustainability to one of the compulsory orientation programs we all go through as a freshman?
Furthermore, the future of most disciplines taught today will intersect with sustainable practices. We already witness it today; for example, UCLA Extension implemented a business and sustainability course, the future of architecture and engineering is steering innovation to create sustainable designs, systems, and buildings. Essentially, sustainability will be integrated with a plethora of areas as we witness the growing demand for it.
Education is the foundation needed to start building a more sustainable world because education is one of the only institutions in the US that almost all children are required to engage with; thus, it is a powerful, influential and compelling tool.
The UN has created a program called Education for Sustainability which aims to develop students, schools and communities with the values and the motivation to take action for now and the future. Furthermore, Melbourne signed a declaration on Education Goals recognizing that sustainability must be incorporated as a cross-curriculum priority across curriculum areas and understands that the future of students is reason enough to do so. Moreover, the US and the UN formed the US Partnership for Education for sustainable development (USPESD), which consists of individuals, organizations and institutions dedicated to the education for sustainable development.
Sustainability is the ultimate bridge for the future; drawing in politics, economics, philosophy and the ultimate cross-curriculum discipline linking social sciences with civic engineering and environmental science. But more than that, sustainability education induces innovation, ingenuity and out of the box thinking.
The key to creating environmentally conscious global citizens is through education.