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Environment and land for young minds


  “ Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” Nelson Mandela

It is no secret: The way we live is not sustainable. Our planet is facing multiple interconnected crises caused by human behaviour. We are depleting the planet’s resources. Climate change is affecting us and all species, damaging ecosystems and leading to unprecedented environmental degradation. 2020 was the hottest year on record. One million species are at risk of extinction. The long, alarming list goes on. If we continue to live the way we do today, we will need the resources of three earths by 2050.

Learning is key to finding solutions and creating a more sustainable world. Transformative education is the long-term solution to help change the way we live and care for our planet. Yet, not all learners today are receiving the adequate tools and knowledge to be empowered to act for the planet. 45% of national education documents studied by UNESCO made little-to-no reference to environmental themes including sustainability, climate change and biodiversity; Less than half of those documents mentioned climate change.; and only 19% made reference to biodiversity. This must change. What is ‘Learn for our planet’?  

That is why at the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, UNESCO is launching a campaign – learn for our planet - calling on the world to invest in education for sustainable development and ensure that it is embedded in learning systems globally. For the survival of our planet, we need to #LearnForOurPlanet.

What is the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development?

The World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development is a virtual event which was held from 17 to 19 May 2021 in Berlin, Germany. It  gathered decision-makers and professionals from the world’s education and sustainable development communities with the aim of enhancing awareness on sustainable development challenges and reaffirming global commitments to ‘ESD for 2030’. A key aspect of the Conference was the promotion of transformative education to support learners to be responsible and active contributors to more sustainable societies and a healthy planet. Education for sustainable development for 2030 Toolbox ( (Source)



United Nations Conference on the Environment, 5-16 June 1972, Stockholm, the First world conference on the environment sees environmental education as a critical means to address the world's environmental crisis

The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm was the first world conference to make the environment a major issue.

Principle 19: Education in environmental matters, for the younger generation as well as adults, giving due consideration to the underprivileged, is essential in order to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities in protecting and improving the environment in its full human dimension. It is also essential that mass media of communications avoid contributing to the deterioration of the environment, but, on the contrary, disseminate information of an educational nature on the need to protect and improve the environment in order to enable man to develop in every respect.

Recommendation 96 sees environmental education as a critical means to address the world's environmental crisis. (Source Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan for the Human Environment)

UNESCO and UNEP led the International Environmental Education Programme (1975-1995), which set out a vision for, and gave practical guidance on how to mobilize education for environmental awareness. In 1976, UNESCO launched an environmental education newsletter ‘Connect’ as the official organ of the UNESCO-UNEP International Environmental Education Programme (IEEP). It served as a clearinghouse to exchange information on Environmental Education (EE) in general and to promote the aims and activities of the IEEP in particular, as well as being a network for institutions and individuals interested and active in environment education until 2007. (Source Issues and trends in Education for Sustainable Development)

World's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education Tbilisi, Georgia  October 14-26, 1977

The world's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education was organized by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in cooperation with the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and was convened in Tbilisi, Georgia (USSR) from October 14-26, 1977. 

The Tbilisi Declaration was adopted by acclamation at the close of the intergovernmental conference. The declaration noted the unanimous accord in the important role of environmental education in the preservation and improvement of the world's environment, as well as in the sound and balanced development of the world's communities. 

Environmental education should help to develop a sense of responsibility and solidarity among countries and regions as the foundation for a new international order which will guarantee the conservation and improvement of the environment. It should also provide a wide range of practical skills required in the devising and application of effective solutions to environmental problems.

Environmental education is also essential in integrating the knowledge generated by the important United Nations conferences of the past five years: on the human environment, on population, food, human settlements, and water and desertification (page 58 Opening statement by Dr. Mostafa K. Tolba Executive Director United Nations Environment Programme)

Knowledge on environment and environmental education

A recent UNESCO study which reviewed policy documents of 10 countries shows that  Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is mostly associated with the teaching of scientific knowledge on environment. This is not enough to bring the transformative power of education to its full force. Educational content up close | Examining the learning dimensions of Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship Education

How can we encourage learners to undertake transformative actions for sustainability to shape a different future, before it is too late? To ensure individuals are able to understand sustainability challenges, to be aware of their relevance to the surrounding realities, and take action for change,

To trigger structural transformations in today’s economic and social systems by promoting alternative values and contextualized methods, To address the new opportunities and risks on sustainable development posed by emerging technologies, Education needs to transform itself. UNESCO’s new global framework on ESD called ESD for 2030 invites all to join this urgent mission.  

