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Environment, Sustainability and Learning in Focus at Successful Congress

News: Sep 03, 2015

‘If there is any take home message from the congress, it is that environmental and sustainability education must also engage in deeper “ontological” questions about what it means to be in the world and to be educated in the world.’ These are the words of Arjen Wals and Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson regarding the 8th World Environmental Education Congress, WEEC, which gathered almost 800 people from 73 countries in Gothenburg this past summer.

WEEC2015 was arranged by the Centre for Environment and Sustainability (GMV) at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg from 29 June to 2 July. The congress is held every two years and aims to give those who are interested in learning about the environment and sustainable development an opportunity to gain new knowledge, share their work with others and talk to people from around the world.

Eleven themes
The four-day congress consisted of 418 presentations given in 120 parallel sessions at the Gothenburg Concert Hall and the University of Gothenburg’s Faculty of Arts. The presentations, workshops and discussions covered eleven themes under the central theme Planet and People – How can they develop together?

Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson and Arjen Vals, professors at the Faculty of Education at the University of Gothenburg and congress co-chairs write: ‘WEEC2015 offered a wide spectrum of possibilities for education and learning for a transition away from, what some speakers referred to as, global systemic dysfunction and towards a healthier, more equitable and balance way of living. Not by propaganda, force or prescription but rather by discovering, (re)connecting, questioning, disrupting, experimenting, reflecting and, indeed, continuous learning.’

Several organisations, both local and international, participated in the congress, including the City of Gothenburg, the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation and the International Association of Universities.
The event saw the introduction of Sweden’s first ‘tap water label’, meaning that only tap water was served. Faucets enabling participants to refill their water bottles were available at Götaplatsen in central Gothenburg. Seventy volunteers in colourful t-shirts ensured that everything flowed smoothly. The group of volunteers included students from Swedish universities and upper secondary schools as well as other individuals of various ages and nationalities.

Sustainability and learning in focus at the congress
An exhibition of sustainable art by schoolchildren in Gothenburg and an opportunity to make a sustainability pledge with the City of Gothenburg’s programme GreenHack were some of the activities arranged in connection with the congress. The organisation Young Reporters for the Environment participated with reporters from Sweden, Slovakia and Turkey. The young journalists did a great job covering the many parts of the congress.

‘In planning the event, we tried hard to have sustainability and learning permeate all aspects of the congress in order to inspire the participants to come up with new ideas and continue working for a greener world. As soon as the congress started, our ambition become very clear. There was a great atmosphere and we have received a lot of praise,’ says Rebecka Hallén, project leader at GMV.

Positive feedback

Almost all participants said in the event evaluation that they were very happy with the congress and that it had given them new knowledge and contacts.’
‘We are proud to have been co-chairs of what we consider to be a highly successful congress with excellent contributions and a wonderful atmosphere of critical friendship,’ write Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson and Arjen Vals in their co-chair summary.



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