The Doctrine of Environmentalism

Educating children about the environment

Educating children about the environment

The sign above roughly translates to, “Hey kid! Don’t you pick out my leaves” and this is one of the signs I saw in a school that we were touring around in. Although we often teach kids not to pick flowers from the bushes at parks and the like, I am not sure if we are sending across the message of why we are protecting the plants from harm. Then again, we always wonder if the kids are mature enough to handle the implications of harming the environment.

For work, we are embarking on campaign to educate children about the value of rice by establishing small rice gardens in the different schools. With the help of teachers, parents, or any helpful adults, the kids will be able to establish a small rice plot and they are tasked to take care of it. The objective of this exercise is to help the kids realize how hard it is to produce rice from the farmers’ perspective. Indeed, many of their own parents have not experienced planting rice themselves.

In this modern world, there is most obviously a disconnect between the rural and the urban lifeworlds. For example, I am from the urban world. The only rural interaction I had when I was a child was to go to our family mango farm where we just play around in the trees. We don’t learn about how the trees get sprayed with pesticides that could kill an unsuspecting carabao. Yes, when we were in our teens, we learned that one of the family carabaos died under a mango tree that had been sprayed with poison. Oddly enough, I was not worried at all. That the pesticides could kill a carabao did not really sink in. Neither did the value of a carabao.

Basically, I grew up viewing the rural world as an idyllic world where we always laze about. Play when we want to play, leave when we want to leave. Moreover, it was even more like paradise because it meant that I don’t have to go to school–or any of the usual responsibilities within the household. Because after all, while we were at the farm, we hardly had to do any chores. Simply because they were too difficult. Lugging a pale of water from the water pump to the kitchen to cook was difficult. Washing dishes was out of the question as well. Of course, we faced difficulties such as lugging the pale of water every time we needed to use the toilet, pumping water to take a bath in a place that offered little if no privacy. But these were trivialized with the thought that this is merely an adventure, nothing more, nothing less. The rural world took on an unreal fantastical quality that only resided in the imagination, as shaped by these preconceptions.

Am I alone in thinking this? Somehow, I don’t think so. I believe that many urban kids grew up the way I did, and maybe I’m even more exposed than others. But definitely, kids who grew up in the provinces have a more real perspective on the rural lifeworld. However, I believe that to a certain extent, this alienation between worlds is reciprocated. The rural kids also have a skewed perspective of the urban world. Of course, we go to shopping malls and live in air-conditioned houses with 24-hour electricity. But they also have no idea about the harshness of this world.

All organisms are shaped by the environment that they live in, which means that they grow in such a way that they are well-adapted in their natural settings. However, some organisms (such as human beings) commute between two worlds. Thus, one needs to be taught about the rules and realities of each different world that they engage in. Education is indeed key to preparing ourselves so that we do not get culture shocked. Education is key so that we could see the world in better light.

Unfortunately, we don’t necessarily learn the things that we are being taught. More often than not, the key lessons received are unintended. This bears more thinking about.


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