A reflection on the conjunction of the two words ‘environment’ and ‘education’ raises the key questions of why, when and for what purpose they have been linked. Presumably answers to these questions range from the feelings and concerns of individuals through to events of international and global significance.

The first recorded use of the term ‘environmental education’ in Britain may be traced to a conference held in 1965 at Keele University, Staffordshire, with the purpose of investigating conservation of the countryside and its implications for education. At an international level, it is claimed that the term ‘environmental education’ was first used in Paris in 1948, at a meeting of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Disinger 1983). Source : A Handbook of Environmental Education

Emphasis on education’s role for the 17 SDGs

The first main feature of  Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) for 2030 is the emphasis given to the role of education in the achievement of the inter-connected 17 SDGs.

UN General Assembly Resolution 72/222 (2017) noted ESD as ‘an integral element of SDG 4 on Education and a key enabler of all the other SDGs’, while Resolution 74/233 (2019) reinforced this by calling upon countries to enhance their ESD implementation. So how can ESD enable the achievement of the 17 SDGs?

"Education for Sustainable Development Goals. Learning Objectives" is designed as a guide for education professionals on the use of ESD in learning for the SDGs, and consequently to contribute to achieving the SDGs. The guide identifies indicative learning objectives and suggests topics and learning activities for each SDG. It also presents implementation methods at different levels, from course design to national strategies.

Populations in extreme poverty are often the victims of calamitous development and natural disasters. They are affected much more directly by environmental degradation and the lack of economic and social sustainability. ESD approaches that may work for populations living in more fortunate situations may not necessarily be effective for populations in need. ESD approaches need to be contextualized to the realities of target populations.

The way we currently live is not sustainable. Urgent change is needed, but lasting change is impossible without education. "Learn for our planet. A global review of how environmental issues are integrated in education"  presents the extent to which environmental issues are integrated in primary and secondary education policies and curricula across 46 UNESCO Member States.

  • Over half of education policies and curricula studied made no mention of climate change.
  • Only 19 per cent made reference to biodiversity.
  • Countries have made progress: 83 per cent of education policies and curricula studied addressed the environment at least once, and
  • 69 per cent mentioned sustainability - but it is clear that more needs to be done to prepare learners with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to act for our planet.

Governments, education policy-makers, academics, and education and environmental stakeholders need to further commit to Education for Sustainable Development. Let’s ensure learners everywhere are change-makers who learn and act for our planet!

Laudato Si' - Care For Our Common Home(link is external) - Pope Francis has written a letter addressed to every person on the planet, asking us all to protect the earth. Will you play your part to protect our common home?

Learning objectives for SDG 15 “Life on Land”
  • The learner understands basic ecology with reference to local and global ecosystems, identifying local species and understanding the measure of biodiversity.
  • The learner understands the manifold threats posed to biodiversity, including habitat loss, deforestation, fragmentation, overexploitation and invasive species, and can relate these threats to their local biodiversity.
  • The learner is able to classify the ecosystem services of the local ecosystems including supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural services and ecosystems services for disaster risk reduction.
  • The learner understands the slow regeneration of soil and the multiple threats that are destroying and removing it much faster than it can replenish itself, such as poor farming or forestry practice.
  • The learner understands that realistic conservation strategies work outside pure nature reserves to also improve legislation, restore degraded habitats and soils, connect wildlife corridors, sustainable agriculture and forestry, and redress humanity’s relationship to wildlife.
  • The learner is able to argue against destructive environmental practices that cause biodiversity loss.
  • The learner is able to argue for the conservation of biodiversity on multiple grounds including ecosystems services and intrinsic value.
  • The learner is able to connect with their local natural areas and feel empathy with non-human life on Earth.
  • The learner is able to question the dualism of human/nature and realizes that we are a part of nature and not apart from nature.
  • The learner is able to create a vision of a life in harmony with nature ( Source page 39-44 "Education for Sustainable Development Goals. Learning Objectives")
Suggested topics for SDG 15 “Life on Land”
  • Ecology: competition, predator-prey, community dynamics, energy flow through food webs, dispersal and ranges.
  • Specific ecosystems – local and global native ecosystems and also human-made ones, e.g. managed forestry plantations
  • Threats to biodiversity: habitat loss, deforestation, fragmentation, invasive species and overexploitation (caused by unsustainable production and consumption practices, unsustainable technologies, etc.)
  • The dangers of extinction: Individually endangered species, how extinction is forever, the long time needed to form species, and the six mass extinctions
  • Restoration of wildlife and seeing humans as a healing force
  • Climate change and biodiversity, ecosystems as carbon sinks, disaster risk reduction and ecosystems (ecosystems as a natural barrier to natural hazards)
  • Soil and its formation and structure
  • Desertification, deforestation and efforts to combat them
  • The human’s connection with nature – the natural self Ecosystem services (cultural, provisioning, regulatory and supporting)
  • Evolution and genetics, genetic resources, ethics

