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Schoolchildren will be the main targets of programmes at City Parks’ environmental education centre. But there will also be community initiatives to spread the word.
WORLD Environment Month was celebrated in fine style, with City Parks launching its environmental education centre at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens in Emmarentia on 22 June.


Preserving the environmentPreserving the environmentThe environment has come increasingly under the microscope as climate change rears its ugly head. Given this, in 1972, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) introduced a day devoted entirely to the environment.

World Environment Day is celebrated each year on 5 June. It has, however, grown beyond just one day; World Environment Week and Month have since been added to the calendar. City Parks, Joburg’s greening agency, chose to launch its education centre to coincide with this.

School children were the focus of the day, as the programmes that will be offered at the centre are primarily aimed at them. Stalls set up outside by organisations such as Rand Water, Pikitup, Bird Life and the Department of Environmental Affairs handed out brochures of helpful tips and gave presentations to groups of children.

Representatives from City Parks and the City of Johannesburg were joined by Miss Earth South Africa 2010, Nondyebo Dzingwa, who spoke to the children about the importance of looking after the natural world by performing activities such as recycling and planting trees.

“I would like to encourage you all to walk around with green glasses on,” she said. “This means throwing away litter that you see and recycling, for example.”
Ewaste was a particularly big concern, she explained. “It does the worst damage to the environment as toxins are released when they are thrown away in dumps.” This was why she, in association with Desco and Incredible Connection, launched an initiative where they placed ewaste bins at schools. Ewaste dumped in these bins then went to China to be recycled.

Her message was reinforced by Sydney Nkosi, the director of natural resource management in the City’s department of environmental management, who stepped in for the member of the mayoral committee for infrastructure and environment, Roslynn Greeff, to launch the centre.

Miss Earth SA, Nondyebo Dzingwa talks about recyclingMiss Earth SA, Nondyebo Dzingwa talks about recycling“I am going to do what Miss Earth said and put green glasses on,” he said. “It is important to take negatives and turn them into positives. We can turn waste into wealth and trash into cash, which is the basic message we need to convey on environment day.”

It was time now for people from different walks of life to unite for a brighter future, Nkosi said. “There needs to be a collective consciousness to change lifestyles, and the challenge remains for us to play our small parts.”

He was therefore hopeful that the new centre would serve as a classroom for Joburg’s youth, to create environmentally aware citizens.

It is set to do so with grade-specific programmes developed through consultation with national curriculum statements from grades 0 to 12. Some of the themes on offer will be open space management, water conservation, biodiversity education, alien and indigenous plants, bird life, energy conservation and waste management.
Community programmes
The programmes last between one-and-a-half and three-and-a-half hours and can accommodate 120 learners. In addition to the school programmes, there will also be community programmes.

“[They] create active citizens that are environmentally literate and ensure that present and future generations can live sustainably,” said Sinah Magolo, the manager of the environmental education unit at City Parks.

These programmes will involve the celebration of environmental theme days and weeks, such as Wetlands Day, Water Week, Earth Day, Bird Week, Environment Week, Arbour Week and World Water Monitoring Day. Initiatives such as planting vegetable gardens and participation in tree planting and extreme park makeovers will also be encouraged.

Workshops dealing with issues such as environmental rights, waste management, open space management and biodiversity education will comprise a large part of the project, and exhibitions will be held in open spaces and shopping malls to further raise awareness.

“It is a valuable facility set to assist in providing a clean-environed Joburg, and it is the legacy we are leaving behind for future generations,” Nkosi said.

A vegetable garden was opened and a tree was planted to illustrate City Parks’ commitment to the project.

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