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Thursday, 2 January 2014

Balancing Environmental Education; the need to include wildlifemanagement.

With all the initiatives to increase and improve environmental education in the UK and worldwide there often seems to me to be an imbalance in what is taught as 'environmental education'.

I'm convinced, and I've written about it before that if we are going to get children involved in nature, and I mean involved to the point that they want to take action for the environment, that they need to love it and enjoy it before they develop that desire for action. But further to that they need to be presented with a complete and realistic view of the environment and nature.  Often our children get their ideas of nature from TV or from books or school teachers (Keliher 1997) which omit the realities of the need for human management in nature and even go so far as to censor the harsh realities of predator-prey relationships so as not to shock or upset. If we are to raise a generation who will take action for the environment we need to be instilling in them an understanding that people need to influence the environment, we can't just step back and let things happen. There are calls for rewilding (see my blog post about George Monbiots comments on rewilding http://bushcrafteducation.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/rewilding.htmlbut even that can't just be left to it'self, huge expense and complex management issues surround any kind of re-introduction and rewilding. 
There is also a lack of understanding generally that there is a need to lethally control certain species for the benefit of the wider environment and to reduce damage to sensetive conservation areas, agriculture and forestry or to maintain the health of the population of that species. Whose numbers, due to the extinction of its natural predators, are only regulated by debilitating disease, competition for food caused by massively expanding populations and ultimately starvation. These kind of issues need to be represented in environmental education just as much as any other issue and being that many of these issues are much closer to home than the deforestation of rain forests it may be easier to engage students with them and start their journey to becoming environmentally aware and active. 

This excellent video by the John Muir Trust is exactly the kind of thing we should be including in environmental ed as a matter of routine; 



Managing deer for nature from John Muir Trust on Vimeo.

This is the kind of awareness of the environment that we need to encourage, and it should include a balanced picture of gamekeepers and deer stalkers who can actually have a very important impact on nature and the environment for the good!

References

Keliher, V (1997) Childrens Perceptions of Nature, International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 6(3) pg 240-243

Bushcraft Education Videos