Environmental Awareness for the Young

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It is a difficult job sometimes raising awareness among the young about important issues concerning society. The youth often tend to see themselves as functioning in a sub-culture that is separate to the concerns of the adult world. Moreover, young people often tend to live in the moment and are ready to do foolish things because they think that they are invincible and that they are consequence free in their actions.

It is a good idea to show the youth the litter and trash on the streets of their neighborhood, and to ask whether they think it is a pleasant environment in which to grow up. Most will probably say ’no’. It is then a short step to the next question about whether they contribute to trash on the street. They may lie about this but it might make them aware of the problem.

At school it is important to spend time focussing on wider environmental issues such as climate change, carbon emissions, pollution and resource depletion. I also feel it is not out of place to bring a political context to these discussions by bringing in the issue of petrol dependency by many Western economies and the strategic policies of governments to ensure supplies of natural resources. I don’t put words in the mouths of the young, but I encourage them to debate the issues in the hope of raising the political consciousness that is a necessary requirement for changes in the way the governments treat economics and the environment.

On other occasions it is a good idea to prepare the youth for when they are responsible for property. I explain to them how much the average person makes and how much is taken away by bills for water, electricty and gas. They are shocked at the prospect of having so little disposable income for their efforts. I then explain how energy and money can be saved by choosing a good programmable thermostat, using energy saving light bulbs, installing low flow showers, taking practical steps to improve home insulation and so on. No doubt much of this technology will be superceeded by better technology when they grow up, but it is empowering to know that there are steps that can be taken to reduce carbon footprint, conserve water and reduce bills.

It is by taking this multi-faceted approach that environmental awareness for the young can be raised.