WHAT IS VALUE EDUCATION?
- By knowing one’s principles and standards i.e., on the basis of their values, we judge what is right and wrong behavior.
- Education both through formal and non-formal processes must address understanding environmental values, valuing nature and cultures, human heritage, social justice, managing common property resources equitable use of resources, and appreciate the cause of ecological degradation.
- ETHICS: Ethics is a branch of philosophy that deals with moral values and actions. It helps us to judge our actions as good and bad.
- Environmental ethics is a discipline that focuses on the moral relationship of humans to, and also the value and moral status of, the environment and its non-human contents.
- Each action by a particular human must be linked to its environmental repercussion in their mind so that a value is created that leads to strengthening pro-environmental behavior and preventing anti-environmental actions.
FUNCTIONS OF THE ENVIRONMENT
1) Supplies resources
- The environment offers resources for production.
- It includes both renewable as well as non-renewable resources.
- Examples: Wood (for furniture), soil, land, etc.
2) Sustains life
- The environment includes the sun, soil, water, and air, which are essential for human life.
- It sustains life by providing genetic biodiversity.
3) Assimilates waste
- Production and consumption activities generate waste.
- Occurs mainly in the form of garbage.
- The environment helps in getting rid of the garbage.
4) Enhances the quality of life
Human beings enjoy the beauty of nature that includes rivers, mountains, deserts, etc. this also enhances the quality of life.
ETHICAL GUIDELINES ON:
- Keep in mind that the earth is the habitat of all living species and not of human beings alone. Development at the expense of the environment is a bad idea.
- There is an increase in the rate of depletion of natural resources and an urgent need to protect them.
- Involve ourselves in the care of the earth and experience nature.
- Respect nature
- Act for local protection by thinking of the global cause.
- Be informed about ecological changes and developments.
- Observe austerity, reserve scarce resources for future generations. We must show cooperation, honesty, affection and politeness towards nature.
- Anthropocentrism: Anthropocentrism regards the world in terms of human values and experiences and considers them as the supreme entity.
- Biocentrism: Biocentrism states that humans are simply one species amongst many, and nature does not exist simply to be used or consumed by humans.
- Ecocentrism: Ecocentrism focuses on the biotic community as a whole and strives to maintain ecosystem composition and ecological processes.
- Theocentrism: It is the belief that human beings should look after the world as guardians and therefore in the way God wants them to. In this view, the meaning and value of actions done to people or the environment are attributed to God.
- Ecofeminism: Ecofeminism analysis explores the connections between women and nature in culture and addresses the parallels between the oppression of nature and the oppression of women.
- Strewardship: Environmental stewardship refers to the responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices.
Two aspects are closely connected with ethical issues that are related to our environment.
1.Valuing nature as a resource: It is essential that a value system that is based on environmental concern becomes a part of the thinking that we as responsible citizens of our country and our earth need to bring into our own daily lives. Our ancestors considered the earth to be supreme, in some ways nature was considered to be like a mother. In ancient India, forests were considered sacred. We are fully aware of the sanctity of forests. They clean up our air, provide us oxygen, prevent flooding in certain areas. However, we seem to have forgotten this along the way. In the Hindu scriptures, Buddhist philosophy and especially in the Jain religion, every species on earth is supposed to have a place in the scheme of life. We need to remember that all of the products that we use have come from nature, in some way or the other. From the tiniest toothpicks to the thickest books, everything that we use can trace its way back to nature. It would be impossible to depend on something other than nature for our day-to-day requirements. If we disrespect nature, one cannot expect her to continue to support our wellbeing. Nature’s resources that we all use and depend on can only be optimized if they are equitably shared by all of us. If the disparity is too great it can only result in anarchy. We must understand the value of nature if we wish for it to sustain us. The increasing disparity between the global north and global south, rich and poor, urban and rural and among different genders is alarming. Unless and until we ensure equitable distribution of resources, the trend of rich becoming richer and poor becoming poorer would continue.
2. Appreciating the beauty of Nature and treasuring the magnificence of the Wilderness: Bringing back an ethic for nature conservation requires environment education and conservation awareness. The best way to do so is to expose young people not only to our dependence on natural resources from the wilderness but by bringing about an appreciation of the beauty and wondrous aspects of nature. We rarely take the opportunity to gaze at a scenic sunset or spend the time to sit in the incredible silence of the forest or listen to the songs of birds and the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves. It is the beauty of Nature that gives it an intrinsic value that we tend to ignore. These are not a mundane day to day events; they are magical and mystical aspects of nature’s clock that is ticking silently all around us. They are part of our living throbbing earth. If we fail to enjoy these wondrous aspects of Nature our lives will always remain empty. Once we realise that the wilderness has a value all its own, this puts man in his rightful role as a custodian of nature rather than an exploiter. The next time you wish to remember the beauty of nature, visit a wilderness area, a forest, lakeside, waterfall, or seashore untouched by man. You will realize how magnificent the earth actually is. Without the wilderness, the earth would be a sad bleak human-dominated landscape. Unless we begin to see the ecological values of the wilderness, an ethic for its conservation cannot become part of our daily lives. And without the wilderness, the earth will soon become unliveable for living beings.
The concept of ‘Karma’ is based on the thinking that the soul moves from man to animal and in reverse depending on one’s actions. This itself brings about a concept of the oneness of all forms of life. Ahimsa or non-violence towards life which includes all plants and animals provides India with its basic philosophy which early Hindu philosophers and later sages such as Buddha, Mahavir and Mahatma Gandhi spoke of. Buddhist and Jain philosophy is intrinsically woven around non-violence and the great value of all forms of ‘life’. It brings in the notion that animals are not to be viewed purely for their utility value but are a part of the earth’s oneness which is linked with our own lives as well. In Hindu philosophy, the earth itself is respected and venerated. In contrast, in Western thought Nature is to be subjugated and used. These are basic differences in thinking processes. Several modern philosophers in the West have now begun to see these eastern patterns of thought as a new basis for human development. This shift, however, from purely utilitarian or scientific exploitation of Nature to one of harmony with Nature, can only occur if each of us loves and respects nature’s great ‘oneness’.
3. The Gandhian way of life: ‘Man’s needs but not his greed can be supported by our earth’. Mahatma Gandhi was always keen on caring for the environment and educating as many people as possible. Gandhi believed in simplistic living to save our earth’s resources. He once said that if India was to become an industrial nation on the lines of England, the world itself would be stripped bare of its resources by India’s people alone.
4. Education in nature – The Shanti Niketan model: Rabindranath Tagore founded Shanti Niketan and taught an environment-based philosophy. Tagore’s philosophy of education focused attention on the need for a harmonious association between human beings and their environment. To achieve this, he relied on exposing young people to nature. Tagore linked these concepts with celebrations of nature through music, dance, drama and poetry. At Shanti Niketan, there were celebrations for each season and ceremonial tree planting. He started Vriksharopan way back in 1928.
- The development meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of the future generation.
- It is only recently that the world has come to realize that other more important environmental values are essential to bringing about a better way of life.
The earth does not belong to humans nor is it solely the home of humans, it houses billions of species that we do not even know the name of. It is wonderful in its sense that humans are aware of only a quarter of the earth. For us, development has to a great extent always meant clearing of forests to build residential complexes or construction of shopping complexes and so on. We have forgotten that human development is taking a toll on other species. We need to remember that we must have a co-existential relationship with other species.
