Mumbai Center director speaks on the Challenges of, and Education for, Sustainable Development

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Mumbai Center director speaks on the Challenges of, and Education for, Sustainable Development

May 24, 2014

Nirupam Bajpai was invited as the chief guest and the key note speaker at the 2nd International English Language Teaching (ELT) conference May 23 on the “Role of ELT in Education for Sustainable Development” by the Amity University and the Regional English Language Office of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

Bajpai said the world's priority must now be not only on growth, but on the triple bottom line of growth, equity/inclusion, and environmental sustainability. The sustainability challenge will occupy India and the world for decades, not just for years. All countries face the challenge of adapting to ongoing climate change, managing growing water scarcity, protecting endangered ecosystems and species, etc. As one of the world’s most crowded country, India faces this challenge more urgently than others. Achieving sustainable development will be the overriding strategic challenge of this generation. Throughout most of history, the tasks of integrating economic development, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability were local or regional. In the 21st century, however, they are indisputably global. Only through global cooperation can individual nations overcome these interconnected global-scale crises.

Bajpai said, China, India, Africa, Eastern Europe etc. all need to grow at high rates, but where will their fast growing energy needs be met from? Burning coal will continue to be the key source, but can it be done with minimal impact to the environment? One potential option is carbon capture and sequestration. Widespread use of non-conventional sources of energy – solar/wind/bio gas etc. are other options.

Burning coal for electricity, using gasoline to fuel vehicles, clear-cutting forests and engaging in certain agricultural practices that remove carbon-trapping vegetation contribute to anthropogenic or man-made climate change. Compelling evidence is now available to say that climate change is real and here to stay unless we change course from Business as Usual. For instance, thirty percent of carbon released into the atmosphere ends up in the oceans, leading to acidification that is killing coral and shell life. Coral protects young fish from predators, and tiny shellfish, at the bottom of the food chain, help feed the entire ecosystems. Pacific ocean is the most affected by acidification and among other things leads to El Nino taking hold in its waters.

Bajpai said climate change is a global commons problem and hence needs a universal response, wherein the U.S., western Europe, China and India to name a few have to all play a key role. With rising temperatures on sea/land and air; El Nino weather formation in the Pacific and implications for the world, especially for sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia; disturbances in the hydrological cycle with major implications for food security, especially for India; melting glaciers and rise in sea levels etc. are all matters of serious concern and demand serious action on part of the global community.

Despite the fact that the United nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development ends this year, Dr. Bajpai said, we still need substantially higher levels of awareness to be created, and education to be imparted, of the importance of sustainable development. Through creation of practical solutions, the global community needs to rededicate the next ten years through all forms of education, public awareness and training to impress upon the important role of education and learning in sustainable development.

Each individual, household, or organization can contribute to possible solutions to the problem, for instance, energy and water savings by everyone (energy saved is energy produced); in cities, far greater use of public transport than individual cars; and major reductions in business travels globally with far higher usage of Skype calls/VCs/conference calls etc. Not only should such ideas be practiced, but be taught in our schools and colleges at different levels. Our educators can play a major role in bringing the desired changes - building life skills, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, collaborative decision making skills etc. will all help in the process.