The value of natural resources and environment for the development of an economy is clearly visible when analysing the economic thought in antiquity (eg., Adam Smith’s magnum opus on “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”, Malthus’s theory on the shortage of natural resources, Ricardo’s land rent theory and so on). Since human beings are both the creature and moulder of this environment that gives him material provisions and gives him the scope for intellectual, moral, social and spiritual growth, he has acquired the power to revamp his environment in myriad ways and on an unparalleled scale. “Humans depend crucially on natural eco-system processes for basic life support services such as air purification, climate regulations, and waste decomposition, for the flow of goods such as food, pharmaceuticals, and fresh water, and for recreational enjoyment and aesthetic fulfilment”(Daily et. al. 1997, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2003). This critical dependence causes blatant exploitation of the environment and cataclysmic disaster which challenge the existence of the environmental arrangement. Scientists, environmentalists, economists and policy makers profoundly concerned about “momentous consequences” of “human action in the corporeal environment of the orb we populate” and pointed out the menaces of incautiousness and the need of vigilance in all actions. In this context, we can appreciate the implication of the idea of “Sustainable Development”. To attain the goal of sustainable development, changes in values and attitudes towards environment and development is essential.
Education and training plays vital role in developing constructive values and attitudes towards environment. Education has a vital role to play in the development of a sustainable society. It is a powerful agent of social change; it raises awareness of new developments. Literacy is considered as a prerequisite for any attempt at education. The term literacy also has been extended to refer to knowledge and ability in many different discussions. Environmental literacy, ecological literacy, eco-literacy, legal literacy and civics literacy are the additional notions of literacy that can play a vital role in achieving sustainability.
- To outline the environmental literacy, ecological literacy, eco-literacy, legal literacy and civics literacy within the framework of environmental education.
- To analyse the presence of these multiple literacies within the framework of school curriculum of Kerala as a tool for sustainable development.
A theoretical and philosophical analysis of the components of the environmental literacy, ecological literacy, eco-literacy, legal literacy, and civics literacy, and the content analysis of the environmental studies (Social Science and Science subjects) of the Kerala School curriculum were used for the analysis.
Environmental Education and Sustainable Development
Environment and growth are inescapably correlated. Since human development depends on our technical skill as well as competence for teamwork. These virtues have been used pragmatically to accomplish growth and environmental enhancement. Though, the reckless action of human beings to ecological system stand against the essential eco-system and the development, they have the ability to make development sustainable. Since these issues cannot be solve independently by fragmented institution and policies, to successfully advance in solving these problems, we need to develop a new epistemology to elaborate new ethical criteria. According to I. T. Frolov, “Mankind is on the threshold of a new stage of development. We should not only promote the expansion of its material, scientific, and technical basis, but what is most important, the formation of new value and humanistic aspirations in human psychology, since wisdom and humaneness are the eternal truths, that make the basis of humanity. We need new social, moral, scientific, and ecological concepts, which should be determined by new conditions for the life of mankind today and in the future”.
By taking the above facts into consideration, the concept of environmental education and sustainable development were developed. The concept of environmental education was first formalized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in 1970 at a meeting in Nevada, USA, as a process of recognizing values and classifying concepts in order to develop skills and attitudes necessary to recognize and appreciate the inter-relatedness among man, his culture and his biophysical surroundings. Environmental education also entails practice in decision making and self-formulating a code of behaviour on the issues concerning environmental quality (IUCN, 1970). Sustainable development, as a concept emerged in 1987, with the report entitled “Our Common Future” published by WECD”. The conventional definition of sustainable development is given by WCED – “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Good quality education is an indispensable means for achieving a more sustainable world. The IUCN (1991) underlined the significance of changing attitudes through education: “Sustainable living must be the new pattern for all levels, individuals, communities, nations and the world. To adopt the new pattern will require a significant change in the attitudes and practise of many people. We will need to ensure that education programs reflect the importance of an ethic for living sustainably.” (IUCN, 1991 p5)
Agenda 21 delineated more specifically the role of education in promising sustainability and set out a challenge for educators in the following terms: “Education is critically for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of the people to address environment and development issues. It is critical for achieving environmental and ethical awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behaviour consistent with sustainable development and for effective public participation in decision-making.” (UNCED, 1992, Ch 36 p2)
Education and training therefore have a crucial role in developing sustainable development. The focal mission of educational policy is to make literacy universal and to seal the gender gap in enrolment rates that can consecutively inculcate a greater awareness of everyday environmental function.
Multiple Literacies and Environmental Education
The English term “illiteracy” dates back to 1660, appearing earlier than the term “literacy,” which was itself first recorded in 1883 (Harper, 2001). Literacy means basic knowledge in a given area (Andreichin, 1976), ability to read and write (The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1964, p.709), having necessary knowledge and information in some fields or any deeds, fulfilled without mistakes (Oge gov, 1981 p.128). Even though, exactly, literacy referred only to the ability to read and write, its usage has been extended profoundly in scope along with industrial revolution. Like other abstract nouns such as freedom, justice, and equality, literacy came to denote a value (B.B. McBride et al. 2013). Within the field of cognitive science, literacy has been reconceptualised like a tool meant to construct knowledge (Michaels and O’Conner 1990). As defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO Education Sector 2004:13), literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop his or her knowledge plus potential, and equip them to participate fully within the community as well as broader society” (B.B. McBride et.al. 2013). As for the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) ‘Literacy is the skill to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials allied with varying contexts. The term literacy also has been extended to refer, those knowledge and abilities in different discourses (e.g., computer literacy, mathematics literacy, cultural literacy, legal literacy, etc.). Environmental, ecological, and eco-literacy are the new notions of literacy that have emerged in concern to sustainability.