Saturday, July 14, 2012
It all starts with education. Think about it, from the moment we were born, our parents were trying to teach us, to educate us how we should comport ourselves – what we should eat, how we should speak, what we should wear, and on and on. The first eighteen to twenty-two years of our lives are spent dedicated full-time to becoming more educated and even after we ‘graduate’ from institutional learning, our personal journeys are always influenced by what we’re learning.
Even though I’m no expert in history, I think its pretty easy to look back and see how societies and the global community has been shaped and has evolved according to what people were taught (or not taught). Adam Smith teaching there is an invisible hand out there called the market altered the course of history as people began to focus more on appeasing the market than on their local contexts. William Wilberforce was educated by his contemporaries about the evils of slavery and in turn he educated and inspired the United Kingdom to abolish the trade. Martin Luther King Jr. educated a generation about the hypocrisy of American culture; preaching freedom as a founding principle while practicing systematic and cruel oppression on a huge segment of her citizens.
Change begins with education. Without realizing there is a problem (or a solution), no one can work towards fixing it. The world today is in need of education. As ‘rich’ countries continue to half-heartedly try to help ‘poor’ countries ‘develop’, more and more people continue to slip into poverty. True development has stalled and is in peril of sliding backward. I believe this juncture is a result of a decision which needs to be made about how development is done and how education around development should be developed (pun intended). The ongoing criticism of development as being a hand-out instead of truly empowering people to help themselves is well based. As long as development ignores the environmental challenges which everyone on this planet faces, it will continue to be a hand-out. If people and cultures are given economic opportunity while destroying that which sustains their lives, that economic opportunity is actually a disservice and will increase their dependency on outside aid in the future. If people or cultures cannot grow their own food because all the farmland is being used for exporting ‘cash’ crops which are depleting the soil only to leave them worse off in the future, that ‘cash’ is again increasing their reliance on foreign aid. (I use foreign to refer to anything outside a community, not necessarily following border lines).
Environmental education and increasing the focus of environmental work in development is absolutely necessary. One project which is seeking to address this important work is the Global Sustainability Project, led by Bill Gugerty. It seeks to document case studies of when and how environmental projects are increasing development in developing countries around the world. Understanding sustainability projects’ impact on development is the first step towards changing the fabric of development itself.
So educate with me and support Bill’s project. If you’re into helping out more at home than abroad, that’s great, because 5% of the money raised for the Project goes directly to Revision International, a Denver-based organization focused on educating, inspiring, and empowering individuals and communities to achieve transformational change.