This article was published on: 10/25/19 1:54 PM
By Rachel Weisbrot
As a land with rich ecosystems and diverse species, Mexico has a rich environmental future to match.
Since the start of a new government administration in December 2018, Mexico’s environmental education has undergone many changes. Educación Ambiental México, a network of 15 environmental NGOs including EarthxMexico, Telar Social and Fundación EDUCA, is designing and implementing these changes across Mexican school systems.
Earlier this year, the Mexican government amended its constitution to include an understanding of and respect for the natural world as a basic requirement of education.
Presently, Educación Ambiental México is working with Mexico’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environment to create a new environmental education law. This law would make both environmental education and education for sustainable development obligatory throughout schools in the whole country.
Looking forward, Educación Ambiental México is ensuring curriculums and school books reflect this law. According to Tiahoga Ruge, regional director of Earth Day Network Mexico, environmental education in Mexico has historically been overlooked, only mentioned in a superficial way or diluted within other subjects.
“It is very important to approach environmental education in a much deeper way, so the children really understand what climate change is and what biodiversity is,” she said.
By incorporating environmental education into classrooms, the subject will become a significant part of other courses such as chemistry, physics, biology and history. Educación Ambiental México plans to tie environmental education into history books through lessons on the environmental history of Mexico and of the world.
The organization hopes to have concrete results by April 22, 2020. As this day in April coincides with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the date represents an important milestone for international climate action. The Ministry of Education in Mexico will also work with all schools in the country to hold a celebration on this day.
Environmental education is nothing new for Mexico; over the past 50 years, much work has been done to develop this. Nowadays, most universities in Mexico have a sustainability component in their curriculum. Today’s efforts in environmental education are significant because they revive and update the activism that came before, including developments from the recent United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014).
“I think we are getting to a stage of maturity and understanding that we need to change the paradigm,” Ruge said. “Environmental education is the basics. If we have the right to education, we can change many things.”
Ruge believes that this initiative will establish Mexico as a leader for environmental change in Latin America and set an example for other countries to follow. This will be a very important topic at the 25th United Nations Climate Change conference in Chile, where Educación Ambiental México will present it at a panel on December 6. There, they will invite the other countries that have signed the Paris Agreement — the U.N.’s international climate change agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions — to follow the example of mandatory environmental education.
By releasing a statement of support for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and joining the global movement of environmental action, Educación Ambiental México is taking large steps toward creating a healthy planet for all. Earth Day Network congratulates its friends in Mexico for their big-picture goals and concrete actions to achieve them. As we approach Earth Day in April 2020, now is the time to mobilize and set similar goals for climate action.
Image at top: teacher reading to students. Photo credit: Jeff Troth.
Rachel Weisbrot is the education associate for Earth Day Network.