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of our 16 seater WESSA taxi, bumping along the pot-holed road past the Dunlop factory and back through the small town of Howick to Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve.

 

Karin is one of 10 learners on the WESSA SustainEd Environmental Education Training and Development Practices (EETDP) National Certificate course, the first module of which was held in April of this year. Karin, like many of the other participants, is a bit shocked after visiting Shiyabazali information settlement on a field trip as part of the week’s activities; focussing on the theme of Environmental Ethics.

 

While Module 1 of the EETDP focuses on an understanding of human-environment relationships have evolved, and how this ever-changing relationship has led to environmental problems, Module 2 transports learners in to the (sometimes uncomfortable) thinking space of morals, values and attitudes in the study of Environmental Ethics.

 

In the initial stages of the week, learners were introduced to the idea of the “ethical space” – the changing situations in which we are all forced to make decisions about how we use natural resources. After an introduction to the history of Environmental Ethics, and a toe-dabbling into the different ethical movements over time; learners are led through group activities, ethical case studies (both films and live presentations) and field trips to illustrate the concepts introduced in class.

 

The field trip in particular was a highlight of the week, where learners were introduced to the Umngeni Catchment around Midmar Dam by Jim Taylor (WESSA) and Liz Taylor (DUCT). The introductory focus of the field trip centred on all the environmental decisions that have been made in the past which are pushing the dam towards a breakdown of its once healthy systems. Nutrient loads in the dam are increasing with agricultural and human waste entering via tributaries, and decisions have to be made very quickly in order to prevent a collapse of the dam’s functioning ecological systems.  Homes around the river below the dam were visited to study the dysfunctional sewerage systems and to be introduced to some of the stakeholders who could be involved in solutions to the health, environment and human rights issues evident along the river.

 

In essence, as humans with the ability make decisions: our VALUES determine our DECISIONS, our DECISIONS result in ACTIONS, and our ACTIONS result in IMPACTS. The Environmental Ethics course leads learners to analyse their own values, and how these guide the decisions we make, the actions we take and the impact we have on the world. In order to be effective Environmental Educators, we have to understand our own ethics to ever be able to say we can help others understand the world.

 

The group has increased since Module 1 with three Wildlands Conservation Trust Groen Sebenza Pioneers coming on board for Module 2 from the Eastern Cape, and a new learner all the way from Cape Town, Ryno Bezuidenhout. Having new faces and stories always brings about lively discussions, and so it was with the ten learners who worked diligently and consistently, asking difficult questions of both the practice of industry and of the individual, including their own personal practice. The learners are now tasked with completing their workplace assignments for Module 2, before they head back to Umgeni Valley in July to attend Module 3.

More information on the EETDP:

Module 3 of the EETDP is Developing an Environmental Learning Programme (DELP), which focuses on taking the environmental issues or concerns that learners deal with in their workplace and effectively capacitating learners to start developing a sound environmental learning programme around that issue. Run in collaboration with WESSA Share-Net, learning resource experts step in for part of the course to guide learners through the expansive and exciting world of producing new and effective learning materials.

Module 4 of the EETDP is Facilitating and Evaluating an Environmental Learning Programme (FEELP), which delves into the highly specialized world of facilitation and evaluation, strongly linked with roles and responsibilities of the facilitator. Facilitation techniques in active learning are upfront in the learning of the course, but moreover focus is given to quality control and the evolution of learning programmes as they are evaluated and modified over time.

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