Students ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ at Greening with Goethe

The world in 2053 will be one where butterflies do exist in cities, rainwater is harvested and social equity is ensured. “We imagine that by 2053, the world will be a better place to live in” — this vision is the core of the declaration signed by a delegation of students belonging to 40 schools from India and 30 from Germany who attended “Greening with Goethe”, the Third International Environmental Youth Conference 2013.

Setting school books aside, students were encouraged to study an environmental issue that affected neighbouring areas and address them using scientific methods. Thus, an ambitious team of young environmentalists guided by scientists from India and the University of Bremen set out to identify local environmental problems. The team didn’t stop at searching for solutions, but also responsibly took charge of the situation and put words to action.

One of these initiatives was to reduce the number of private vehicles — by encouraging the use of school buses. “Despite the 108 buses that the school provides for nearly 5,000 students, private mode of transportation was still preferred by many, including teachers. We worked on changing the school rules and today we have noted a 50 per cent decline in the number of private vehicles,” says Anjali Sarmah, a student of Delhi Public School (North).

Sarmah adds, “Through workshops conducted in our school, we were able to raise awareness about the need of public transportand through similar initiatives we envision incorporating this at a city level.”

Addressing the issue of polluted lakes in Bangalore, a city once known for its pristine lakes, the team from Mallya Aditi International School designed a project to test samples of water in lakes and devise a solution. “Our research found that only a few active lakes remained in the city and the levels of deterioration were extremely high in the remaining. The sustainable steps we aim to take are to organise lake clean ups and install surface aerators which replenish the oxygen levels in the water and also push down the silt, making water clear,” says Jahnavi Mahindra from the team.

Involving locals from Kalahalli village, students from Indus International School aimed to sensitise them about waste segregation and environmental issues that affected them. “Garbage and lack of awareness about environmental pollution were the biggest challenges affecting Kalahalli. Awareness camps and workshops were held to counter that,” said Adhil Gafoor from the team.

“The exchange of ideas on sustainability in mobility, biodiversity, pollution, waste and energy resulted in deliberation between students from Germany and India. By taking up local issues internationally, the declaration prepared and signed by students will be presented to the Government of Karnataka for appropriate consideration and action,” said Dr. T.G. Sitharam, Chairman, Centre for Infrastructure and Sustainable Transportation & Urban Planning at the Indian Institute of Sciencs (IISc), Bangalore, at a press conference at Max Mueller Bhavan. “The projects remain with the schools so that even after the students pass out, the project can be continued by new students with fresh ideas,” says Andrea Schäfer, Deputy Director and Head of Language Department, Max Mueller Bhavan. Five schools from Bangalore: Delhi Public School North and South, Indus International School, Kendriya Vidyalay N.A.L and Mallya Aditi International School were part of the delegation at the conference held from November 29 to December 1, 2013 at the University of Bremen, Germany. Schools partnering with Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan and knowledge of basic German were few of the criterions for selection.

“Greening with Goethe” has been recognised as the “Official Project of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2012-2013” by the German UNESCO Commission and the German National Committee. The project was initiated by the Goethe-Institut in cooperation with the Centre for Environmental Research, University of Bremen, Germany in 2011. It aims at sensitising and incorporating the principles of sustainable development into school curricula.