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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Who Wants to be an Environmentalist?

Few weeks ago, I and two colleagues – Ms. Erica Licht and Mrs. Bridget Onegbu led a group of 30 secondary school students on a trip to the Lekki Conservation Centre – a natural reserve run by the Nigeria Conservation Centre as part of the U.N.I.T.E (You And I Teach Eachother - a community youth based program that bridges the gap between the criminal justice system, youths and nature) curriculum.

Ogudu Senior Grammar School Students taking a tour of the Lekki Conservation Centre

We were received by a tour guide who is also an environmentalist who gave a history of both the Nigeria Conservation Centre and the Lekki Conservation Centre.  Afterwards, he asked “who wants to be an environmentalist?” All hands were down. A bit disappointed, he proceeded to explain the duties of an environmentalist and reasons why the world needs them.
30 minutes later, he was through with his explanation, he asked again “who wants to be an environmentalist?” And everyone’s hand shot up.

Looking at the bigger picture, most times we are quick to pass judgement  hate, fear, despise and completely turn down things, ideas, concepts we know nothing about. Other times we simply refuse to ask questions – be enlightened because we are afraid to confirm our doubts and denounce everything we have been taught to be right and wrong but if we could just for a moment put aside our prejudices and ask questions or allow others to tell us why they act, dress or behave; raise their children a certain way or about their religious beliefs or their cultures, we may find our hearts and minds opening up to them. This is the transformational power of correct information.

In just 30 minutes, 30 secondary school students went from being hostile to being open to environmentalism because they had new information that they could relate to their immediate surroundings vis a vis erosion, flooding, extreme temperatures. Another thing worthy of note too is that the tour guide explained his profession in a way that they understood.

From left: Mrs Bridget Unegbu - Ogudu site coordinator for UNITE, Ms. Erica Licht - Director of UNITE and Vweta Ariemugbovbe - Assistant Project Coordinator for UNITE

Why don’t we all free our minds of every pre-conceived idea about people and let them tell us about themselves, their culture, and their beliefs? Don’t we see the world becoming a better place already?

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