Kids Speak: Ensuring a Sustainable Future for Us All
This post was contributed by Taanika Shankar, a grade 12 student at Sri Kumaran’s School, Bangalore, associated with KER Partner, Reap Benefit.
I’ve always wanted to save the earth; but this was always something I thought I would do when I “grew up”. But when I was in 8th std, some of my seniors organised a Swachh Bharat clean-up session of the area around our school and I took part in it. Towards the end of it, I was recognised as one of the major contributors to the success of the event, and to make it sound cliché, that really opened my eyes – I realised that I didn’t have to “grow up” to help have a positive impact on this world. Since then, it’s been a journey of helping in any sort of way I can, by volunteering with different organisations, conducting campaigns and so on.
I often wonder how many more people there are like me; how many other students like me are waiting to “grow up” to save the earth and just do their bit. The world needs more people who can and will take action and it’s missing out on the age category that can contribute quite a lot; all by just not giving the youth that mind opener that I had.
So, here’s what I think would be a great solution –
Students should really be exposed to the idea of sustainability from early on. Not everyone has an aha-moment when they’re 35 that makes them realise how much damage they’ve done to the Earth. And not everyone is a part of this dialogue, but every one of us will benefit from increased efforts in sustainability. School textbooks all have a chapter on resource management which I, myself as a student learnt for my exam and subsequently forgot. Our syllabus should have a more interactive and more hands-on approach to teaching sustainability. Our textbooks speak, somewhat superficially of the value of sustainable acts, but how many of us turn off the taps when not in use? Or carpool to reduce emissions of harmful gases? Or even deposit their garbage in bins, let alone recycle their waste? So how can our curriculum be designed in a way that pushes us to actually adopt these measures? Recently, I conducted flow-rate tests to find out exactly how much water I waste (a project I did as a part of the Reap Benefit program conducted at my school) and learned how to use public transport (notice how I specify “how”, instead of merely stating the suggestion) by using the public bus and metro systems whenever I go out to reduce by carbon footprint. These are all measures that our textbooks can detail and our syllabi can cover.
As I touched upon earlier, this issue and the dialogue surrounding it is something that affects all of us. Therefore, every field of study could adopt sustainable practices, in small and big ways. Architecture students could learn how to design sustainable buildings, law students could mandatorily take up environmental cases, economics students could specialise in sustainable development and so on. There is always some way to contribute to a better world, and students should essentially be trained to understand and live by that.
A friend of mine once said to me, “almost every generation has lived through something historic except ours”, and my response to her was that our generation gets to be part of the time period when you can often feel the winds of change and the excitement in the air, the excitement of something positive starting to brew! And that’s true for everything. Our education system is moving slightly towards inculcating sustainability into its curriculum – the first graders in my school grew saplings on a patch of land last year, there are so many amazing competitions that are making school students really think (like, Green Hackathons and science fairs), and as a student who wants to study sustainable development after 12th std, my range of choices for further study truly excite me. Education is the single biggest tool that can change the future of our society and is a tool that definitely should be sharpened!