THE STRUGGLE FOR THE MEANING OF SUSTAINABILITY: INFORMATION, EDUCATION AND ENVIRONMENT
1 University of Basque Country (SPAIN)
2 Government of Navarra, Department of Education (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2012 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Conference name: 6th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 5-7 March, 2012
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:The education for sustainability is one of the main goals for the improvement of the conformation of citizenships, as it concerns the care and conservation of the environment. However, the communication media, instead of educating citizens in everyday care and conservation, have frequently emphasized the urgency of the shared actions facing the magnitude and imminence of the environmental problems and the risks in our current development model without giving an appropriate enquiry about the sense and uneven distribution of them.
Contemporary society is characterized by the selection, calculus and management of risk in its different forms of expression, be them economic, sanitary or environmental. These perils seem to have objective reality status but they are also socially and discursively produced. Terms such as “environment” or “sustainability” are already of a diffuse nature because of their abstract meaning make them quite malleable for the media to use them in various and sensational ways while inscribing them in the discourses of risk. In fact, Media’s frequent use further increases the dilution of their meaning, making them more superficial, this is, producing a vacuum effect on their signifiers.
Journalistic information in its diverse modalities and genres- current affairs, scientific popularization, journalistic research-, as well as a wider knowledge of the complex of variables that take part in the relationships of the individual and society with its surroundings, frequently primes the reader’s immersion in a discourse universe dominated by a widely cohesive, dramatic and spectacular logic. This effect is achieved to the detriment of other voices that could question the definition of intelligibility of the framework of environmental problems.
The work at hand analyzes the way in which current affairs information, through framing and priming procedures, both frames the meaning area in which the environmental conflicts should be resolved, and at the same time, provides relevance and visibility to some specific agents and action forms. We deepen in the analysis of the information treatment that current affairs’ discourses have given to the term “sustainable development” in the last conferences about environment and development. This analysis reveal the standardization and institutionalization processes of the meaning of sustainability inscribed in the discourses on environmental risk.
As scientific domain reaches a consensus on the anthropogenic origin of environmental problems, the term “sustainable development” resists its way into the political debate. The factors that contribute to this situation are, among others, an information treatment that emphasizes the catastrophic and the inescapable imminence of the environmental crises. This resistance is manifested in the paradox of a citizenship that, even if it shows an increasing preoccupation for the environmental impacts of the current development model, it still shows itself skeptic before the participation and intervention capacity in the different dimensions that would contribute to their mitigation.
Taking into account the dissonance between the showed worries and the environmental risks and facing the lack of conviction related with the mechanisms of participation for their mitigation, education on sustainability represents an opportunity for the critical analysis of its sense and for the related development with the critical reading of the communication media.
Keywords: Sustainability, information, education, environment.