"Why do I have mangoes in July?" was the title of one of the presentations at a three-day expert seminar on climate change education at UNESCO HQ in Paris, which brought together 60 experts in climate change, education for sustainable development and curriculum development, in particular coming from Small Islands Developing States.
"Global warming is the defining issue of our time. Sustainable development simply cannot be achieved without a stable climate," warned UNESCO's Director-General who opened the conference along with the Ambassador of Denmark to UNESCO.
Mark Richmond, Director, Division for the Coordination of UN Priorities in Education outlined five bases of engagement with climate change issues:
- the evidence base, or how the science of climate change has major contributions to make to curricula, teaching/learning processes and advocacy for education for sustainable development
- the ethical dimension; climate change is a challenge to sustainability but also to values
- the emotional and attitudinal base; climate change issues can provide a vivid way to explore feelings about changes such as global warming
- the pedagogical base; climate change issues have an urgency, vividness and immediacy that can be a stimulus to effective teaching and learning and to the design and renewal of curricula
- the situational base; climate change is undoubtedly a global phenomenon but its impact and effects are highly situation-specific, for example in Small Island Developing States
Organized by UNESCO with the financial support of Denmark, the seminar covered such themes as climate ethics and justice and the educational challenges of understanding climate change from a gender perspective. Participants examined how climate change issues could be integrated into school curricula; addressed the issues of guidelines, learning materials and explored ways to better use networks such as UNESCO's Associated Schools and World Heritage sites to promote local field-based education.
The results of the seminar will feed into the preparations for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen on December 7 to 18.