The Environmental Education Imperative
June 2, 2021
Knowledge is the backbone of environmental progress – Low Entropy Volunteer Writer Elizabeth Atkinson writes on the importance of equipping yourself with information about the environmental impacts connected to your everyday life.
Environmental education is important at all ages and levels of education, as knowledge is key in making people aware of the current degradation of the environment. Education is a vehicle for change and protection of the environment. It is important that there is awareness of the current state of the environment and what needs to be done on an individual and global scale to ensure a future for the planet. There are many steps that can be taken to ensure that you are doing your part in preserving the environment, such as not engaging in fast fashion, using less plastic, recycling properly, etc. However, if the world’s top companies do not work on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, plastic outputs, etc., change on an individual level may be futile. This is not to absolve individuals of responsibility. Individual change is great, but there needs to be pressure on larger companies that are guilty of putting profits above sustainability to change their practices to ensure a future for planet Earth as we
Environmental education is not all doom and gloom. Some of the key elements of proper environmental education include participation, awareness, skills and knowledge. Environmental education provides tools for decision-making but does not force certain beliefs or actions on people. These critical thinking skills are integral, starting at a young age. Environmental education is an opportunity for younger students to explore nature and discover how humans and nature can coexist. This can be done by having school lessons outside in nature, or having lessons in the classroom about nature and the importance of preserving it.
Education is power and a tool in changing the dynamic of feeling helpless at the hands of larger corporations that are guilty of using and abusing resources at an unsustainable rate. Those who are educated have a responsibility to spread knowledge and information to increase awareness. For example, well-known household brands such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Danone, Colgate, Palmolive and more are some of the world’s heaviest producers in throwaway plastic. Once plastics are produced, it is important for consumers to properly dispose of them. This is one example of how large companies and individuals both need to take action in order to reduce plastics clogging up our natural environments.
Another example of how companies and individuals both need to take responsibility for their actions is fast fashion. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Fast fashion refers to large-scale production of inexpensive clothing, creating quick turnover from people constantly buying new clothes. This occurs for two main reasons. The first reason is that clothes end up “out of style” so quickly that companies are able to continue selling at a fast pace to keep up with shifting trends. Another speculated reason is that the quality of clothing has become less likely to hold up over time. There are some alarming statistics surrounding fast fashion: the world produces 400% more clothing than 20 years ago, 80 billion garments are produced every year and, on average, clothes are worn seven times before being tossed aside. In order to combat fast fashion, educating others on the issue is key. Everyone needs clothes, so the damage to the environment at the hands of fashion is often overlooked. Other things you can do to combat the short cycle life of clothing include thrift shopping, repairing items and buying quality natural fibers that are low in water consumption, such as recycled or semi-synthetic fibers.
There are incentives for saving the planet other than protecting the environment so that generations to come can live comfortably. The economy would actually benefit from having a strengthened environment. One example of this is the food industry. Food crops benefit from nature through pollination from animals or insects, as well as sunlight and water. Food is something we all need to survive, but crops are also a multi-billion dollar economic value to the economy. As the crops yields suffer due to pollinators being negatively impacted by the ever-changing environment, the environment will struggle in response.
There are many human comforts that can benefit from having a strengthened environment. Nutrition, health and the economy will all flourish if the environment is better maintained. In order to create the changes necessary for the environment to thrive, it is important to become educated on the issues that the environment is facing daily. You are never too young or too old to start the education process to better understand the world’s current struggles. Environmental education does not dictate how a person should behave, but instead arms people with information to make the best choices for themselves and the environment moving forward.
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