Friday, September 28, 2012

Environmental Education for Sustainable Life

Environmental Education for Sustainable Life – Challenge in India –

On resources and consumption, it is said that "the Earth needs 1.5 years to produce and replenish the natural resources that we consume in a single year"(*1). When we talk about changing our lifestyle towards sustainable development, it is inevitable to talk about education. This month, Ms. Shefali Atrey from the Centre for Environment Education, India shares insights and lessons from working with children and youth in formal education set up in India, with the aim to develop sensitivity towards their immediate environment, and enable them to understand and adopt sustainable lifestyle.
Shefali Atrey
Shefali Atrey
Programme Officer, Geographical Information System (GIS) Cell and Networking and Capacity Building Centre for Environment Education (CEE), India

Background in Geography and Geoinformatics, with a keen interest in working with young learners and in exploring the use of ICT (Information Communication Technology) for enhancing the quality of education in schools. Works with youth in educational and vocational training institutes, as an environmental education facilitator. Involved in a variety of in-service training programmes which aim to train and capacity build professionals working with formal education sector in promoting ESD and provide them opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences.
Related Link:
Centre for Environment Education (CEE)

September 2012

Environmental Education
for Sustainable Life
- Challenges in India -

Shefali Atrey
Programme Officer,
Geographical Information System (GIS) Cell and Networking and Capacity Building, Centre for Environment Education (CEE), India 

Introduction: Need for Low Carbon Lifestyle

Unsustainable lifestyle and energy consumption have adverse impact on the environment. Also they increase the pressure on limited and diminishing resources like coal, oil, natural gas etc. and adversely impact on the environment through high carbon emission during this process.

In order to meet the high energy demand, countries have switched over to other choices like nuclear energy. But, cases such as the Chernobyl disaster in the former USSR or the most recent case of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Northern Japan have generated a worldwide debate on safety of these technologies.

Therefore, with focus on sustainable development, the world today is recognising the need for adopting low-carbon lifestyles. Low-carbon lifestyles and (economic) development need to be seen as complimentary to each other. Further, since the development process is driven by individuals, it is the social and environmental responsibility of every individual to take sustainable actions for a better planet and future.

Low Carbon Education in India

--When you target ordinary people to educate them about low-carbon society or energy saving in India, what would be the keys to enlighten them? 

Students talking to people
Students talking to people
about making energy
efficient choices
Brimming with energy and full of innovative ideas, we consider children and youth as change agents for society. This is the age group which is most receptive towards the changes happening around them. Given that they are the torch-bearers of tomorrow, it is important that they are capacity-built to reach out to the larger community with the message of sustainability and the need for adopting low-carbon lifestyles.

With environmental education being incorporated at various levels of teaching-learning, CEE’s educational programmes with school children and college students were built upon the following common features:

  • Ensure connections to immediate environment
  • Ensure connections to their ‘curriculum/classrooms’
  • Help the young citizens understand environment and development concerns in a manner that they are able to connect with these - say, working on shoe/electronic brands etc. and their environment rating;
  • Support them in analysing their individual lifestyle, choices and behaviour;
  • Reveal to them how small changes in their habits and lifestyle can help the world become more sustainable;
  • Provide them with the necessary skills to take positive action for the environment - at home, in their own ways, or even in schools and colleges.
  • Facilitate actions by making the school/college system more supportive of such acts
Skills of critical thinking, problem solving and group work were given importance as well.

However, the approach to reach out to the target audience varied from institution to institution, giving importance to the local geographical and social context, understanding and experience of the learner group, scope of curricular or co-curricular learning opportunity for EE etc. These considerations helped us in understanding our learners better and designing effective strategies in order to enable them to reach out to the local community, calling for locale-specific sustainable actions.

In three years, the mentioned CEE Programmes directly reached out to
  • Over 700 youths in colleges and vocational training institute
  • About 1150 children in schools
Children and youth who became messengers of sustainability, reached out to other students and community
  • Over 1000 students
  • Over 6000 people from local community

From Knowledge to Action

--In Japan, many people understand that we have to save energy and live a low -  carbon life.  There is a wall (obstacles) between “to understand” and “to act”. How do you make people understand and act with regards to a low-carbon life?

Students sharing best practices
for establishing sustainable 
waste management system 
in their college
Students sharing best practices
for establishing sustainable
waste management system
in their college
Experiential learning based on real life is the best way to initiate an action with children and youth groups. A concept or practice is better received and accepted by learners when they get an opportunity for hands-on experience leading them to construct their own learning. For taking an informed action, knowledge building is an equally important process. Knowledge acquisition is a cognitive process which involves perception and learning through theory and practice. However, to develop an association towards adopting a sustainable low-carbon lifestyle, it was significant to enhance learners’ experience and help them transform their knowledge into practice. This was a significant step, as it moved from learner’s cognitive domain to affective domain, leading to attitude and behavioural changes. Any action initiated by a learner through this process, would be effective and sustained, as the learner has identified the relevance and importance of the action for her/himself. This process of constructing learning and taking informed action can be summarised through a 5-step ladder, which is as follows.


What is your slogan?

---Finally, how do you describe activities of CEE in one word?

With CEE being an institution which believes in bringing positive impacts for the natural, socio-cultural and economic environment, and promoting the cause of sustainable living, through effective environmental education, our motto is:

Reduce your "Footprint" and increase the "Handprint" - Action Towards Sustainability!

--Thank you very much.

< Centre for Environment Education (CEE) >

The Centre for Environment Education (CEE) is a national institution in India, engaged in developing programmes and materials to increase awareness about the environment and sustainable development. CEE is a Centre of Excellence for Environmental Education, supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, and is committed to ensuring that due recognition is given to the role of Environmental Education in the promotion of Sustainable Development. To meet this end, CEE develops innovative programmes and educational material, and builds capacity in the field of education and communication for sustainable development. It undertakes demonstration projects in education, communication and development that endorse attitudes, strategies and technologies that are environmentally sustainable

*1:Living Planet Report 2012 from WWF