Education Provides Hope for Sustainability, Though Some Forces Oppose It

Improvements in education are needed to ease the path to sustainability.  Creativity and critical thinking will be needed to deal with the problems of overpopulation, and educational systems that promote these skills aren’t always prevalent, and are not without opposition in both the developed and undeveloped countries.  Berenice Bleedorn, a major proponent of creativity development in educational and other settings, wrote the following:

Although some of the planet’s resources are finite, the reason for unwarranted optimism is that the HUMAN MIND IS UNLIMITED IN ITS CAPACITY TO THINK, grow, plan ahead, and act in terms for the common good.

In the developed countries, opposition to good education is amplified by the media, however, while in underdeveloped countries it may come from both religious and government groups.

There is resistance to improving education in many countries.  In many countries, both developed and developing, there are groups working to limit or subvert education, generally to serve their own ends.  In some cases political groups and individuals with strong influence or control over a society see education as threatening their power, and limit educational opportunities or the quality of education as a means of self protection.  In other cases religious fundamentalist groups limit educational opportunities and control what is taught and to whom in an effort to follow or promote their chosen religious doctrine.  In both cases such efforts work against economic and social improvement, and drag the country down both economically and socially. 

Third world countries with poor educational systems and burgeoning populations will be most liable for disasters.  Afghanistan under the Taliban suffered greatly due to decline of the economy and the educational system (link) (link), for instance, and the educational system has apparently not recovered quickly, but there are other examples.  Myanmar, much in the news since cyclone Nargis hit, has a totalitarian regime more focused on preventing student unrest than improving education, and is another example (Myanmar Ministry of Education) (education in Myanmar).  As overpopulation in these countries worsens, they will need progressively more help from other countries to cope with human and ecological disasters as their economies decline further.

While resistance to education is most noticeable in the third world, it isn’t absent from the first world.  Fundamentalist religious groups in the United States, for example, have lobbied hard and put forth coordinated efforts to have states write so-called Intelligent Design into state educational policy (link).  Meanwhile, conservative political and religious interest groups continue attempts to discredit science (link) – a significant disservice to society and an embarrassment before the world.  Unfortunately, the biggest risks for disasters are created in the third world, where population growth is high and educational systems have traditionally not measured up to world standards.

How much are the developed countries bound to provide assistance to countries that effectively work against the health and safety of their own people?  If a country pursues a course of political, economic, and social control that runs counter to what needs to be done to prevent disasters, the question arises as to how much help the rest of the world should provide.  On purely moral grounds, every country has a responsibility to help mitigate human disasters of any kind, and countries that create conditions conducive to disaster place an extra burden on the countries providing help.  It is possible that, at some points and to some degrees, the backward countries drag down the countries that help them.  At some point it can be expected that the helping countries will have to take care of their own problems first, aid to the backward countries will decline, and the scale and scope of problems in those countries will escalate, leading to increased emigration as well as worse disasters.  This appears to be an inevitable, though unfortunate, possibility.

Global economic conditions will have more effect on the availability of aid than anything else.  In the end, it will depend more on how the world economy fares than anything else as to how much aid the tightly controlled and poorest societies will receive in times of need.  If the developed and developing countries manage to control their populations and energy use patterns well enough, their economies may remain in good enough shape to permit substantial aid to the less fortunate.  Those ruling groups who have little or no sensitivity to human tragedy, such as the rulers of Myanmar, will continue to create conditions ripe for disaster, however, and it is unlikely that outside forces will be able to do much about it. 

Education is still a path to improvement, though it is a long path.  It IS possible, however, that groups working to improve education will have some chance to provide ongoing help to those countries by infiltrating skilled and dedicated teachers into their systems over time.  Authoritarian regimes may accept some assistance if they see it as having no political tinge to it, or that it is not a path for foreign intelligence operatives to be inserted into their countries.  Such initiatives could, at least to a degree, help mitigate the disasters in countries such as Myanmar, where the authorities have little apparent interest in furthering the lot of the average citizens, but the citizens have some, though limited, ability to make constructive choices. 

As always, I welcome your comments.  (I am always open to being “wised-up”.)


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