Education for Sustainability - Facts For Everybody
Sustainability: “improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems”. Education has a vital role to play in developing favorable attitudes towards sustainable way of life as well as for developing competencies to lead sustainable way of life.
Education: A Vital Input for Sustainability Way of Life
Education for sustainability must share the features of all quality educational experiences and incorporatie the values of sustainable development into the teaching-learning process.
It has to develop critical thought, tackle dilemmas and prepare people to look for solutions to the problems.
It has to be orientated towards action. Awareness alone does not lead to change. Beyond awareness, education for sustainability must promote commitment. The people educated must accept participation in the decision-making, including the decisions relating to the environment and the learning method.
It has to adopt an interdisciplinary and holistic approach. It has to use multiple channels and didactic resources (the word, plastic arts, drama, debates, experiences, etc.) to jointly construct the knowledge, thereby going beyond the mere transfer of knowledge.
It is significant for those who are learning and for the community, integrating the didactic experiences into the personal and professional life.
It has to consider both the local and the global scale when considering the problems of development.
Climate Change Issues
More than two decades ago the world scientific community began to alert us to the fact that the Earth was heating up at an unprecedented rate. The acceleration in temperature change will become exponential if measures are not adopted. When investigating the reason behind this acceleration, a direct link between global warming and the rising emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from industrialised human societies
The total volume of water on the planet is 1.3 billion km3, of which 97.5% is saltwater. Only a very small part –less than 0.01% or 104,590 km3– can be used directly by humans to satisfy their living requirements, their production activities and for the activities associated with the ecosystems which rely on it. The efficiency with which water is utilised is dropping. The present ratio is around 60% between water extracted and water used.
Preservation of Biodiversity
Biodiversity can be defined as the variety in living beings. The world is inhabited by millions of living beings, all different, and this diversity has benefits.
Why is biodiversity important?
Many of our daily activities would not be possible without biodiversity. Thanks to biodiversity, we obtain different services from nature .
According to the most optimistic forecasts 27,000 species are currently lost every year due to human activity. In the past, without human interference, only about one species per thousand was lost per year. The current situation is that over a very short period, 12% of plants, 11% of birds and 25% of mammals have become extinct or have become endangered species. It is extremely clear that we are facing one of the most significant periods of destruction in geological history.
Looking after local biodiversity: respect nature. Don’t throw litter, don’t break the plants etc. Leave them the way you found them so that others can also enjoy them. How much space do we want to take up?: we currently occupy a large part of the Earth for urban areas, roads and infrastructure, leaving no room for many plants and animals. We must leave some areas of our topography intact so that a minimum biodiversity can be maintained. This is the role played by nature reserves.
Ultimately, every day, we must look after living beings wherever they are.
Our Energy Consumption and Environmental Problems
What measures can be adopted to rationalise energy
consumption without reducing the standard of living?
We must analyse energy –saving and efficiency measures capable of maintaining the same level of well-being and production, while reducing energy consumption–.
We must consider substituting more contaminating energy sources for others with less impact, in other
words, increasing the consumption of alternative energy.
The governments enact and apply laws, establish tax and subsidy policies, regulate the behaviour of
companies and individuals, and define and apply market regulations.
Industry offers certain goods and services, promotes innovation and technological change, and complies with
Individuals use energy, choose the type and quantity of the goods and services that they consume, and
contribute towards establishing social rules of conduct.
Technological solutions: combined cycle power stations, energy cogeneration and trigeneration, liquefaction
and gasification of carbon, sequestration and carbon storage techniques.
Domestic, industrial and institutional energy saving in their various activities: transport, green building, heating,
refrigeration, lighting, etc.
Increase in the use of alternative energies:
2. Greenhouse gas emitting: direct biomass use, production of biogas, use of biofuels in transport,
use of waste products.
and consumption of energy. People can and must directly influence this dynamic by adopting attitudes and behaviour which lead to the efficient and rational use of energy, and indirectly by influencing international, national and even corporate policies by applying democratic mechanisms.
Soil Degradation and Measures to Prevent It
This soil is essential in order to maintain the biosphere and climate regulation. For example, soil sustains
The services of the soil
•Production of biomass: food, fibre and energy.
•Medium which filters, regulates and transforms the matter that reaches it, protecting the water, the
food chain and human beings from environmental contamination.
•Biological habitat and genetic reserve for many plants, animals and organisms.
Services relating to human activities
•Source of raw materials: water, clay, sand, gravel, minerals, etc.
•Element of our cultural heritage, which contains essential paleontological and archaeological remains
for understanding the history of the earth and humanity.
