FEW WOULD argue that the biggest challenge facing the global community at present is the issue of climate change. We ignored the scientific warnings over the past three decades to our own detriment.
The greenhouse gas-emissions targets adopted in the 2016 Paris Agreement have been proven to be inadequate and thus new and revised emission targets are revealing the severity of the problem.
The scientific community has sent out a distress call for the global community to take urgent drastic action now. It does not matter the size of the country nor its wealth status; all citizens have to play their part to tackle this challenge that is threatening the very existence of humanity like never before.
While there is need for political decisions to be taken by politicians the world over to address the issue, the biggest challenge to reducing the level of carbon dioxide emissions is changing a culture of obscene consumption. The rate at which the world is consuming resources is unsustainable.
From the dependence on fossil fuels to enable cheap energy for the manufacture of readily affordable consumables to the disposal of waste products such as plastics, the world has become accustomed to consuming resources like never before without any regard for the impact on the environment and our very own well-being.
Changing culture and entrenched behaviours are not easy. While laws can be enacted, education is the only way in which meaningful changes can be brought about.
While it is laudable that our government has recognised that as a small island nation which is more vulnerable to the effects of global warming, our small size does not negate the need for us to also do our part.
To this end there are some small steps that are being taken from a national policy perspective to reduce our overall rate of carbon dioxide emissions. However, this is only the beginning. A lot more must be done and urgently so. The national policy framework on climate change must be more encompassing, with the consequential accompanying legislative framework.
Over the past four decades, we have become a wasteful society, thanks to the availability of cheap energy. This along with the absence of a long-term national sustainable development plan resulted in us becoming one of the highest emitters of carbon dioxide on a per capita basis.
From our driving habits to the consumption of manufactured products, the impact on the environment has not factored into our lifestyles. This must change through a sustained and targeted programme of environmental education, both formally and informally. Messages of conservation, recycling and sustainable use of the world’s resources must bombard people everywhere.
Toddlers to senior citizens, we must all do our part to change the way we consume the world’s resources to ensure that future generations are not deprived of their right to live in a world that will sustain a decent quality of life. Environmental debts cannot be repaid easily.
Schools and teachers at all levels must play a more significant role in educating children about the need to change consumption patterns. Civic responsibility and respect for the environment must be targeted learning outcomes for students at all levels of the school system.
Quizzes and essay competitions hosted by non-governmental organisations on a sporadic basis does not filter down to the general student body. While these are good to promote awareness, we need to go beyond awareness to ownership of responsibility on the part of all to combat this problem.
Environmental education must be the urgent remit of all teachers at all levels. While there is need to place greater emphasis on the issue in the formal curriculum, there is room for existing curricula to be adapted to emphasise the issue. Some prompting by the authorities would go a long way in this regard.
Along with the announced measures to eliminate the use of polystyrene products, promote the use of energy-saving light bulbs and encourage the use of hybrid vehicles as outcomes of a policy position by the State, a golden opportunity is presented to also embark on a targeted programme of education.
Despite the rise in the numbers of severe hurricanes, melting ice caps due to rising global average temperatures and wildfires burning uncontrollably the world over at any given time of the year, there is still a significant level of apathy and indifference on the part of citizens to adjust lifestyles. Leadership must spearhead the drastic change process. Education is not an option here; it’s an imperative.