Systems Theory and Environmental Education

  • Arnold M. Schultz
Part of the Environmental Science Research book series (ESRH, volume 18)


System and environment go together like the yolk and white of an egg: every system has its own unique environment; every environment exists in respect to but one system. While the strict definition of the system-environment concept does not conform to popular usage, it serves to show why systems theory is an essential component of environmental education.

A number of systems theories, including General Systems Theory with its several versions, are evaluated in terms of their applicability to environmental education programmes. The point is not how easily the substance of the theories can be taught at different school levels, rather how valid a framework is offered by this or that systems approach, around which an environmental education programme can be developed.

In this paper, greatest emphasis is placed on ecosystem theory and how it is tied to environmental education in primary and secondary schools, in undergraduate and post-graduate programmes, and in non-formal education. It is more of a pedagogical-investigative approach than a theory. Some of the important aspects of the ecosystem approach are stress on synthesis in addition to analysis, creative ways of coupling subsystems, development of ad hoc methodologies instead of using “canned” methods for all systems, the notion of non-separability of research and implementation, and cures for holistic paralysis.

While it may be too late to change a world-wide vocabulary, there is good reason to promote Ecosystem Education over Environmental Education.


System Theory Environmental Education System Thinking Arctic Tundra Unique Ecosystem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Literature Cited

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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arnold M. Schultz
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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