Environment Conservation and Art | WWF
© WWF-Pakistan
Shama Noman writes about how incorporating critical thinking and art is helping in developing young environment leaders.

Environment Conservation and Art

A generation of thinking children is the only promise that can contribute to the survival and conservation of our planet. Understanding that logical reasoning and critical thinking is integral to set our focus on developing the necessary thinking skills can be comprehensively taught to children.

The human cognitive process begins through early childhood development. Colours, shapes, patterns and the initiation of descriptive language gives way to the understanding of the world around us. As the five senses begin to interact with surroundings, the brain is stimulated to experience unexplored possibilities.

This process of exploration and discovery is reinstated and fortified in schools. And while debates, analogies and story analysis all support and prepare students to present a rational argument, problem solving in a mathematical setting further nourishes their inductive/deductive reasoning skills. Art is taught in most schools as an extracurricular subject. It is treated as a form of recreation with little creativity involved.

In many ways, art makes children tolerant and accepting of others’ ideas and viewpoints. This diversity of ideas makes them open minded and they learn to welcome point of views outside their own. Furthermore, art gives children a voice of their own. They become confident about their distinct expression.

Educational institutions can play a key role in nurturing the thinking skills of our children in a way that they understand their role in the conservation of the environment or the prevention of wasteful use of resources. Engaging all voices to initiate this logical debate on why we need to eradicate poverty, shift to renewable resources, combat single-use plastic, and talk about the need for climate action will effectively promote a more sustainable plan of action backed by logic and reasoning. From knowledge to understanding, application to analysis and evaluation to synthesis, critical thinking offers a range of possibilities for the human mind to explore.

These days the technological tools that are available also aid the education process by aiding the activities targeted towards critical thinking. There is another opinion to this aspect of education, where many argue that access to technology at a young age is not yielding many positive results. However, the middle ground here is the way in which this technology is put to use, as completely shunning it is not going to give any results.

The positive results of a good education and the use of technology by the younger generation can be witnessed in the global climate movement led by school children. What started in small individual pockets has now become a collective force, across the globe. Their ideas have crossed the borders, across the demarcations of the first world and third world countries.

What adds to the magnitude of this movement is that children are saying it like it is. They are telling world leaders that our shared home is on fire and they are not living up to their responsibilities to ensure that corrective measures are adopted to prevent any more damage.

The school movement and the recent Climate March on 20 September across the globe has shown that children mean business. They are not going to get distracted after a few marches, they are concerned about the cause. You hear them present the case for the environment and they are equipped with the scientific facts. Most importantly they suggest practical solutions as well. We frequently hear about a child or a group of children who have come up with some innovative solution for one of our many environmental problems, opting for sustainable alternatives.

We are seeing the impact of critical thinking and adding more innovative educational techniques, in the form of young leaders that are emerging and making sure that their voices are heard in the right corridors of power.

What is needed at this critical point is a change in attitude and as we have seen the younger generation is showing more flexibility than adults. They are the ones where the hope for our future rests. What we need to do is add our support and help them deal with the naysayers and push through for actual policy change to ensure practical results.

Environment conservation is an enormous task that cannot be addressed without a critical resolve to find solutions. Creating sustainable human communities is a possibility only when we are fully immersed in the problem solving process with our children and we raise them with an awareness of the country’s sustainable goals. Providing them with platforms to express and engage with problems, inviting them to lead green campaigns with confidence, and allowing them to innovate for change is the only way forward. Given what we are witnessing these days, children are more than ready to lead the way as they understand that it is their future that is at stake.

Shama Noman is an educator working with the Emirates Literature Foundation. She believes that expression and reflection are strong contributors to change.