Today’s blog is by Morgan Phillips, an NAEE trustee.  Its focus is the request from Global Action Plan (GAP) and Reboot the Future for organisations to join them on a project to reframe environmental education.  The project is grounded in research into the importance of values to the development of environmental attitudes and behaviours.  Morgan Phillips is working  on this at GAP and describes the background and aims of the project here:

Preparing students for an uncertain future can feel like an enormous challenge – one that teachers tell us weighs heavy on their minds.  Decades of environmental education have failed to have a significant impact – (young) people know the key facts, but knowledge alone is an insufficient motivator.  We believe we need to think differently about what environmental education is.  We need to reassess its design and delivery.  This action-learning project will bring together organisations with an interest in environmental education to:

  1. actively assess the values nurtured by environmental educators, their resources and their programmes; and
  2. test whether it is possible to educate for the environment without necessarily educating about

Environmental consciousness is only one factor shaping our lives, we have many other concerns; together they make up a set of influences that interact with each other to affect the values we hold.  We hold a wide range of values, but some become more prominent in our lives than others – and this matters.

In our society, in particular, we can observe how self-interest (extrinsic) values loom large.  They are present in the hundreds of adverts we are exposed to every day, the TV programmes we watch, our political discourse; and through the ways we are rewarded at work and school.  In these ways and many others, individualistic aspirations are promoted throughout society.  They are sub-consciously internalised by adults and, often even more so, by children.

This is having a drastic impact on our emotional health; driving conditions like narcissism, affluenza and status anxiety.  These, in turn, even in their mildest forms, can also have a negative impact on the health of our planet by fostering our craving for stuff – the products, experiences and status symbols that we turn to, to ease our anxieties and construct our identities.

The all-pervasivness of these self-interest (extrinsic) values in society has another effect too; they crowd out the less flashy, but healthier, compassionate (intrinsic) values, preventing them from coming to the fore.  We need to refocus; we need to re-balance this values see-saw and help compassionate values to rise.

So, while education about the environment has never been more urgent, education for the environment can be thought of as a much broader effort that has the ultimate goal of crowding out self-interest values by critiquing and weakening them at one end; and by activating and reinforcing compassionate values at the other. It is often less about the subject matter we teach and more about the values nurtured by our teaching. This is why we’re asking whether it is time to reframe environmental education?

I explain more about this initiative in this presentation.  

GAP and Reboot the Future are asking organisations who would like to get involved to make an expression of Interest.   The deadline for submissions is 5pm, Friday 17th January, 2020.  For more details please contact Morgan at GAP: morgan.phillips@globalactionplan.org.uk