If soil is not used by humans with care and wisdom it is lost, as in extreme cases where the underlying rock
surface is exposed through erosion, or when it is buried under cement or asphalt in the case of sealing.
Soil erosion can be caused by water, wind, ice or gravity. In these terms this refers to hydrological, eolic,
glacier - periglacier and mechanical erosion respectively. In all of these cases, the external factor which exerts the most influence on erosion is the total or partial loss of vegetation cover which protects it from water droplets that would otherwise fall on it and destroy its aggregates, thereby deteriorating its sponge-like properties. Equally, the plant root networks help to retain the soil thereby slowing down the erosion process.
Sealing has only started to become a serious problem now that the number of the world’s inhabitants has risen exponentially, and with it the increase in housing, industry and infrastructure (reservoirs, roads, airports, etc.) required to build and maintain them. At present, millions and millions of hectares are buried under asphalt and cement, and in some countries this situation occurs in more than 20% of their territory. But the fundamental problem lies in the fact that these man-made works are usually carried out on the most fertile and productive soils –river banks, meadows, coastal plains, deltas, etc.–, competing with and displacing agriculture and natural ecosystems.
many such processes and the most important of these are detailed below:
aggregates end up disintegrating into their constituent particles, deteriorating their structure and therefore, the
these circumstances, the soil pH rises excessively high –above 8.5–, generating erratic uptake of the nutrients
required by plants. Frequent practices which lead to soil salinization are irrigation with relatively brackish water in climates with water deficits, improper fertilising, etc. Acidification: Acidification is also a process which
upsets the balance of nutrients. Most of the nutrients are leached out and are substituted by hydrogen or
worse still aluminium. In this case, the soil pH drops below 4.5 –very acidic– whereby nutrients become
very impoverished. When the aluminium ion ends up dominating, the pH potentially drops to 4, leading to
problems of toxicity. Practices and phenomena which lead to soil acidification are, amongst others: acid rain,
incorrect fertilising, restocking with acidifying forest species –for example conifers–, draining of semi-aquatic
coastal soils which sustain mangrove swamp vegetation, etc.
above. Independently of the loss of organic material, plant cover or sodification which affect the surface
compression, there are other factors which affect the deeper horizons, such as the use of excessively heavy
edaphosphere. A distinction should be drawn between contamination and pollution. We use the
term pollution when an element which appears normally in the soil in moderate quantities reaches exaggerated and harmful levels. On the other hand, the term contamination should be reserved for those processes which lead to the accumulation of elements or compounds in the soil which are alien to it, such as insecticides, other synthetic compounds, and even radioactive substances. The contamination and pollution processes can be divided into local and widespread. The former refers to a large accumulation of contaminating elements in relatively small areas, called contaminated sites, whether due to uncontrolled dumping, accidents at chemical industry and nuclear plants, etc. Widespread contamination on the other hand, contains less contaminating or polluting substances, although over a very large area. An example would be the excessive use of fertilizers and insecticides in agrarian landscapes.
Although the contamination/pollution may appear to be a local process it may have global repercussions. The
edaphic medium amasses a certain capacity to absorb contaminants and/or pollutants, and if the threshold is
exceeded, it allows them to pass from the soil into the water and/or plants, and from there into herbivores and
then to carnivores and human beings. The World Health Organisation considers contamination/pollution to be the direct or indirect cause which leads to the most number of deaths in developing countries. The generalised abusive use of agrarian chemicals is one of the main causes of soil and water contamination. The contaminant-rich waters in turn flow into the sea and poison the marine trophic chain.
Desertification is the degradation and loss of soil in arid, semi-arid and dry/barren environments, i.e. in
those with scarce water resources. It is not therefore a process per se, but rather the phenomenological
manifestation of many other processes under certain environmental conditions. Under these conditions
the landscape becomes arid, losing plant cover and biomass, and a drop in the organic material and
biological activity in the soil.
The Earth’s climate has undergone constant changes since its origin, with climate variation being the norm,
rather than the exception. But we concerned about global warming or climate change as it is rapidly changing adversely as a result of current pattern of human activities.
agricultural and livestock activities, the amount of CO2 stored in the edaphosphere is far greater than that in
the atmosphere. If all of the CO2 and CH4 contained in the soil were to be mineralised and emitted into the
atmosphere, the resulting climate change would lead to the collapse of modern civilisation as we know it.
Hence, the soil can be a CO2 source or sink, depending on how we manage it.
many of the other cycles in the biosphere . One of the most seriously affected is the nitrogen
cycle. If we do not look after our soil then we will be unable to look after the biosphere; because their
persistence and health depends on us.