An inaugural conference for people involved in environmental education throughout the country attracted more than 300 people to Hamilton last week.
The three-day conference, the first organised by the New Zealand Association For Environmental Education, was an opportunity for people working in the field - teachers, local government staff, businesses, universities, rural, urban and coastal communities – to discuss their programmes.
Conference convenor, Environment Waikato Environmental Education Programme Manager Judy van Rossem, said the conference was the first opportunity people working in environmental education in New Zealand had had to get together and share their experiences. They now felt more connected and less isolated in their work.
Three international speakers attended, along with top New Zealanders involved in the field. Delegates attended a variety of workshops on such topics as designing school programmes, marine studies, water education, waste and energy education, climate change and community action.
“People would like to have further workshops and opportunities to develop education programme ideas and strategies. There needs to be a focus on environmental education for sustainable development to give it a higher public profile.
“There was great support for the Enviroschools programme and the guidelines for environmental education in schools are good, but there needs to be a review or audit to check that schools are implementing environmental education.”
She said participants were impressed with the inspirational nature of the some of the programmes happening around the country.
In opening the conference, Environment Minister Marion Hobbs said that contrary to popular belief, there were indications that younger people were less concerned about the environment that people would like to think.
In a survey response those under 18 were significantly more likely to think that the health of their environment was okay, more likely to think New Zealand had done enough about environmental issues in the last decade and significantly less likely to give a high priority to action on most environmental issues.
Massey University research last year also showed that nearly 20 percent of those under 30 were not much concerned about environmental problems.
“We cannot wait until our children have grown and taken responsibility for our planet. Our businesses need education about resource management, about energy use, about waste minimisation. Our farmers need education about biodiversity, protecting waterways, about burning and dioxin emissions. Every New Zealand voter needs to understand and participate in local planting and granting of consents. We have much learning to do,” she said.
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