Ecology for Children – an experiment in environmental storytelling
India has a rich cultural tradition extending back over three millenia. Given the multitude of species found in the nook and corners of the country, the Indian cultural tradition has a heavy dose of biodiversity deeply embedded in it. Examples of such associations abound – from Lord Ganesha having a mouse as his vehicle to basil being worshipped as Goddess Tulsi. Such stories are being forgotten and lost in the fast-paced world of today. The problem is more acute for the tablet-totting, television-hooked generation of today. Question is, in what way can we effectively deliver these stories to the children of today?
Muriel Kakani, a Belgian national living in India for the past 20 years, has been trying to do just that through her website Ecology for Children and a number of children’s books she has written. Muriel believes that the Indian lifestyle and cultural traditions are most well suited for environmental conservation. From maintaining agricultural biodiversity in fields through traditional farming methods to protecting trees by setting aside sacred trees and groves, Indians have been engaging in eco-friendly practices for the past several thousand years. Muriel tries to tell such stories through her books geared towards children.
In one of her stories, the The Honey Gatherers of Sunderbans, Muriel teaches the value of respecting Mother Nature while taking benefits from her. The story, told rather succinctly and in an engrossing manner, explains the pitfalls of exploiting Mother Nature while forgetting the need to do our bit towards its protection. Even though the story is told in a manner understandable to children, such stories hold valuable lessons for even the adults of today.
Muriel says on her website that “Love and empathic feelings are the greatest stimulant to the will…Feelings are more important than facts when talking about saving the Earth, preserving the environment and ecology.” I whole-heartedly agree with that approach. I also believe that feelings, coupled with knowledge, can be the most potent agent for change in this world!
For more information about Muriel’s work, check out the website and her project Ecology for Children.