Indiscriminate anthropogenic activities have amounted to an increase in the greenhouse gas emission leading to global warming and several other serious environmental consequences. To mitigate the already existing environmental risks, one important feature is to provide sustainable development awareness. Science education is undoubtedly a key which has understanding and has answers to some of the most burdensome sustainability issues as it can bring about and suggest futures-oriented solutions to the problem of the decreasing quality in environmental conditions-air, water, wildlife, land and its resources. This paper attempts to give insights into some theoretical foundations to bring about the concept of sustainable ways and practices in the context of locally viable community. It encompasses an understanding of the nature, with links to achievement of goals in the personal domain, stressing socio-scientific decision-making.
Conceptualization of the problem
Many studies pointed out that Earth’s carrying capacity has not met the demand of our needs for the last 40 years (Living Planet Report, 2014). These troubles we experience cause sustainability problems such as hunger, obesity, unhealthiness, clean water, depletion of natural resources, destruction of biological diversity, depletion of the ozone layer and climate change, (Brundtland, 1985). According to the recent report prepared by United Nations General Assembly (2015),
- Less than 3 percent of the water resources is fresh water and 2.5 percent of it is frozen in Antarctica, Arctic, and in the glaciers. Therefore, humanity has only 0.5 percent of the total ecosystem and freshwater needs of people.
- The speed with which people pollute the lakes or the rivers is faster than nature can recycle and purify water in rivers and lakes.
- More than 1 billion people still cannot access clean water.
- Substantial water use contributes to global water stress. It is independent of nature, but the infrastructure required to supply water is expensive. Many studies such as researchers, research institutions and universities pointed out that serious changes in the climate have an effect on human activities (e.g., IPCC, 2014; Wu, Lu, Zhou, Chen, & Xu, 2016). Indiscriminate anthropogenic activities have amounted to an increase in the greenhouse effect leading to global warming and several other serious environmental consequences. IPCC (2007) and United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP] (2007) reports indicated that climate changes observed in the last 50 years occurred with more than 90 % probability because of human behaviours who are threatening both own life and planet life.
To avoid further damage to the already existing environmental risks, one important feature is to provide sustainable development awareness being defined as “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brutland report, 1987). In the Agenda 21 (UNCED, 1998) the United Nations (UN) stated that education plays a central role in any sustainable development for our future. Science is undoubtedly a key which has understanding and has answers to some of the most burdensome sustainability issues as it deals with sharing of science content and process with individuals who are not considered traditionally to be member of the scientific community.
Need of the study
The environmental issues we face, both as individuals and within our broader society, are now so pervasive and ingrained within our cultural ways. In recent years, researches have emphasized the importance of developing the interaction between science education and ESD in order to educate responsible individuals for a sustainable future (Stratton et al., 2015). Gaining awareness of sustainable behavior is beneficial to individuals’ reasoning, motivation and engagement in the teaching of subjects related to sustainable development as well. Because educators aim gaining environmental awareness to students, teachers should demonstrate sustainable behaviors firstly.
In promoting education for sustainable development the most important share have the Science teachers due to them having a connection between the given educational topics with one of the three segments of sustainable development and its environment. Environmental education researchers believe that through environmental and sustainability education, teachers can play an important role in increasing school-level capacity for sustainability (Ferreira et al., 2009; Ferreira, Ryan, & Tilbury, 2006). School can become beacons of excellence by inculcating in students the ethos of living with environment_ ‘going green’ by planting trees, cycling in the campus, conserving the school surrounding, showing exemplary cleanliness habits, saving energy, collecting and sorting wastes.
Science Education and Education for Sustainable Development
Science Education aims to grow scientifically literate individuals who have an understanding of science content, can draw conclusions from scientific issues and know how to evaluate scientific cases (Wang & Schmidt, 2001). Science education brings objective arguments and facts that fuel the reflection on social and economic phenomena, and allow going beyond the opinion debate, thus contributing to the ambition of rationality social sciences themselves pursue. Besides, the scientific approach method itself can stimulates the same level of demand in the reasoning while addressing in a multidisciplinary way the three dimensions/pillars of sustainable development. It was suggested that science educators should grow citizens who understand science and have positive attitudes toward scientists (Deboer, 2000; UNESCO, 1973).
Sustainable development is a society project and a political one, that cannot be defined and implemented without science, both because science has to play a huge role in the choice of technical solutions and because science is – as we saw- not disconnected from society. It is about the learning needed to maintain and improve our quality of life and the quality of life of generations to come. It means equipping individuals, communities, groups, businesses and government to live and act sustainably; as well as giving them an understanding of the environmental, social and economic issues involved. It is about preparing for the world in which we will live in the next century, and making sure that we are not found wanting.
As stated by Carter (2008), science has changed in recent decades with economic and technological developments and the effects of globalization. These rapid changes in science and technology brought changes in human life as well (Choi, Shin, Kim & Krajcik, 2011). Indeed, science is often seen as the objective and probably the most rational part of the culture. Sustainable development cannot be imagined without education and science education is the heart of sustainable in the other hand. It can play the role of sustainable enterprise, desiring to understand the quality of life, appreciate both the built and natural environments through its process skills- paving to changing our attitude to the environment and the way we live.
Teacher’s role in promoting education for Sustainable development
Education is recognised as major tool in changing societies, consequently it is necessary to make education into a constructive tool creating awareness among students (Oliviera, M., 2008) A clear notion of every society is that if the teacher is aware of the issues associated with community/society, s/he can bring the positive changes because the teacher is closely connected with students, parents and community people as well. S/he is regarded not as professional only but also as individuals with civic responsibilities and as role model with social and educational activities. For this reason, the teacher needs to assist the young students to feel good about them, self-confident to respect themselves as well as others and to take full responsibility of their actions (UNESCO, 2008).
Right from the primary stage, school children should be engaged in joyfully exploring the world around and harmonising with it to nurture the curiosity about the natural environment, to have the child engage in exploratory and hands-on activities and be engaged in learning the principles of science through familiar experiences, and continuing to learn more about the environment and health. Group activities, discussions with peers and teachers, organisation of data and their display through exhibitions supplemented by field visits and nature study basing on community learning resources in schools and the neighbourhood should be important components of pedagogy. This will allow them develop ample sensitivities towards nature.
Pupils may be provoked to critical thinking by triggering in questioning and discussion about science-based issues which affect their lives, the society in which they live and the world as a whole. They should begin to think about the advantages and drawbacks of scientific and technological advancement, development of products used in everyday life and in the maintenance of the environment, and analyze the impact it results. They should be instilled about ways in which living things can be protected within the demands of society, including the idea of sustainable development.
Community for Sustainable Environment
Education at all levels can shape the world of tomorrow equipping individuals and societies with the skills, perspectives, knowledge and values to live and work in sustainable manner. Education for sustainable development needs to look beyond its own discourses and its ideal should reach the local residents to revert environmental degradation which resulted due overconsumption and over-exploitation. The successful balancing of economic, social and environmental goals should be understood as central to the goal of sustainable ways of lives. Scientific communities can instill among locals about practices and ways in which environment can be protected within the demands of society, meaning of energy efficiency and the need for economical use of energy resources.
Community participation is one element in the range of reforms that is required to the demands of sustainable development. An understanding about the significance of conservation or negative impact on environment under the premises of sustainability issues is the turning point where the community usually begun in conserving the nature and its resources. An instance can be cited about ‘Phalong village’ in Tamenglong district, which was officially declared as an Amur Falcon Village by the government of Manipur on 26th November 2015, acknowledging the villagers efforts for protection nature and its resources, wild animals especially a migratory bird Amur Falcon species, locally known as Khoipuina.
The impacts of nature and its resource over-exploitation have been increasing in the recent decades, and are expected to keep doing so in the future. Pursuing education for sustainable development through environmental learning requires educators and learners to reflect critically on their own communities; identify non-viable elements in their lives; and explore tensions among conflicting values and goals. Naturally, teachers and learning communities are key components can play a crucial role in the disseminating and equipping sustainability principles, skills and attitude that will lead to the necessary changes in attitude.
Every individual ought to have a holistic perspective of the delicate nature of ecosystem and be aware of their responsibilities while making choices and decisions for sustainability. It is indispensable to adhere to sound practices that are sensitive to the natural environment and to maintain environmental integrity through wise and sustainable resource management. Younger generations must be empowered to develop and evaluate alternative visions of a sustainable future and to work to collectively fulfill these visions. Policies and plans to encourage the local community adopt sustainable means to reconcile the continued traditional and economic activities of environmental degradation must be in consideration at the time of implementation of sustainable development goals to radically reduce the effect of environmental loading.