Friday, April 20, 2007

Earth Day - How do we spread awareness about the environment?

The good people at Pooh's Den are celebrating Earth Day (which is on April 22nd) with a competition. They ask a question -

“What do you think needs to be done to get Indians more aware of their environment and how do we go about protecting it? What in your opinion will be the ideal law to get things moving in the right direction?”

...and ask you to blog your views.

I believe that the solution, in principle, is very simple - awareness should be given to the individual when s/he is a child.

India is facing quite a few problems due to lack of awareness in people. But broadly I would classify it thus:

1) People pollute the environment without a second thought. They do not even know what they are doing.

2) Absolutely no sense in people about conservation. Energy conservation, water conservation, conservation of the environment, or conservation of resources like paper, etc. is unheard of. People just do not care. "Have, will use" is the attitude.

Most of the people I know who are aware of environmental issues tell me that awareness and knowledge about these issues have been inculcated in then in childhood, either taught at school, or instilled in them by their parents.

A child's mind is highly malleable. The right things fed to him at the right time will make all the difference. Besides, a child understands things innately. He might not appreciate the enormity of the situation, nor grasp the urgency, but when things are explained to him, he will understand. And he will even act on it.

Last Deepavali, I read a statement in the newspapers by one of the top filmstars of the Kannada industry. When asked how he celebrates Deepavali, he said something to the effect of, "As kids, we would burst crackers. But our son told us that he was taught in school about the harmful effects of bursting crackers on the environment. He has decided not to burst crackers. So we have stopped now". I felt that this speaks volumes about what effect such education has on a child, and what effect a child can have on his parents.

But how do we achieve this?

1) Make environment education compulsory in schools. But please please make it interesting. No boring lectures on conservation. Short, interesting points, with examples should suffice. Movies, preferably, and documentaries for children should be used - they should give the child a jolt - but not enough to disturb the child.

2) Have different programmes for the Urban Child and the Rural Child.
Education for the Urban Child should stress upon the conservation of resources - energy, water, and paper, for instance, for these children have these in abundance, and would tend to overuse it.
Education for the poor Urban Child should deal more with hygiene, pollution control and such issues.
Education for the Rural child should dwell upon issues concerning rural problems [haven't really thought much on these lines. Maybe you can give me suggestions].

If we start such a programme today, we will hopefully have a set of aware citizens in the next generation. Of course, the children we teach will immediately start sharing their knowledge with their parents, and as long as the parents are not obstinate or bull-headed, they will understand.


1) We already have a dearth of educated and committed teachers. Who will teach such an important subject with interest?

2) The urban poor, for example, have enough worries on their head to bother with the big picture. Will it really work with them?

I can think of some more problems, but hello, I am writing about solutions - so I will stop.

With all its problems and drawbacks, educating the child is the solution that I think will begin to solve the problems we face.

As for laws and legislations - slap staggering fines on offenders. But once again, the problem is - who will enforce these laws effectively?

I leave it open for discussion.


Sangeeta said...

im SO excited to get the coveted spot for writing your first comment, that i am lost for words. i'll be back :)

so i guess the endless stalking you on blogger has finally paid off! :)

Sangeeta said...

So now on to the topic at hand. I took a world issues class in my last year of high school, and we were all asked to do our own ecological footprints. And by doing MY own ecological footprint, *I* could see how much impact *I* had on MY environment. I think the whole problem comes with the "tragedy of commons" mentality. But by doing your OWN ecological footprint, you realize that EVERYone can make a difference.

But that's considering everyone has a conscience. Now the issue is what if they don't? And to remedy that, I think fines SHOULD be instated. But for THAT to happen, you need a powerful enough political party who'll realize that they might (and WILL) lose votes if they start this, but in the long run, it's for the good of the world.

And ONCE the fines ARE established, people MUST be fined for littering. What I find shocking more than ANYTHING, is when people find NOTHING wrong with littering in India, yet the same people are SCRUPULOUSLY clean here in North America.

I remember when I went to Delhi a couple years back, I went and bought "jamoons" (you know the dark purple berry-like fruits?). I asked the vendor for an extra paper bag to throw out the seeds and he looked at me like I was loony and said in Hindi "Memsaab, you have to THROW out the seeds. You don't SAVE them!". He couldn't comprehend the fact that I did not want to litter the roads with jamoon seeds :)

Long rant, my point is, for ANYTHING to happen, you need people with a strong conscience. First, you need people to realize that this is OUR world, dammit!! But if that doesn't happen, you need politicians strong enough to levy fines regardless of their subsequent vote-count. And then you need police-officers (or whoever..) to actually FINE people who litter, regardless of WHO the litter-bug is (ie: JUST because he is some film actor, you can't let him dump garbage in the middle of the street).

