Environmental education - a must | Sunday Observer

Environmental education - a must

World history teaches us that the environment has been used as a weapon of war for centuries. Throughout history, aggressors and defenders have utilized the forces of nature against their enemies. In the seventeenth century, for example, the Dutch deliberately flooded their own lowlands to stem the advance of their enemies.

During the Vietnam War, the United States sprayed herbicides over vast areas of South Vietnam to destroy forests and vegetation and deny its enemy cover, mobility, and sustenance. International treaties now proscribe such tactics in conflicts between nations. No effective mechanism exists, however, for deterring the people from engaging in deliberate manipulation and destruction of a nation’s environment.

In our own country, we can see how our natural eco-systems and regenerating bio-capacity have been severely impacted during the past five decades. Forests, fisheries, the ocean, fresh water systems, and other natural ecosystems are all threatened and many are on the verge of collapse. Water, land and air are getting increasingly polluted and soil erosion is leading to expanding dry areas and species are dying at an unprecedented rate.

Put a stop

We have made many mistakes in the past, and continue to make mistakes that destroy our environment. There is no excuse for us to make the same mistakes that we criticize others for.

The 21st century belongs to the environment and all our activities should be oriented to address issues of environmental management. There is a greater challenge for policy makers to ensure that the environment is preserved, both, through preventive and curative measures. There should be effective solutions to tackle the issues of environmental management. If policy makers take proactive decisions, the future of the country would be bright.

Although science and technology bring benefits to humanity, most of these benefits are created by damaging the environment. There are numerous scientific gadgets that are good for humanity but pose a threat to the environment.

We need to put a stop to this. Tomorrow’s leaders should be equipped to face tomorrow’s challenges. There should be a commitment to provide children with environmental education that would help them become the leaders of tomorrow. It means supporting teachers and caregivers as they engage their children in outdoor studies.

Generation of problem-solvers

Sri Lanka is in the midst of one of the most profound and rapid societal shifts in history. Today’s children are growing up indoors. Their plugged-in lives are often devoid of exploring the natural world. This movement indoors is not benign; there are costs to the health of our children: attention difficulties, hyperactivity, childhood obesity, diminished use of the senses, and disconnect from things that are real.

Moreover, if children are detached from nature, how will they learn, understand, and value nature? How will the next generation care for the land and be stewards of its resources?

Raising an environmentally literate generation of problem-solvers will help ensure that tomorrow’s decision-makers are prepared for the challenges they would likely face. Environmental education engages students in learning, raising test scores, and encouraging youth to pursue a career in environmental and natural resources.

Environmental education brings many benefits to students. (1) it creates enthusiastic students, (2) offers opportunities for rich, hands-on, real world and relevant learning across the curriculum, (3) helps build critical thinking, and relationship skills such as, questioning, investigating, interpreting data, analysing, and solving problems, (4) helps foster leadership qualities -working in teams or with partners, (5) offers health benefits - more physically activity, more aware of good nutrition, more creativity, and more civility to one another.

School subject

In this era, the natural world is under threat. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat – everything is polluted with contaminants. By including Environmental studies as a subject in schools, as well as in higher education, we can make the future generation more sensitized and encourage them to find innovative solutions to protect nature.

Many schools have already taken the initiative to provide practical as well as theoretical knowledge about the impact of human activities on Nature. They take students out of the classrooms and make them do activities like gardening, watering plants, etc. Education is the only way to make minds work productively.

The primary purpose of education on environmental protection is awareness. Education can provide better awareness of a variety of ecological issues that take place day by day, how the natural environment functions, and how human beings can deal with the ecosystems for sustainability. In the present day, many environmental awareness programs are conducted in schools and society.

Hence, students could become ecologically literate and socially responsible problem-solvers. They need knowledge and the courage to make intelligent decisions regarding future ecological health.

Why teach these topics in the early years when children are so easily engaged in learning through their curiosity about the natural world and their place in it? They learn through sensory experience and challenges to their thinking. When children’s inherent interests are the starting point, teachers can help them hone their powers of observation, formulate and test hypotheses, and learn how to seek and use evidence to justify conclusions.