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How does perception reflect through our actions in relation to climate change action?

  • Published at 05:50 pm September 27th, 2021

People who are heavily dependent on nature, grew up with nature-friendly perceptions from ancient times

Amid the nineteenth century, human philosophy faced a tremendous shifting towards nature. While the ancient people believed that nature is the ultimate power on the earth, the nineteenth century ushered in the idea that humans can control nature and modify it with the development of science and technology. 

In the late sixties, this faced a paradigm shift towards giving nature the same priority as human interference, creating urgency for nature conservation. Later, we learned about climate change, which directly relates to thinking human beings are superior to nature. Then the idea of sustainable and eco-friendly approaches towards development and lifestyle became mainstream.

However, perception gives meaning to the environment around us — the process that involves seeing, receiving, selecting, organizing, and interpreting. Perception is our brain's ultimate result after analyzing our sensory reports acquired by our physical organs. Perceptions also have influences like past experiences, assumptions and expectations, character traits, education, culture, preconceived notions, etc. 

People who are heavily dependent on nature grew up with nature-friendly perceptions from ancient times. Indigenous people have extra care for nature; their culture and daily life activities are not harmful to the environment. For example – in rural Bangladesh, ponds are used as drinking water and other water-related amenities. The people directly involved with the pond take advantage of the pond and have extra care. 

Again, people dependent on forests also adopt a friendly culture towards the woods — they regulate their consumption of forest products in a manner that can be used for a long time. Sometimes their culture prioritizes the forest area as a holy or sacred place. In Sub-Saharan Africa, tribes have age-old techniques of conserving their natural resources. These people's perception tells them to care about the natural resources because they are heavily dependent on those. 

Nevertheless, perception is biased towards most favourite or essential things around. Sound understanding of nature's importance influences better care towards it — motivates us to think in an approach to save it and sustain it — which is a dire necessity in this age of exploitation and degradation. Again, climate change is our biggest threat, leading us towards an inhabitable earth and complete extinction. The impacts of climate change have already started to be visible in front of us; the sea level is rising, cyclones are fiercer, and summers are hotter. It became more than a necessity to fight against climate change. Growing a perception of nature can motivate us and bring a positive change in this threatening situation.

However, promoting nature-friendly thinking in every aspect of life is now well practised in various practitioner level initiatives. Nature-based Solutions or NbS is one of the newest concepts which promotes sustainable use of nature and tackling the challenges. NbS promotes inclusive and equitable initiatives and derived from nature and cultures around it, which will directly influence people's minds and thought processes. 

Nevertheless, the youth community’s spirit and curiosity towards new things make the youths adopt new perceptions or modify them. People start to grow their perceptions at the very early stage of their lives – from family. Then academic institutions and friends also start to influence them. Finally, from the early teenage years, people begin to gain social influence from society. Growing care for nature also commences in this way.

There are a handful of examples of youth-led initiatives which created massive changes around the world. The international community acknowledges Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and her endeavours for climate change activism. 

In the African region, various projects empowered youth groups and got positive results. Environmental clubs around the universities around the world are also doing wondrous works. All of this influences others who are not members or attached to the venture to grow care and positively perceive nature conservation. Suppose more support and guidelines are provided to them. In that case, they can make a significant difference and influence their friends and family, creating the whole society to positively perceive nature conservation.

Additionally, in Bangladesh, the national curriculum prioritizes nature's study, but it is crucial to have practical experiences, especially for urban-centric youths. The practice of social and environmental clubs should be initiated at an early age in primary level education. Relatively older youths who actively participate in club activities (college or university going students) should give away their knowledge to the children and teenagers at the very early stage of developing their perception.

Finally, perception of the environment and ecosystem is the key to using natural resources and conserving them. It influences our daily life micro-level decisions we take every day and the significant decisions towards society. 

Climate change is no longer a future problem; we have to act now and fight against it. It is hard to bring all human beings into this change-making scenario. Still, it is easy to influence their perception of nature by slowly affecting our daily life behaviour and decisions. As author Paula Heller Garland says, “Change doesn't happen all at once. It's a gradual wearing away of the unconsciousness." Changes in the perceptions are more sustaining and practical, making a concrete base for the future.

Sakib Rahman Siddique Shuvo is a student of the Department of Geography and Environment at Jahangirnagar University. He is working as a research intern at ICCCAD, and he was also a participant in the RISE Youth Leadership Programme

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