Education and Environment

Synth Author(s): Lauren Scott, Rebecca Robbins, Kyle Miller, Trey Danis Spring 2013
Comparison: One Topic in Multiple Sites
Research Site(s): Ecuador, India, Scotland, US Locations
Question: How does the way people are educated about their impacts on the global community affect their lifestyle?

Included Projects

  • Alternative Education Through Eco-Schools in Scotland
    Environmental education has been present in Scottish schools since the early 19th century, though it experienced a resurgence in the 1960s and 1970s, as schools promoting environmental education sprung up everywhere. From public schools that use programs like Eco-schools to expand the curriculum, to schools that take regular trips to the Highlands, environmental education is no longer a trend in Scotland, but rather a social, cultural and historical institution. The goal of this research project is to examine the local...

  • Can Countries Learn From Each Others Environmental Educational Models?
    With a historically unprecedented call for the “environment” to be a topic taught about in schools on a global scale, entire nations are forced to put in ink what this subject is. India and the US have developed environmental education in response to the growing awareness of environmental problems. Comparing the environmental educational standards and self representations of these culturally and historically distinct countries provides interesting insights into how their conceptions of the environment frame approaches of environmental problems. I...

  • #ExpandingNarratives: Twitter’s Response to the 3.11 Earthquake in Japan
    On March 11th, 2011, Japan was rocked with a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. From the first tremors felt, the people of Japan turned to social media to document the phenomenon. What resulted online after the quake represents a new piece of narrative that has not traditionally been available for the global community. Moreover, users are given the unique ability to chime in with their own thoughts, insights, emotions, and pictures- essentially any reaction they feel the urge to share with the...

  • Cuencanos & Bicycles
    Many environmentalists justify their love for bicycles through decreased carbon emissions. City planners proclaim bicycles as a healthy transportation method and a boon for the economy. Cycling has a range of images and meanings to different people in different regions and different times, but what are the meanings that make bicycling popular? Cycling in Europe and America have seen the bulk of scholarly research on bicycles. We have seen economic analyses, histories, and symbolic analyses of bicycles across these regions,...


People have a major impact on everything that surrounds them. Some people are more conscious about how their actions impact others, which is exhibited in their lifestyle, but what is the reason for this? Education regarding the implication of human actions varies extensively around the globe. The common theme shared by these four projects that we are synthesizing is education. We compared past attitudes towards education to current ones and dissected the reason for a change in these perspectives.

The Alternative Education Through Eco-Schools in Scotland by Justin Eubanks, Hayley Still, Oceana Wills, and Alix Finnegan is a project that focuses on the repercussions of Scotland’s land use history and geography on the current educational systems and the attitudes of the local people. This project is especially interested in investigating how social, economic, and land use factors impact values and attitudes of the biota of Scotland. Are Scotland’s Eco-schools a good example for the refocusing of an educational vision? Similarly, the project “Can Countries Learn From Others Environmental Education Models” by Anna Foreman, which compares education in India and the United States, juxtaposes the current attitudes towards education to those of the past in each respective country. The development of these attitudes gives insight to what has and may shape education in these places. This project will also investigate how levels of industrialization and development has affected the prioritization of education pertaining to global surroundings in both countries.

Being aware of alternative forms of reducing your carbon footprint is another major issue that requires education. The project in Cuenca Ecuador, “Get on Your Bikes and Ride: Understanding Cuencas Bicycle Community” by Tom Rodrigues, is to discover why people have discontinued cycling or continue to cycle as means of transportation and how this corresponds to their lifestyles. The question now is, how are individuals educated? With technological advancements the variety of possibilities for education has expanded. Medias, such as Twitter and Facebook, are a great opportunity to allow for and encourage individuals to learn more about their global surroundings. The media synthesis, by Meghan Cleland, will focus on how these medias give individuals access to a greater, and more easily available, informational source. This learning style could change the way individuals absorb and find out about current events.

Humans historical attitudes toward our planet have majorly affected their current attitudes and lifestyles. For example, Scotland’s long history of implying ecological management and policies in its education has made awareness of global impacts a social and cultural philosophy and way of life rather than a new trend. Scotland is home to some of the first ecological school programs. The Scottish have a long history of culturally valuing their land and having kin-based agriculture. This is the old “plant. Educa-a-tree” approach. In contrast, the development of Indian ecological education was established fairly in the early 70s. Ecological education was only seen through these lenses: land degradation; degradation of forest; the pollution of soil, water and air; and the cluttering and fouling of the landscape. In contrast, the United States’ education pertaining to global surroundings began its development as early as the 1920s with the Outdoor Education movement. It was followed by the “environmental management” phase resulting from federal projects in the depression era. In Cuenca, a city located in the highlands of Ecuador, the primary modes of transportation, until recently, were riding bicycles and walking. Social status has been a more dominant factor in deciding which forms of transportation to use, rather than education playing a role in exposing citizens to alternative methods of transport.

Recently, there has been a shift in attitude towards way of life for many humans. Where is this shift coming from? Is it rooted in long standing values, or coming from new advances in education? Or, perhaps, a fusion of both? Currently, Scotland’s outlook is mindful toward the impacts people have on their ecological surroundings. Scotland’s Eco-schools’ informative education on teaching humans about their impacts on the planet’s habitats is impressive and it has been for centuries. Curriculum revolves around experiential outdoor learning that makes children engage with the biota first hand, like the “plant-a-tree” concept. Conversely, over the last 13 years, Cuenca, Ecuador has had a large spike in private car ownership. Bicycles have become a far less common method of transportation. As mentioned before, this largely has to do with social status. Within the United States, the issue of global climate change has become widely present in everyday life and politics, as well as having an increased presence in education due to an uprising of a call for action. In response to this, the communication of these issues have become a greater priority within the United States and are addressed more frequently within education.

The development of problem solving skills, specifically the “define-practice-apply” approach has been seen as highly valuable now as a means to prepare young minds to face the challenges of the future. Within India, there has been an increased attitude towards a need for technological and social development. The idea that education is a lifelong commitment and should be continued throughout adulthood has become common. There is also the new idea that there needs to be a destruction of gender and caste systems which constrains the citizens access to education. Globally, the current attitude is that new media can increase dispersal and access to information because of the amount of people, especially 12-17 year olds, that are on social networks. The concern is that the previous approach was available to various household incomes. By educating online, are we alienating certain groups of people?

How are the historical ways of living affecting the present? The concept of living in harmony with your surrounding resources has been alive in Scotland for centuries. The Eco-schools are using their impressive history of attitudes and actions pertaining to land use as examples in their curriculum to further pursue their current ecologically friendly outlook. Scotland hopes by the year 2015 to have 2,000 schools earning the “Green Flag Award”. In Ecuador, this shift in transportation methods is primarily due to an increase in access to automobiles and fuel.

Bicycles are less convenient and owning a car is becoming a status symbol. As stated before, now that global climate change has become a more accepted reality, there is an increased value placed on incorporating problem solving techniques into American education systems as a means to prepare the future generations to face problems of the future. In addition, with Indian society’s growing trend of a desire for technological and social development, it is likely that there will be an increase with the use of technology in society and for educational purposes. The social constructions of education could also soon be altered to include more social classes and age groups within education of global surroundings. Globally, the adjustments of attitudes are happening because there is a want to help include a wide range of voices in awareness of global surroundings. The belief is this approach with media will help balance and develop understandings of the current issues holistically.

These changes in behavior have affected the way people live. Scotland is an example of a country that generally implements a more ecologically friendly lifestyle. The country is using its past experience in relation to land use to strengthen its ecological and global conscious education, which in return, hopefully, will impact the education style of other countries. The global community can look to Scotland as a model for implementing ecologically friendly attitudes into education and people’s lifestyles. In Ecuador, this shift is impacting the lifestyle of the community by creating a more fast-paced “car culture” and reducing the number of ecologically friendly commuters. A lack of education and care regarding environmentalism may result in further changes in the lifestyle of Cuenca residents towards that of a typical large, developed metropolitan district.

With new value placed on problem solving skills and a greater public awareness of climate change, issues pertaining to the global community will begin to be seen more and more within education in the United States. These new developments should produce the great problem solvers of the twenty-first century. The people of India should see a greater presence of education pertaining to their surrounding world and how it interacts with the social and economic factors for not only children and adolescents, but adults as well. As the world is globalized and modernized, they should also see technology become a larger component of their current lifestyle. This will help them to connect to the world and to bring social classes and genders closer together.  Internationally, using the media has implications of possible growth in the understanding of global surroundings. Social media is now integrated in a majority of people’s lifestyles and by publicizing these issues online it may become more a part of everyday life and not just in classroom settings.

This synthesis illustrates how education pertaining to human interactions with the world varies from nation to nation. We have looked at the progressive Scotland, the modern United States, developing India and Ecuador, and have seen how media is starting to be incorporated into these systems. The increase of technology has its benefits and losses. It improves the efficiency of life, but sometimes can be more detrimental than good. For example, technology can improve the quality of education with the integration of more computers and social media to connect students to the greater world beyond the classroom. However, the increase of cars has decreased the usage of bicycles in Ecuador, and therefore has increased their carbon footprint; a case where development has been negative.  This synthesis also investigated the development of attitudes towards education in these four countries and how they have shaped education today. A common theme among these projects that we synthesized is that, globally, there seems to be a growing belief that there needs to be a larger focus on analyzing and understanding the way humans interact with and impact the world that they live in. As globalization becomes more and more prominent in different cultures today, the “bigger picture” of issues is gaining attention and seen as more and more important.

About the author

Lauren Scott

Hi there! Bonjour! Asalamm malikum! I am Lauren Scott, a senior Environmental Studies and French Studies double major at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. I am a Vermont native, but I like to fly far from the nest. I’ve spent time abroad in Paris, France during my gap year, relocated to Portland for college, and I studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal in the spring and summer of 2015. I am interested in language, discourse, place/space and environmental theory.