introduction

"It is our task in our time and in our generation to hand down undiminished to those who come after us, as was handed down to us by those who went before, the natural wealth and beauty which is ours."

John F. Kennedy, 1961

TODAY, EDUCATORS FACE A COMPELLING RESPONSIBILITY to serve society by fostering the transformations needed to set us on the path to sustainable development. The time has come to ensure that the concepts of education for sustainability -- in the broadest sense -- are discussed and woven into a framework upon which current and future educational policy is based.

As stated in Agenda 21, the document produced by the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, education is "critical for promoting sustainable development."1  Understanding the principles of sustainability and the interdependence of the environment, the economy, and social systems can help us learn to make the changes necessary to become effective stewards of natural resources and the environment. Education for sustainability of which many other disciplines are indispensable components, will engage partners from all arenas -- adult education, on-the-job training, other formal and nonformal education programs, and the media -- to reach out to as many individuals as possible. Clearly, the time is right to engage in a dynamic process to educate not only children but all citizens about the economic and environmental realities of today's world.

The "National Forum on Partnerships Supporting Education about the Environment" met in October 1994. Participants developed a common and compelling vision: to broaden our concept of education to include sustainable development. Individuals from business and government, the educational community, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) came together to share common themes, ideas, and challenges related to education for sustainability. This event paved the way for a diverse group of stakeholders to begin a long-term consensus-building process.This process of sharing ideas and forging new partnerships resulted in this document: Education for Sustainability: An Agenda for Action. The Agenda  lays out a number of recommendations as to how we can build concepts of sustainability into our educational programs. Interwoven with these recommendations are specific initiatives, and opportunities for interested individuals from all sectors to become partners, leaders, or participants in activities that educate for sustainability. The recommendations provide a framework for a flexible strategy and a toolbox of ideas, which can be tailored to educational strategies reflective of individual and community needs. The hope is that, through a variety of approaches, education for sustainability can involve broader audiences than it has in the past.

A key feature of the Agenda  is the "Opportunities for Partnerships" section at the conclusion of each chapter. This section lists organizations mentioned in the chapter and is a vital reference tool in that it provides readers with names, organizations, and resources to guide next steps. A sampling of programs and successful initiatives is presented to illustrate cooperative efforts and partnerships that are working. The Agenda  is designed to serve as a model for projects, programs, and opportunities to encourage collaboration among a diverse set of partners.

Hundreds of individuals from across the country contributed to the formation of this Agenda. Its implementation will require diverse talents to further develop the ideas presented in this document.  Working together, we can make education for sustainability a critical part of a lifelong learning process.

Go to Chapter 1  Return to Table of Contents