environmental education as a response to the crisis

Why do we disconnect from nature? Why do we support consumer practices that take us away from reality? Why do we build huge buildings and destroy natural areas? Why don’t we explore these spaces, why don’t we know? Why not put your hands in the ground, plant trees, compost and produce healthy food without poisons?

In the case of Argentina, several actors of territories with diverse environmental problems share answers, based on educational processes of change of consciousness that they live in their communities.

For Aldana Telias, an environmental education specialist in the fields of management, research and teacher training, the key is to “historicize” these reflections which invite us to seek the reasons for this climate crisis and environmental.

“Thinking not only about retraining, but also about how we got there, and how these conflicts become a matter of teaching and learning,” she analyzes.

Talias emphasizes that “the school dialogues with what is happening on the territory, we think of the process of environmental education in schools and communities. They are absolutely linked, a teacher is not a subject foreign to his territory, and neither are the children ”.

Jorge Serrano has been teaching social sciences for 11 years at Virrey del Pino School No. 60, La Matanza, in the Argentine province of Buenos Aires. During all these years, Jorge has seen how the population has grown and the number of land acquisitions has increased due to the housing shortage.

Hunger, poverty, pollution and the lack of green space add to the list of deeply rooted problems. In this region, the existence of the Laferrère Nature Reserve becomes relevant: more than 80 hectares of high biological, social and cultural value that the neighbors take care of. It is the last green lung of La Matanza.

Serrano and teachers from different disciplines approach conflict from different angles.

They organize festivals, trips to urban reserves, tree planting days, distribute books and leaflets with information on industrial pollution and the silent deaths that are not made visible by the media; they also manage an agro-ecological vegetable garden.

These are concrete actions to ensure transformation and cultivate the identity of the territory.

School foresters spread awareness in schools in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. Photo: Suyay Britez / PxP

“Next to the school we have a beautiful Pampean meadow, and one of the class activities is to go out and recognize what herbs there are, how important they are to wildlife. On a hot day, it is much nicer to teach in a square, under a tree, than in a classroom, ”says Serrano.

He explains that “we also have a wide variety of seeds, a small pond, a vegetable garden as a source of biodiversity. It is a space for the whole family.

“It’s good that a community organization comes into the school and challenges the teacher, that these tensions are generated to strengthen the process, it is part of the objectives of environmental education. It is education in action, a field of politico-pedagogical, interdisciplinary, multi-paradigmatic intervention which is oriented towards a more just society ”, explains Telias.

She adds: “Environmental education responds from the educational field to a situation of environmental tragedy, collapse and civilizational, structural and generalized crisis”.

The specialist describes as “environmental literacy” a concept “much more interesting than awareness, because it is about knowing the processes”.

In this regard, she specifies: “Often, the processes of territorial defense generate educational processes. In Argentina, they take place in very different ways, because in the metropolitan area of ​​Buenos Aires (AMBA) there are not the same environmental problems as in a mining or soybean province.

According to Telias, “this will mark a different kind of education. It is not something that is taught so easily, it is something that is experienced. You can’t tell others how to live, but rather make them think about the way they live.


A group of students after a day of harvesting and environmental awareness. Photo: PxP

What is under the concrete?

Sometimes it’s big parks, a small piece of land next to a train track or on the edge of a highway. Sometimes it’s the course of a stream. And sometimes it takes the form of a reservation.

The truth is that in addition to being refuges for native flora and fauna and providing “environmental services” (they help regulate temperatures, absorb rainwater, prevent flooding, and purify water). air), wilderness areas and green infrastructure within cities can recreate scenarios conducive to educational experiences, educational work and environmental awareness.

Adriel Magnetti, student of biological sciences at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), member of the Network of Protected Urban Areas (RAPU) and legislative adviser on environmental issues in the Chamber of Deputies of the Nation, fight for the conservation of the Ecological Reserve Costanera Norte, in Ciudad Universitaria of the city of Buenos Aires.

It is 20 hectares with a vast biodiversity, including the presence of a wetland which is directly fed by water from the River Plate.

“It’s a militant decision where we are in direct contact with the problems,” he explains.

