Environmental education has a long and rich history. The term itself refers to a multi-disciplinary field of study that deals with the ways natural environments function, and what contribution human beings can make to live sustainably. Environmental education integrates a range of disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, earth science, atmospheric science, mathematics, and geography. The term is often associated as a subject taught in the school system, from primary to post-secondary. Still, sometimes it means organized efforts to educate the public about environmental issues via print materials, websites, media campaigns, etc.
Environmental education plays a significant role in making a society knowledgeable of the problems our environment faces today and in the future as well as informing the public about the solutions to these problems. It also evokes respect for nature amongst the society, enhances public environmental awareness and motivates to solve the problems by offering practical solution. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) environmental education helps ensure sustainable development and protect the environment.
The concerns about the nature protection and the impact of human activity on environment can be traced through a series of works, from Emerson's "Nature" (1836) and Thoreau's "Walden" (1854), to George Perkins Marsh's "Man and Nature" (1864). The environmental issues were further discussed by the writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as John Muir (1838–1914), Enos Mills (1870–1922), Robert Marshall (1901–1939), and Aldo Leopold (1887–1948). These authors mostly addressed the problems of resource conservation and habitat preservation rather than the environmental awareness that has become a primary present day concern.
A new approach to dealing with environmental issues began after the World War II. The Conference for the Establishment of the International Union for the Protection of Nature (IUCN) held at the Fontainebleau, Paris, France in 1948 focused on the protection of nature and habitats and the objectives of the subsequent conferences were to insure continued progress. These actions paved the way for further environmental activities that began developing in the 1960s and 1970s. Even though the concept of environmental education dates back to 1948 and the IUCN Conference of 1972 is considered to be a major turning point on the international scale. During the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, a declaration covering 26 principles was adopted. Principle 19 of the Stockholm Declaration specifically points out the necessity of educating both the younger generations and adults in environmental matters. Thus environmental quality has finally gained substantial world-wide attention, while in the U.S. the environmental movement was already well underway.
You can read more detailed information about environmental education and its cultural and social aspects in "Philosophies of Environmental Education (Cultural and Social Foundations of Education)" by Joseph Watras. This book can be purchased at Target with discount when ordered with Target Promo Codes.