Environmental education to understand the complexity of the world

Lyonpo Thakur Powdyel (on the left) with Mario Salomone WEEC Secretary General (on the right)

Your Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Honorable members and partners of Thai Organizing Committee, distinguished representatives of the UNESCO, UNFCCC and UNEP, distinguished representatives of public bodies, institutions, scientific societies, networks, universities, schools, parks, NGOs, dear friends and colleagues coming to Bangkok from all over the world, dear delegates from about seventy countries, I’m much honored to address to a such outstanding audience: my warmest thanks to all for attending the 10th World Environmental Education Congress.

Moreover, l would like to express my gratitude to the Kingdom of Thailand, to the people of this great and noble country for their warm welcome, their wonderful organization. And the splendid and superb mood you have made.

It is for me a great pleasure to open this congress. Among a lot of reasons, there are at least two main reasons for celebrating this great event in Bangkok:

1. We are meeting the goal of the 10th congress. Since 2003 the World Environmental Education Congresses are the most regular and important appointment for all the actors in environmental education (academia, associations, public institutions, civil society, etc.).

I hope the 10th WEEC will be a further opportunity for making the global WEEC network more useful. Having originated in 2003 and still growing, the 10th congress will enable the network to have broader and more active participation among the greatest possible number of environmental education actors, both academic and non-academic.

During the closing plenary session, on the 6th November, we announce the next milestone: The Eleventh World Congress, its location and its title, and we will open the ‘call for bid’ collecting candidacies for the congress in 2023.

Above all, I would like to remember and to underline you that WEECs are not simply congresses, but an opportunity of networking and partnerships for improving and strengthening the environmental education worldwide in the world.

WEECs are not simply scientific meetings, but are also a permanent organization fitted with advisory board, staff, websites, newsletters, WEECs are a strategic international network acting for spreading information, sharing knowledge, enhancing the work of thousands and thousands of teachers, researchers, educators, young environmental activists in all continents. Finally, an opportunity for all.

2. For the first time the WEECs land in Asia: the largest continent, the most populated, with a powerful and grandiose nature, with an ancient history and a flourishing of great civilizations, with the greatest variety of religious faiths, with the largest rural population and the largest number of workers in the industry. With a thriving economy until the Western/European colonization and which now resumes its place in the world, having therefore, like everyone, to face the challenge of sustainability.

Maybe, also a decolonization of the environmental education languages and patterns is needed.

In short, there is much to learn from Asia, and we hope it will be served, thanks to a conference full of papers, posters, workshops and authoritative speakers from four corners of the world and from different languages ​​and cultures.

Today we are also closing a month of worldwide initiatives throughout October, around the World environmental education day we celebrate each year on 14th October, because on 14th October 1977 the Tbilisi United Nations – UNESCO – UNEP Conference on environmental education opened.

Environmental education is and will always be more fundamental in a world that changes quickly and poses increasingly complex challenges, starting with “global heating”.

Psychological resistance, petty and thirsty interests, egoism, divisions, ideological cages, fears, hatreds, prejudices, all obstacles to let us to feel as precarious and temporary tenants of Mother Earth and part of a single planetary “community of destiny” will also remain in the future.

So, environmental education must be the pivot, the guide and the beacon of the education for peace, for planetary citizenship, for a fair trade, for a social and environmental justice, for the global heating mitigation.

At the same time, environmental education claims with satisfaction the fruit of decades of awareness raising, to change consciences, give awareness, change attitudes and therefore behaviors, spread knowledge and above all build competences of active and responsible citizenship and for change.

And environmental education is exactly that: a holistic education, to understand the complexity of the world as modified by human action, to understand a slightly different world every morning, and to give all human beings reasons for brotherhood and sisterhood, between them and the planet and the tool to stand upright and not get carried away like extras from the muddy river of the History.

So, my greetings and my warmest wishes: have a joyful and productive congress!

Mario Salomone