Environmental education and conservation in southern Ecuador: Constructing an engaged political ecology approach
Kathryn Alyson Lynch, University of Florida, United States
University of Florida . Awarded
In this study I explored the role of environmental education in promoting conservation, looking specifically at a case study of environmental education in the buffer zone of Parque Nacional Podocarpus (PNP), in southern Ecuador. Political ecology and engaged pedagogical theory provided the theoretical framework for the analysis and defined the objectives of the study, which included (1) analyzing how environmental education was used as a conservation strategy in the buffer zone of PNP; (2) exploring the social, economic, and political realities facing the participants in these environmental education programs; (3) identifying students' and teachers' knowledge and attitudes regarding local conservation issues that were discussed in local environmental education programs; and (4) investigating and analyzing the pedagogical practices used in regular classrooms and in environmental education programs. These objectives reflect the overarching purpose of this research, which was to contribute to the development of new approaches to environmental education that would engage students more successfully in environmental activism and provide knowledge and analytical skills that will be more useful in students' struggle for meaningful livelihoods.
Field visits were conducted over a period of four years in the communities surrounding the Park, where I worked with children, parents, teachers, school administrators, and those promoting environmental education from within conservation organizations and government ministries. Ethnographic interviews, focus group discussions, surveys, participant observation, and individual and group mapping activities all contributed to addressing the objectives of the study. From these experiences emerged an understanding that while environmental education is having a positive impact in the region, it could be strengthened.
By bringing political ecology and engaged pedagogy together, I argue for the adoption of an engaged political ecology approach, which would address social, economic, and political inequalities and provide students with the skills needed to confront these social and environmental challenges. In this manner, environmental education could be transformed into a powerful strategy to address underlying power structures and worldviews that encourage, permit and/or ignore environmental destruction and social inequality.
Lynch, K.A. Environmental education and conservation in southern Ecuador: Constructing an engaged political ecology approach. Ph.D. thesis, University of Florida.
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