The plants and animals that share the earth with us have a right to live and share our earth’s resources and living space. We have no right to push a species that has taken millions of years to evolve towards extinction. They have the right to a dignified existence. Cruelty to an animal is no different ethically from cruelty to another human being. Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy was based on the assumption that human beings were not masters of the other forms of life. He believed that humans were ‘trustees of the lower animal kingdom’. Human beings are just a speck of dust within the galaxy. We frequently forget that man has learned to exploit nature and other species well beyond what we should use justifiably. Every plant and animal have a right to life as a part of our earth’s community of living things. Endangering the existence of wild plants and animals and bringing them close to the brink of extinction is not only unfair to a species but also to the future generation of people who may find them of great use. Quite apart from the use of these species, there is a strong ethical basis for the rights of animals and plants to exist on earth. Cruelty to animals is a crime that must be regarded seriously and action must be taken against offenders. Animals have a right to a dignified existence, and their life, well-being and liberty must be respected.
TRADITIONAL VALUE SYSTEMS OF INDIA
- In ancient Indian traditions, mountains, rivers, forests, trees and several animals have always been worshipped. Thus, much of nature was venerated and protected.
- Forests have been associated with the names of forest gods and goddesses both in the Hindu religion as well as in tribal cultures.
- ‘Tree’ goddesses have been associated with specific plant species. The peepal tree is highly respected and thus not chopped down.
- The Banyan tree is considered an important religious symbol, people pay their respects by tying a thread around it.
- The Tulsi plant is grown on the doorstep outside every home because of its piousness.
- Patches of forest have been dedicated to a deity in many Indian cultures, especially in tribal areas. These traditionally protected forest patches depict the true nature of undisturbed vegetation and have a large number of indigenous plant species as their exploitation has been controlled through local sentiments.
- Certain species of trees have been protected as they are valued for their fruit or flowers. The mango tree is protected for its fruit around most farms even when wood becomes scarce.
- The Mohua tree is protected by tribal people as it provides edible flowers, oil from its seeds and is used to make potent alcohol.
- Many plants, shrubs and herbs have been used in Indian medicines which were once available in the wild in plenty. These are now rapidly vanishing.
- Many species of animals are venerated as being the ‘vahan’ or vehicle of different gods on which they are said to travel through the cosmos.
- In Indian mythology, the elephant is associated with Ganesha. The elephant-headed Ganesha is also linked to the rat.
- Vishnu is associated with the eagle. Rama is linked to monkeys. In mythology, Hanuman, the monkey god, rendered invaluable help to Rama during his travels to Lanka.
- The Sun god, Surya, rides a horse and has a superb chariot on which he moves through the sky.
- The lion is linked to Durga and the blackbuck to the moon goddess. The cow is associated with Krishna.
- Vishnu’s incarnations have been represented as taking various animal forms which serially include, fish, tortoise, a boar and a dwarf, and a half man half lion form.
- The associations to various plants that have been given a religious significance include Tulsi, which is linked to Lakshmi and Vishnu. The Tulsi plant is also linked to the worship of one’s own ancestors.
- The peepal tree (also called the bodhi tree) is said to be the one under which Buddha attained enlightenment. It is also associated with Vishnu and Krishna.
- Several trees are associated with the goddess Laxmi, including Amalaki, Mango, and the Tulsi shrub.
- In traditional societies of the past, these examples were all a part of ethical values that protected nature. Concepts that support nature’s integrity must thus become a part of our modern educational systems. This constitutes a key solution to bring about a new ethic of conserving nature and living sustainable lifestyles.
- In Meghalaya, the mawphlang forests are preserved as sacred groves.
1. Renewable resources- A renewable resource is a natural resource that will replenish to replace the portion depleted by usage and consumption, either through natural reproduction or other recurring processes in a finite amount of time in a human time scale.
2. A non-renewable resources-A non-renewable resource is a natural resource that cannot be readily replaced by natural means at a pace quick enough to keep up with consumption. An example is carbon-based fossil fuels. The original organic matter, with the aid of heat and pressure, becomes a fuel such as oil or gas.
3. Biodiversity- Biodiversity is the biological variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity is a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem levels.
4. Vriksharopan- Simply means tree planting.
5. Sacred groves- A sacred grove or sacred woods are any grove of trees that are of special religious importance to a particular culture.