Guilherme B. Guzzo is a biologist and teacher in Brasil, with a M.S. in Zoology. I'm posting this on his behalf. We met at a meeting in Uruguay and had several wonderful conversations. I hope he continues to contribute his wise thoughts to this blog.
The environment (and the world) needs good citizens
Guilherme B. Guzzo, biologist and teacher, M.S. in Zoology
One of the most difficult points when we discuss environmental issues is: how is it possible to change people’s behavior in a way that they start to perceive the environment that surrounds them as a vital part of their lives?
Part of the answer relies on the role of schools in the transmission of knowledge. It is really difficult for anyone to act in a certain way if he or she does not have enough information about the problem. But information is not all we need. Robert Pirsig, in his classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, stated that, if we want to change the world, we first need to change ourselves. We cannot achieve good results if people do not perceive the importance of doing the right things. Some people may ask “why should I use less water, or save energy in my house?” The question we could address to this people should be “is there any reason to behave the other way?” Even if we don’t know exactly the effects of using a lot of energy in our homes, or of using water to clean our backyard, we should save these resources just because this is the right thing to do.
The role of the families is, in my opinion, more important than the role of schools in creating responsible citizens. Values are grown in the familiar environment. Parents need to understand that what they do and say can have a tremendous influence on their children. That’s why parents should try to do the right things, and habituate their children to do the same. Parenting is not just about feeding the children, giving them material and monetary resources; the essential is to be concerned with their personal development, with personal values.
To be a good citizen is a question that does not concern the life of an individual. Citizenship is a value that societies should appreciate: it is essential for life in groups, and the environment also depends on it.