Climate education helps people understand and address the impacts of global warming, encourages behavior change, helps in adaptation to climate change-related trends, and increases the adaptation and mitigation capacities of communities.
On World Earth Day, hundreds of millions of people globally united in a call for urgent action on the restoration of the planet after decades of rampant degradation. This annual event recognizes the Earth as our home and the need to protect it for humanity’s survival.
This year’s theme, “Restore our Earth” was a rallying call to all to restore the planet’s ecosystems amid a devastating pandemic that has sent a clear message- a healthy planet is not an option; it is a necessity. Humanity is re-learning a critical lesson we have long ignored: we do not exist separately from the natural environment but as an interconnected system.
Indeed, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) postulates that the worldwide health pandemic has been linked to the health of our ecosystem. According to scientists, COVID-19 is likely to have originated from a bat before crossing over to humans due to the ongoing destruction and encroachment of natural habitats. Consequently, this has increased human-wildlife interactions and the crossover of diseases from one species to another.
It is clear as day that for as long as human activities such as industrialization, pollution, deforestation, and overexploitation of natural resources go on, we will continue to grapple with such health-related consequences of an unhealthy planet. Moreover, global warming and climate change will continue to cause extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, and famine.
Therefore, the call to take urgent action to restore our earth is not one to be taken lightly, and there are several ways each of us can play a part both at an individual and institutional level. We can take personal responsibility to reduce the amount of waste we return to the environment and participate in activities such as waste collection and tree planting. As manufacturers, we must embrace sustainable manufacturing technologies in our operations such as sustainable design, resource and energy efficiency, and sound waste management.
Nevertheless, we must recognize that an essential element for the success of any of these is education. To enable both citizens and institutions to become environmental stewards, there is a dire need to empower them with knowledge on climate change, environmental conservation, and restoration. Indeed, a study conducted in China in 2011 found that education plays a key role in improving people’s environmental knowledge and promoting the realization of their responsibility for the environment.
Climate education helps people understand and address the impacts of global warming, encourages behavior change, helps in adaptation to climate change-related trends, and increases the adaptation and mitigation capacities of communities. In Nairobi for example, a youth group in Dandora that is restoring former dumpsite areas into green spaces and teaching community members on the importance of environmental restoration has created an environmentally responsible community.
According to experts, climate and environmental education coupled with civic education will help raise a new generation of individuals equipped with the ability to make better sustainable consumer choices and the skills needed for jobs in a circular economy. Additionally, it will lead to job creation, boost the economy, increase innovation, and creation of environmentally friendly goods and services.
Plastiki Rafiki, for example, a student-led club at the International School of Kenya is recycling discarded plastic through creative manufacturing techniques and product design to make innovative products and empower local communities to earn a living. Therefore, there is a need to accord climate and environmental literacy the same importance as any core subject like mathematics or science.
Indeed, countries that have high environmental awareness levels such as Germany are also the most sustainable ones. Kenya, in contrast, is characterized by relatively low awareness levels and an education system that places little emphasis on environmental education. This in turn breeds adults who have little appreciation for the benefits the natural environment offers. Unfortunately, environmental and climate education is presently a privilege for students in select schools.
At the Kenya Extended Producer Responsibility Organization (KEPRO), we believe that it is crucial that we empower every Kenyan with the right education to successfully restore our environment. Our goal, therefore, is to drive consumer education and public awareness in Kenya on the environment, sustainable waste management practices, recycling, and the circular economy. Given both the ever-increasing risks and numerous opportunities to create a better environment for current and future generations, building a climate-literate population is key.
We call upon the government to incorporate quality climate education as a core subject in our school curriculum to ensure that every child is educated on the climate crisis and organizations prioritize climate education in their sustainability agenda. We must all act together to prepare learners and all members of societies for the challenges climate change poses and equip them with the knowledge and competencies needed to act as informed citizens in the restoration of our planet.
KEPRO Board Member