Environmental education aims to motivate a harmonious relationship between man and environment.
The aim of environmental education and training is not only to develop environmental and sustainability awareness, but also to encourage problem-solving skills and sensitivity to the link between environment and development. Less than one quarter of the nations of the world officially implement or have an environmental education strategy. Most are developed countries. Limitations include lack of training and resources, and novelty factor. Untrained teachers do not feel comfortable approaching a wide range of environmental topics in schools, nor embarking on field studies where the likelihood increases of being asked questions they may not be able to answer. In addition, teachers of environmental issues may not have had any kind of formal training. Environmental studies is, however, now regarded as a subject in itself in many schools and universities. Universities and research centres all over the world, particularly in North America, offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in environment or training programmes on specific environmental issues.
In 1975, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Programme (UNESCO) launched the International Environmental Education Programme (IEEP), to promote environmental education for all age groups both within and outside the formal education system. Over 150 countries have been involved in the IEEP programme. Through it, some 12,000 educators and trainers have been trained. The IEEP newsletter Connect reaches more than 20,000 educators and educational institutions. In 1977, the International Conference on Environmental Education developed guidelines and programmes urging schools and universities to promote environmental studies both as a subject in its own right and as a facet of other subjects. The Moscow Congress on Environmental Education and Training took place in 1987. UNEP and UNESCO have published the International Strategy for Action in the Field of Environmental Education and Training for the 1990s. It serves as a basis for national strategies in various countries.
A World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) Education Programme has organized teacher-training courses and produced a wide range of materials for educational use. Distributed materials to schools include an environmental alphabet for primary schools, posters and wall charts covering local issues. WWF is setting up a national network in Zambia, to aid teachers and help them spread information about environmental problems and solutions.
In 1974, Robert Johannes, trained in marine biology in the USA, came to Palau to study fish behaviour. His book is a series of reflections on how people learn about fish and fishing. He spent 16 years in a laboratory in the USA. His Palauan counterparts in Tobi learned by living in a place where knowing about fish behaviour mattered for daily sustenance. Johannes says that in his sixteen months in Palau he learned more that was new to marine science than in his previous sixteen years of conventional research.
After the 1997 UNESCO Conference on Education and the Environment, clear that more investment on time and efforts will be needed to ensure that a sustainable development dimension is integrated within education as a whole and within environmental education in particular. Some international moves in this direction have been made by some active colleagues, but at different levels and with diverse degrees of emphasis, by pursuing education for sustainability (EfS), education for sustainable development (EfSD), education for a sustainable future (EfSF), sustainable development education (SDE) and by strengthening development education (DE) and education for biodiversity (EfB). Although most of these expressions all attempt to serve the purpose of trying to follow a recommendation of Agenda 21, which states that education and educational systems should be re-oriented towards sustainable development, there is risk of confusion and over definition. It is not a change in the name of environmental education that will solve past problems. If the aim is to link-up environmental education with sustainability and acknowledge the need for new approaches – which nonetheless pay attention to past developments – and to seek for an acronym capable of being widely accepted, it might be simpler to acknowledge the above items by stating "Environmental Education for Sustainability" (EEfS) as the new field of emphasis.