Source page 39-44 "Education for Sustainable Development Goals. Learning Objectives")

Examples of learning approaches and methods for SDG 15 “Life on Land”
  • Map the local area, mark areas of various wildlife populations as well as barriers, such as dispersal barriers like roads and invasive species populations
  • Perform a bioblitz – an annual day when the community comes together to map as many different species in their area as possible
  • Run a composting workshop and show organic material formation
  • Take an excursion to a nearby parkland for cultural purposes, e.g. recreation, meditation, art
  • Plant a wildlife garden for wild animals, e.g. bee-friendly flowers, insect hotels, ponds, etc. in urban areas
  • Help children to enjoy the wonders of the natural world
  • Help children to recognize and understand native plants and animals
  • Help children to recognize and avoid products made from endangered wildlife
  • Engage children in supporting companies that protect and restore nature
  • Empower children to speak up for threatened forests and natural places

Celebrate Earth Day (April 22) and/or, International Day for Biological Diversity (22 May), World Environment Day (June 5); World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought/ Desertification and Drought Day (17 June)

Develop an enquiry-based project:

  • Why is biodiversity important?;
  • Why land restoration is important?
  • What are the dangers of land degradation to vulnerable human beings?
  • What can be done to prevent the degradation of land?
  • Which SDG’s did the students relate most to life on land?

How can we prevent desertification:

  • Improved water management to protect the soil
  • By protecting the vegetative cover, which protects the soil from wind and water erosion
  • Giving local communities the capacity to prevent desertification and to manage dryland resources effectively
  • Establish economic opportunities outside of drylands  MORE...

Environmental learning should be integrated across the curriculum, with a holistic pedagogy that goes beyond an exclusive cognitive knowledge focus and aims to engage students socially and emotionally and in action-oriented learning and participation. ( Source with relevant UNCCD updates; Source)

Further reading on environmental education and relevant resources for use

How does Land degradation affect human life and health? Life on Land is essential for the provision of food, water and quality air. Land degradation and desertification can have impacts on human health through complex pathways. If land is degraded in some places desert expands, food production is reduced, water sources dry up and populations in these areas are forced to move to areas with more hospitable land. 

Through education about desertification, land degradation and drought we learn mundate things such as the nuances between deserts and desertification.

We learn also how to address desertification and land degradation and to mitigate the effects of drought in order to achieve sustainable development.

Read more from the UNCCD contribution "Desertification is not about deserts: meeting drylands challenges through education" read Tomorrow today: Learning to build a sustainable future p.45.

  1. Life on Land. Resource for Teachers and Facilitators
  2. SDG Resources for Educators - Climate Action
  3. Tomorrow today: Learning to build a sustainable future
  4. SDG Resources for Educators - Life On Land
  5. Causes, processes and consequences of “desertification”: Results of a qualitative study about the conceptions of 12- and 13-year-old students in Germany
  6. BONNi & BO climate driving license Together with the Bonn Climate Ambassador Foundation and Özi, the comic artist, come up with something great that every elementary school pupil in Bonn can use to help the climate: the "BONNi & BO climate driving license" Calling "Bonn Climate Ambassador". And all the tasks that we have come up with for you are also fun.
  7. Climate change and health  
  8. Goal 15 Life on Land - Understand, Act, Share
  9. How to be a Hero for All our Children. A little Guide to Climate Science and Climate Actions We Can Take
  10. Drought for Kids 
  11. Teaching resource kit for dryland countries: A creative approach to environmental education
  12. Teaching Resource Kit for Mountain Countries: A creative approach to environmental education
  13. Education kit on combating desertification
  14. Desertif'Actions : Terre et climat le temps d'agir! Poemes & Dessins
  15. Lupo Alberto.There is no rug big enough to sweep the desert under. Comic strip
  16. Concern Worldwide Education resources
  17. Combating Desertification - Geography resource The resource pack has been written for Geography teachers and both their Leaving and Junior Certificate Student

