Educating children is long-term solution to green issues

I highly commend Resorts World Sentosa for committing to a move that will eliminate 1.2 tonnes of plastic waste a year and reduce the consequential pollution that threatens our marine life and skies (RWS stops providing single-use plastic straws at attractions, eateries; Oct 30).

The plastic recycling rate in Singapore was a meagre 6 per cent last year, according to the National Environmental Agency (NEA).

The low recycling rate coupled with the rampant use of single-use plastics has led to the need to focus on the third of the three Rs and the core purpose of the straw ban: to reduce. The truth is that forcing consumers to change their behaviour through bans may be necessary to begin saving our environment immediately, but forcing the population into any action will always cause discontentment.

The long-term solution to saving the environment is to indoctrinate environmental consciousness into the population so that the consumers themselves drive the change to save the environment.

NEA is already doing its part to create environmental consciousness by championing waste reduction campaigns, but it could also work with the Ministry of Education to inculcate greater environmental responsibility beyond standard classroom conversation.

First, children should have more field trips to appreciate Singapore's natural environment. Observatory field trips to protected areas to appreciate Singapore's diverse flora and fauna will generate a desire among children to protect the environment.

Second, environmental science should also become a key component of the formal science syllabus to provide children with a theoretical foundation for their environmental efforts. This programme should grow to include action-oriented trips, such as the annual International Coastal Cleanup for older children.

Beyond global environmental theory, students can delve deeper and discuss key challenges specific to Singapore.

Students should also be exposed to realistic simulations of a Singapore degraded by environmental damage to serve as further motivation to protect the environment.

The visual stimuli of field trips coupled with an active approach to conservation will encourage students to develop a strong environmental conscience.

Gadiraju Sujay

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2018, with the headline 'Educating children is long-term solution to green issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe