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Promoting Environmental Education for Sustainable Development: The Value of Links between Higher Education and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

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Environmental sustainability education, the dissemination of environmental education for sustainable development into the community, should be a lifelong process and not one restricted to a learner's years in higher education. Informal environmental sustainability education, including personal involvement in NGO environmental action, can be an effective way of increasing the understanding of environmental and sustainability issues. NGO projects help provide practical environmental education to environmentally aware people who have built their careers in other areas. In the process, they help environmental awareness to trickle into areas of life where it would not ordinarily impinge. In this case study of a community-based land reclamation research project, supported jointly by the NGO Earthwatch and Oxford Brookes University, analysis of the motivations and experiences of project volunteers shows that their aims include making a personal contribution to enhancing the quality of the environment and networking with like-minded individuals, and that they expect to carry their new understanding back into their everyday lives to influence other people in their workplace. Engagement in practical work and action research may help overcome some of the negativity linked to many assessments of the human impact on the environment and, working together, universities and NGOs can more effectively ‘think globally and act locally'. NGOs may provide the best hope for helping to change the destructive aspects of modern society but they are vulnerable through financial dependency on sponsors, volunteers and donors.
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Keywords: Earthwatch; NGOs; Non-formal education; education for sustainable development; environmental education in the community; lifelong learning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Oxford Brookes University, Department of Geography, UK

Publication date: 01 July 2006

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