Public Environmental Awareness and Education

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Public Environmental Awareness and Education
Action can be taken in a variety of areas to increase environmental awareness and education. Some of these categories are: environmental legal rights and responsibilities and associated consequences, use of the media, awareness raising campaigns, incorporation of environmental issues in mainstream education, increasing awareness and education in target groups and encouragement of public participation in environmental matters. As the following case studies illustrate, many sectors of society are involved in developing and delivering educational courses and public awareness campaigns. These include Governmental institutions at the national, regional, and local levels; domestic and international NGOs; primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools; journalists and the media; celebrities; and other individuals and institutions. Moreover, educational and awareness efforts can target practically any sector of society. They can seek to raise public awareness broadly on environmental issues (e.g., through the media) or they may be a targeted campaign or educational effort focused on a specific sector (or target audience) on a specific issue. Funding for awareness and education initiatives may come from a variety of sources. Often, it comes from the budgets of specific agencies or Ministries; it is uncommon for such initiatives to receive funding directly from the central budget. Some States have accessed their national Environment Funds to provide partial funding for environmental awareness and education. Environmental education and awareness raising can include any of the following types of activities: • • • • Reorienting current education and awareness programs to include environmental dimensions; Basic education and awareness programmes (e.g., in schools); Adult and community education and awareness programmes; and Education, training, and awareness programmes for professional, technical, and vocational personnel.

Accordingly, in addition to the case studies, explanatory text, and other reference materials following this Guideline, other relevant material may be found following Guidelines 30 , 31 , 34(a) (especially the case study on “NGOs Providing News Relating to MEA Implementation”), 41(a) (iv), and 41(m) . Guideline 43 , on training, may also be consulted.

Working with the Media

The print, broadcast, and Internet media can be a powerful ally in educating the public on environmental matters. In order to perform this role effectively, it is often necessary for the Government to work with the media (and sometimes educate the media). This is often done informally, through regular briefings and information centres.

Some States have found that educating the media can be quite effective in building capacity to report on environmental matters. The case study from Bulgaria is but one example of how the Government has worked closely with the mass media to build its environmental reporting capacity through regular press conferences and large public awareness campaigns. Capacity building efforts can provide journalists with basic environmental information on a specific topic or general environmental information. Information centres that are accessible to the media and to the public constitute one approach. These centres may be run by a governmental agency or Ministry (e.g., in Bulgaria, Croatia, and Macedonia) or by an NGO (e.g., in Romania). An information centre may disseminate recent information (such as press releases), have a public library with a range of environmental resources, and actively disseminate information. In addition, journalists can build capacity of their peers through networking, as described in the CERN case study. Educating Community and Traditional Leaders Traditional, religious, and local community leaders can play an influential or even decisive role in how people act. This is particularly true in rural areas. Education of these leaders can assist in...
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