NATURE INFORMATION CENTRE – INTERPRETATION CENTRE
Research and Environmental Education on Coastal Surroundings
SOME INTERESTING FACTS
In 1972 the United Nations Conference on Human Environment (the Stockholm Conference) took place in Stockholm. There it was declared that “the act of defending and improving the environment for present and future generations has become a prime objective for mankind“. Likewise it was pointed out that both the natural environment and that modified by man are equally essential for their well-being.
In the international framework, the form and philosophy of environmental education were analysed and the objectives were defined. It was also clearly stated that the relevance and effectiveness of educational programs in environmental education depend on their specific adaptation to the different contexts of each country. Environmental education should be imparted outside the school environment, developed not only by the official teachers, but by anyone who has the responsibility for or the possibility of getting the message across.
5th June, the date the Conference began, was established as “World Environment Day“.
Once the main environmental problems caused by human action have been examined, the need arises to think and act outside the box in an attempt to find a solution to environmental problems. As a general objective of environmental education, the criterion must be: “to ensure that the world population is aware of and concerned about the environment and the problems inherent in it; that it possesses the knowledge, capacity, mentality, motivations and the sense of responsibility that allow it to work individually and collectively in the search for solutions to solve current problems and prevent other ones from arising in the future.“
When all these line of reasoning were put together, Pro Dunas realised that on the Costa del Sol and more particularly in Marbella there should be a Nature Information Centre. Marbella stands out for having a wealth of Natural Heritage so this is where the Centre should be. It will bring together all the initiatives for raising awareness and all the plans for looking after this Natural Heritage, which is unique in the Province of Malaga.
NATURE INFORMATION CENTRE IN MARBELLA?
Pro Dunas’ work reaches all educational, social and tourism levels. Social awareness in environmental issues is still on a learning curve for many members of the public; however, many foreigners come here with their homework already done because their politicians have realised that the environment is a fragile and sensitive area of common good. In many countries it has therefore been included in the school curriculum. If nature studies are not awarded the importance they deserve and we do not take care of this area properly, this priceless gift can be lost forever. The day that everyone wants to get more involved and participate actively in caring for nature is the day that we will have won the battle and ensured the survival of this exceptional biodiversity on the outskirts of Marbella.
Even today when you talk to people from Marbella, you can see that this natural area and especially the dune systems are still, for many, a great unknown. This is why the Pro Dunas Association feels it has an essential and fundamental role to play in awakening and fostering social awareness for the conservation of the natural heritage of Marbella. This is where schoolchildren come in: they will tell their parents and other family members what they have learned in the Nature Information Centre.
The project of a Nature Information Centre is a demanding one and should be treated as a common project, where all the groups whose primary interest is nature can find common ground and work together with social, educational and, of course, groups from the tourism sector. This range should be understood as a broad spectrum where all can find their place and this great project can become a reality.
Currently there is no active didactic Nature Information Centre in Marbella. That is why the interest and involvement of everyone, including conservationist associations, can focus on wanting to improve issues relating to the environment, on teaching future generations who right now are the schoolchildren studying in primary and secondary schools in the town. Naturally, this area can be extended to the Universities by means of programs where university students can do some teaching and carry out their practical work.
This project should be understood as a non-governmental and conservationist umbrella organisation to take in all the natural zones from the sea to the mountain, drawing attention to the importance of different habitats with their varied and important botanical species – forests, shrubs and flora as well as a host of small fauna and local or migratory birds. Extending the breadth of the concept, we should also include the sea fauna, from cetaceans, sea turtles to fish and molluscs, not forgetting the study of algae, mycology and 10-legged crustaceans or other sea-bed dwelling fauna.
This is a project which has incalculable didactic value. It can be used to enrich students’ knowledge and encourage society in general to learn about nature. It can also involve the various Public Administrations.
To establish this ambitious Nature Information Centre project the Pro Dunas Association has chosen a dune environment with great possibilities for the study of biodiversity “in situ”. It will be located in the Real de Zaragoza which contains all these different areas of nature which will make it easier for everyone to get to know them.
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION: FOR WHOM?
The Nature Information Centres are for all those activities that develop from non-formal environmental education, those which maintain a greater communication with that developed in school, since they follow on and further develop what is taught formally in the classroom.
There is a wide audience environmental education can be made available to in the Nature Information Centre, but we consider some groups a priority:
The schoolchildren: The activities carried out in the Centre are a perfect complement to formal education, as the children will be in direct contact with the environment and with the living things in it.
The general (not-specialised) members of the public: of all ages, because their daily way of behaving has a decisive influence on the conservation and improvement of the environment;
Specific social groups, whose professional activities affect the quality of the environment;
Scientists and technicians, whose research and specialised practices will form the basis of knowledge on which effective education; training and environmental management should be based.
University students: There is an increasing interest in universities, both national and international, in establishing Chairs to specialise in dune biodiversity issues. We can confirm that we have already been called on to accompany scientists who have come from the United States and other countries in search of a plant that only exists in the Natural Monument “Dunas de Artola”.
Tourists: Every year the demand increases for places for tourist to visit, and for resources to provide information about the natural environment. Tourists are increasingly demanding and more committed to environmental conservation and sustainable development, which would make this a very important Centre. Marbella is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world and the location of the Centre, in an area with such an abundance of hotels and tourist accommodation makes it especially interesting.
ProDunas’ idea is that many kinds of groups can be involved in this project and therefore we propose a: Joint Project. Marbella deserves to be highlighted with a Nature Information Centre that takes in the entire natural heritage in the townland and that awakens the interest of other towns in the Province of Malaga. This could be the source of inspiration and knowledge.
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The Association works tirelessly for the defence and preservation of the unique ecosystems that survive in the natural sand dune environments in the Province of Málaga; promotes the protection of native flora and small wildlife; promotes recovery, rehabilitation and conservation of interesting biodiversity of sand dunes areas in the municipality of Marbella.