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Education for Sustainable Development: The Johannesburg Summit and Beyond

"The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg during 26 August and 4 September 2002, was a truly remarkable event, not least because it identified and committed the world community to what has to be done to realise Agenda 21 objectives. Discussion begins with the "means of implementation" of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPI). Education for, and raising awareness of, sustainable development are the key commitments in the "means of implementation". The issues central to these commitments are discussed. The crucial role of moral philosophy in education for sustainable development is then discussed. Defining the "problem" as lack of progress (in fact negative progress between Rio and Johannesburg) towards global sustainable development, a cause-effect relationship of the "problem" is developed based on a systematic and logical analysis. It shows that the "cause" is West's profoundly materialistic, environment-degrading and exploitative attitude and activities to satisfy grossly unsustainable, hedonistic and insatiably avaricious Western life-styles - life-styles that are held up by the West as "ideal" fruits of economic "development" to be aspired by all. The "effects" are pollution of air, water and soil; mounting loss of biodiversity, ecosystems and species; relentlessly widening north-south divide, etc. It is argued that while science and technology can address some of the "effects", they cannot address the "cause". Only moral philosophy can by fundamentally re-orienting moral values genuinely to respect nature and the environment. Based on sound and tested principles of Educational Psychology, a proposal is then made for including moral philosophy in the formal curricula (content and pedagogy) of primary, secondary and higher education for instilling in children and young people genuinely environment-respecting moral values. To this end a generic syllabus for the secondary level is proposed. Finally, it is argued that if the scientific community really believes that science or technology alone can radically change the pervasive environment-degrading moral values to those that genuinely respect the environment, thus paving the way to real global sustainability, then it must demonstrate how this could be done and explain why, despite their abundant science and technology, the developed nations are the biggest polluters and consumers with grossly unsustainable life-styles. Certainly, examples would be much more convincing than rhetoric or tired old cliches about how science and technology alone could deliver global sustainable development. "
Bhaskar Nath
European Center for Pollution Research
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