Symposium in Brazil on Education for Sustainable Development and Consumer Society


PARIS - What can education do in light of unsustainable consumption patterns in society? That was the key question guiding an expert symposium on the Future of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) organized by UNESCO in Curitiba, Brazil from 6 to 8 March 2018.

According to the UNESCO, the meeting was part of a series of four Symposia on the Future of ESD, designed by UNESCO to generate new ideas and to ensure ESD’s relevance and continuity beyond the Global Action Program on ESD (2015-2019). The previous three symposia took place in Japan, Germany and South Africa.

The fourth symposium in Curitiba, with 19 participants from 12 countries from all world regions, was held in an informal setting to encourage free thinking, dialogue and the sharing of ideas, stories and perspectives. It drew experts from diverse backgrounds, including economics, education, ethics, philosophy, sustainable development and communication and from NGOs, educational and research institutions, the public or private sector. The symposium included several site visits.

Curitiba was chosen as location for the meeting, because it is known as the “green capital” of Brazil, with a strong recycling culture and progressive sustainability policies, which also address education.

Symposium participants were, for example, able to get an insight into Curitiba’s “Green exchange” programme that involves citizens collecting waste, which they can exchange for vegetables. 4kg of waste equal 1kg of vegetables. Used kitchen oil can also be returned in exchange for fresh food. The programme, initially set up to reduce river pollution, is a huge success involving 101 associations and more than 7,000 people and serving as an important economic aid for poor families. The collected waste is transferred to cooperatives who separate the garbage to allow for recycling. The international experts met dedicated, mainly female, waste-pickers who shared their individual stories and knowledge about waste.

Additional site visits to a leading cosmetics company and an environmental center further stimulated the discussions.