By: Toshaunaé Norris
In sixth-form Biology, I learned about the importance of ecosystems, conservation, and maintaining biodiversity under the umbrella topic of “ecology.” During these lessons, we discussed real-life environmental issues in our country, like conerns with mining in the Dry Harbour Mountains.This is an area that I had driven by frequently on my way to school. I remember, seeing the carved-out piece of land that once housed a canopy of trees and no doubt, a beautiful ecosystem. Learning about these things sparked an interest in environmental protection and made me more aware and cognizant of our behaviors and actions as humans that impact our environment. If learning about the environment can have such an impact on my own attitudes toward the environment, I don’t doubt that there are many more like me, whose environmental perceptions have been impacted through environmental education.
Environmental education is important to addressing the environmental problems in Jamaica. It is a significant part of ensuring a sustainable future. An important aspect of learning about the environment, is learning about climate change and its impact on our lives. By participating in climate education programs, citizens can learn ways to incorporate climate smart actions into their daily choices. For example, where possible, upcycling furniture, saving water, or using renewable energy are all small acts that can further support our transition to a low-carbon economy and thus helping to address climate change. On the other side of this coin, many people are unaware of the dangers of littering nearby bushes, sidewalks, or gullies. These actions, coupled with other poor environmental actions, contribute to the degradation of our island, particularly evident in increases in flooding and drought, poor air quality, water scarcity, land erosion, and deforestation. For these reasons, early participation in environmental education is keyto mitigating environmental degradation in Jamaica.
Climate education should be included in the core curriculum for primary education in Jamaican schools. Children not only absorb this information more readily, but they are also altruistic and ready to help. Then they go home and share what they have learned and even speak out when they see these actions taking place in front of them (Gorlick, 2008). Children at the early childhood and primary level should be able to learn standard environmental tips such as caring for animals, planting seeds, turning off lights when not in use, the effects of littering, and basic climate-related concepts.
By helping our youth develop sustainable habits early, we are fostering positive attitudes/attributes towards a more sustainable Jamaica for future generations. The more complex topics can be discussed in secondary level curriculums, especially in non-scientific areas. As these issues affect everyone – not just scientists. Cross-disciplinary topics help to concretize knowledge and address the intersectionality of these issues for example the impact that it has on society, our lives and livelihood. Environmental issues such as ocean acidification, the impact of industrial waste, as well as the protection of endangered species and natural habitats in our country can all be addressed by teachers and parents. Even more, teens should be encouraged to use their talents and personal strengths to communicate climate change, such as through spoken word poetry, dub poetry, songs, designing campaign posters, making and editing videos, and doing public forums on environmental issues in Jamaica.
A cross-curricular approach is also important when discussing the environmental crisis in subjects where it can be addressed or develope specific courses or course modules that target these issues at the secondary level. Course such as Environmental Justice, Environmental Law and Environmental Sociology, Regenerative Approaches and Sustainable Entrepreneurship in Business classes, and the Introduction of Green Technologies in Computer Science and Industrial Technology.
Environmental degradation needs to be addressed outside of our classrooms also. Clubs and societies play a huge part in a student’s developmental education of which environmental education plays a huge part (NEPA, n.d). Then there are the actual physical spaces around the school themselves. In our school cafeterias, incorporating plant-based menu items can highlight the economic and environmental-friendly importance of schools creating allotments to locally produce their food, learning from early on to eat what you grow not to mention schools can rear chickens, pigs, goats etc sustainably to augment their lunch programs. Incorporating green study spaces into schools can help students connect with and appreciate nature more while having a positive impact on their study practices. Additionally, school should encourage students to recycle or reuse their uniforms, even creating programs for the purchasing of second-hand uniforms that create a culture of reusing, sharing resources and minimizing environmental and financial impacts without shame or class issues.
All of these acts can fundamentally contribute to a sustainable future for Jamaica. Jamaican schools can become environmentally and sustainably conscious, creating a well-rounded curriculum that empowers students to become future climate leaders. However, this requires the collective action of every Jamaican citizen.