Today’s children inhabit a planet that is, in many respects, disturbingly unlike the one their parents grew up on, a planet rapidly becoming more degraded, depleted, warm, polluted and crowded. Topsoil, groundwater, glaciers, fossil fuels, rainforests, and biological species are vanishing at a frightening pace under the pressures of urbanization, affluence and population growth.
In India, one of the most dangerous trends is a sharp increase in garbage production. If India’s development continues on its present course, the amount of solid waste produced by the nation’s population of 1.6 billion in the year 2047 is likely to be 260 million tonnes, five times the present level of production, requiring an area of 1,400 square kilometres for disposal in landfills that would emit 39 million tonnes of methane. India’s open dumpsites are environmental disasters, acting as some of the largest open sources of dioxin related compounds on the planet.
The nation’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals are undermined by pollution from garbage, which jeopardizes public health, and poses a particularly high risk to children. Dioxins, furans and PCBs, which are formed when mixed garbage is openly burned—a common occurence in India—endanger children’s health in several ways. Such pollutants bioaccumulate and biomagnify in the food chain, and have been found throughout the Indian environment. High levels of such pollutants have been detected in the breastmilk of mothers in and near Indian dumpsites. Toxins consumed in breastmilk are almost completely absorbed by infants, increasing their risk of many disorders and diseases.
The prospect of waste generation increasing by a factor of five is something that must be prevented.
To slow environmental degradation, ecological literacy is as important, if not more important, than computer literacy. It is imperative that students learn to value the earth’s carrying capacity, and understand how each person’s lifestyle and behavior impacts the planet. One of the most immediate and tangible ways that we can reduce environmental degradation is by practicing the 3Rs: reducing, reusing and recycling waste.
In order to spread such awareness, Exnora Green Pammal offers its Green Generation Programme to schools. The Programme consists of four, one-and-a-half hour classes. The first class is an introduction to waste and garbage. The second class is about categories of waste. The third class is devoted to recycling non-biodegradable waste. The fourth class teaches composting, and waste-to-energy.
This month, Exnora Green Pammal held the Green Generation Programme for 5th to 9th-grade students at the Shriram School in Thiruneermalai, a school run by the Shriram Social Welfare Trust for children from disadvantaged families. The Shriram Social Welfare Trust is a CSR activity of the Shriram Group.
Here are some photos from the 3rd class. The students are taught about products that can be made from waste, using games, contests and exercises to involve the students.