Man’s Alienation from Nature– Fostered by the Education System?

In Haryana, about 60000 acres of the Aravali forests are now open to real estate, mining and other human activities, only because of the amendment done to the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) on 27th February 2019. There is a tendency to view all development as purely fiscal. The presence of flora in the neighborhood is seen as leading to a complete wastage of land. It is believed that the development of Haryana can only happen if this land is used to build roads, flyovers or if the land is utilized for ventures that either bring revenue or make more space for vehicles. This kind of scientific reductionism ignores all incalculable benefits which tree-cover and open spaces bring about in the city. Viewing nature purely in terms of a resource is a mindset plagued by capitalism. However, sadly, this is how the present generation is being brought up—mentally and physically alienated from nature.

A change in one’s mindset is the need of the hour, so that nature is not viewed as a resource. When it comes to having beautiful garden spaces around their residence, people want them. They want to cherish the greenery when they take a trip to the hill station, but when it comes to choosing a lane of trees or an empty space for parking they prefer cutting down those trees for the commercial purpose. In Gurugram (Haryana), a lot of ‘development’ took place as part of the initiative by the state government. However, this development actually took place at the cost of laying down hundreds of trees last year to form an extra lane in order to combat the traffic issue in Gurugram.

Why is it that the environmental concerns are merely verbal snobberies to showcase one’s environmental awareness? Why does the issue of ‘sustainability’ come up in the debates taken up by people but doesn’t get implemented in the projects taken up by the entrepreneurs?

It is important to understand that the alienation from nature starts early during the childhood. The only emphasis laid down by the education system in India is towards human needs, wants and ambitions. Interventions to undo the process of alienation from nature have to begin with the education system itself which currently posits many problems. Obviously, merely carrying out environmental campaigns are not enough. Here are some practical suggestions to reverse the damage that has already been done to humans through the education system.

All educational boards should revise the books or the course every year. They should include a paragraph at the end of every chapter called the ‘Cost to Nature’ (CTN). This paragraph can be included in chapters on metallurgy, radioactivity, electrochemistry, as well as in chapters on elections, agriculture, climate, etc. It will basically entail the ideas of ruthless killing of trees, ruthless destruction of nature to generate wealth-producing industries. For instance, if there is a chapter on elections, then one can talk about the impact of utilizing fuel, paper, travel, etc. during elections on nature. For this issue to be taken seriously, this portion of the chapter should undeniably be included in the syllabus for the exams. The idea is to make the child introspect about the human activities that are having a grave impact on nature.

When it comes to career counseling done in schools, there is absolutely no mention of careers in farming, animal rearing etc., and even worse is the fact that if anybody wants to pursue a career in these fields, he/she is looked down upon. Also, have you ever noticed that these careers are always mentioned under ‘entrepreneurial’ category, wherein students are forced to see them as wealth generating careers? The truth, however is that, unless one sits to milk a cow or unless one grows a vegetable patch, one never gets to know how much nature actually bleeds to give us a litre of milk or a quintal of potatoes. Only then, we come to realize where we have to stop.

Also, a method for kids to literally get their hands “dirty” must be evolved. Don’t we all miss our childhood when we used to soil our hands in mud? Many kids even today become so happy when they play with mud or play around animals. They actually understand the importance of placing an animal before a human much better than we do. They actually receive products from nature with gratitude and not with entitlement. If children start looking at careers from the point of view of CTN, we will be able to head in the right direction.

Kancha Ilaiah in his book, Shepherd, talks about the effort to change the mindset from privileging academic work to privileging work like farming, cattle rearing or manual labour. This alienation from nature begins at the level of the education system and that is exactly from where it has to be remedied.

Picture Courtesy- The Economic Times


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