Ensuring environmental education and awareness

Dhaka,  Sat,  23 September 2017
Published : 18 Jun 2017, 21:32:23

Ensuring environmental education and awareness

Shishir Reza
In the cosmos, earth is but a tiny iota with its expanses of blue seas and green forests. Due mainly to anthropocentric reasons, men-environment relationship has become tenuous. But the intensity of this tenseness has augmented many folds over the last few decades due to changes in human attitude, behaviour and perception towards the environment on the one hand and overconsumerism on the other. 

Advanced countries of the world have acquired their affluence and prosperity essentially at the cost of the environment. Their priority has been a life of comfort, plenty and affluence. But still they ensure environmental education and awareness which fosters a positive pattern of conduct towards the use of natural resources.

A comparison between and among different countries gets their status determined in terms of environmental security, economic growth and sustainability. America, Japan, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany are in the first category. They are involved with high quality research and ensure  public participation in environmental management. China, Malaysia, India, Brazil and Vietnam are in the second category. They are developing their institutional and technical capability to combine economic growth and environmental security. Paraguay, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina established ownership of natural resources on the strength of a strong movement of the people and trying to develop economic status and environment. In Sudan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Sierra Leone and Columbia, the peoples are victims of different imperialistic powers and multinational companies, local corporate grabbers and rent-seekers. They do not know what their own resources are.  General people have no right to use their own resources. Here the main question is "food"; the environment is hardly a concern.

Bangladesh is one of the highly vulnerable countries from the point of environmental hazards like pollution, climate change, landslide, earthquake alongside urban environmental challenges like poor waste management, noise pollution and degradation of water bodies. Many problems concerning environment and biosphere are simply there because so many people contribute little bits and pieces to it, all of which put together assume enormous dimensions. A little effort, a little care exercised by each individual in society could minimise the problem.

To raise the awareness of environment the world over, many conferences were held: the United Nations Conference on Human Environment( Stockholm, 1972); International Workshop on Environmental Education ( Belgrade, 1975); Tbilisi Declaration ( USSR, 1977); Earth Summit ( Rio de Janerio, 1992); Kyoto Protocol (Kyoto, 1995); World Summit on Sustainable Development ( Johannesburg, 2002); UN Sustainable Development Summit ( Rio de Janerio, 2012); UN Climate Change Conferences ( Paris, 2015); UN Sustainable Development Summit (New York, 2016).    

Still, a proper awareness of the problems related with wildlife, natural ecosystems, their degradation and conservation is absent even from many literatures of this society. A number of ecologically damaging activities could be stopped simply by providing adequate understanding of consequences involved to people who indulge in such activities. Individuals, communities and human society as a whole should acquire the skill, will and experience to act singly as well as collectively to face problems of the environment. Without an atmosphere of general understanding it is difficult to obtain cooperation of general public. 

Environmental education has a fundamental role to play in motivating people to adopt environmentally friendly practices. To fight and check environmental degradations, environmental education is considered an effective tool, which can play a very significant role in enhancing people's knowledge of the environment, changing their attitude and behaviour towards the environment.

It is a process of providing learning experiences through information, understanding, skills and awareness of desirable attitudinal changes.  Man's relations with natural and man-made surroundings including population, pollution, resource allocation, transportation technology, urban and rural planning and the overall human environment thus become clear. 

To make environmental education and awareness more effective the Tbilisi Declaration(1997) recommended the following points: environmental education should be a lifelong process; interdisciplinary and holistic in nature and application. It should be an approach to education as a whole, rather than a subject; it concerns the interrelationship and inter-connectedness between human and natural systems. It encourages participation in the learning experiences; emphasises active responsibility; uses a broad range of teaching and learning techniques with stress on practical activities and first hand experiences.  With local and global dimensions along with those of past/present/ future, it encourages development of sensitivity, awareness, critical thinking and problem solving skills.

With this intention in intelligence, environmental education needs to take three interlinked components: 1. Education about the environment; 2. Education for the environment; 3. Education through the environment. 

Designing a curriculum of environmental education must aim to: developing an awareness and sensitivity to the environment; acquiring knowledge and various types of experiences of the environmental hazards; developing the basic understanding of structure, process, problems and interdependence of environmental components; acquiring skills for identifying and solving environmental catastrophes; developing a set of values and concerns for the environment in order to encourage active participation; developing ability for evaluating environmental components and educational programmes in terms of ecological, economic, social, cultural and aesthetic factors.

In Bangladesh, environmental education has been introduced at the school level. But there is no specific guideline to introducing this education from primary to tertiary level. The National Education Policy (2010), has given priority to alert school children on environmental issues to make them aware about the challenges and their errands. Apart from that, a number of universities and institutions are currently offering programmes and courses on environmental science and economics, management or other closely related disciplines. 

In the Millennium Development Goals, environmental sustainability is number seven priority. Bangladesh got a better score for providing proper sanitation and developing maternal health status. But environmental sustainability is less effective. Corruption in the forest sector, shrinking of agricultural land, insecurity of food, lower capacity to explore gas, coal, oil, improper management of water resources, all affect development. Also, a gap between policy formulation and enforcement of environmental regulations in Bangladesh is widely characterised by less transparent functioning of environmental institutions, poor administrative practices, lack of manpower and active public participation at the grass-roots level.

By keeping a gap between policy formulation and implementation, it is impractical to accomplish the target of the SDGs goals. 

During the period of demographic dividends and booming economy in Japan, China or South Korea, the steps taken by those nations for a happy coalescing of economy, society and environment can be followed by Bangladesh. Environmental awareness through mass media with involvement of civil society, NGOs can provide an accepted wisdom for the 21st century workforce. Politics, economy, environment, climatic politics, green strategies, sustainable technology and a positive mental faculty must meet at a point in order to welcome a better tomorrow.  

The writer is an environment analyst & associate member of the Bangladesh Economic Association.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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