Should Environmental Education be Limited to Only Geography Textbooks in India?
E.B. White, author of the popular children’s book, ‘Charlotte’s Web’ once remarked, “I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority”.
Unfortunately, much to White’s as well as all of our dismay, humankind has been continuously violating nature. Currently, our planet is nowhere near being as fit as a fiddle.
Climate change, pollution, loss of biodiversity, resource depletion, etc. are only few of the adversities the world is facing right now. There will come a time when we won’t be able to enjoy the cool, gentle sway of the breeze or the mellifluous sound of pitter-patter of the rain on our windows. The petrifying thing is, that day is not too far from today.
Although, the world isn’t short of nature enthusiasts at all! As soon as man realized his wrongdoings, he ventured off to mend his mistakes. Today, green jobs are on the rise. A survey conducted by the faculty at the University of Wisconsin found that 92% of young job seekers have an interest in working for an environmentally conscious business. Gigantic companies such as Chroma, Adidas are manufacturing their products while being conscious of the waste created and they make sure that it is recycled.
But, is that enough?
The current population of the world is approximately 7.8 billion. The waste created by each individual on a daily basis and the impact it creates on the environment is tolerable. But the trash generated by a population of 7.8 billion, daily? That is unimaginable. Hence, we certainly need to make more efforts than just buying vegan leather and doing car pools.
What is the solution? Environmental Education. To make people aware of the recent issues that the planet is going through and training them to come up with practical solutions is what the world desperately needs. And what can be a better start than to begin educating the youth, the future of the world?
When children are consistently engaged by music at a young age, they benefit at many levels including social, emotional, physical as well as creative. And, of course, they develop a lifelong love of music. Similarly, if children are surrounded with, and educated about nature at a young age, they, too, will develop a passionate drive to serve Mother Nature, won’t they?
Environment education in India was made compulsory in formal education in schools through a Supreme Court judgement in 2003. The judgement has resulted in over 300 million students in 1.3 million schools receiving some environmental education training, according to a UNESCO study.
Although, is that enough?
Environmental education is a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and take action to improve the environment.
I believe that environmental literacy must be taken more seriously in our country. There is a lot more to the subject other than short facts in geography textbooks. Of course, ample of schools have taken other initiatives like hosting anti-pollution rallies and encouraging the use of more sustainable products to students, etc. But, I believe, to invoke a more zealous drive regarding the nature in children, more amiable and practical approaches should be taken.
One of the world’s outstanding futurists, Alvin Toffler, had once remarked, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Awakening love for nature in children is as much as a duty of teachers and respective educational institutes as it is of their parents. Taking the children to parks to plant trees or spending a Sunday evening in a botanical garden is the least parents can do.
Schools can organize field trips to places where natural sources are depleting so that students can take a look at adversities faced by people in such circumstances themselves, write reports and come up with practical and economy-friendly solutions. Citizen science is another way for children to implement what they learn in classrooms. Conducting fun and easy experiments, with the help of adults, the young minds can make significant contributions as well as learn about various topics. These activities not only incline them towards the environment but also teaches them qualities like sportsmanship, morals, and improves their decision-making skills.
While teaching pupils about external environmental issues is extremely important, many forget the significance of abstract issues like environmental racism. Teachers and parents should underscore the gravity of environmental justice around the globe by thoroughly educating children about the topic, participating in rallies and dissents, signing petitions, etc.
Bringing life to the solutions highlighted in school textbooks is what will truly enunciate the disrupt in nature in the minds of the kids and will motivate them to take steps.
In the midst of all this, I feel that we are completely forgetting about the government schools of India and the rest of the population that either cannot afford basic education or has surpassed the age to go to school and feel that they can’t sit in classrooms anymore.
Organisations like CEE (Centre for Environment Education) that was established in August 1984 as a Centre of Excellence supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forests work towards developing programmes and materials to increase awareness about the environment and sustainable development. In spite of these organizations, most of India’s population remains ignorant of the environment crisis we are facing. The government should provide funds to government schools and start initiatives to educate the poor about the environment for the same as well as encourage all ages to learn about the subject and participate in experiments and surveys actively.
Recently, a 7th grade student of KIIT International, Ayushman Nayak, received a 20-year valid patent for his innovation, ‘System for Using Recycled Soap Water in Washing Machine and Method.’ The idea was to make a machine where the soap water from the drain is processed and stored for reuse. Ayushman had started working on it while he was still a third grader. He also received the APJ Abdul Kalam Ignite Award in 2017 from the National Innovation Foundation for his wonderful idea.
Environment Education, thus, can have a huge impact on the youth, and therefore, the environment.
If given the right knowledge and the constant motivation, thousands of people can bring about reforms like Ayushman and save the environment.
As Professor Jess Lair had said, “Children are not things to be moulded, but things to be unfolded,” we definitely cannot force the youth of the country to adapt to a sustainable life, but we surely can point them in the greener direction.
About the author: Vidhi (she/her) is an environmental enthusiast who loves to challenge stereotypes. She lives by the words of Robert Swan: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”