Educating Britain

The education of conservation. One of the most important elements to successfully tackling the critical biodiversity decline being witness globally. Yet when should this education begin?

2015 marks a potentially crucial year within the UK for conservation, as a general election provides the opportunity for change. A recent, very interesting piece of work, took all the main agendas across UK political parties, and then removed the party name. People were asked to vote for the agendas which appealed to them the most. Who came out victorious in this anonymous vote? The Green Party. The Green Party is unique in its stance for multiple reasons, but least of all education. Their policy would be to introduce compulsory environmental education from a young age, as well as scrapping tuition fees, allowing for further study throughout.

Regardless of political viewpoint, as conservationist, this is a highly appealing promise. As we have seen time and time again, one of the biggest threats to successful conservation is nor money or ability, but lies within public perception, both here and abroad. By introducing awareness of the real costs and values which our current lifestyle inflicts upon the natural world, from such an early ages, there is the hope that this change of attitude so desperately needed, would stand a far better chance of being widely adopted. An objection to this, is the opinion that this is attempt to control young minds, on a viewpoint that they should be allowed to formulate their own opinions as and when. However, is this any different to being taught the morals that much of human life follows? We are, from an early age, taught right from wrong, how to treat others, and what is and what isn’t acceptable. It seems surprising therefore that a respect for the natural world is considered by some at least to be down to personal choice, a topic we can afford to disagree on.

A new incentive was recently launched in one city in the south west of England, directed at young people, to reward them for using public waste bins. A team who observes the use of bins, hands out coupons, vouchers and goody bags to those that dispose of their litter correctly. Regardless of any success of such a concept, it seems tragic that these young people need to be not only taught about litter disposal, but need to be rewarded for good behaviour. Similar scheme have been used to incentivise recycling and re-use systems. Surely this is behaviour which should come naturally, as a result of education regarding environmental health, and the dangers faced as a result of human-led degradation?

These actions lead to the questioning of why many people do not feel obliged to place conservation and environmental protection at the forefront of their daily actions, and one possible explanation lies in the education, or lack of ,within the early years of a child’s life. When such a topic effects our entire population, surely this knowledge should be compulsory? Education on these matters from an early age seems not only a very practical solution to the problems imposed by current public perception, but part of our duty to future generations.

By adopting such a grass-roots approach, we can truly hope to spark the wave of change so desperately needed.

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Katie Appleby

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