Environmental literacy can be viewed as the outcome of a process of education about the environment. Although there is not as yet a consensus in the scientific and education communities about what environmental literacy entails, most environmental educators often look to the declaration of the first intergovernmental conference on environmental education organized by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in cooperation with the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) in Tbilisi, Georgia (USSR) in 1977 for a framework in developing environmental education programs (UNESCO, 1978). The Tbilisi Declaration states that:
“A basic aim of environmental education is to succeed in making individuals and communities understand the complex nature of the natural and the built environments resulting from the interaction of their biological, physical, social, economic, and cultural aspects, and acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, and practical skills to participate in a responsible and effective way in anticipating and solving environmental problems, and in the management of the quality of the environment”.
Ecological literacy – the ability to understand ecological systems and their interface with human systems based on sound ecological concepts and principles – is a foundational part of the desired environmental knowledge and skill set of an environmentally literate person. The other key component is environmental decision-making, also referred to as environmental citizenship or civics literacy. Environmental literacy embraces both ecological literacy and environmental citizenship.
An ecologically and environmentally literate citizenry and a diverse workforce with the capacity and skills to assess, predict, and manage environmental risk and social resilience is the cornerstone of any successful plan to implement solutions for long-term environmental sustainability.