The means by which such goals are to be addressed are often presented as: policy and monitoring, finance and incentives, legislation and regulation, information and campaigns.
If we are to secure a safer and enduring future for generations to come, the sustainability revolution ‘requires each person to act as a learning leader at some level, from family to community, from nation to world’ (Meadows “We must take the first determined steps toward a sustainable future with dignity for all. We must transform our economies, our environment and our societies.
We must change old mindsets, behaviours and destructive patterns.
Education however, can build lasting change - that is, ‒when it is owned by the learner.
Whilst policy instruments tend to treat symptoms of unsustainable activities and behaviours, education and learning can reach hearts and minds, and therefore address root causes.
We are living in a different world than was the case even a decade or two ago, and the future is profoundly uncertain.
As Al Gore says in his extensive study: There is a clear consensus that the future now emerging will be extremely different from anything we have ever known in the past….
Continuing the metaphor, we can ‘drive on’ blindly of course, hoping for the best.
Or we can anticipate, think ahead, take avoiding action, take alternative routes. When I started in environmental education some 40 years ago, it was about education that would help people understand and act on environmental issues.
This calls for a particular quality and orientation of educational and learning policies and practices, across all societies and contexts.
UNESCO defines ESD as education which, ‘allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future’ (UNESCO 2014) On the one hand, it is seen as critical to any prospect of a more sustainable future, but on the other, it challenges mainstream thinking, policy and practice in much formal education.