Children are the future of conservation and reconciliation
January 27, 2014
Who Cares about Nature', a two day event organized by Dilmah Conservation saw a diverse public audience attend a variety of informative and recreational activities for both children and nature enthusiasts. While the children took part in reading, puppetry, drawing, sculpting and various other activities that focused on connecting kids with nature, the adult audience attended a panel discussion on the subject of 'Reconciliation through the Power of Nature', a wildlife photography workshop and a presentation on 'Man in the Natural Ecosystem' by Dr. Bill Jackson, Chief Executive, Parks Victoria, Australia. Cultural demonstrations by the indigenous Veddah, and Ahikuntaka Communities also attracted many interested participants who were able to engage with and learn more about these communities. The innovative sustainable agriculture display models, together with an interactive exhibition featuring various initiatives across the island undertaken by Dilmah Conservation were also of great interest to the public.
The panel discussion, 'Reconciliation through the Power of Nature' addressed the importance of promoting and strengthening environmental and nature education. The distinguished panel was headed by Hon. Udaya Gammanpila, Minister of Agriculture, Agrarian Development, Irrigation, Trade and Environment in the Western Provincial Council, Professor Sarath Kotagama, Head of the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo, Mr. K. Raja Ram, Committee Member of the Jaffna Peace Council and moderated by Dr. Jehan Perera, Executive Director at the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka.
With constructive feedback from the audience, the panel discussed how children -who have begun to appreciate and understand the natural world-, could convey the message of conservation to their parents, brothers and sisters and, in turn, influence whole communities to alter their perspective on protecting their natural surroundings. While exploring examples of previous attempts made by various schools and organizations to promote the conservation of nature through a new generation of thoughtful and well-informed kids, the panel sought to encourage comments and responses from the audience members, prompting their views on the subjects. Many agreed that children were the ideal ambassadors of this message.
A significant portion of the discussion also focused on the work carried out by Dilmah Conservation to reconcile the North and South towards a singular Sri Lankan identity. This project concentrated on educating the children from the North, East and other provinces on the natural wealth of Sri Lanka through nature appreciation workshops and field excursions, the rebuilding of Jaffna's famed Thondaimannaru Field Research Station and the publication of the first Tamil language book on Sri Lankan birds. 'The best medium for reconciling social conflicts is the children,'Professor Sarath Kotagama added while emphasizing the crucial role played by children in the efforts of reconciling the country through nature. 'As a naturalist and a person who works with nature, we never find the time to look for differences among ourselves, but we always try to be together as one, because otherwise we cannot appreciate nature for what it truly is,'he explained.
Hon. Udaya Gammanpila also reflected upon the aspect of utilizing nature to bridge communities across the island. "During the 71 riots I lost many of my family members and I was so angry with the then ruling party. Therefore we should understand that there is bitterness in the lives of the people living in the North, as they all faced similar situations. Therefore, using a platform such as -nature' to reconcile communities would be the ideal approach for Sri Lanka"
For more information on -Who Cares about Nature' and the work we do visit http://www.dilmahconservation.org/