GEOETHICS IN THE CONTEXT OF SUSTAINABILITY AND ITS TEACHING ACROSS THE CURRICULUM
For some years Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has overlapped or at least coincided with Environmental Education conceptual knowledge. Undoubtedly, the environmental pillar has been the component more widely implemented in schools, but the economic and social pillars require further reflection and concern. At the same time, the development of the Geoethics’ area is evolving at a faster pace and with strong links to the three pillars of Sustainable Development. Geoethics is a recent and emerging field that aims at the following: to promote the sustainable use of natural resources; to implement rigorous scientific studies; to promote accurate information regarding natural hazards; to foster the social role of Geosciences; to guide policy makers towards a more sustainable development path; to contribute to the development of more environmentally friendly technologies; to bring about awareness of the importance of the geological heritage; to contribute to the accuracy of the information conveyed by Geosciences museums; to promote links between the scientific community and society; and to create educational resources related to these principles. These purposes highlight the environmental and social responsibility of geologists, making quite clear their contribution to the resolution of problem situations susceptible of generating social conflicts when in the search for a more sustainable future. The concept of Geoethics gained relevance in several international conferences in the last two decades. In addition, the necessity of considering appropriate protocols, scientific integrity issues and a code of good practice – regarding the study of the abiotic world – is covered by this discipline. Studies on planetary geology (sensu lato) and astrobiology also require a geoethical approach. This definition introduces other relevant aspects, such as promoting the social role of Geosciences in terms of raising awareness of the importance of geological heritage and its articulation with formal and non-formal educational institutions, so as to assist a correct transference of scientific information. For the purpose of analysing the connections between Sustainable Development knowledge and its connection with Geoethics’ teaching across the curriculum, an interviewed-based study was carried with ten teachers from elementary, middle and secondary school, as well as from higher education institutions. The interviews, which were conducted by two members of the research team, were audio taped for a better and more reliable transcription. Content analysis was subsequently done with the help of the Q.S.R. N Vivo 10 qualitative data analysis package. Results showed that teachers claim that there are many possible themes aligned with the curriculum where this approach can be developed. For example, teachers seem to consider it easy to integrate Geoethics’ concerns within the teaching of socio-scientific issues. Even in higher education programmes, geoscience professors’ seem to acknowledge the Geoethics’ thematic as relevant and as a subject that can be taught when teaching other geoscience themes like, for example, natural hazards, geoscience education and even geoscience research and dissemination.
The authors acknowledge the funding provided by the Institute of Earth Sciences (ICT), under contract with FCT (the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation).