Scientists around the globe are researching the various aspects and magnitude of climate change. The majority of the world’s population including policy and decision makers, especially in the developing countries, has little knowledge, or none at all, of climate change, its implications and ramifications in their day to day activities, and on the nation as a whole. Education, training and awareness are therefore of utmost importance in the formation of environmentally aware and enlightened citizens.
Climate change, as a subject per se has not yet been included in the curricula of the formal education system in Mauritius since it is a new developing science. Incorporation of topics related to climate change in the curricula of primary and secondary education will provide the future generation with sufficient scientific understanding of global climate change and to take an intelligent and informed interest in the nation’s climate change policies.
Informal education can reach the largest number of individuals and is the most effective instrument in shaping public attitudes and behaviour. The advent of audiovisual technology, coupled with its increasing affordability and accessibility, and its use as tools of mass communication have made public outreach easier than ever before.
Adapting to climate change can be spontaneous or planned. Individuals, societies and cultures will adapt, over time, to climate change impacts without any external help. On the other hand, they may be provided with the necessary help to be able to adapt and/or minimize the negative effects more quickly.
Any plan of action must be based on an
educated and informed decision, which is only possible if the people are
given the essential training.
‘Environment Clubs’ have been created in primary and secondary schools and the motivated and enthusiastic members have been given some information and training on climate change and its impacts. Art and essay competitions on climate related topics are organized by schools and/or the Ministry of Education, with the view to increase awareness among students.
Climate change and related issues have been included in various courses offered by the University of Mauritius, especially in Environmental Science, Agriculture and Engineering.
Discussions, debates, public talks, open seminars, research seminars and local workshops, organized by various organizations, help to encourage and stimulate interest in climate change and its environmental impacts among the population.
Formal links existing with universities abroad are being currently explored with the aim of utilizing these resources to train and/or upgrade national capabilities and understanding to enable exchange of ideas and sharing of information, and also to undertaking collaborative research on climate change issues. International activities further contribute to foster collaborations.
Traditional teaching institutions periodically organize ‘open days’, exhibitions, and public lectures on climate change matters as part of their community service activities. The MCA produces awareness-promoting audiovisual materials in collaboration with different institutions in the country, and also produces educational programmes targeted to school-age children, tertiary-level students, as well as for the general public. The Information, Education and Resource Division of the DOE is actively involved in preparing sensitization and awareness programmes on environmental issues, and will soon set up a centralized resource library devoted to environment-related literature.
Posters and pamphlets on specific environmental matters help to promote environmental understanding and raise the level of public awareness in concrete, everyday terms.
ENVIRONEWS, a newsletter published on an ad hoc basis presents news items, brief articles and short technical papers on various aspects of the environment including climate change activities and sustainable development measures, has a wide circulation.
Newspapers, radio, TV, videotapes, posters, pamphlets, brochures and factsheets are some of the popular and easy methods of communication that are being used to target the largest audience. It is being envisaged to utilize computer diskettes, CD-ROM, multimedia kits and web sites to transfer information, and also to help educate the public at large. Information can be tapped via the Internet from home pages of local institutions.
The Mauritius Council of Social Services (MACOSS), an umbrella organisation which groups over a hundred NGOs, recently organized workshops on Environmental Education for its members, with the purpose of creating a pool of trainers in environmental education.
The female population represents about 50% of the total. Training centres, throughout the island organize education sessions and public activities to promote the quality of life of women in the country and a better understanding of national issues. This may range from simple personal habits, such as turning off the lights, to environmentally-friendly practices and lifestyles. It is said that "when you educate a man, you educate an individual, but when you educate a woman, you educate a family!"
Past learning, personal experiences and
regular observations have shown people some of the rapid changes that occurred
in the climate and their consequences. While not necessarily understanding
the scientific principles of climate change as the underlying causes of
these effects, people are nonetheless aware of them. Increasingly warmer
seasons, erratic rainfall, droughts followed by exceptionally heavy rains,
coastal erosion, landslides, dwindling numbers of certain animals and plants,
reduced yields in agriculture, fisheries, are some of the observed facts
people often comment upon. Such awareness among the public constitutes
a resource base for non-formal education, which is being encouraged.
It is evident that irrespective of the
type and methods of communication used to educate and create awareness
about climate change matters, the basic message is clear: climate change
poses a risk to future generations, and this risk needs to be taken seriously.