( the resources on environmental education included are freely available in Internet, compiled and/or some titles included in our library collection)

  1. Life on Land. Resource for Teachers and Facilitators
  2. Soils challenge badge 
  3. The Magical world of soil biodiversity - A collection of 10 children’s stories from around the world
  4. Discovering forests: Learning guide ( age 10-13) ; 
  5. Discovering forests: Teaching guide ( age 10-13 )
  6. Forests for kids. Learning Guide ( age 8-13)  ;  
  7. Forests for kids. Teacher's Guide (age 8-13) FAO’s Forests for kids teaching and learning guides, are part of an FAO initiative to inspire and engage young people
  8. DIG IT! The Secrets of Soil
  9. Soil experiments FOR CHILDREN
  10. Find out your water footprint
  11. Water education  
  12. SDG Resources for Educators - Clean Water and Sanitation
  13. Biodiversity learning resources Use these apps, games, videos, and more to reinforce with students the importance of conservation and how they can help make a difference.
  14. The teacher's corner provides links to great biodiversity teaching resources from both the CBD and other organisations.
  15. FAO KIDS - Health benefits of pulses
  16. FAO Kids: Pulses contribute to food security
  17. Activity book – Healthy plants, healthy planet
  18. Activity book - Food heroes
  19. Activity book - Eating healthy matters
  20. Activity book - Change the future of migration
  21. Activity book - Climate is changing, food and agriculture must too
  22. The children and youth educational page highlights all the biodiversity educational initiatives that are targeted at this major group, including The Green Wave. Among indigenous and local communities, biodiversity education is often incorporated into traditional knowledge systems. Learn more about indigenous education.

( the resources on environmental education included are freely available in Internet, compiled and/or some titles included in our library collection)

  1. Elyx, the United Nations’ digital ambassador, this weekend released a new series of illustrations designed to further explain the Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. 10 years to change SDGs action Box - Elyx Foundation ELYX, the UN’s digital Ambassador, opens its virtual museum
  3. TedED Earth School 30 Quests for students around the world to celebrate, explore and connect with nature
  4. International essay competition invites schoolchildren to share ideas on SDG15 Life on Land
  5. Goal 15 Life on Land - Understand, Act, Share
  6. You Tube video; Life on Land SDG 15
  7. Explore other SDG information packs
  8. SDGs for Kids : How the SDGs are shaping the lives and future wellbeing of children.
  9. UNICEF and SDGs : Investing in children and young people to achieve a more equitable, just and sustainable world for all
  10. Playing for the Planet  
  11. Gridiron Green - the new environmental defender of the Earth
  12. The Planet and the 17 Goals. A Comic about the Global Goals for Sustainable Development
  13. Comics Uniting Nations
  14. Lifestyle Impact on Biodiversity and Nature.
  15. Exploring how lifestyles around the world impact nature and biodiversity.
  16. Sustainable Lifestyles and Education
  17. A Future for the World’s Children? A WHO–UNICEF–Lancet Commission
  18. How big is your environmental footprint?
  19. What is your ecological footprint?
  20. Let's Work Together: Education has a key role in helping achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
  21. Why education is the key to sustainable development
  22. Advancing Education for Sustainable Development.
  23. Key Success Factors for Policy and Practice
  24. Education for Sustainable Development: A Roadmap (ESDfor2030)  
  25. Education for Sustainable Development Goals: learning objectives
  26. Educational content up close: examining the learning dimensions of Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship Education 
  27. Teaching and learning transformative engagement  
  28. Getting climate-ready: a guide for schools on climate action  
  29. Trash Hack action learning for sustainable development: a teacher’s guide
  30. Integrating action for climate empowerment into nationally determined contributions: a short guide for countries
  31. Environmental Education –the path to Sustainable Development


( the resources on environmental education included are freely available in Internet, compiled and/or some titles included in our library collection)