The International Mother Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 to remind us that the earth and its ecosystems provide us with life and sustenance. The day provides an opportunity to raise public awareness around the world to the challenges regarding the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports. The theme for this year is Mother Earth: Education and Climate Change.
Climate change is one of the largest threats to sustainable development globally and is just one of many imbalances caused by the unsustainable actions of humankind, with direct implications for our future generations. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change encourages international cooperation among parties on climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information. This year’s Mother Earth Day, has a special focus on education and climate change, and is an opportunity to look at what UN Climate Change and others are doing on the issue.
Education and training are crucial to enable citizens to contribute to local and global efforts to meet the climate change challenge and the challenge of sustainable development. Increased knowledge and learning about the causes and impacts of climate change improves and protects lives. A better education can help people fully deploy clean energy and prepare for more extreme weather resulting from climate change such as droughts and floods.
Odisha is prone to natural and human-made disasters. Heat waves, cyclones and floods are annual occurrences in the coastal districts of Odisha, especially causing damages to lives, households and livelihood assets, and community development.
In Odisha, the Super Cyclone of October 1999 devastated 14 prosperous coastal districts. To promote environment awareness amongst school and college level students environment education was made compulsory in formal education in schools through a Supreme Court judgement in 2003.
The judgement has resulted in over 300 million students in 1.3 million schools receiving some environmental education training, according to a UNESCO study. Besides, in 2016, the UGC introduced a six-month compulsory course on environment studies for undergraduates from all disciplines. Some colleges are offering courses on environment studies. At the higher education level in India a beginning has been made by the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, which is developing pedagogy for climate change education in undergraduate education as well as in skill development.
Role of energy technologies to address greenhouse gas mitigation and integration of climate change related studies are some of the areas included in the research.
Environment Education, Awareness and Training (EEAT) is a Central sector Scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate. The scheme aims to create awareness on various aspects of environment and climate change. The Centre for Environment Education (CEE) was founded in 1984 as a Centre of Excellence in Environmental Education in the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. CEE strives to improve public awareness and understanding of the environment and promote the sustainable use of natural resources. CEE works with partners and various stakeholders to connect people and share experiences on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at a local, national and global level. CEE develops innovative programmes and educational material, and builds capacity in the field of education and communication for sustainable development.
Presently, CEE is associated with 3,000 schools across India and further reaching to millions of school children and youths through their various programmes. CEE is the nodal agency for implementation of UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) activities in India under the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi. CSE’s Environmental Education programme takes environment issues into the classroom by organising practical workshops and talks about sustainability issues for school-students, youth and school teachers. CSE also runs an ecological footprint project, which consists of eco-tours, lectures and poster competitions where children learn about the ecological dimensions of their city. CSE is also running a Green School Programme in which both school students and teachers are trained on assessing the environmental practices of their schools using a guidebook prepared by them. The students go on an exploratory journey and find out what’s happening to the water, energy, land, air and waste in their school campus. Centre for Environmental Studies (CES) is an autonomous organization under the Department of Forest and Environment, Government of Odisha. CES undertakes activities to promote environmental awareness in the State.
Odisha is endowed with rich biodiversity and natural resources. It is one of the first States in the country to address the impact of climate change and develop a sector-wise action plan to tackle its impacts.
We have experienced growth and development, but it has mostly been unsustainable. Environmental education is vital because uncontrolled urbanisation and industrialisation have badly disturbed our ecological balance. From drought to devastating floods, heat waves etc. are some of the greatest challenges we face, which come in the form of climate change.
New insights into how climate change will alter the patterns and frequencies of storms and other extreme events will enable better analyses and predictions. For that, environment education is very important in our life and this can save our planet.
(Dr Praharaj teaches at Department of Architecture, College of Engineering and Technology, Bhubaneswar)