A global pandemic, a nationwide lockdown, locust swarms and no school… the last few months have left 8-year-old Aditya who lives in Gurugram, full of anxiety and curiosity over what’s unfolding in the world. His mother confides that he has been asking many questions about the pandemic and its link to the environment. No one is surprised.
Shweta Jha who teaches primary students at a school in NOIDA cites the example of the pandemic and the Delhi Smog as events that have brought the consequences of environmental deterioration uncomfortably close for many of her students. ‘They cannot come to school, they cannot even step outside their homes freely—the problem is beginning to have a direct impact on their lives, making them uneasy and eager to discuss.’ For Radhika Suri, who heads the Environment Education Division at WWF- India, the time is ripe to discuss and act upon the environmentalism of young Indians. ‘It is a period of great change with clear environmental linkages. The pandemic has given us an opportunity to reassess our lives and our impact on the planet—and we need to begin with the children. I’ve seen how keenly they can think and how well they can act, if they’re guided and motivated.’
From playing in the mud to asking for a pet, children often readily take to nature. While this essentially stems from inherent curiosity, it is a great opportunity for parents to nurture empathy and love for nature in their children.
Bengaluru-based Aparna Kher talks fondly of her 3-year-old daughter Ahilya’s penchant for collecting seeds and stones. Even though her daughter is too young to understand environmentalism, Kher has tried to nurture a love of the outdoors in her. ‘We spend time in the garden. We go out to parks. I let her put her hand in the mud and run barefoot on the grass. She collects what catches her interest. In highly urban environments, we try to find moments to admire nature.’
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