We’re constantly inundated with information about global warming and environmental degradation, messages that preach conservation and preservation of resources and urge the adoption of a simpler, less consumerist and materialistic lifestyle.
The problem is that the information overload has rendered us resistant to persuasion, particularly when it involves inconvenient changes to the way we do things. It has also left us with a sense of helplessness in the face of changes – natural and economic – that as individuals we feel unable to do anything to stem. In September, several educationists, partners in the Wipro Applying Thought in Schools initiative, discussed how education could possibly respond to the crisis facing the planet. At one level, the problem seems too huge to be handled by teachers, not to mention students. But it is precisely because of this enormity that the problem requires all hands on deck – all people in their professional and personal capacities. If we believe that schools are the crucibles of social change, then they are, along with the home, key to achieving attitudinal and behavioural change in the long term. They are places where our sense of self and other, our sense of social engagement and responsibility, are reinforced, and in some cases even engendered. So clearly, education has a responsibility to respond to the environmental crisis.
The set of articles relating to this month’s cover theme speak to the issue in different ways; one lays out the problem and proposes a manner of arriving at a solution. Another describes how “ecological consciousness” can be built into children by the way things are done in school, while a third looks at how locally relevant materials can be created and applied to create a relationship between children and their environment. The idea, in the words of Alok Mathur from Rishi Valley School in Madanapalle, is to create an “ecological consciousness” among children, so that being environmentally sensitive becomes a part of our very being, so that we try – in some measure – to address the crisis that is no longer just a probability, but a reality.