The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between national economic and political priorities and environmental education policy formulation and curriculum strategies. This relationship will be placed in the historical context of developments in environmental education in Australia from 1970 until the present and will be analysed in terms of the ideological and pedagogical stances implicit, and explicit, in the developments during this period. I will argue that the emphasis throughout the period has been to sustain the development of environmental education without any questioning of why, what and how this development should occur.
‘Sustainable development’ has become a slogan for governments, industry and conservation groups in recent times. It was the subtitle for the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and the National Conservation Strategy for Australia (DHAE 1984) - living resource conservation for sustainable development - and was popularised in the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, more commonly known as the Brundtland Report or Our Common Future (WCED 1987). The definition of sustainable development given in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980: section 1.3) and repeated in the National Conservation Strategy for Australia (DHAE 1984: 12) is as follows:
Development is…the modification of the biosphere and the application of human, financial, living and non-living resources to satisfy human needs and improve the quality of human life. For development to be sustainable it must take account of social and ecological factors, as well as economic ones; of the living and nonliving resource base; and of the long term as well as the short term advantages and disadvantages of alternative actions.