He explains that “a large part of the city of Buenos Aires is still a wetland, we just landed on it”.

But he points out that “even if we don’t see them, the ecosystems are there, we have covered them with concrete and cement. Both components such as flora and fauna, fungi, microorganisms; but also, processes such as the flow of matter and energy, water, soil, air ”.

Magnetti contextualizes: “The problem is structural and global, and is linked to our conception of the environment. It leads us to consider as vacant and unoccupied spaces not occupied by a project, a house, a building site or a factory.

“It’s a mercantilist view of the land, where if you can’t give it an economic value, it’s worthless. And if there is something that biodiversity, cultural, archaeological, historical heritage possesses, it is an intangible, intrinsic value, which is defined above all by the perception of the community. In this way, we will never be compatible with the cosmovision of our indigenous peoples and rural communities, ”he adds.


Children lose their environmental sensitivity more and more quickly, foresters say. Photo: Suyay Britez / PxP

The tree revolution

Graciela Britez is a volunteer at Forestadores Escolares, a project that teaches children and adults to plant trees – from seeds and seedlings -, to watch them grow, take care of them, fall in love with them and regain their sensitivity to a being. living that transcends us. They are environmental promoters dedicated to giving workshops on ecology and reforestation, to inspire and multiply.

“What happens when we turn off the mind and start recording?

“With a seed, you work on a lot of things: there are values, respect and collateral benefits, think beyond me with a vision for the future. We need a green world, a non-violent and sustainable city, we need trees. The teachers we contacted have made their revolution. We have to take charge of our humanity, ”he explains.

Common sense

At Ciudad Universitaria, Magnetti receives contingents of English speaking boys and girls, students from other provinces and countries, specialized educational institutions and prestigious universities.

“When you visit an urban nature reserve, you receive a series of sensory, physical and personal stimuli to build a common sense of what is around you and what is important. Many people can attend and have a transformative experience, ”he says.

At the same time, Magnetti shares the experience of having been in contact with people in vulnerable situations, with fishermen who went to the reserve to stock up on food, who lived there for a long time and built a relationship with them. the territory.

“They have installed in our heads that nature goes in one direction and we go in the other, and that any ‘usufructuary’ link such as obtaining food, providing us with medicines, any type of material or spiritual contribution. that nature brings us, is false. The relationship will be toxic when natural processes are not respected and this will be done with a view to accumulating profitability outside the territories, “he concludes.


The tree as an axis of school environmental practices. Photo: Suyay Britez / IPS

The weight of the law

In June, the Argentine government announced the enactment of Law 27.621, which implements Integrated Environmental Education (IEE) in all educational institutions in the country.

The regulatory framework is based on the principles set out in the National Constitution and in the Law on National Education (20.206) and the General Law on the Environment (25.675), from which environmental education is considered a fundamental process. for the full exercise of citizenship.

“In schools we have to work hard on the kind of citizenship we want, so that we can challenge public and political powers, knowing that the interests we have before us are opposing, focused and powerful,” says Telias .

He adds that “this whole movement of emerging young people on climate change puts issues on the public agenda, like the law on wetlands. It generates hope.

For his part, Magnetti declares: “The main objective of the law on environmental education is to install sustainability as a social project, to challenge the logics of development, to reflect on power structures and relations between strengths that are put on the table when it comes to making decisions. Building a more prosperous future is a task that we all must set ourselves with different degrees of responsibility. There are common and shared but differentiated responsibilities.

The Yolanda law, which pursues the mission of guaranteeing comprehensive training in the environment, in a perspective of sustainable development and with particular emphasis on climate change for people working in the public sector, is another important instrument in this challenge to take better decisions.

“It offers a paradigm shift,” Magnetti says.

“If we have trained officials, active implementation of the Escazú Accord and an environmental education law in place, we are on the right track for this sustainability project as a social mandate. . This is another scenario that is generated for the next generations. However, this is not enough: we must stop the destruction today, ”he concludes.

This article is part of Planet Community, a journalistic project led by Journalists for the Planet (PxP) in Latin America, of which IPS is a member. This article was also produced with support from Climate Tracker Latin America.