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The Paris Climate Agreement highlights the role of education in achieving mass momentum to tackle climate change under Article 12. This is vital, and if you ask me, the most important action we can take in our quest for environmentally responsible development.
Why is environmental education important?
Education helps us to “fit in” to this very strange world. It effectively tells us how to think, what to believe and how to act. So, it is no surprise that the world today is unsure of how to address several interconnected environmental issues.
If you are not of the 90’s generation and later, you will not have heard phrases like “climate change”, “environmentalism”, “environmental protection”, “biodiversity” and “sustainable development” at school. The Millennials and Gen-Z have grown up listening to these words but are rarely equipped to take action; they just “know” these problems exist.
Of the following…
- Planted a seed and taken care of it as it grew into a plant
- Discussed environmental issues with your family and explored ways in which you can be more eco-intelligent in the house
- looked for eco-labels in supermarket shelves
- went on a nature walk
- checked for environment-related action in election manifestos
As a result, most decision makers as well as the general public are desperately grappling to understand the complexity of climate change and environmental degradation and their effects.
Environmental education can helps students and citizens understand an environmental problem, how it’s caused and it’s multiple consequences. With improved environmental and ecological literacy, we can take bold decisions in favor of environmental protection. Everything from litter management, energy consumption, environmental pollution to large scale ecological damage can be better understood; leading to better management decisions by the future government bodies.
Better understanding will lead to better decisions; ultimately leading to ecological harmony with societal prosperity.
How can effective environmental education be achieved?
Article 12 of the Paris Agreement states that..“Parties shall cooperate in taking measures… to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information…”
A well-thought out, comprehensive environmental education system will be able to achieve what Article 12 spells out.
A successful education program will need to a few of the following features:
Fun and catchy introductions…
Nobody wants to listen to a scientist droning on about facts and figures. Nobody even wants to see facts and figures! Interesting stories, vivid pictures and catchy slogans grab people’s interest (this is why the “ozone hole” crisis was quickly solved without much debate in the public sphere—its a vivid picture with a catchy name that has a grave threat of harmful rays causing cancer).
Imagine if your teacher walked into your 8th grade science class wearing a T-shirt that said “Leaf Me Alone”. Wouldn’t that be a great way to begin a conversation about deforestation?
Or how about if she trotted in with an “Earth is Lit” T-shirt. Earth is certainly lit (it’s the only planet we know to host life!) but are we taking it too far? Enter: climate change.
Our economies and our society are dependent on environmental goods. Everything around you is some way or another sourced from the environment. Ecosystem services amount to over $1.3 trillion every year. Without these services, we absolutely cannot enjoy our current standards of living.
How are these spheres interconnected? How do our actions create ripples in our own lives, our communities and the world?
Exploring an interdisciplinary approach
I have mentioned the need for such an approach in science in a previous post. It is even more important in environmental education. Ecology is highly interconnected. Consequences of one tiny activity ripples across dimensions of space and time, affecting millions of things large and small. An interdisciplinary approach will ensure that students appreciate this multidimensional aspect of ecology and seek to understand the multitude of consequences arising from environmental degradation. Discussions of environment, society and economy itself is an interdisciplinary approach to development!
Consequences of one tiny activity ripples across dimensions of space and time, affecting millions of things large and small.
After explanations, come action…
A hands on experience will etch itself in the minds of children. This will remain more vivid than anything a classroom and a textbook will teach. If students can learn by doing, it will greatly improve their understanding of nature.
In India, for example, the Paryavaran Mitra programme, launched in 2010, builds on this concept by promoting the value of ‘learning by doing’. It developed a network of young ‘friends of the environment’ and currently reaches over 220,000 schools as well as government and civil society partners. It has helped thousands of kids look and feel the environment, and feel the full impact of environmental degradation.
Such initiatives need to start all over the world, and needs to be followed as diligently as a seminar on economics from a prominent figure. Kids can be taken to sites of degradation and see the consequences; they can also be taken to sites or restoration and appreciate the need for such activities.
Most importantly, consider the 5 actions I asked you in the poll. I encourage you to take up at least one of those actions in the next month. Let me know how it goes! Good luck and lets make the world ecologically intelligent 🙂
What is are some other things you can do to be an eco-intelligent person? Let me know in the comments!
- Word Education Blog-article on the importance of environmental education.
- You can also check out this post for more on “whole school” approach to environmental education. It’s a short and simple article.
- Here’s another post from the World Education Blog on changing our economic strategies through lifelong learning.
- Climate and Capitalism article on environmental education, by Ivonaldo Leite.
- UNICEF report on environmental education.