Ecological Education in Everyday Life: ALPHA 2000


263 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-8020-8496-6
DDC 363.7




Edited by Jean-Paul Hautecoeur
Reviewed by Patrick Colgan

Dr. Patrick W. Colgan is Director of Research and Natural Lands at the
Royal Botanical Gardens.


The essays in this collection originate with an international group of
Arabs, Europeans, and North Americans brought together through UNESCO
workshops. Drawing inspiration from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, the
book is nominally about how ecological learning can facilitate
sustainable use of the environment. The word “ecology” is used in
several senses, ranging from links between individuals and their worlds
to general relations between humanity and the rest of nature.

Part 1, “Shifting the Education Paradigm,” includes six chapters.
One chapter examines garbage recycling in Cairo, and seems to endorse a
caste system. The abundance of human experiential capital is detailed
for Palestinians, while new directions are outlined for linking ecology
and basic education among Canada’s indigenous peoples. Similarly,
theatre in an Egyptian group has switched from Western to local content.
From Italy comes methodological advice on enhancing knowledge, while
from Bulgaria come arguments for ecologically sound training of

Part 2, “Stimulating Participation through Social Action,” includes
two Czech outlines on the importance of linking education to regional
life and the environment, with good supporting examples of sustainable
development. In Lancaster, England, the role of literacy for social
action on garden allotments is considered, as is that of education for
environmental restoration in Alexandria, and of NGOs for opposition to
the Multilateral Agreement on Investments in Canada. Part 3, “For
Sustainable Endogenous Development,” has reports of improvements from
central Appalachia in the United States, and from an Egyptian community,
with both accounts examining the role of education and the obstacles
encountered. Also investigated are the revitalization of a stagnating
Hungarian region and Palestinian agricultural improvements.

The individual essays differ not only in their original languages but
also their conceptual frameworks. Some deal with learning as a
psychological phenomenon (а la Gregory Bateson’s “ecology of
mind”), some with social dynamics, and some with environmental
actions. In many chapters, the author’s conclusions are unsupported by
any data, as in the statement “one factory annually discharged 12,000
kilograms of mercury” (p. 153). While there are some linkages between
chapters (such as bricolage, or tinkering by making do with what is
available), there are also sharp disagreements over such basic issues as
the criticality of literacy, and nary a reference to the root problem of


“Ecological Education in Everyday Life: ALPHA 2000,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,