Nature and environment are complex ideas and the lack of human interaction with nature leads to ignorance about what nature really is. Reconnecting people to nature is an ethical solution to increase awareness and understanding of how they have impacted the environment and how they can stand up and take appropriate action to alleviate these issues. It is a tradition now that every year the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) holds a press briefing related to the yearly motto. This year, at the 64th General Assembly, the motto is “Harmony with Wildlife, Urban and Rural Perceptions” where a few key topics are being addressed in-depth one of which is early conservation education.
Nowadays children are not in the position to really know about their own surroundings sufficiently. It is the inalienable right of every child to have the opportunity to engage in a natural world that has a healthy and sustainable environment, but they are obsessed with living in a virtual world which is not connected to nature. The basic problem is related to individual lifestyles and physical proximity towards nature. There is this right, of course, for humans to have the opportunity to engage but there is clearly a responsibility to play a role in the conservation of the natural world regardless of race, religion, or nationality. Shane Mahoney, President and CEO of Conservation Visions, stressed the point that there is only one way to bring this complicated issue to the public: through the instrument of education. “Direct engagement in the natural world is something we aspire for all people, but there are 7.2 billion people, and soon to 8, 9, probably even 10, so the idea that we mobilize the knowledge that is required for people to understand nature at a very early age is an incredible challenge and we cannot begin it at later ages.”
Tamás Marghescu, Director General of the CIC, added that the issues we are facing today can be best tackled with thorough education and clear communication. “Richard Louv from the United States, even speaks about ‘nature deficiency disorder’, indicating that alienation from nature has become a societal illness, which effects the ways of life and life philosophies as a whole.”
In terms of education, hunters in many countries run education programs for youth as a voluntary activity; however, the solution would be to have conservation through sustainable use officially integrated into the curricula of institutional education. This requires that teachers should be trained in this subject as well. The CIC proposed a recommendation on the importance of the an early education on conservation and the natural world, urging nations to integrate these types of programs immediately.
Alexander Schwab, author of Hook, Line and Thinker, added that “…education is important despite its complexity but it is not alienation of nature that we are talking about. We cannot be alienated from nature, as we are integral parts of it, but we can be alienated from the processes of nature.”
Wilfried Pabst added that in schools in Cape Town, South Africa, no one has ever seen a lion or an elephant, but they do listen to the NGOs which are spreading misinformation about these species which are an integral part of Africa’s livelihoods.
Joseph Shoko, representing the Ministry of Water, Climate, and Environment of Zimbabwe as the Director of Wildlife, underlined that today, there is a great misconception about wildlife. This is the reason why it leads to ignorance about what nature is really about. When alienating children about aspects of nature, they will not start reconnecting and understanding its relationship and importance to mankind in order to take appropriate actions for global conservation. Zimbabwe has introduced a new curriculum where it is clearly stated that wildlife is a heritage and as such we cannot alienate our children from being able to manage their own wildlife. When they grow up, they will understand that wildlife is an integral part of their every day life, and that it is important in the countries which are developing. “Quoting the Sustainable Development Education Panel from 1999: ‘Our vision is a world in which there are many opportunities to learn about sustainable development. A world where a skilled population makes informed decisions in their home, community and working lives and in their leisure activities. A world where people understand and take responsibility for the impact they have on the quality of life of other people, locally and globally.‘ Referring to one of our documents from 1992, countries promote sustainability through a variety of means including education, it argues that a new ethic embracing plants and animals – as well as people – is required.”
The CIC believes that integrating conservation into the earliest stages of education is essential. From a global perspective, the issue is anything but simple and demands the very best of us.