As environmental destruction and drastic climatic changes reach crisis levels, it is evident that human beings cannot continue taking from the Earth without giving back to her. Now is the time to educate future generations to respect the Earth and the classroom is the obvious place to start raising their consciousness. In this article, Yasmeen Shahzad explores the extent of the problems facing our planet and the methods we can easily adopt in the classroom to support it.
Here are some worrying facts about the Earth:
• Our sea levels are rising. During the 20th century, sea level rose about 15 cm due to the melting of glacier-ice and expansion of warmer seawater.
• Glaciers and permafrost are melting.
• Heavier rainfall is causing floods in many parts of the world.
• Instances of extreme drought are increasing.
• There are more and stronger hurricanes now.
These are just some of the changes that have already occurred all over the world. We, in Pakistan, have also had a fair share of environment-related calamities. Who can forget the devastating floods that have hit Pakistan quite regularly in the last couple of years or the lengthy summers with temperatures that touch a scorching 50 °C in some parts of Sindh and Balochistan; temperatures of 122 °F and above were recorded for four consecutive days between 24 and 27 May 2010 in Jacobabad and Mohenjo-Daro.
Apart from these natural and sometimes man-triggered disasters, the flora and fauna all over the world, has whittled down steadily and relentlessly and many lovely, interesting and useful animals have been so reduced in numbers, that they can hardly re-establish themselves. As the number of human beings increases year after year, it often seems as if we spread farther and farther around the globe burning, destroying, claiming and abusing all that comes our way. In short, we bite the hand that feeds us.
Most of us, if not all, would argue that since we have had no direct hand in such destructive actions, how are we to blame? While we may not have done anything directly to harm the Earth, but indirectly, or rather, unknowingly all of us are responsible. As responsible citizens of the planet it is just a matter of being aware and making the small necessary changes in our everyday lives. This essay aims to explain and persuade the reader of the need for environment-friendly lifestyle changes. It will also focus on inspiring and motivating others to do the same, especially our students.
What is environment-friendly?
The term environment-friendly or eco-friendly has one simple message: to be friendly and caring towards the ecosystem. Ecology is the discipline that studies the relationship between plants and animals. It is the support system of our planet, and without it our Earth would not survive. Since the Earth is the only place where human beings can exist, we need to be eco-friendly so that we not only save our planet, but also make it a better place for us and for future generations.
Why be environmentally friendly?
We are running out of space as the Earth is overflowing with man-created garbage. Let’s take the example of plastic bags, which most shops around the world offer for free. Plastic shopping bags take about 1000 years to decompose. Every year, out of the 100 billion plastic bags used in the US, at least four billion bags end up as litter. How about finding out what the local statistics are? We see plastic bags hanging from trees, on telephone and electricity wires and “adorning” most of our streets and lanes. Such statistics are scary and compel us to take effective steps towards living in a manner that helps conserve the environment.
One major impediment to being environment-friendly is the general attitude that one’s personal contributions to saving the planet are so small and marginal that they are not worth making. This is a dangerous and shortsighted stance. These people do not see the huge impact and powerful effect that collective action can have and the fact that a small action on their part can get the environment-friendly ball rolling. Small tasks such as turning off the lights, fans, and geysers that are not in use, walking (instead of driving) when going a short distance, turning off the faucet while brushing teeth or shampooing hair, carrying cloth bags to grocery stores, skimming through e-papers rather than newspapers can all contribute towards an eco-friendly environment.
How to spread awareness?
Schools are a vital part of most children’s early years. They remain a powerful vehicle for change and can play a pivotal role in educating youngsters to be environmentally friendly. The following activities and changes can be introduced to bring about an increase in awareness:
• Take the children outdoors. This will foster a love and understanding of the importance of the environment and will create a desire to live in a way that honours nature and the Earth.
• Raise awareness. Have each child bring in a reused grocery bag. For one whole day, children carry around their trash instead of throwing it in a trashcan. For homework, at the very end of the day, right before bedtime, they should categorise the trash and graph the data. As a follow-up assignment, they have to write a response to the activity and explain ways to reduce the amount of trash they generate.
• Start a recycling programme. For instance, use old chart papers (the unused side) for classroom displays. Similarly the unused side of old worksheets can be reused.
• Use recycled paper for artwork, especially when making collages and borders.
• Teach the students about the importance of the three basic environment related R’s, i.e. reduce, reuse and recycle. A focus on the three R’s can help students act more responsibly.
- – Reducing the amount of waste you produce is the best way to help the environment. There are lots of ways to do this. For example, you can help reduce waste by buying products that do not have a lot of packaging. You can also use a computer for doing your work instead of buying notebooks for the same. You can reduce the usage of paper by printing only that which is absolutely necessary. You can reduce fuel consumption by walking when possible, taking the stairs instead of using the lift and making a list, getting organised and completing all your chores at one go, instead of making umpteen trips a day/week to the shops. These are all conscious efforts to improve the environment.
– Reusing, instead of throwing things away. For example, using cloth bags instead of taking newspaper and plastic bags and utilising plastic containers, coffee cans, shoe boxes, and other types of containers that people throw away, to store things or for fun arts and crafts projects. When reusing, it is important to use your imagination.
– Many of the things we use every day, such as paper bags, soda cans, and milk cartons are made out of materials that can be recycled. Recycled items are put through a process that makes it possible to create new products out of the materials from the old ones. In addition to recycling the things you buy, you can help the environment by buying products that contain recycled materials.
Being a role model!
Being a role model to our students and children by adopting eco-friendly habits can contribute to the sustainability of our environment. To make the greatest difference, however, we need to encourage others to help in conservation, recycling, and awareness practices. Parents and teachers are the children’s first role models, so we have to demonstrate what we want them to do. If we want them to turn off the water while brushing their teeth, we have to do it ourselves to set a good example. Turn off the lights upon leaving a room, open the windows to let in a fresh breeze, and turn off or unplug appliances that are not in use. The more children see us do it, the more often they will remember it as a positive trait for themselves.
These little changes are not only crucial for all species to survive, but it is something that we owe our generous and bountiful planet.
Yasmeen Shahzad is a graduate of the TRC-Institute of ECE. She has been teaching students of Class 4 at the P.E.C.H.S. Girls’ School for the last 4 years.