DEVELOPING AN ECOLOGICAL CONSCIOUSNESS

“Charity begins at home” is a popular English idiom which basically means that one should take care of those immediate to them first. As nature dictates, family usually is our most immediate “home” however what people often forget is that their surroundings makes for a home too.

A home creates a feeling of oneness which oneness resonates with man’s surroundings. Man’s surrounding includes, besides just his house and compound/yard, his environment for example nature and natural resources that surround him like the soil, the air, lakes, forests and wetlands to mention but a few. This relationship creates an interconnectedness between a human being and the earth and it is this connection that is a foundation for ecological consciousness.

Over time though, humans have evolved into more complex and self-asserting beings, they have lost touch with nature. It is on these grounds that the need to teach “environmental education” arose and no wonder this education generally comes off as one of the most boring subjects, not just to young people, but even to adults who should know better. This does not come as a surprise but it does mean that teaching it becomes ineffective as generally there is no interest in the subject. It then becomes a sort of paradox because the earth being the only planet that is known to sustain human life today, how is it possible that humans do not care much what becomes of it?

I would argue that maybe not enough environmental education is going around however for quite a number of decades now, a large number of people all over the world have received an environmental education either in class, at an awareness campaign, at a community project or through media. This means that plenty of people are in the least aware that it is important to protect the environment. However the disconnect today between human beings and nature is ever so profound that very little regard is given to nature by most.

What then is wrong with the current environmental education system or what can we do to cause it to be more effective in order to better protect the environment?

I believe that one of the best things we can do is to teach people to fall in love with the environment. In fact, to make anyone effectively do anything, one must be made to fall in love with that particular thing. Making humans fall in love with the earth, like John Caddy of Morning Earth intimates; means that humans must be taught to develop a tender affection in which thought and emotion harmonize. Our feelings should reinforce and balance out those of the environment. Human beings should therefore be taught to identify with nature and connect on a personal level.

To achieve this, human activities towards the earth should stop being addressed in the negative (problem centered), for instance today, so many “don’ts” are dictated on people and not surprisingly, almost no positive aspects seem to follow the don’ts. This naturally biases people and causes them to feel like too much is required of them. In fact, people nowadays will destroy nature at whatever cost to satisfy their selfish whims.

Therefore more than prioritizing the problems, emphasis should be on the beautiful aspects of the environment more than anything else thus warming up people’s hearts towards that beauty and creating an appreciation and sense of pride for nature.

People should be taught from childhood that they are one with nature; like in the ancient times, nature was central to the very being of humanity. Today, the reverse is true. Young people are clad to their gadgets like that is second nature without which they cannot do without. How then do you get them to protect something they know so much about theoretically but don’t care for? They hear of it in classrooms, but that is it. Environmental education becomes like a process they have to go through and then move on to the next chapter of life which means no connection was ever created.

I think that young people must be engaged. They must be given the freedom to explore nature and learn for themselves, find answers and connect with the earth in their own different ways. Of course they must be guided but personal interaction will teach them raw firsthand experience that will lead them to appreciate nature on an individual basis. The experience should be fun and dynamic touching and causing them to experience vast topics or sides of nature. Like anything else, it will take time. Some children will catch on faster than others but most notably, personal experiences stick more than other people’s experiences. This kind of education is important for the not just the young people today but humans in general because it sets a foundation for the future.

Indeed, effective environmental education and awareness is important because;

  • It connects human beings to the world that surrounds them
  • It develops a discipline amongst individuals and communities
  • It creates an abundant imagination and heightened enthusiasm for life
  • It fosters sensitivity, a sense of appreciation and responsibility towards the environment. People become conscious of how their actions and decisions affect the earth.
  • It interconnects social, cultural, economic, political and ecological aspects of life and generally people naturally learn to relate all aspects of life to the earth
  • It improves health; attention span for example people who generally care for the environment are keen observers. It also reduces stress and depression
  • It empowers people not just to commit but to be able to voice their environmental concerns should need arise.
  • Last but not least, it promotes a sense of belonging. It teaches people to identify with the earth.

In effect, man would enjoy a much longed for reunion with the earth from which his current lifestyle imposed a divorce perhaps due to overpopulation and eventual urban setting. All the same, man needs to realize that the environment needs constant love and nourishment. It needs to be nurtured not just so that it can sustain man but because it has for a long time, over generations, sustained man. The consciousness should awaken a desire in man to be grateful and therefore naturally yearn to give back rather take away from that which has sustained him over millennia.

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