Sustainable development is one of the biggest challenges of the twenty-first century. Even though the origins of the terms ‘sustainable development’ or ‘sustainability’ goes back many decades, it was substantially enhanced since the Brundtland Commission Report (1987) - World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future:
‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
The Union of Concerned Scientists also reported:
‘fundamental transformational changes mitigating the environmental challenges (precisely, resource exploitation and waste generation) are urgent, if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about’.
Here comes the million-dollar questions: where to start? & what to do? to bring about the fundamental transformational changes. The answer is:
‘No place is well suited as school/ college/ university for environmental education and no activity is as best as resource recovery and application for lab-to-land environmental education encompassing: water-food-energy-biodiversity-waste resource nexus, acting as an indispensable element for transformation fostering sustainable development’
Environmental education teaches relationships and interactions between natural and human systems, so that student can have a better understanding of the world around them and know how to take care of it properly so that the world can be a better place. Students also pick up familiarity with their surroundings, acquire knowledge and secure learning, abilities, skills, values, experiences, and passion, all of which will collectively empower them to act separately and aggregate to take care of present and future environmental issues.
Lab-to-land environment education is currently blooming across the word, via: water-food-energy-biodiversity-waste resource nexus. It could be carried as an extra and co-curricular activity with innovative experiments and action research as the integral component. In addition, the society could be mobilized for campus infrastructure and for spreading social awareness among students and outreach, and also for the promotion of nation-building and national integration among younger generation.
Uhl et al. (2004) claimed, ‘even though the educational system contains enormous brainpower, but a dearth of vision, courage, and moral responsibility, are more concerned about training students to fit into a status quo world that is unraveling, offering our young people a sense of hope and purpose’. Whereas, Leal (2011) also highlighted, ‘the sustainability efforts should involve everyone, be lifelong, be holistic about connections, be practical and action-oriented’. In this context, other higher educational institutions and schools have greater responsibility, ‘to use it in creative and exciting ways through the lab-to-land environmental education’
Education has been identified as a critical driving force for change and environmental education is now being seen as an instrument and a process that enables participation and learning by people of all ages, that emerged from the Tbilisi Declaration (1977). Environmental education has developed within the conceptual framework and is now seen as education for sustainability. It is based on two-way communication rather than the old paradigm of a one-way flow of information, from teachers to pupils.
‘Environmental education is a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, engage in problem-solving, and take action to improve the environment. As a result, individuals develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills to make informed and responsible decisions’. - US EPA
Reorienting environmental education as a whole towards sustainability involves various levels of action oriented formal, non-formal and informal education at all levels of society, thereby necessitating lab-to-land environmental education approach. This allowed environmental education to reach all levels of society and address the broad range of issues and concerns included in Agenda 21.
‘Lab-to-land environmental education is one that conserves natural resources and promotes environmental, economic and social sustainability, through awareness, motivation, action research and experimental learning’ – UNESCO
Many people believe that being environmentally responsible is ‘as laudable as it may be and also will be expensive’. But the sustainability workers pointed out that, the small projects/ experiments related with water-food-energy-biodiversity-waste resource nexus are like ‘picking the low hanging fruit’ having validity and in most cases, they help focus and precisely ‘small action maters’. Often, these small projects/ experiments are the only ones that prove to be manageable for Universities/Colleges/Schools and also demonstrating that, ‘change toward sustainability is possible’. Moreover, small projects also resulted in the improvements of sustainability and many times in cost savings:
‘when the resource management is undertaken to promote conservation and efficiency, as a suitable and encouraging starting point for the green campus initiatives, it will be relatively easy to implement and earn financial payback’.
Many studies have shown that the textual material and the classroom teaching-learning restrict only to creating knowledge and awareness and do not get reflected in the attitude and the actions of the students towards the environment. With an ethical obligation, the educational institutions across the world have highlighted that, ‘providing lab-to-land environmental education would act as the catalysts for attitude change’. On one hand, ‘efforts towards implementation should be focused to empower people with the knowledge, understanding and capacity to influence society in a way which progresses environmental objectives along with other legitimate social and economic objectives’. On the other hand, ‘behavioral change could be induced through motivation as otherwise the stakeholders will not be well informed and confident about what to engage with and act. Such ‘lab-to-land’ initiatives would pave way for the reorientation of the thinking and practice of formal education, including curriculum, teaching-learning approaches and assessment, which goes beyond the formal curriculum to a holistic, i.e. ‘whole campus approach’ where the student’s experiences are not confined to the classroom but are part of the learning process in the school, college, university and the community, linked to real life situations, precisely implementing ‘lab to land’ concepts. The United Nations ever-ambitious set of goals for the period 2016-2030, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) also stress that, ‘the next generation of students could be effectively trained to implement the SDGs in a holistic manner’.
