Students As Social Activists

Environmental education implies a critical pedagogy that gives pupils a role as social actors and considers them to be competent interlocutors, capable of logical argumentation, reasoning, and of being informed about complex questions. This type of environmental education can use interdisciplinary pedagogies, such as those proposed by the Belgian team of Gérard Fourez, and should lead to questioning the principles of the free-market economy and the dominant ways of thinking that are at the origin of the Western relationship to nature. For instance, the exploitation of natural resources for purposes of short-term profit; faith in technical progress, which allows scientific analyses and technical solutions to settle the imbalance that the more developed societies tend to print in the ecological regulations of the planet. For instance, such reasoning legitimizes nuclear energy to renew the modes of energy production and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. This position strengthens the dependence of societies on very expensive and risky technologies, as well creates an international balance of power to the detriment of the countries of the south; rather than promoting an analysis of the foundations of the systems of over-consumption, and decreasing energy and natural resource consumption. A more critical environmental education engages youth in concrete action and civil citizenship, toward another vision of the world, in a quest for more social justice.

Some approaches to science education also suggest engaging pupils as young citizens in community projects to assist in restoring ecosystems. It is the case, most notably, in the works of researcher Wolff-Michael Roth. Thus, pupils learn scientific notions while learning about the analysis of history and the local culture, and about their impact on the studied ecosystems from various disciplinary specialists (for instance, a biologist and a water quality technician). Science education and environmental education are then anchored in a sociocultural and critical analysis, aimed toward concrete actions and political pressure. The students, having analyzed the quality of water, explain their results to the group

Global warming education should teach general principles and scientific knowledge, as well as the limits of science.

and exert political pressure to change the ways people conceive of and consume water.

Global climate change shows up often in the media and political discourse. In a more political context, some politicians support the urgency of taking measures to reduce the production of greenhouse gases. The carbon exchange has become a new player on international economic markets. The Kyoto Protocol, intended as the first step in the international regulation of this issue, is already considered behind to some, in front of the scale of the phenomenon. This topic is part of secondary school curricula in many countries in North America and Europe. Researchers in science and environmental education analyze the pupils' and teachers' conceptions of this issue and plan educational strategies for the study of climate changes in classrooms.

These strategies go from the enrichment of pupils' scientific knowledge to improving the pupils' capacities of debate, critical analysis, and civic action, according to Jonathan Osborne and his colleagues. Frequently, popular magazines on science and nature (such as Green Teacher, or La Recherche) dedicate special issues on global warming. Magazines and documentary books for youth also address the question and can serve as documentary resources and references in class, but always with developing critical reading by pupils. It is sometimes necessary to consult various sources and to critique the information that is presented, and understand the author's ideological orientations. Some science museums organize exhibitions on this question for the public and schools.

Global warming education can take various forms, from simple awareness of the scale of the phenomenon with young children, and the understanding of some elements of climate regulation, and the presumed impact of consumer habits on the rates of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere (according to the conclusions of scientists), to more critical analysis and citizenship participation with older pupils. The information can be oriented differently according to educational goals. In an interdisciplinary way, this question can also lead to a more critical reflection on the complexity of the problem, including political, economic, or ethical analyses. According to the educational goals, the type of pedagogy selected can vary in the degree of critical analysis of the discourses and practices related to the Western system of society and its globalization, and engage pupils in more or less civic action.

Educators can seek a better understanding of the scientific notions that contribute to define this complex climatic phenomenon: physics, chemistry, climatic zones, functioning of the water and carbon cycles, understanding sources of greenhouse gases and their contribution to the climatic regulation. Understanding climate regulation models can be taught to older students. An interdisciplinary reading of this question should be integrated into such education, which, besides teaching scientific notions, will include analyzing the history of contemporary societies linked with their models of energy production and consumption and their contribution to global warming. Energy consumption of the concerned pupils and that of their teachers, for example, would also be analyzed to compare it to energy consumption and consumer habits in poorer countries.

The importance of the automobile in wealthy societies and its consequences should be documented and analyzed, both by reading technical and sociological data, for awareness, changing habits, and definiting the main aspects of the problem, to recommend concrete attempts of social transformation. In so doing, the pupils feel engaged and capable of changing things in society, even if only at a local level, so they learn to involve themselves actively in the democratic debates by knowing the decision-making authorities to whom they can address their point of view. Global warming education contributes directly to citizenship education, which can lead to the analysis and the commitment of the young people concerning other environmental questions, while enriching their knowledge of the sciences and the society.

It is also important to denounce ambient catastro-phism, especially that conveyed by the media. Education should instead cultivate hope and optimism, logical and critical reasoning, and provide knowledge, without shying away from explaining elements of debate within the scientific community and the scale of the challenges to be surmounted. Science education should prepare young people to argue about contemporary social and environmental questions that contain a scientific dimension. The climatic question lends itself well to this type of exercise.

To teach global warming is also to get acquainted with certain research practices and to recognize the complexity and the limits of sciences, to enrich the current image of science that is popularized in school sciences and media, to make it more accurate and open to discussion. If Bryan Wynne's proposals are followed, education will update school sciences and to move them closer to their public. It is a matter of forming future scientists and informed citizens, who have an open and critical attitude when facing the contemporary scientific developments. Thus, global warming education should try to teach pupils and people, in general, certain principles and scientific knowledge, and also the differ ent issues debated on this question. Teachers must remain aware of the limits of current approaches that would only lead to replacing obsolete technology with another, without questioning the over-consumption society model, which remains individual and always competitive.

SEE ALSO: Developing Countries; Economics, Cost of Affecting Climate Change; Energy Efficiency; Global Warming; Sustainability; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Barbara Bader, "Interprétation d'une controverse scientifique: stratégies argumentatives d'adolescentes et d'adolescents québécois," Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education (v.3/2, 2003); Gérard Fourez, Alain Maingain, and Barbara Dufour, Approches didactiques de l'interdisciplinarité (De Boeck, 2002); Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (IPCC, 2007); Scott Lash, Bronis-law Szerszynski, and Brian Wynne, eds., Risk, Environment and Modernity (Sage Publications, 1996); Stuart Lee and Wolff-Michael Roth, "Science and the 'Good Citizen': Community-Based Scientific Literacy," Science, Technology and Human Values (v.28/3, 2003); Edgar Morin, Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2000); Jonathan Osborne, Sibel Erduran, Shirley Simon, "Enhancing the Quality of Argumentation in School Science," Journal of Research in Science Teaching (v.14/10, 2004); Wolff-Michael Roth, "Moving Science Classes to the Community: A Question of Social Justice," Education Canada (v.47/2, 2007); Lucie Sauvé, "Environmental Education and Sustainable Development: A Further Appraisal," Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (v.1, 1996); Lucie Sauvé, Tom Berryman, and Renée Brunelle, "Environnement et développement: la culture de la filière ONU," Éducation relative à l'environnement (v.4, 2003);William Scott and Stephen Gough, eds., Key Issues in Sustainable Development and Learning: A Critical Review (Routledge Falmer, 2004); Joel Spring, How Educational Ideologies are Shaping Global Society: Intergovernmental Organizations, NGOs, and the Decline of Nation-State (Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004).

Barbara Bader Université Laval, Québec, Canada

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