This article explores the changing ways ‘environment’ has been represented in the discourses of environmental education and education for sustainable development (ESD) in United Nations (and related) publications since the 1970s. It draws on the writings of Jean-Luc Nancy and discusses the increasingly dominant view of the environment as a ‘natural resource base for economic and social development’ (United Nations, 2002, p. 2) and how this instrumentalisation of nature is produced by discourses and ‘ecotechnologies’ that ‘identify and define the natural realm in our relationship with it’ (Boetzkes, 2010, p. 29). This denaturation of nature is reflected in the priorities for sustainable development discussed at Rio+20 and proposed successor UNESCO projects. The article argues for the need to reassert the intrinsic value of ‘environment’ in education discourses and discusses strategies for so doing. The article is intended as a wake-up call to the changing context of the ‘environment’ in ESD discourses. In particular, we need to respond to the recent UNESCO (2013a, 2013b) direction of global citizenship education as the successor to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005–2014 that continues to reinforce an instrumentalist view of the environment as part of contributing to ‘a more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable world’ (UNESCO, 2013a, p. 3).