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Environmental adult education is recognized as a “hybrid outgrowth of the environmental movement and adult education, combining an ecological orientation with a learning paradigm to provide a vigorous educational approach to environmental concerns” (Sumner, 2003).
In laymen’s terms, environmental adult education refers to efforts in teaching environmental issues and how individuals and businesses can manage or change their lifestyles and ecosystems to live sustainably. The overarching goal of this field of study is to educate global societies to live more sustainably.
Environmental adult education is a relatively new and unique field of study and practice. It is a community-based method in which educators listen and respect the input of learners, and all participants are considered essential.
During the last thirty years, environmental adult education has evolved. For more than a century, environmental and conservation organizations taught adults environmental education with very little structure.
The United States was one of the first countries to officially recognize environmental education. During a joint House-Senate session in 1968, Congress acknowledged the importance of environmental education, and in 1970 passed the Environmental Education Act, which established the Office of Environmental Education.
According to the UNESCO Web site, in 1968 it organized the first intergovernmental conference aimed at reconciling the environment and development, now known as “sustainable development”. In the following years, UNESCO and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) initiated three major declarations that defined environmental education. Those included:
Educators in this field of study consider environmental problems with a holistic approach that combines social, political and environmental concerns into community dilemmas....
Participatory methods allow learners to make connections between social issues and environmental problems. This connection allows adult learners to understand the core causes of major environmental issues and the resulting social inequalities. This method also allows educators to stress the importance of instilling environmental awareness so that learners do not forget their relationship with the natural world.
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