Chapter 1: Introduction to China’s environmental education project
China’s monumental environmental crises are no longer news, as for two decades they have stimulated headlines in the world press, scores of scientific studies and reports, attention of global governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and delicate diplomatic negotiations with global powers. Much less reported on are the attempts within the Chinese state system to learn from the mistakes of the past and to socialize the current and future generation of Chinese into environmental awareness, knowledge, and appropriate behavior towards the environment. The objective of this chapter is to introduce the environmental education project in China. We begin by briefly describing the framework of environmental education as developed in European and North American states since the 1960s. We then present the serious environmental challenges that make the project of environmental education so critical to China. We ask the extent to which environmental education is incorporated into the formal K-12 plus university education system and the role of regime socialization. The chapter concludes with an introduction to the nine chapters forming the core of the volume. Although the term ‘environmental education’ (EE) had been used in the United Kingdom in the mid-1960s, the first definition of the concept was the product of the ‘International Working Meeting on Environmental Education in the School Curriculum’ held in Nevada, USA in 1970. The co-sponsors of the event were UNESCO and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).