One of the advantages of SEEd membership is that you get to know what CEO Ann Finlayson's been getting up to. Last week she was at the 7th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC 7). The pic shows UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner telling delegates how important environmental education is.
Here are Ann's comments, taken from the latest SEED News.
I have just returned from the World Environmental Education Congress in Marrakech – well someone had to go! It did make me feel proud of how well organised our own conferences are – as this one was not. However, there were 1300 delegates present (they think – he number changed every day). They tried to do everything paperless – but with only 16 computers and the 4-day agenda changing daily, plus the internet unable to cope with us all, I ended up sitting in a room and hoping for the best. Turns out this serendipitous approach was being adopted by all! Furthermore, there was an alternative agenda approach – you met someone, chatted, asked them when they were presenting and then trotted along having filled your own calendar this way. The only workshops I wanted to attend either didn't happen or I couldn't find. One of the best ones, however, was where we all decided to make the most of it, discuss the topic and share experiences – fabulous! It really made me think that in education it is not always good to plan and map everything – one of the best learning happens in other unexpected ways.
This sounds rather like WEEC 1 & WEEC 2 which became by-words for dis-organisation and chaos, though Marrakech does seem to have been especially poor. Comments I've had from others attending bear this out. For example, ...
"The programme chaos unsured that I met several very interesting people I might not have talked with, and since it was so hard to figure out the programme, I ended up going to just one theme – it was obviously the same way for many since there seemed to be a cohorrt that sat in many of the same sessions."
As I noted last week, I didn't go. In fact, I've only been to one of these, and then only because I was invited. This was the rather well-organised event in Durban in 2007 where prices and accommodation had been so arranged that a multitude of local teachers, activists and others from across Southern Africa were able to attend, which added considerably to its vibrancy and success. Inevitably, there was also much singing and dancing, which even a jaundiced and staid European appreciated.
The 2007 congress also had one of the most memorable foot-in-mouth moments of any gathering I've been to. It was opened by a very big cheese – the Deputy State President no less – who was impressive in every possible sense. Unfortunately, in her speech, she said that when she was at school she'd found "environmental education boring". It was not the endorsement the organisers had hoped for. On reflection, my keynote (later published in EER 15) suggesting that EE hadn't had much impact over the years was probably seen in a similar vein. Sadly, the DSP wasn't around to hear it; she'd left ages ago, bodyguards in her wake. I wonder how much of WEEC 7 all those princesses who were attending actually heard – assuming, of course, they ever found the right room.
July 5th Post-script
An upsurge of fair-mindedness impels me to note that ENSI thought weec a success. See here for details, and a link to Call of Marrakech, which is a manifesto, of sorts.