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Environmental Education for Every Citizen

Dr. S. Ganesan
Regional Director, IGNOU
Environment is every body’s business. It has been observed that many individuals, who have the benefit of education and are actively engaged in their professionals are often have strong desire to educate themselves on environmental matters. They also want to play a significant role in environmental management. To facilitate them, a number of courses on environment are offered through regular university system and Open and Distance Learning System. For example IGNOU provides following environment education programmes:
Certificate in Environmental Studies:
 The programme is of use to general public, at every age and at all levels of formal and non-formal education. Professionals, ecologists, hydrologists, foresters, landscape architects, administrators and planners, engineers, industrialists, agriculturists, etc. will find this programme useful. The NGOs with their dissemination capabilities shall also find it useful.

Appreciation Course on Environment:
Environment is everybody’s business. It has been observed that many individuals, who have the benefit of education and are actively engaged in their professions, often have strong desire to educate themselves one environmental matter. They also want to play a significant role in environmental management of their neighborhood. Sometimes, due to misinformation or availability of excessive information on a subject, these individuals despite their enlightened background, are not in a position to appreciate significant environmental issues. They are also sometimes misled by adverse propaganda. Owing to these reasons, the Appreciation course on Environment has been developed by the university in collaboration with Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India, as a non-credit awareness course.

Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental and Occupational Health
The Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental and Occupational Health (PGDEOH) focuses on assessing the public health risks associated with biological, chemical, physical, biomechanical and psychosocial hazards in natural and built environments. Environmental health specialists focus on the effect of environmental pollution on the health of human beings. The human health is a reflection of socio-economic and physical environment. The main link between the workplace and the general environment is that the source of the hazard is usually the same, whether it is an agriculture activity or an industrial activity. The programme aims at various concepts related to general environment, environment at the work place, related hazards and evaluation of health risk assessment by providing solutions to various aspects of environmental health occupational hazard management, epidemiology, health policy and management, and environmental health promotion. The successful learners will be able to work with health practitioners, researchers and policy makers to develop, evaluate and monitor health policies, programmes and practices related to health environments.

Post Graduate Diploma in Environment and Sustainable Development
Post Graduate Diploma in Environment and Sustainable Development has been developed by the School of Science, IGNOU in collaboration with the South Asia Foundation Learning Initiative and other Open Universities of the SAARC region, namely, Open University of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh Open University, Allama Iqbal Open University, Pakistan, B.R. Ambedkar Open university, Hyderabad and BRAC University, Bangladesh.

 The objectives of environment education are:
·         Create environmental consciousness among professionals, academicians and other members of society who can play an active part in opinion making within the society so that corrective environmental action could be encouraged;
·         Facilitate development of environmental leadership among individuals who may organize/participate in environment upgradation programmes.
·         Disseminate information and exchange knowledge and experiences gained in the pursuit of the goal of sustainable development.
·         Strengthen regional co-operation in environmental capacity building especially in the area of environmental management.
·         Educate and train individuals from different walks of life, viz, development functionaries, government, officials, journalists, policy makers, farmers, industries, grassroots workers, environmentalists who have a stake in protecting the environment as well as ensuring a better quality of life for the people of their countries.
·         Disseminate information on national and international  environmental issues;

Target populations for Environmental Education are:
·         Development functionaries
·         Government officials
·         Journalists
·         Policy makers
·         Farmers/agriculturists
·         Industrialists
·         Grassroots workers
·         Environmentalists
·         Ecologists
·         Hydrologists
·         Foresters
·         Landscape architects
·         Administrators and Planners
·         Engineers

We live on earth in different types of surroundings. This surrounding is our environment. We eat, breathe, clothe ourselves, reproduce and then die. The next generation comes and the cycle goes on; and the human race flourishes one earth. The physical environment on the earth provides favorable conditions for the existence and growth of different life forms, including man. These living beings constitute the biological environment. Both the physical and biological environments are in a close interaction with each other and form a stable self perpetuating system. In prehistoric days man lived in harmony with nature; but in the course of his evolution, man has developed a new type of environment, the man made environment. Man is a social animal; the socio-cultural environment also plays an important role in his life.

Each and every living organism has specific surroundings or medium with which it continuously interacts and to which it is fully adapted. This surrounding is the ‘natural environment’. The word ‘natural environment’ brings to mind broad aspects of landscape such as soil, water, desert or mountains which can be more exactly described in terms of physical influences such as differences in moisture. Temperature, textures of soil and biological influences. Thus, environment is the sum total of living and non -living components; influences and events surrounding an organism. Living components are called ‘biotic’ components while non-living are called ‘abiotic’ components.
No organism can live alone without interacting with other organisms so each has other organisms as a necessary part of its environment. We know that all animals are directly or indirectly dependent upon green plants. However, plants also depend on animals for a few things such as pollination of flowers and dispersal of seeds or fruits.
Insufficient Public Awareness and its reasons
Public awareness can play a vital role in environmental management. Damage to environment is caused by the activities of individuals who are not conscious and who do not have adequate knowledge of the environment. For example, when we cut forests on a large scale to get timber and fuel wood or clear land for agriculture, we damage the environment. Similarly, when we through liquid or solid wastes into ponds, rivers, lakes or oceans. We damage the aquatic environment. When pollutants in large quantities are allowed to enter the atmosphere, it leads to air pollution. We learnt that unscientific agricultural practices and unplanned industrial processes and even grazing of pastures can damage the environment. There is no doubt that agriculture is essential, grazing of animals is unavoidable, forests have to be harvested for their produce, industries and thermal power plants have to be set up, dams have to be built and automobiles have to run for transporting people and goods. We cannot do away with these. However, we can certainly do these things in a scientific and planned manner so that the balance of the ecosystem does not get disturbed. Every natural system has a limited capacity to absorb shocks. If these shocks exceed the limit, repair becomes difficult.
 For example, if we harvest mature trees from a forest and leave the young one’s to grow, the forest will continue to grow and provide timber and fuel continuously. Similarly, if a water body receives biodegradable wastes in a controlled way, which means that it does not contain toxic chemicals, the water body can take care of the wastes without undergoing drastic changes. However, if the same water body is used for dumping all kinds of wastes in unlimited quantities, the water body will become polluted, resulting in damage and death of the aquatic life in it. If the pastures are used for grazing of animals in a scientific manner, the pasture can remain useful indefinitely. However, if the pasture is overgrazed, greenery will soon vanish. Wind and water erosion will take away the fertile soil and the area will be rendered barren.
Thus we can use our natural resources and environment in two possible ways. The one, where the environment is not endangered and we get the benefits indefinitely. The other alternative is to use the resources and environment, in an unscrupulous manner. In the latter case, we may get more benefits for some time, no doubt, but in the long run we will be the losers. Obviously, every wise person would like to go for the first alternative. However, many a time people adopt the second alternative due to ignorance and lack of information. For example, if a herdsman is told of the consequences of overgrazing, he would never like to go for it. Similarly, if a person living in a forest is explained about the ill-effects of over-exploitation of forests, he would like to desist from it. Therefore, the important point is to make people aware of these things. Hence, environmental awareness becomes imperative.
(The author is Regional Director of IGNOU, Regional Centre, Port Blair and can be reached at (M-8900936718)


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