*whew* the end, please clap.

Btw, if anyone's interested, you can find out what YOUR ecological footprint is, at

Anonymous said...

These things (global warming, ecological imbalance, each of you can make a difference etc) are too big a concept for aam aadmi to understand. I feel that the problem or situation needs to be explained in a simpler and more understandable way.

Sure, fines etc are one way to enforce things. But if the problems are "explained" in more "immediate" way, may be we will consider altering our ways.

Take water, and one roundabout way of doing this could be to inflate its cost so that people don't waste. Instead, if you say preserve preserve, most may ignore the call.

Usha said...

yes like our President says train the children and they will take care of the future.
I remember the food world store gave us all jute bags a few years ago and told us that if we got them for shopping and avoided plastic bags we would get a 5% discount off our bills.
"have it.will use" tendency is more prevalent among the urban upward mobile group. I have a neighbour it is a family of three which uses 2 big cars every day for their transport needs, every 3rd day they buy a tank load of water to supplement the water supply from the layout which is normally adequate for a family of 5.Reason: they have a`swimming pool in the house. Every room is airconditioned and they are on every minute they are in the house.They pay for it all but it also means depletion of energy and other scarce resources aprt from polluting the environment. There is no thought in their minds about these at all. these are highly educated highly placed young people. So where do we begin the education?

Maverick said...

proper waste disposal and recycling mechanisms are a must too.

Anonymous said...

I think that people don't work as well when faced with the Stick as when they're faced with the Carrot.
So if people are taught when they're children that looking after the environment will directly benefit *them*, instead of just being taught that it's "wrong" (kids are good at rebelling against things that are "wrong")....then it will sink in.
Yes, the prime tool is education. Most of the "bad" things people do - leaving rubbish, not conserving power/light, wasting food - they do because deep down, they either refuse to think about these things running out, or they genuinely don't know about them.
If it is made clear to them, at an early age, what the consequences of their actions are, but more than that, what the *benefits* are of being ecologically wise....
Then maybe the next generation will be able to deal with the hardships and shortages that are going to be the inevitable consequence of late 20-th-Century, early 21st-Century life.
I hope.

Anonymous said...

At a personal level, the best we can do is to save energy. I have been trying to advocate public transport people and following it myself for sometime now. It can make a lot of difference.

And thanks for the link to Pooh's Den.

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget noise pollution.Here again children can play a role.

If we tell someone to stop playing loud music on public address system ,he will not like it.If his own children tell him to refrain from doing so,he is more likely to listen.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shruthi,
I really appreciate your commitment to the social and environmental causes in your blogs. Congrats for taking such vital issues up to the forefront. Also please go through the findings of Jared Diamond on the extinction of Polynesian culture in Easter Island at
Best wishes.
Anand, Trivandrum

parijata said...

IMO, educating children is good, but not enough. It is the elders that pollute the environment, much, much more than the children.

In an article on India Today, Raj Chengappa gives a list things that we can do to save ourselves from early doom. I have this list on my blog. With some discipline, they are not too difficult to follow.

Anonymous said...

Shruthi, good post there!!!

Was commenting on your post but then realized it had gotten too long so decided to link it up as a post on my blog to this post of yours...... Hope you are doing well.. Take care.

Bijoy said...

Excellent post, kudoos to the designer as well. do keep up the good work, will be back for more.

Warm Regards

Biby Cletus :- Blog

Shruthi said...

Sangsta, :)). Beautifully put, Sangs.... and thanks so much for the link!

Silkboard, yes, it has to be explained in such a way that it shows how the individual is personally affected.

Usha, precisely! That is a very sad reality. That is where education comes in -- education with an emphasis on saving, when it comes to the urban educated.

Maverick, yes, this should all be a part of what is taught to the child.

Mikeachim, very true, and very well said. Thank you. I hope so too.

Arun, that's really cool. I appreciate your effort!

Nagraj, yes, one more thing that we have to tell the child.

Anand, thank you, and thanks for the link too!

Parijata, that's my whole point.
1) Today's child is tomorrow's adult.
2) Today's child will immediately educate today's adult.
And thanks for the link!

Sachin, thanks! Looking forward to read your views.

Biby Cletus, thank you!

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