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The Easy Question: "So What?"
Like the environment itself, environmental education is complex, requiring multi-info applied at multi-levels, using multi-media, and targeting multi-stakeholders. Every potential decision that has an environmental impact - whether drinking a cup of water at the micro level, or targets for global CO2 reductions - has an element of education and awareness-building built into it. In order to draw out and distil the essence of environmental education, we can condense the whole process into a single question that, in fact, contains just two words: SO WHAT?
But this is not the confrontational question "So what??!" that demands justifications. Instead it is the short form of three essential questions that start with 'So What'.
These three questions around which much of environmental education activities revolve, are:
1. So what is happening?
2. So what does this mean to me?
3. So what can I do?
At each of these stages, what role does environmental education play? What is necessary to generate awareness for the first question, 'So what is happening?;' to stimulate reflection for the second question, 'So what does this mean to me?'; and to goad action for the third question, 'So what do I do?'
- So what is happening?
This is the 'so-what' question that begins the quest for action. What is happening to the environment around us? Who is doing all those bad things to the environment? The environment around us may be green, but what are the real problems (and problems behind the problems). This is the awareness stage ...
- So what does this mean to me?
How does the changing environment affect us? Positively? Negatively? What is the relationships - cause-and-effect - between the environment and humans? It is this reflective stage, of understanding the cyclical impacts of human activities on the environment, and vice-versa on human health.
- So what do I do?
This is the stage where actual action takes place, where small daily actions cumulatively have positive impacts at the global level.
And still the two word question remains, 'So what?'