Community-based environmental education is an important part of the sustainability project. Along with regulation and market-based instruments, adult learning and education in non-formal settings consistently features in the sustainability strategies advocated and implemented by government, community and industry entities.
Community-situated environmental education programs often feature didactic “messaging”™, public awareness and community-based social marketing approaches. Clearly, these approaches have limited capacity to stimulate the social learning necessary to reorient toward sustainability. Popular education provides a framework to break from these dominant modes of environmental communication and education and achieve outcomes of a different order. Popular educators build curriculum from the daily lives of community members, address their social, political and structural change priorities, and emphasise collective rather than individual learning. Their work creates opportunities for education as social action, education for social action, and learning through social action.
Case studies from Australia and the United States highlight opportunities for community educators to draw on the traditions and practices of popular education. Residents of contaminated communities organise “toxic tours”™ to bolster their campaigns for remediation. Residents and conservationists concerned about freeway construction incorporate learning strategies in their campaign plan to enhance peer learning, mentoring and prospects of long-term success. Advocacy organisations and research institutions work together to create formal and informal educational programs to strengthen and learn from social action. The principles derived from these case studies offer a starting point for collaboration and action research.