Environmental education appears to be on the cusp of an opportune moment; there is now a much higher level of environmental awareness and concern in many parts of the world. We expect these concerns to grow as pressures upon the Earth’s systems increase and as socio-ecological conflicts intensify. Resolution of most environmental issues will require thoughtful, informed, and educated citizens placing pressure on political leaders. But what are our next steps?
We see the Congress as an opportunity to engage in a collective research and learning process. In this spirit, we pose three questions for participants to consider throughout the Congress:
- How can environmental education add meaning to our lives?
Can we imagine an environmental education that is able to add meaning to our lives? If so, how does environmental education contribute to the construction of more healthy individuals, communities, and social identities? How does this contribution enhance socio-ecological understanding and relationships?
- How can environmental education contribute to social innovation?
To what social models do we aspire? What forms of social innovation do we value? In light of these questions, how can environmental education contribute to addressing socio-ecological issues, constructive change, and eco-development? How should environmental education contribute to citizen actions and social and cultural change within these social models?
- How can environmental education contribute to political innovation and influence public policies?
How can we foster citizenship awareness and prepare citizens for participation in public policy development? What policy changes are needed to support and develop environmental education? How can we re-imagine environmental education? If you could talk directly to your minister of education or environment, dean of education/science/humanities, or favourite non-governmental organization, what message would you have? What would your environmental education plan be?
By focusing on these questions throughout the Congress, and in each of the conference strands, we expect that all participants and presenters can contribute to both the research direction of the meeting and the Congress outputs. This outlook will add an important dimension to the usual exchanges, reflections, professional development, and networking that occur at international conferences.
In the months following the Congress, the compilation of all the responses to these questions will be collated and disseminated. These will serve as the building blocks for a case in favour of environmental education and a powerful argument for government support of local, regional, and global initiatives.