The Tbilisi Declaration of 1977 provided us with the framework, principles, and guidelines for environmental education at local, national, regional, and international levels for all ages, and for all people, both inside and outside formal school systems. (To find out more about Tbilisi, click here
Since that gathering of world environmental education leaders in Tbilisi, Georgia, 40 years ago, there have been a number of global advances (visit ActNowforEE.org for a full timeline), including the success of the Millennium Development Goals, the Decade for Education for Sustainability, and the international adoption of a set of ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals are designed to protect the planet, end poverty, address climate change, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda, with specific targets to be achieved over the next fifteen years.
As environmental educators, this is a critical time for us to think about our role in achieving the SDGs. How can environmental education best improve overall education in formal and nonformal settings, address climate change, stem the loss of biodiversity, create sustainable cities, and tackle the other issues? We bring an understanding of environmental issues and their connection to social justice, economic prosperity, and community engagement. We also bring skills in understanding how people of all ages learn, how to bring multiple disciplines together to creatively solve problems, and how to create educational opportunities that result in positive action.
We know that environmental education differs in significant ways around the world. It's important that EE is recognizable to educators in all countries, and reflects the best of historic thinking and contemporary scholarship and practice, while respecting local norms, culture, and context. It's also important to design and provide environmental education in ways that address local, national, and/or global priorities that strengthen core support for our field and open new horizons for education.
As we mark Tbilisi+40 and look ahead to the future, our challenge is to ensure that learners everywhere have equal access to an effective environmental education that will create global stewards of the environment and build a more sustainable world.