In 40 years of Environmental Education and Development Education and well over fifteen years of ESD the focus has been on turning pupils and students into human beings fully equipped with the competencies to cope with the challenges of a world which the present and the last generation have turned into anything but paradise. In other words, the target audience has always been the next generations which is disingenuous on two counts: first we expect those who aren’t responsible for the mess we’re in to clean it up and second, it is an implicit but stark admission on our part that we are not capable of cleaning it up ourselves. All we can do, so we signal, is hope that our successors will turn out to be a notch cleverer than we are.
To come back to the audience question, this means that those who really need to be educated, who need ESD, who clearly lack the competencies to deal with our sustainability crisis, are the current political and economic and spiritual leaders. If Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, wants to take the lead in tackling Climate Change in Europe and at the same time makes every effort to exempt German car manufacturers from more stringent (but still wholly inadequate) new CO2 emission limits, if Doris Leuthard, member of the Swiss Government, says that tackling Climate Change cannot mean less economic growth, one is sadly reminded of George ‘the older’ Bush’s punch line for the Rio Earth Summit of 1992: ‘The American Way of Life is not negotiable’.
In reality, statements (and the ensuing politics) like the above mean that these leaders have not even grasped the most basic fundamentals of sustainable development. For the industrialised Euro-American societies of this planet, there are 3 of these basic laws:
- There is no unlimited growth in a materially non-growing system like planet Earth.
- If you have taken over many years, if not centuries, more than your fair share, it’s time to give back and make do with (much) less.
- If your way of life, taken as a role model and emulated by the rest of humankind, is a sure recipe for destroying the life-support system Earth, it’s time to abolish it, deter anybody from copying it and to establish pretty fast a new one that is sustainable (i.e. one-planet living).