The importance of an interdisciplinary view in the design of Effective Environmental Education strategies

The need to understand the environment from a multidisciplinary approach has always been accepted by academics. However, how we approach environmental education within society is very different. Society views the environment as a separate system or category to our human-made system. As a result, when we try to solve problems, we usually create new problems. While we do not intend to cause problems, our focus on solving a problem without the understanding of how our system interacts with the environmental system, has, and always will, create other problems. We need to take a multidisciplinary approach. 

The following is an academic perspective of environmental education. 

Karla Nicole San Martín Guajardo, Social Worker of the Metropolitan Technological University of the State of Chile UTEM. She has a Diploma in Participatory Methodologies of Social and Community Intervention at the Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano UAHC. Legal representative of the Foundation for Local Development Sustainable School Communities. Teacher at the IDMA Environment Institute (2018-2019)

Interdisciplinar view and Sustainable Development

The necessity of understanding the environmental phenomenon from a comprehensive paradigm has been a recurring subject of reflection for decades. The supremacy of the natural and exact sciences in the generation of diagnoses and alternative solutions has caused a slow incorporation of professionals from other spheres of knowledge, despite the fact that the relationship between society and the environment is indisputable.

Presentación de experiencias de vinculación jardín infantil-comunidad

Presentation of kindergarten-community linking experiences, 2017

In 2002, the Johannesburg Summit marked an important milestone in the relevance of pedagogical work in the implementation of effective Environmental Education strategies, a goal established in Agenda 21. It is in this summit where concepts such as “holistic” and “interdisciplinary” begin to be recurrent in the construction of proposals to face the ecological crisis. Even the term “glocal” begins to be used to consider the particularities of each territory in the design of initiatives, thus recognizing that, together with the pedagogical, the social has a fundamental value when executing Environmental Education actions that contribute to the transition towards sustainable development. 

Resolution of health, social and environmental problems through Integral Environmental Education.

It is of the utmost importance that any study aimed at knowing and remedying ecological imbalances, is positioned from the integral perspective of the phenomenon, incorporating elements from the social and economic spheres. This way of understanding Environmental Education becomes even more relevant in the context of a pandemic. Solving social problems in conjunction with environmental ones, is no longer just a challenge for Latin America, but for the entire world. As a result of this, where health, social and ecological problems configure highly complex scenarios, positioning from the Integral Environmental Education is no longer a simple option, but the “great place” from where comprehensive professionals, with open awareness, manage to find the points common critics and generate solutions that, in synergy, can provide answers to the greatest number of uncertainties that affect the diverse citizens of the planet.

Integral Environmental Education and Social Work.

Representantes de actores locales que forman parte del proyecto "Escuela de Sustentabilidad para el Adulto Mayor"

Representatives of local actors that are part of the project “School of Sustainability for the Elderly”, 2016

As a Social Worker, I believe that in order to restore the balance of the planet, it is not enough to make reasonable use of its “natural resources”, implement alternative energies, recycle and forestry, among others, but that each person needs to return to nature. In professional language, we need human groups to “restructure their relationship with the environment.” The result of this repositioning in the world is one that would really allow people to become aware of their impact on ecosystems and decide to opt for more sustainable lifestyles.

What we need is not only to change technologies for cleaner ones, but we also need to transform human approaches, attitudes and behaviors so that they can consciously acquire new knowledge about our environment and our own existence. That is why Environmental Education incorporates the promotion of values ​​such as solidarity, co-responsibility, empathy, austerity, among others, which allow communities to build more sustainable societies together.

The state of art on Integral Environmental Education.

Artesanías confeccionadas con la técnica de transformación de bolsas plásticas en hilo. Autor: Gusmara Martinez

Handicrafts made with the technique of transforming plastic bags into thread. Author: Gusmara Martinez, 2015.

Since 1975, the United Nations has suggested to governments ways to implement environmental education strategies, however these still lack comprehensiveness. The main initiatives of Integral Environmental Education arise from the territories. CHILE is no exception and its construction comes, to a great extent, from foundations, NGOs and articulations of Civil Society groups. Regarding the incorporation of Integral Environmental Education in the Chilean educational system, the main reference is the National System of Environmental Certification of Educational Establishments (SNCAE), which in its declaration of principles is defined as an interdisciplinary structure and with curricular areas, environmental management and relations with the environment. However, both the incorporation of environmental education in the curriculum and the connection of educational establishments with their environment, are challenges that have yet to be resolved.