Buyer: Give me 2 fish
Vendor: Alright !
Buyer: Please put them in a plastic cover.
Vendor: It is already inside its stomach!!
( Source: Unknown)
With approximately 14 million tons of plastic ending up in oceans every year our food security is going to be at stake soon!!
Not only water, other natural resources on this earth like air, soil, biodiversity etc are finite and are very much impacted by anthropogenic activities in irreversible ways. Currently, policies worldwide prioritize sustainability with short-term targets (2030) and long-term targets (2050) to achieve them. These targets come with actionable steps. However, the key missing piece is the action required from each individual to ensure Net-Zero emission. The utmost importance of sustainability lies in its dedication to the well-being and prosperity of future generations.
As we all strive to create a better future for our subsequent generations, it is essential to recognise that Children of today are tomorrow’s opinion leaders and stewards of the earth. Nurturing their understanding of environmental issues by engaging them in impactful activities will be a stepping stone towards creating a sustainable future for all. The urgency lies in the fact that accelerating environmental degradation needs “ACTION” from all corners of the society and sections of people more than the resetting of targets by Nations. This is supported by the statement made by the UN that “ Progress is being made at several places, but overall action to meet the goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required”. In this context, this topic tries to explore the need and urgency, strategies and challenges in empowering children for creating a sustainable future.
Any change needs a catalyst in general. Climate change which elicits low engagement among the public needs someone as a catalyst who can influence the basic structure of the society i.e a family. Children play an important role vis-a-vis a family structure. They are known for their passion and enthusiasm. They can ignite the change in a family by sharing their passion and enthusiasm which makes them an important source as a catalyst.
Adopting environment friendly practices needs a behavioral change. Research shows that when children are narrated in an impactful manner and involved in activities in an engaging way they inspire positive change and cultivate a sustainable mindset.
When such habits are instilled in children at a young age, they become advocates for such practices creating a ripple effect in their immediate family and society. These may seem small changes when seen on an individual level. But from generations lack of understanding on excessive use of plastic, rising temperatures and sea levels, impact of deforestation and impact of species extinction on biodiversity, overall damage to the environment has already been done and climate change is a real phenomenon.
From the past 5 decades Environmental Ethics has emerged as a central theme for policy makers, but the groundwork of cooperating and coordinating with every section of the society in a way that brings behavioral change needs to be prioritized and still needs to catch up for the well-being of current and future generations. Children can act as environmental agents inspiring positive change in the social sphere like making environmentally conscious choices while celebrating birthdays or choosing not to waste food in a party, reusing their old books, being a minimalist, influencing the choice of parents in using public transport, green vehicles etc.
Curriculums already have the Environment Education component from the past 2 decades, which impart the necessary knowledge and awareness about Climate issues to children. This is necessary but not sufficient. Education ‘for’ the environment which involves improving and protecting the environment through ‘action’ is the need of the hour! Below are some suggestions which can be implemented:
- Involve children in community plantation programs in and around the school.
- Organize rallies (not visible these days in international schools) conveying powerful messages on climate challenges, plastic pollution and our responsibility to protect the environment.
- Engage children in decision making processes while implementing eco-friendly practices like making a solar roof, waste segregation, energy generation within the schools.
- Provide opportunities for children to collaborate with peers at inter-school, inter-state and globally to debate, exchange ideas and share knowledge related to possible solutions for the current climate crisis.
- Inspire children on how to follow a sustainable lifestyle by organizing talk shows with environmentalists who are striving for a sustainable future.
- Foster creativity to think out of the box solutions by conducting art and craft activities related to environmental issues.
- Collaborate with the concerned organizations and involve children in cleaning plastic litter in the nearby water bodies.
- Plan for eco-friendly field trips to develop respect towards nature as part of extracurricular activities. Allow children to plan and gather the necessary materials which are environment friendly.
- Visit a factory where the Recycled waste is processed. Let children discuss the pros and cons of using plastic and on ways to reduce waste.
- Acknowledge and Reward the students who religiously follow eco-friendly practices at their home and inspire their family and community by organizing campaigns.
The responsibility for implementing these approaches primarily rests with the school, aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 4 – Quality Education and SDG 13 – Climate Action. However, schools often face challenges as they juggle curriculum and examination schedules, potentially perceiving this task as an additional burden that may not receive the attention it deserves from the current staff. While environmental education is included in the curriculum of most schools, it is often treated as a box-ticking exercise to fulfill syllabus requirements, rather than fostering sustainable habits and creating awareness among children. This may be due to a lack of awareness among the teaching staff themselves. Additionally, resistance from staff members who are not fully committed to sustainability or unwilling to adopt sustainable practices can hinder progress. Motivating children to actively participate in nature and sustainability issues can be challenging, particularly given their heavy reliance on digital devices in today’s digital age. Sustaining their engagement and translating their actions into tangible environmental benefits needs continuous support and reinforcement.
Implementation may seem a humongous task as it involves commitment, whole-hearted engagement, and primarily behavioral change from all the stakeholders. This may not yield any immediate benefits in near future but everyone should take it as a prime responsibility because the future of our planet is at stake! Collaborating with civil society working for a carbon neutral future might somewhat lessen the burden on schools. Turning children into sustainable stewards is a task of prime importance to pave the way for environmentally responsible adulthood. Together, let’s embrace and advocate to secure a sustainable future for the next generation!
To support this cause, SankalpTaru through its Planet Hero initiative has been engaging in creative ways to make each child CAPTAIN of Planet Earth driving its future towards sustainability. Refer this page for more information: https://blog.sankalptaru.org/planet-hero/.
To get involved, email us. Let’s make the world a better place together!