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Start environmental education among youth

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It was heartening to see GECCU and the Ministry of Agriculture not only organizing activities to mark Earth Day, April 22, but also using the occasion to remind all and sundry of the importance of planting trees. At a time when the trend is more towards cutting down and destruction, it is a vital area of activity which must be encouraged at all levels.{{more}}

While Earth Day has its national origin in the USA, it has grown into a global event, recognized by the United Nations and now a lodestar for all those conscious of the need for environmental preservation. From its origins in one country on April 22, 1970, Earth Day now encompasses a worldwide movement and even helped to bring about the historic Rio Summit on the Environment, held in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and its successor, the contentious Rio+ 20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012.

In today’s world, when the negative effects of climate change are obvious and pose a serious threat to hundreds of millions over the globe, the issue of environmental sustainability is even more critical. It is not a matter of choice or preference; every human being has a responsibility to play his/her part in preserving and protecting the environment. But, in order to do this, one has to be aware, be conscious of the issue.

This is where environmental education becomes critical to the matter. The Caribbean is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world where climate change is concerned. Scientists have already pointed out how rising sea levels threaten our coastal areas; they have noted significant coastal erosion and predicted that islands like ours will be some of the principal victims, should the disastrous effects of climate change continue unchecked.

On land, our wanton destruction of the forests is adding to our vulnerability; our widespread use of chemicals and pesticides in agriculture is poisoning our rivers, streams, seas and oceans. Add to this our disregard for proper garbage disposal and we have a picture of impending doom. Sadly, it is not a picture visible to many of us; no wonder events like Earth Day are still sadly too low-key affairs for most of us.

Our farmers and fisherfolk are still not sufficiently aware of the need to cherish and nurture what nature gives to us and to preserve them for future generations. Clearly a great deal more needs to be done in that regard. But above all, any successful programme of environmental education must begin with the very young.

So, where is Earth Day in the schools’ curriculum? On a day like that, should not every school, every pupil and student, every teacher, be engaged, in one form or another, in discussions on the environment or in practical activities such as the tree-planting exercise? After all, these are the ones who will inherit the earth when our generation’s time has come. Most of us grew up blissfully unaware of what was happening to the global environment.

Our adoption of an ideology which places material gain above all else has led to us neglecting the hundreds of years of accumulated wisdom of our forebears. We are rapidly turning valuable arable land into spaces for dwellings or for industrial purposes. We cannot go on like this. Nor can we shirk our responsibility to let our children know what is taking place and their duty to act to turn around this situation.

In all this, our schools have a critical role to play and this must be reflected at the level of the Ministry of Education. All our emphasis on educational achievement will be undermined if we fail to imbue environmental consciousness in the young. Even academically now, environmental science is an important area of study which more of our young should be encouraged to pursue.

It is not only in the field of education that we must promote environmental awareness. Our media houses can play their part too by constantly raising the relevant issues and helping to develop that consciousness. It is a task which requires the shoulders of all to the wheel. We must not fail the generations to come.

renwickrose0@gmail.com

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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