There has been a lot of talk about investing in a “green economy” with more renewables, reduced motorised transport or travel, and more working from home. The green economy, as promising as it could be to tackle climate change, may leave the discourse on development untouched. If we want long-lasting and transformational changes to connect sustainably with the web of life, we have to think about how we educate ourselves.
Redefining education –
- We must recognise the interconnectedness of the natural world with our everyday lives, and with the well-being of the planet. To accomplish that, education in history, geography, economics, biology and chemistry, for example, would have to be very different. Instead of presenting each discipline as distinct and separate, we ought to integrate their domains with the natural world.
- History is set in periods divided by wars and victors, but should include ecological changes to the landscape in a region as part of the lesson. Just as there was a movement in history to include narratives of the subaltern, we need integration with ecological connections and changes.
- Biology and chemistry need not begin with the periodic table, reactions and cells, but start by framing the organism and cells as located within a milieu where materials, energy and information are exchanged. Chemistry could begin with cycles such as the nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, and water cycles, which link together the biosphere, rocks and minerals.
Small beginnings –
- In Unruly Waters, historian Sunil Amrith describes the subcontinent’s history by looking at the rain, rivers and coasts. He writes how water was studied, managed and divided as a result of human activity through political and economic development.
- In Indica, Pranay Lal teaches geology and natural history simultaneously. Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement is about imperialism and its role in climate change.
- The economic historian, Prasannan Parthasarathi, is preparing new materials to teach modern history incorporating ecological changes, and novelists and poets are beginning to integrate the Anthropocene in their writing.
- The Gaia hypothesis put forth by James Lovelock is an ecological theory proposing that living creatures and the physical world are in a complex interacting system that maintains equilibrium.
Way forward –
- Such new learning would set the grounds for understanding climate change from rising anthropogenic greenhouse gases. There has been a small movement to include the anthropogenic changes we have wrought on the earth into fields of inquiry such as literature, culture studies and history. Still, this inclusive thinking is not mainstream. Curriculum developers will have to restructure and rebuild materials used to impart knowledge.
- This type of teaching and learning introduces a holism where there is reductionism, and the foundation would be the linkages across human and non-human entities.
Unchecked rapaciousness has been unleashed by policies that support “growth at any cost”. It will ultimately fail since all goods used in any economy arise from the natural world. Our educational system needs to lay down the bricks for this understanding.
Source – The Hindu
QUESTION – It is being argued that our education system needs a complete overhaul to accommodate an integrated ‘green curriculum’. What does it mean and how can we achieve the same?