Colombia’s University of Jorge Tadeo Lozano Integrates Principles of Environmental Literacy

The Declaration, Volume 2, Number 2 : June 1998  [Curriculum]

by Martha Goenaga

The first issue of “The Declaration” (January-April 1996) featured an article describing the introduction of the Talloires Declaration principles to Colombia in 1994 under the leadership of the University of Jorge Tadeo Lozano. The article, entitled “Colombian Conference Takes Hands-On Method to Extreme,” relates the unanticipated and special circumstances that each country faces in working toward an environmentally literate and sustainable society. In its discussion of the ULSF-sponsored Colombian Environmental Literacy Institute, held in September 1995, the article reveals how the case study method thrusts participants into the living realities of the places and conditions being investigated.

Since that first experience, the University of Jorge Tadeo Lozano has developed many activities in support of the goals of the Talloires Declaration. We’ve also initiated actions at other Colombian universities as well as at universities in neighboring countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru.

At Tadeo

Nearly 15 of our graduate programs have introduced an environmental course. We designed two courses about sustainable development and its environmental implications for the School of International Commerce and the School of Agricultural Business Administration. The courses are conducted using the Environmental Literacy Institute’s case study method. The primary objective of these courses is to ensure that students understand environmental responsibility from the perspective of their future professions. So far, we have taught six courses for the School of International Commerce and two courses for the School of Agricultural Business Administration.

In the School of Communication, the dean, the educational administrator, and a professor supported the development of a campaign to raise student awareness about separating trash for recycling. The campaign is called Tadi, which is a nickname for Jorge Tadeo Lozano, the former president of the university and a supporter of the Botanica expedition (see below). In their 12th semester at the school of Communication, students prepared a campaign using a “chulo” as a symbol for recycling (A chulo is a black bird native to the Andean region that eats organic trash from dumpsites). Though the symbol was confusing at first because people did not know what the bird did for the environment, it soon became widely accepted. Students designed material with recycling instructions, and they placed informational stickers on trash receptacles. Developing environmental awareness at the University has been very challenging due to the amount of work that has yet to be done. Such awareness cannot be fostered with only one action.

To complement the recycling campaign, students from various schools organized an environmental event to commemorate Earth Day, called ECOTADEO. They arranged events concerning environmental literacy and ecological marketing, and sold environmentally friendly products. The director, Dr. Evaristo Obregon, placed a plaque on a “caucho sabanero” tree (a species from our region) in honor of conservation and biodiversity in Colombia.

As a contribution to ECOTADEO, the School of International Commerce planned a parade called “A Minute of Silence for the Environment.” Students dressed in black and walked in silence throughout the university campus with a coffin that represented the loss of our natural resources. This event was well received by the community.

The Office of Campus Activities of the university, directed by Dr. Maria Cristina Vergara, and the theater professor both approved the idea of writing a play related to the environment. At the closing of the third meeting of the Environmental Information Network of Colombia, entitled “University and Environment,” and in the presence of the authorities of the Environmental and Fauna Ministry, the theater group presented four scenes addressing specific environmental problems: trash, noise pollution, and the shortage of natural resources. The primary purpose of the play was to encourage universities to take action with environmental issues that affect them. In this case, through the use of cultural expressions such as a play, it was possible to inform a variety of stakeholders of the principles of environmental literacy.

Other Activities at the University

In June 1997, a group called Corporate Ecology was formed to support ULSF initiatives at the university and implement environmental policies consistent with Tadeo’s mission statement. This group includes the head of general services, the head of procurement, the head of the administration, a representative of the general secretariat and some professors from various schools. An important objective of the group is to continue with the cultural and scientific work of the Botanica expedition, which has been planned for the next century. This initiative involves the implementation of concrete actions toward a rational and sustainable use of water, energy and waste. For the university this will lead to the reduction of our energy, water and trash collection costs.

At the national level Tadeo’s contribution to the integration of environmental principles at Colombian universities has been accomplished through the implementation of environmental literacy workshops. There have been three workshops in Colombia to date: the first took place in Santa Marta in 1995, and involved a case study titled “Education and Environment: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta;” the second took place in Leticia in 1996, with a case study titled “Amazonas: Sustainable Management of a Frontier City;” and the third took place in Tumaco in 1997, with a case study titled “Costa Pacifica: Coastal Development and Biodiversity.”

For 1998 we have two workshops planned. One will take place on the border between Colombia and Venezuela and focus on Tama, the binational park, and the second will occur in Pereira and focus on coffee production. Both workshops will take place in September 1998 and involve numerous professors, international experts, local stakeholders, and a team/project-based methodology. In addition, participants will be given sufficient information to identify the relationship between the ecosystem-health and human health as well as the connections between scientific, environmental and cultural perspectives.

It has been a major effort at Tadeo University to put our environmental program in place. We are grateful for the commitment of many at the university for taking the lead both on campus and in Colombia. Moreover, we are thankful for the ongoing support of the President and the Vice Presidents of the university. We have only begun our journey, and there is a lot more road to travel.

Professor Marta Goenaga is Coordinator of the Colombian ULSF Secretariat at the Fundacion Universidad de Bogota Jorge Tadeo Lozano; Santafe de Bogota, D.C., Colombia. She can be reached at: Tel: 571-336-4446; Fax: 571-281-1464; email:, for information on strategies to launch collaborative national environmental literacy initiatives in Latin America.

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