ESD - Promoting sustainable development through education
There is now widespread concern that the model of development that is evident across the globe is unsustainable. We are faced with the urgent need to recast our ways of living, away from ones that rely on the unsustainable consumption of resources, the degradation of ecosystems and the exploitation of people, towards a model that strives to enhance the well-being of all human beings within the limits of our planet.
Sustainable development is described by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development as being underpinned by an ethic of solidarity, equality and mutual respect among people, countries, cultures and generations; it is development in harmony with nature, meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The role of education for sustainability
While the need for sustainable development is clear, the ways to approach it may differ and will evolve. It is widely held that the development of sustainable societies is a continuous learning process and one in which issues and dilemmas are commonplace and appropriate answers and solutions may not be definitive.
Education should play an important role in enabling people to live together in ways that contribute to sustainable development. However, at present, education often contributes to unsustainable living. This can happen through a lack of opportunity for learners to question their own lifestyles and the systems and structures that promote those lifestyles. It also happens through reproducing unsustainable models and practices.
Reorienting education towards sustainable development
The recasting of development, therefore, calls for the reorientation of education towards sustainable development.
ESD raises awareness of the complexity and dynamism of current developments and plays a key role in making sustainable development understood. ESD helps to develop the capacity for critical reflection as well as to motivate actions that promote sustainable development.