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How Does Global Citizenship Education (GCED) Benefit Society?

Naveen is a student of life who enjoys researching and writing about environmental topics.

Read on to learn all about Global Citizenship Education, UNESCO's program to help educate and empower everyday people to make positive changes for the global environment.

Read on to learn all about Global Citizenship Education, UNESCO's program to help educate and empower everyday people to make positive changes for the global environment.

What Is Global Citizenship Education?

Global Citizenship Education (GCED) is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) response to challenges involving global citizenship, human rights and sustainable development in the form of civic learning that requires active participation in worldwide issues of social, political and economic or environmental nature.


What Is the Environment?

The environment is a term that encompasses all living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) things that occur naturally, including physical, chemical and other natural forces. It is crucial to keep a safe and clean environment in order for humans and animals to live healthy and peaceful lives. However, one major current issue that needs our attention is the sustainability of environment.

What Is Air Pollution?

There are so many environmental issues to focus on, so we must narrow it down to one for the sake of this article. (That said, this analysis serves as an example of how to approach similar environmental problems.) The environmental issue that I've chosen to emphasize here is air pollution.

Pollution is everywhere—it's in every nook and cranny of the world. Any unwanted change in water, air, land, etc. can be termed pollution. Some air pollution comes from natural sources such as volcanic eruptions, wildfires, the ozone layer, etc., but most air pollution results from human activities.

Human activities bring along many side effects. Some of these effects further prosperity and development while others may have detrimental effects. Air pollution is defined as any undesirable changes in the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the air that have adverse effects on humans. Some air pollutants such as dust particles, smoke, soot and aerosols—along with gaseous pollutants such as nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and sulphur dioxide—are harmful to humans.

Air pollution is a huge crisis that is affecting certain countries on a large scale, including Spain, India and China, which all have high Air Quality Indexes (AQI). In addition, air pollution is a very common pollution type that occurs quite regularly in certain parts of the world, particularly India and China, as these countries have vast number of residents, hence having increased human activity and AQI.

Statistically, an estimated four million premature deaths globally are related to air pollution. These mainly happen due to heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infection in children.

Ranging from children to adults, both short- and long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to respiratory infections, reduced lung function and aggravated asthma, whereas maternal exposure to air pollution can lead to adverse birth outcomes such as small gestational age births, pre-term birth and low birth weight.

Global air pollution accounts for:

  • 43% of disease and death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • 29% of disease and death from lung cancer
  • 25% of disease and death from ischaemic heart disease
  • 24% of death from strokes
  • 17% of disease and death from acute lower respiratory infection

Learning Domains of Global Citizenship Education

There are three main elements in the learning domains of GCED. These three elements can contribute to understanding and resolving many issues, both local and global, in social, political and economic or environmental arenas. These are how the learning domains or the three key conceptual dimensions of GCED can bring benefit to the society towards resolving environmental issues:

1. Cognitive

This refers to the knowledge and thinking skills essential for a better understanding of the ever-evolving world. This element introduces the basis for any implementation of GCED into practice.

One of the factors creating environmental issues is human ignorance and lack of knowledge about such issues. People tend to forget that there is a reaction to every action made by living or non-living things. Therefore, this element enables people to acquire more knowledge and the thinking skills or critical mindset required for resolving environmental issues such as what’s causing the issue, who’s affected by it, how to resolve it, etc.

2. Socio-Emotional

This refers to the attitudes, values and social skills that enable learners to physically, psychosocially and affectively live together with others in a peaceful manner.

This element grounds us by helping us develop a sense of responsibility towards one another and act upon it. This element needs to be instilled in everyone to produce human beings who respect each other and protect our environmental rights. Such people are better equipped to organise campaigns related to environmental issues. A strong bond and connection can be forged between people when they cooperatively nurture a better future and a better world to live in.

3. Behavioural

This refers to acting, conducting oneself and engaging in the GCED learning domains more effectively and responsibly in regard to local and global issues, so as to bring about a more peaceful and sustainable world.

In order to achieve a safe and sustainable environment, it is essential to act accordingly with acquired knowledge and theory, as knowledge that is acquired but not put into action can be likened to a fruitless tree.

Ways to Reduce Air Pollution

One way to reduce air pollution is to encourage the use of bicycles. China was once considered to be the “Kingdom of the Bicycle,” with bicycles dominating city streets across the country. However, over the past four decades, China’s dramatic economic prosperity and development has seen many people move to motor vehicles as their primary means of transport, contributing to a marked deterioration in air quality.

In Hangzhou, a city in eastern China that was once described by the Italian explorer Marco Polo as “the finest and most splendid city in the world,” air pollution has had a devastating effect. According to data backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), Hangzhou’s air pollution is well over the WHO’s safe level.

However, in a bid to improve public health and the environment, the Hangzhou authorities have put a fresh emphasis on cycling which they’ve allied with digital technology in helping to cut pollution. Over the past decade, the local government has been improving bike-friendly infrastructure, such as lanes and traffic signals created solely for cyclists, and has provided almost eighty-six thousand public bicycles. A smart card allows users to easily access all forms of public transport, from bicycles to boats to buses.

“All together there have been seven hundred sixty million rides, that’s almost half the population of China,” says Tao Xuejun, general manager of the Hangzhou Public Bicycle Service. “So far, more than four hundred cities in China have adopted our project. Our dream is to promote our model across China and all over the world.”

As a result of these initiatives, according to Tao, cycling has become a popular choice for both local citizens and tourists, and the efforts of the Government-run company have been rewarded with international recognition, including the International Ashden Award for Sustainable Travel in the year 2017.

Another way of resolving this environmental issue is by using a mobile app to plant millions of trees. Hangzhou is home to an innovative way to encourage more sustainable lifestyles, with an app that is helping to stop desertification, cut air pollution and plant millions of new trees.

The “Ant Forest” mini-program, a Hangzhou-based project from giant Chinese payments and lifestyle app Alipay, incites users to make small, environmentally friendly decisions in their daily lives, such as cycling rather than driving to work, or recycling clothes. When users perform any carbon-reducing activities, they are rewarded with “green energy” points.

As they accumulate enough virtual points, a real tree is planted. According to Business Wire, more than three hundred million trees have been planted, thanks to the low-carbon actions of five hundred million individuals, roughly five percent of the world's population

Next, using cleaner cooking fuel can reduce indoor air pollution. Some countries, such as Indonesia, have begun to address the problem of indoor air pollution linked to cooking by helping millions of poor families switch to cleaner cooking technologies. In India, a Government-funded programme provides women with funds to buy natural gas stoves, the goal being to equip ninety-five percent of all target households by 2022.

According to the Special Rapporteur, households using solid fuels for cooking and heating are also decreasing in Latin America, parts of Asia, Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. In the US and China, strong laws and policies promoting cleaner air have improved air quality too. In California, children’s lung function has improved, the Special Rapporteur said, while in Shenzhen, the level of particulate matter in the air has been reduced by thirty-three percent in the past five years.

Among the Special Rapporteur’s key recommendations are a ban on new fossil energy power plants and the replacement of existing ones by the year 2030, along with support for the growth of distributed renewable energy generation systems


Environmental issues are caused by a select few natural sources but primarily by human activities. Air pollution, one such issue, can wreak devastating havoc on everyday human life. Implementing the three key conceptual dimensions of GCED can help every citizen contribute towards resolving this environmental issue and create a better future and a more sustainable environment.

Learning to Live Together in Peace Through GCED

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 naveen naidu