Education is the lifeblood of society. It reflects its structures and relations as no other human activity. After all, knowledge is power, and the way knowledge is shared shows how power is structured in society. When education follows that Foucauldian notion that we are not mere receptors of actions of power but instead its vessels, societies thrive and progress. When quality defines the criteria that drive education, societies can commit to a notion of value independent from the price. In other words, societies acknowledge that education is priceless.
For the same reason, educating in values is as much important as teaching science. Values are elements of ‘collective programming of the mind’ (Hofstede). They guide our vision because what we see depends both upon what we observe and also upon what our previous visual-conceptual experience has taught us to see. (Kuhn)
The way we observe and experience nature is fundamental to quality education. It is so because scientists must be concerned to solve problems about the behavior of nature and the unit of scientific achievement is the problem solved (Kuhn). In today’s context of challenges induced by climate change, achievements cannot be measured only by techno-managerial indicators of efficiency. Quality education must move science from ‘doing things right’ (efficiency) towards working on the right things (effectiveness).
It should help a wider understanding of the extent to which the relationships between the economy, society, and the environment are so deeply intertwined. For this reason, solutions aimed to fight climate change require a systemic approach that combines both elements of technological and social transformation. Therefore, the gap, manifestly illustrated by the evidence that between 1990 and 2018, only 0.12% of all research funding was spent on the social science of climate mitigation (Overland), needs to be overcome.
Today, our collective efforts are facing behavioral changes as fundamental items of a large-scale social and economic transformation. As such, they have been addressed in the IPCC’s latest Special Report on Climate Change, particularly from the perspective of reducing energy use and GHG emissions. Technology is important, but without assuring greater pro-environmental behavior, in all of the segments of society, technological solutions will remain temporary patches. While the GHG emissions keep exponentially rising we don’t have the technology to match the scale that is required to reach net-zero emissions. For that reason, instead of putting all our hopes on technological innovation to provide some magic, last-minute solution, we should also focus on social innovation.
We have a much better chance of reversing climate change through a collective redefinition of desired goals. Quality education can play a major role in this process by placing nature central to our values and our behavior. It carries the hope of humanity not being passively rocking in the reminiscence of the anthropocentric hubris coined in the call to “save the nature”, but instead actively learning better ways to live with nature and with each other.
We are Nature,
long have we been absent,
but now we return.
/ Walt Whitman
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