The theme for the celebration of Mother Earth Day 2017: “Environmental and Climatic Literacy” comes at a time when Ghana is faced with overcoming a myriad of environmental challenges: poor sanitation, illegal logging and mining, pollution of water bodies and land degradation.
The day was established in 2009, by the General Assembly under Resolution A/RES/63/278 which was introduced by the Plurinational State of Bolivia and endorsed by over 50 member states recognising that, “the Earth and its ecosystems are our home and that it is necessary to promote harmony with nature and the Earth”. Mother Earth is used to reflect the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit.
In the words of Miguel d’Escoto Brockman, the General Assembly President, he stated: “International Mother Earth Day promotes a view of the Earth as the entity that sustains all living things found in nature”. He added that: “inclusiveness is at the heart of International Mother Earth Day; fostering shared responsibilities to rebuild our troubled relationship with nature is a cause that is uniting people around the world”
April 22 is celebrated as Mother Earth day annually. The day recognises that promoting harmony with nature and the earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity is a collective responsibility.
This collective responsibility arises from education about environment and climate; since education is a foundation of progress and this helps to build a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and its consequences. Education also becomes an empowerment tool that will promote total participation in environmental protection, mitigation of consequences of climate change and its subsequent adaptation.
In line with education, one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 13 states “improve education, awareness raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning”
In the realm of participatory strategies for development, education leads to knowledge, attitudinal change and practice – this is achieved through consistent and innovative participatory at the school and community levels.
In a news report “Climate change education in schools launched” (www.ghananewsagency.org, Friday November 7, 2014), Dr. Emmanuel Obeng Tachie National Focal Point Person for Climate Change at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the focal person stated that “climate change has been threatening the lives of generation and so EPA as the national focal point of climate change awareness creation and education in the country is leading the way in educating Ghanaians on how to solve the situation”.
It’s worthy to note that environmental and climatic literacy must go beyond the school system. Strategies in empowering people to have an understanding of the changes in their environment and how to sustain it must be consistent and innovative – it should not be a nine day wonder.
The Chieftaincy Institution at the national regional level should be made to lead the way in Environmental and Climatic Literacy, with the help of the media in rural and urban areas, and the Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).
The Chieftaincy institution is an indispensable stakeholder in this matter and two recent news reports confirm their roles: “Gonja Traditional Authorities ban logging and charcoal burning” (www.peacefmonline.com Tuesday April 11, 2017) and “Forest Reserve turned into charcoal production centre” (www.ghananewsagency.org, Thursday April 13, 2017).
According to the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy of Ghana, it’s stated that climate change has great impact on agriculture, water, energy, health and sanitation, and infrastructure which makes Ghana vulnerable to climate change. The National Policy on Climate Change is hinged on three objectives: effective adaptation, social development and mitigation; these should inform the strategies of an environmental and climatic literacy at both the school and community levels.
The environmental challenges confronting us are not because people are not educated on protecting and sustaining the environment; conversely, the strategies of education are not consistent and innovative enough to change the attitudes and values of people, thus there’s an urgent need for deliberate, consistent and innovative strategies of environmental and climatic literacy that will lead to a reduction or total end to these challenges.
It’s a concrete proposition, let’s pursue it.
Alex Blege, Freelance Journalist