Education is Key

By George Cheriyan

‘WE ACCEPT our responsibility and we urge all people to join with us in doing all we can to pursue the principles of the Decade with humility, inclusivity, and a strong sense of humanity. As we gather in the city, where Mahatma Gandhi lived and worked, we remember his words: “Education for life; education through life; education throughout life,” says the one page crisp and brief Ahmedabad Declaration made on January 20, 2005 by more than 800 learners, thinkers, practitioners and activists from over 40 countries at the Education for a Sustainable Future Conference held in Ahmedabad, marking the beginning of UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UN-DESD). The first event in the world of the Decade was held in India, while the formal launch of the decade is still awaited to be held in New York.

Why a decade on ESD?

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit marked the beginning of an unprecedented effort to understand and work towards achieving ‘sustainable development’, addressing human needs holistically by integrating environmental, economic and social goals. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg re-emphasized the vital role of education, not only in building awareness about the sustainable development, but also in fostering the necessary changes to bring it at all levels. As a continuation of these efforts the UN decided to launch the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). Many reports have defined sustainable development, but progress has been slow, and the global environment continues to deteriorate. This failure has largely been due to a lack of political will and motivation to make the necessary changes in individual lifestyles and social action. Hence the planned UN Decade. The biggest challenge now is to take an idea that sounds abstract, sustainable development, and turn it into a reality.

Role of Education

More than the dissemination of information and knowledge, the key role of education in enabling and enhancing sustainable development is now recognised. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a dynamic concept that utilizes all aspects of public awareness, education and training. Education can equip individuals and societies with the required skills, perspectives, knowledge and values to work and live in a sustainable manner.

Life Style of Bishnois

The Indian culture have placed great emphasis on people to nature relationships, as a means to sustainable development, preserving the environment, wise use of resources in the interest of coming generations. For example, the Bishnois in Rajasthan have evolved their life-style into a religion that fiercely protects the environment. The Bishnois, are a practical, wise people who hold lessons for everyone. The Bishnois manage sacred groves called orans in the arid and desert regions of Rajasthan. Despite sparse vegetation and limited water resources, the area reportedly supports a higher density of human and animal populations than any other desert region in the world because of the conservation practices of its people. The basic philosophy of the Bishnoi faith is that all living things have a right to live and share resources, and the group has a set of abiding laws including a ban on killing animals and on felling trees, especially their most sacred khejadi tree, which has numerous life-sustaining properties. Through ESD, we need to spread the message of such sustainable life styles. Unfortunately, Govt. or CSOs, either in Rajasthan or in other parts of the county, promote no such education.

The writer was a delegate to the ESF meet.