ArtDialogue at Rio+20 

Transformative Education, Creativity and Sustainable Development



 As a small NGO, raising our own funding to get to Rio on behalf of Safe Planet, we were inspired to meet students, scientists and general public at our outreach Film Shorts Festival and Panel Discussion at Instituto de Biofisica, at the Universidad in Rio de Janiero on June 21.

Labeled as “Pops Out! Transformative Education, Creativity and Sustainable Development”, we aimed to engage the public in outreach that was artistic in nature (films), informative (educational) and provocative (scientifically based). The overwhelming response from the audience, which was open to the public, was encouraging.

During the Panel Discussion cession, one scientist, researching POPs in dolphins, said that until she saw one of our films, she never actually connected the issue to her heart. Art and science combined in a compelling experience have the potential to bring change that traditional education has not been able to achieve. Through this exchange we have future projects now in the making and further outreach and education possibilities.

On our panel was Leslie Moyer from 5Gyres who spoke compellingly of her first-hand experience at sea collecting plastic in the oceanic gyres on several voyages across the world. Rajendra Shenden, Chairman of TERRE Policy Center, India, spoke at length on toxic pollution issues in his home country and the Maldives. Our host, the delightful Professor Joao Paulo Torres, gave us an informative tour of the Biofysica Lab and all the important research happening on POPs in dolphin fatty tissue, as well as groundbreaking discoveries in mercury poisoning in indigenous peoples who leave their native habitat.

 June Gorman, Co-founder of the Transformative Education Forum (Transformative Education Forum - tef.nps.edu) spoke particularly at the end of the discussion about the need to understand all the sustainability issues discussed within a "systems thinking" framework that explains and teaches how all these issues are indeed interrelated in the greater human and planetary eco-system. To truly understand this new paradigm of learning/thinking and feeling, she argued, current fragmented educational systems need to be completely re-structured. They need to incorporate more ecological and systems thinking approaches which include the science with the politics, the economics with the ethics, the technology with the social science and human value systems underlying any valid conception of true human and planetary sustainability. Creativity, art and the emotional, social and cultural intelligences -- entire new fields of human brain neuroscience she explained, dramatically illuminate how these are all connected and critical to complete human scientific and social problem solving for true sustainability. These are important new pedagogical fields to understand in "transforming" education to this new inter-connected way to learn and think and feel. "In an interconnected world on a shared planet for mutual sustainability, educating for these new diverse ways to think and learn from all viewpoints and knowledge and skill sets of all our diverse communities worldwide, is probably our greatest 'resource' in moving to a truly 'educated' way to think about true sustainability on this planet, together."

The Marine Environment has become not just part of the sustainable dialogue, but part of the development conversation, too. Talk of a Green Economy shifted to Blue Economy. Besides a commitment towards reducing ocean acidification, and protection from overfishing, we were pleased by the resolutions on plastic pollution. Leila Monroe of NRDC, who was a key player on this negotiation said there was a new “commitment to take action to reduce marine pollution from land-based sources, especially plastics, as well as persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and nitrogen-based compounds. Highlighting plastic as a pollutant of particular concern is a very important step, spearheaded by Guatemala, Ecuador on behalf of the G77, and with the support of the European Union.”