‘Providing lab-to-land environmental education would act as the catalysts for attitude change’
More importantly, we believe that sustainable development is not only limited to ecological/environmental considerations but also the economic, social and cultural dimensions as well. Aligning with the University Leaders for a Sustainable Future’s (ULSF), Talloires Declaration – ten point action plan, the ‘Lab-to-land environmental education’ would complement:
- Increase Awareness of Environmentally Sustainable Development
- Create an Institutional Culture of Sustainability
- Educate for Environmentally Responsible Citizenship
- Foster Environmental Literacy for all
- Practice Institutional Ecology
- Involve All Stakeholders
- Collaborate for Interdisciplinary Approaches
- Enhance Capacity of Primary and Secondary Schools
- Broaden Service and Outreach Nationally and Internationally
- Maintain the Movement
Against this backdrop, emphasizing on bottom-up approach, the ‘lab-to-land environmental education’ gave rise to the definition for ‘Green Campus’ and ‘Green Campus Initiative’:
‘Green Campus is one that conserves natural resources and promote environmental, economic and social sustainability based on environmental education for sustainable development through awareness, motivation, action research and experimental learning’
Whereas, ‘Green Campus Initiative is a program that plans, formulates, designs and implements a package of sustainable solutions by the campus community to reduce the environmental impact, enhance the campus sustainability and to protect the health and well-being of the surrounding community & ecosystem, implemented thorough selfless cooperation and coordination’ - APSCC
Urbanization, urban sprawl, tourism, consumerist culture, are collectively rocketing the pollution and climate change issues of the region, with no time for the policymakers and enforcement authorities to find alternate strategies, to conserve nature. The optimistic solution to this ever-increasing issue is the promotion of ‘lab-to-land environmental education and action research’ at all levels. In this context, universities, colleges and schools have greater responsibility,
‘to use it in creative and exciting ways with special preference to water-food-energy-biodiversity-waste resource nexus, resource recovery, conservation and entrepreneurship.
Even though ‘changes don’t happen all at once’, yet, ‘the implementation of green campus initiatives will definitely uncover the presence of ‘good practices’.
The Paris Agreement ‘Shines a Global Spotlight on Climate Change Adaptation’, and The UNFCCC’s Nairobi Work Programme, campaign on the ‘Knowledge-To-Action Hub for Climate Adaptation and Resilience’, which synthesizes the best available information on all aspects of vulnerability and adaptation, disseminates its findings widely and cultivates high-impact partnerships to close critical knowledge gaps and accelerate action around the world. In addition, the Paris Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established the Technical Examination Process on Adaptation (TEP-A) to promote ‘enhanced action - for strengthening resilience, reducing vulnerabilities, and increasing the understanding and implementation of adaptation actions’.
Against his backdrop, APSCC had launched a program ‘lab-to-land environment education and action research’ fostering water-food-energy-biodiversity-waste resource nexus at campuses and communities – a climate change adaptation and resilience. The purpose of this program was to provide a roadmap with background and a broad conceptual framework to plan and implement ‘green campus’ strategies for sustainability in Universities/Colleges/Schools across the globe, for the compliance of ‘Green Protocol’ by ‘picking low hanging fruit – small action matters’.
These programs pertain to both curricular and co-curricular interventions, not only in school education but also in higher education as directed by the Supreme Court of India (SC), National Green Tribunal (NGT), University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and more importantly, it also fosters the Govt. of India ‘project-based and hands-on learning’. Apart from this, also complement UNFCCCs: Paris Agreement, Nairobi Work Program and TEP-A.
The outcome of this program would be: to equip the students with knowledge and skill to perform their dual role better as students within the campus and community outside. Further it supplements the efforts taken by the:
- Ministry of Education
- Ministry of Environment, Forestry & Climate Change
- Department of Science and Technology
- Ministry of Water Resource and
Complements the following SDGs