The basis of all great initiatives, projects, organizations and their achievements is the sharing of knowledge, building up of skills and accumulation of experience. This is realized through education and learning, be it theoretical or practical, formal or informal. Such well-known relation is valid for all areas of human activity, including environmental science and management: before engaging into the elaboration and implementation of environmental policies, conducting environmental research work, establishment of environmental organization, starting of “green” business, etc. one needs to understand how ecosystems function, how the human activity affects them, what are the consequences of this influence now and in the future, and how can we mitigate them.
The ways to educate people are different. You can organize series of lectures with teacher reading the material from a book and students writing it down word by word. You can invite experienced speakers to present their research results and project achievements and share how they obtained them. You can organize excursions and internships to various environmental projects and organizations. Or you can provide the on-line or off-line platform for peer-to-peer education and self-learning.
These ways differentiate on the basis of objectives of education and effectiveness of learning.
I am interested in the approaches to learning and ways of environmental education, because currently I contribute to the establishment of an environmental education institution called Moldovan Environmental Governance Academy, or briefly MEGA. This unique organization offers a hands-on learning experience – the MEGA Experience – in a form of a real-time game with creation of positive impact in society and environment during the whole “play”. In this way MEGA is the first educational institution on Environmental Management, Economics and Governance with the practical and gamified education and learning process.

In order to make it happen in the way we, the MEGA Team, envision it, I joined the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program offered by the University of California, Berkeley. Here I was able not only to receive valuable knowledge on Environmental Management, Economics and Leadership, but also observe the environmental education process in action and study how it is done in one of the top 10 universities in the world.
I also managed to interview a number of program participants to identify what kind of methods, tools and approaches to environmental education are needed in order to make it successful. Each interviewee was offered to answer two questions:
1) What session / method / approach did you particularly like within the Environmental Leadership Program?
2) What educational method, tool or approach would you like to be introduced in the Program?
The interviews are presented in the following video:

 Judging by the responses, we can see that an effective and successful environmental learning experience can be achieved, if we incorporate the following elements in it:
+ Diversity of participants, professors and trainers;
+ Space and opportunities for networking and collaboration;
+ Interactive trainings with practical methods and exercises;
+ Time for common discussions, brainstorming, reflection, peer-to-peer learning and sharing of personal experiences of participants;
+ Updated and practically applicable information;
+ Knowledge related to personality, personal capabilities of participants and leadership;
+ Real case studies adapted to the participants’ places of origin and communities;
+ Good case practices from all over the world that are inspiring and useful for participants;
+ Excursions to explore different projects and organizations that work both with high-tech and low-tech solutions;
+ Multidisciplinary and holistic approach to learning;
+ Various types of sessions organized in an integrated manner;
+ Combination of theory, recent and relevant research results, examples and practice.
All these inputs will be integrated in the MEGA Experience when MEGA is fully established and running.
What do you think about the inputs? Do you agree with them?
And how would YOU like to see environmental education taking place in your country and worldwide?

Note: I thank all the ELP participants, who agreed to be interviewed and filmed for this study.
1. Times Higher Education: World University Rankings 2012-2013.
2. Townsend, J. 2000. The Trainer’s Pocketbook.



… having sex multiple times increases the viability of your children?

At least this is what the observations on the fertility of insects and other animals and viability of their posterity tell us. Scientists have noticed that the denser is the population of insects on a given area, the more times they mate with each other, which leads to the lower amount of eggs laid per individual, but the higher is the viability and adaptability of these eggs, larvae and imago hatched and developed from them. Sometimes this interesting phenomenon can be observed not only in the first, but also in the second generation. And vice versa, the scarcer is the insects’ population, the less copulation they have. It results in weaker posterity, but the larger amount of it.
So, there seems to be a certain natural mechanism of regulating populations. Scarce population with fewer opportunities of mating tends to have relatively weak posterity. In order to survive organisms there need to lay more eggs / give birth to more children. Dense population, on the contrary, offers more opportunities for copulating, which increases the viability of future generations. So, its members do not need to have high fertility to survive. And in fact it should be reduced to prevent overgrowth of the population beyond certain limits.
But, of course, the Nature always has a number of exceptions to make life more diverse and interesting. For example, the fly Rhagoletis likes to have it all at once: to be in large numbers, to have “sex” many times, to lay highly viable eggs and in very large quantities. Basically, it lives by the principle “If to do anything, then do it a lot”.
And we, humans, are subject to the same regulatory mechanism with some exceptions in our communities, aren’t we?

Note: The post is based on the book by Marikovskii, P. I. “Insects Defending”.