HomeOpinion & AnalysisRole of the family in environmental literacy and climate protection

Role of the family in environmental literacy and climate protection


By Peter Makwanya

THE family as a micro-institution is significant in many ways, with the socialisation of both the nucleus and extended entities being paramount. It is the inter-connectedness of a family that makes it a suitable setting to discuss environmental protection and climate proofing doctrine.

Many family set-ups are closed entities not open to a variety of voices of the siblings due to the dictates of culture and fear.

The nurturing of multiple voices is prohibited due to some taboo-related topics like intimate issues, witchcraft, cultural marginalisation, toxic religious practices and sensitive political issues.

All these issues contribute to a gloomy atmosphere where even information sharing becomes taboo.

This is also compounded by patriarchy, where the father of the house is the only voice.

This type of environment is not suitable for discussing topical issues such as the environment and climate change where information sharing should not be restricted.

In this regard, environmental and climate change issues should be given the space they deserve and not be treated as taboo.

As such, the family becomes a trusted point of departure and a paragon of faith for climate matters to be deliberated mutually and in the spirit of ubuntu/humanism.

Taboos should not be allowed to get in the way of climate discussions and environmental protection issues, although keeping attention to cultural and behavioural aspects should be treated in moderation.

It is in the family set-up that traditional barriers which keep some members silent, should be overcome and voices nurtured.

The distance among members of the same family is not healthy for sustainable information sharing hence the need for its reduction.

Taboos concerning who should speak first or not at all, in whose presence or who is supposed to keep quiet have contributed to zipped societies lacking confidence and sustainable voices.

In this regard, the voice of the girl child remain muted, having a negative impact on her life.

Therefore, the family should be seen as a voluntary institution where members open up and speak freely without being drowned in perpetual phobia.

If issues of invading forests to exploit forest resources cannot be discussed at the family nucleus level, then children will never know what is bad for the environment.

Although forest products should improve people’s quality of life, a family with more than seven children will obviously use more natural resources, hence it needs to have knowledge of how it should use natural resources responsibly.

Therefore, educating the family about the importance of environmental conservation should be done at the family level before the information is shared by communities.

This is to say, before family members can open up and speak in the communities, they need the family set up as the basis for confidence building for communicating issues.

There are some practices and behaviours with a cultural or religious bearing which should be toned down. It has always been the father’s role to hunt and bring bush meat home while the mother exploited forest resources for firewood, fruits, vegetables and grass.

All the above-mentioned practices, if not done responsibly lead to the over exploitation of natural resources and the extinction of flora and fauna. It is time for ecological renewal without losing focus of the local community’s traditional knowledge.

As people renew themselves, it is in the interest of humanity not to throw morals, universal ethical considerations, norms and values into the dustbin of nature destruction.

In this regard, our production and consumption patterns should shift from exploiting natural resources to the production of more of the food we eat without destroying the environment.

Even our consumption patterns should not be determined by the abundance of forest resources which are normally free for all.

Therefore, the climate engagement initiatives should always have their basis in the home, with the family as the first port of call so that climate action strategies and justice have a point of departure.

Enough environmental facts and information including the view of the world should be absorbed in the fundamental context of the home.

It is in the home that every family member should learn about climate change matters more than anywhere else.

The people’s environmental behaviour should be guided by community knowledge and wisdom although science rules.

These require talking about conservation and meaningful information sharing as members of the same family.

Constructive conversations about nature and the value of the environment should be introduced at home, where values such as respect, turn-taking and listening skills are practised.

It is at the family level where one learns how to engage and participate in conversations, tell their stories, be heard and get connected as individuals and reconnected with the environment.

As human beings, people cannot get connected with the environment without getting connected with one another among themselves.

In this regard, it begins with you, in the family then together and lastly with nature, with everyone having a role to play.

Good environmental choices and interventions emanate from inquiring and soliciting the wisdom of the elders in the home and later with community knowledge banks. It is also in the home where family members are motivated by the power of their stories, articulating their history, identity and culture, in the framework of their worldview.

From these conversations, people learn how to learn from each other and value one another’s contribution.

In these environments, participants will learn that conversations are not wars to be won or lost and also that having different points of view is not enmity but just varying perspectives and the diversity of humans as products of God’s creation.

Knowledge of the forests, physical features and landscapes and their sacredness should be included in family conversations guided by the local systems of knowledge for resilience building purposes.

These interactions bring the best out of lived experiences in close association with the environment in order to soothe one another on reciprocal basis.

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