Students and administration continue to take Environmental Studies (EVS) lightly. While colleges often choose to not hire expert faculty for EVS and instead expect science professors to teach the same, students view it as another exam they need to pass. Unless this lax attitude towards EVS changes, large sections of our population would remain ignorant about issues related to the same.
Environmental Studies is a subject all students pursuing an undergraduate degree are supposed to study. The University Grants Commission (UGC) ordered the 706 universities across India to incorporate Environmental Studies in their curriculum (India Today). UGC also asked that all new students be made to plant a sapling on their first day of college. While some colleges have been unable to meet the sapling guideline due to lack of space the former has been adequately respected, at least in principle. The purpose of incorporating EVS in our curriculum is to educate students about pollution, the eco-system, recycling, and the cost of neglecting the environmental impact of our deeds. While the idea behind making EVS compulsory was a beautiful one, it has failed to serve its original purpose and both the administration and the student body have played a role in that.
Colleges often do not hire experts to teach environmental studies. More often than not, professors from the science faculties end up teaching EVS. The purpose of a lecture is not just to provide textbook knowledge; it is also to incite passion and make students learn from their personal experiences. If there is a dearth of professors passionate about the environment; EVS lectures would never be fully engaging. But lack of experts is not the sole reason that negatively impacts how seriously EVS is taken. Students also choose to take EVS lightly and not give it the same importance that they allot for their core subjects. To see students using their cell phone during an EVS lecture is not a shocking sight; most people attend it just for the sake of maintaining their minimum attendance. Sandeep Samal of Hans Raj College says, “Basically students, a day before exams cram the notes easily available in the market.” EVS is treated like a burden in Universities across the country. Most faculty members see it as an additional subject that needs to be taught; while students view it as another exam they need to pass. The desire to actively seek knowledge about the environment and learn more about ways to preserve it is largely absent.
Around half of India’s population is under 25 years old or younger. With the youth consisting of India’s largest age group- it is essential that they be adequately educated about the impact of their everyday decisions. Small lifestyle changes like not using plastic straws, cups, and bags, reusing and upcycling old products, carpooling can lead to an immense impact on the environment. With liberalisation and the rise of the Indian middle class, consumerism has increased multiple times. The idea of “conspicuous consumption” is more relevant than ever. Huge SUVs are bought simply because they are supposed to represent wealth. In order to make their products more attractive, companies have introduced layered and intricate packaging, which includes multiple boxes and tags. All these minor changes have resulted in turning cities into mass dustbins.
Unless we take into account our high consumption level; we would end up destroying the planet for our greed. Our planet is running out of room and resources and the Earth will run out of resources at this rate of consumption. This situation is extremely dangerous and it is important that we educate ourselves about it. Colleges do not just need to take the theoretical teaching of EVS more seriously, but also encourage practical learning and set up challenges or weekly goals for students. Challenges like using public transport for a week or recycling and donating old clothes instead of throwing them away should be promoted. Environmental Sciences is one subject which needs to be taken extremely seriously and unfortunately, it seems to be one of the most neglected ones. We have a moral and social responsibility to be accountable for our actions and curb the capitalistic sense of greed and consumerism that is on the rise. A respectful attitude towards the planet is necessary to ensure our survival and the best way to be environmentally conscious is to be proactive in our learning and in our actions.
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