The entire world is now facing environmental threats from global warming and climate change, rapid population growth, pollution, and forest degradation. To mitigate and address these problems, Environmental Education has become increasingly important amidst the current environmental crises.
Empowering children and youth with access to essential skills and knowledge enhances their resilience in the face of climate-related challenges. They grow, they learn, and they evolve to become the ultimate change makers. This odyssey spans across generations, carrying the profound aspirations and collective dreams of our world.
Significance of Environment Education in Ancient India
International dialogues, like the Earth Summit in 1992, which led to Agenda 21, and the International Conference on Environment and Society culminating in the Thessaloniki Declaration in 1997, have underscored the critical importance of environmental education. To secure a sustainable future, it is imperative that research efforts align with environmental education research, both at the local and global levels.
Numerous international organizations and initiatives, including UNESCO, UNEP, the Japan-U.S. Common Agenda, and the Environmental Congress for Asia and the Pacific (ECO ASIA), have proactively supported environmental education. However, several outstanding issues still demand our attention and action.
In India, the Supreme Court has mandated the University Grants Commission to introduce environmental courses in universities and establish two centers of excellence for environmental education and awareness. In Indonesia, the Ministry of Population and Environment, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture, has established Environmental Study Centers (ESC) in state universities to fulfill the Tridharma missions of education and training, research, and community service related to the living environment. Meanwhile, in Malaysia, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks offers camping and nature education courses for schoolchildren on weekends and holidays, facilitated by the Ministry of Education, which provides schools, instructors, and facilities for the program.
International discussions, such as the Earth Summit that resulted in Agenda 21 in 1992 and the International Conference on Environment and Society leading to the Thessaloniki Declaration in 1997, have emphasized the crucial role of environmental education. To move forward sustainably, we must integrate research for a sustainable future with research on environmental education. This includes identifying challenges and the current state of environmental education in various regions, devising effective curricula and professional development strategies, creating suitable media and technologies for environmental education, and establishing and supporting networks. Thus, our primary objective is to enhance awareness and concern for environmental quality through a program focused on capacity building in environmental education, action research, and community development to improve the quality of life and environments in the Asia-Pacific region.
In India, All India Radio (AIR) plays a significant role in mass communication. It broadcasts at least one program on an environmental theme each day at all of its broadcasting stations. Additionally, several NGOs collaborate with AIR to facilitate broadcasting on environmental topics.
Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done. While environmental science has been of great importance throughout history, significant concern was not raised until observable signs of deterioration resulting from human activities emerged.
Latin America and the Caribbean face substantial challenges due to climate change and external meteorological phenomena, causing severe damage to health, life, food, water, energy, and socioeconomic development. Millions of children in the region are exposed to water scarcity, cyclones, heat waves, and air pollution.
The Road Ahead:
Harnessing the potential of children and youth as catalysts for change is paramount, and it starts with education at the core of their empowerment. This education equips them to engage in and lead initiatives that address the critical challenges of our time, particularly climate change, ecosystem restoration, sustainable production and consumption, and the adoption of eco-friendly lifestyles.
Universities, too, can play a pivotal role in reducing their environmental impact. By championing online or hybrid learning models, they can significantly curtail the need for physical travel, thereby diminishing carbon emissions and cost burdens.
Online education alone, as highlighted in a study published in the journal Applied Energy by Elsevier, has contributed to substantial reductions in carbon emissions equivalent to 1.296 hours in China, 2.688 hours in the US, 5.544 hours in India, 12 hours in Japan, and 3.864 hours in OECD European countries within just six months.
To make this vision a reality, we must prioritise teacher training and professional development. Offering specialised training and growth opportunities for educators ensures that they are well-prepared to impart environmental knowledge effectively. Moreover, encouraging teachers to weave real-world environmental issues into their lessons fosters a deeper understanding and connection to these critical topics.
The path ahead may be challenging, but with the right knowledge and unwavering determination, children can drive the change our planet desperately needs.
So let us rally behind our children and youth, providing them with the tools, education, and inspiration they need to shape a sustainable future. Together, we can turn their innocence into a force for transformative change and leave a legacy of environmental stewardship that will endure for generations to come.