WWF’s 2012 biennial Living Planet Report – the world’s leading, science-based analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity – shows that humanity’s demands exceed our planet’s capacity to sustain us. That is, we ask for more than what we have. We are using 50 percent more resources than the Earth can provide. In other words: we are living as if we have an extra planet at our disposal. Unless we change course, that number will grow very fast – by 2030, even two planets will not be enough.
Every day, children and teens hear negative news concerning the environmental development of our planet. We want to teach them that they can make a change and we wish to motivate them to work together to create Europe’s future as a high quality habitat for humans and nature.
In 2008, together with WWF, we have set up the environmental educational initiative called “European Schools for a Living Planet” for pupils aged 12 to 17 from the entire Danube-Carpathian region. The main focus of the initiative is to bring together teachers and pupils, encouraging them to assume responsibility for Europe’s environment and nature, and to take joint action to shape the future of Europe in a sustainable way. Pupils and teachers from eleven European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Ukraine) gather to address three topics, crucial at both local and global level:
The Danube connects Europe as its blue belt. It crosses borders, not only transporting freight and passengers, but also tradition and history. The river brings with it the responsibility to protect its waters. The „Ecological Footprint” measures the amount of the environment necessary to produce the goods and services necessary to support our lifestyle. Europe has a chance to make a change from lifestyles that exploit nature to sustainable development and responsible use of the environment. “Active Citizenship” stands for the ability to express and hold one’s opinion in public and to motivate others to take action. These skills play a very important role in all WWF education programmes and are a basic part of the European Schools for a living Planet initiative.
At a one-week pupil-teacher academy at the beginning of each school year, we introduce the school classes to these three topics and train them to facilitate nature and environmental projects. Until the end of the school year they complete their individual projects and post the progress on the publicly accessible interactive weblog. At a festive concluding event, the school classes get together again, present their project results and start to plan a common activity which will be held in autumn in each of the 11 countries on the same day.
With its projects, ERSTE Foundation aims at contributing to mutual understanding and the consolidation of European values within Central and South Eastern Europe. The WWF education programme intends to train and motivate children and teenagers to take action for sustainable development. Jointly, through ‘European Schools for a Living Planet — taking action together for Europe‘s environment’, WWF and ERSTE Foundation want to add the important environmental aspect to cross-border school projects. Only with such behaviour can we meet our demands of the present, while not harming the ability of the future generations to develop.
It is important that we encourage young people to build up their mind and to see their possibilities to contribute to a socially and environmentally friendly planet earth. In this sense teaching is more than telling about facts and numbers. The goal of education for sustainable development is to give young people competencies and show possibilities that enable them to contribute actively and in a responsible way to a future worth living.