The whole reason why weve gathered here today and have undertaken this initiative to discuss the unethical felling of trees is to educate each other on the current scenario in the world, in order to spread awareness and to bring ourselves to take necessary action. In fact, it is because weve been educated about the harsh realities of what is happening in the environment that we understand the burning need to discuss these issues.
My name is Ranjika Basu Majumdar, and I will be covering the role of education in sensitizing people to act against the indiscriminate felling of trees and the over-exploitation of forests in general.
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly declared 21st March to be the International Day of Forests. This year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation discussed the vitality of forests and how to combat the things that threaten their presence, like deforestation and land degradation. In this context, the role of environmental education, specifically in rural areas, was highlighted.
New forestry education initiatives were launched, in order to emphasize the need and importance of sustainable management of forests. Jos? Graziano da Silva, FAO’s Director-General, said that “education is a critical step to safeguarding natural resources for future generations. It is essential for children to learn about forests at an early age.”
Environmental education covers the study of how our environment functions and evolves, and the factors contribute to changes in the environment. In India itself, National Policy on Education, 1986 has laid great stress on the need for introducing environmental education at all educational levels. It states that, There is a paramount need to create a consciousness of the environment. It must permit all the ages and all sections of the society. It also stresses on the need for environment to be studied holistically making it an entirely interdisciplinary subject. It covers fields of Natural Sciences, Economics, Political Science, Sociology and so on. It is impossible to isolate one field and put environmental conservation under it. In a country like India, it is extremely important to have such provisions, largely due to its ever-growing population.
Although there are many provisions for environmental education in our school system, that still does not directly mean that we, as a society, have found, lets call it the key motivator. We also need to factor in the ways these things are taught and the institutions that teach them. All of us here come from very privileged backgrounds, and we have all been learning about our environment from very young ages, can we really say that we factor in our environment all our thoughts? Yes, we may read and learn facts like 18 million hectares of forests are being cleared each year, but it does not pressure us to do something about it. We can spend all our time reading facts and statistics, but that does not necessarily mean we feel a burning desire to protect our environment. A lot of us may know what is happening but remain ignorant because we are not exposed to the effects that we learn about. Let us now tie this to the role of the educational institutions in this context.
First, educational institutions need to adopt sustainable, green facilities themselves. For example, waste segregation at the school level itself, using green energy to power their school and reduce the use of single-use plastics. This allows students to see these practices in action and feel the need to do the same. Secondly, tree planting initiatives and so on need to be introduced with a greater emphasis, as opposed to being introduced for the sake of it.
What essentially needs to be understood is that we cannot expect people to feel the need to take care of their environment unless they understand the intricacies of ecological conservation. Awareness directly correlates to education and in order to stand up against such questionable malpractices we need to first know what is happening and need to see the measures against these in action. The degree to which environmental education can help us take these protective measures and lead to a more sustainable world is something we dont know much about yet, but positive outcomes are expected. To conclude, education plays an extremely important role in sustainable forestry, but the reach of this education can only be widened when it is put into practice.
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