I dream of a world that is fair, inclusive and equitable. A world where biodiversity is respected, celebrated, conserved, sustainably used and restored. Where there is balance because we take only what we need, reuse what we have, and ensure that resources are shared fairly. A world where we coexist in harmony with nature. As we have seen this month at IUCN’s first ever Global Youth Summit, this is the world that thousands of young people want to live in too.
We have learnt that for such a vision to come true, quick-fix, “silver bullet” solutions or small incremental changes to the way our world works will not be enough. We need to wake up to the challenges of the 21st century and to what we have to do to improve the way we live, not just for ourselves, but for all our fellow human beings, for nature and for our planet. We need what the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) calls a transformative change. In other words, we need a fundamental and structural transformation in the way our societies work; one where all sectors of society, across every generation, realign their priorities, values, and actions to ensure a sustainable and just future for all.
While this is not easy to achieve, we also know that such a change to our societies and economies is the only way to solve the social and environmental challenges humanity faces. We know what societies must become to address the nature crisis, but the question of how to get there remains.
If we are to transform our world, we need transformative education to pave the way.
Throughout the last few years I have been supporting the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) in undertaking national and regional consultations. At each consultation young people are asked what they think are our best ways to learn to live in harmony with nature. Wherever we are, I hear one point mentioned: education.
Education plays a crucial role in our transition towards sustainable and just societies. Not only because it shapes the values, knowledge and skills of upcoming generations but also because educational institutions play a key social role in our communities, far beyond teaching and learning. If we are to transform our world, we need transformative education to pave the way.
GYBN Asia regional capacity building workshop, Singapore
With guidance from our Transformative Education Task Force, we in the GYBN have a plan for what transformative education should include. We need education that shapes values, behaviours, skills and attitudes away from an exploitative relationship with nature, to systems that live in harmony with it. We need education that does not further perpetuate gender inequalities and gender stereotypes, but supports the intergenerational teaching of indigenous and local knowledge and promotes the use of local and indigenous languages as mediums of instruction. We need education that supports just, sustainable and well-functioning societies, and is inclusive and open to everyone. This means encompassing learning activities at all levels, not only within formal education systems, but also in informal learning spaces.
Students should learn the science behind biodiversity loss, but also about the social, economic and cultural causes and impacts of it.
To turn this vision into reality, we must integrate biodiversity into formal education curricula at every level and across all relevant subjects, not only in traditional “natural sciences”. Students should learn the science behind biodiversity loss, but also about the social, economic and cultural causes and impacts of it. In this way education systems can teach learners what their role is in the transition towards societies that live in harmony with nature. There are, however, many gaps in formal education systems that will take a long time to fill. It is therefore important that we also support and recognise informal forms of education, which are important to young people’s understanding of biodiversity and their relationship with nature.
Transformative education should not only be aimed at youth. On the contrary, lifelong learning plays a fundamental role. It is important that states and educational institutions engage in forms of adult education that focus on reskilling workers in sustainable professions.
I believe that many world leaders don't yet understand the true potential of education, as the topic has not received adequate attention in global environmental debates.
For us to implement transformative education globally, we as the youth community are pushing world leaders to recognise it at every level. This includes in multilateral environmental agreements generally, and in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework in particular. I believe that many world leaders don't yet understand the true potential of education, as the topic has not received adequate attention in global environmental debates. If enough people demand it, leaders will see the potential of education to help build a sustainable and equitable future for all. In this, we need IUCN Members’ help.
Sign the Youth Manifesto
Photo: Ines Hirata, Unsplash, GYBN
Every IUCN Member can advocate for transformative education, whether locally, nationally or internationally, and so help ensure that the true potential of transformative education is understood and programmes of work put in place to make it a reality. We must always remember to involve learners and teachers in this process, as they are the experts.
We as the youth community are pushing world leaders to include transformative education in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
IUCN Members can also help by signing our Youth #ForNature Manifesto and Open Letter. Many organisations, including IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication, have already signed. Created by several global youth constituencies and youth-led organisations, the Manifesto lists 12 key priorities for youth that we are calling for.
Through the Manifesto, we invite you to join us in this journey to realise a fair, equitable and sustainable future; a journey that begins with transformative education.