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Restoring Earth through Value-based Education and Research

An inclusive and accountable approach to achieve sustainability
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The theme for Earth Day 2021 is "Restore our Earth". The world is facing challenging times like never before and one of the obvious reasons for this is - Development without discernment. As we work on the restoration process, development needs to continue parallelly with the prime focus on sustainability. Sustainable development is the only solution to these numerous problems and it is calling for a series of initiatives and action to be taken. Big or small, every action counts. Whether it is performing daily activities or working towards achieving a breakthrough in the field of Science and technology, it has become important to consider the sustainability of our planet. 

At an individual level, prioritization of our responsibility towards our planet's recovery is key to achieve the sustainable development goals. For that to happen, there is an imminent need to instill mindfulness in  people about their actions towards their planet. We see a lot of inequity in the world today, the rich are becoming richer and the poor remain poor. Erosion of values is the root cause for this imbalance. Values like love, compassion, peace, truth and justice form the pillars of a sound society. Today these values are fading away.  

At an institutional level, Value-based Education and Participatory Research is one of the definite ways to achieve this.  

Focus on educating the children and youth, first. Introduce education on principles of sustainable development to children. The earlier the better. Schools and Universities need to work towards improving their curriculum that will help students to understand the real problems of the world and their responsibility towards the society. Every process in this universe- be it biological, ecological, social, political or anything else needs to be revisited and represented to the common man highlighting its role in restoring our planet. Most importantly make them realize that the purpose of their education is to be able to cater to the needs of the society, rather than just making a living.  

Interdisciplinary Participatory Research: Research remains incomplete without the involvement of the communities, who are the sufferers of various problems imposed by the current condition of the planet and who are also the beneficiaries of the technological or scientific interventions to fight these problems. The end goal is building capacity and resilience in the communities. This requires understanding the needs of a community, considering the diverse socio-political, cultural and behavioral aspects of the community; educating the community members about the need for a scientific intervention; identifying and engaging the key community stakeholders in the overall process. Thus we can see that it is a highly interdisciplinary effort to get to the end goal.  

At the global level, Multi-sectoral Cooperation and Partnerships should be prioritized to be able to solve the problems quickly and efficiently. Collaboration of Scientific and non-scientific groups of people is an important step. Researchers have an important role to play, so do Government officials, NGOs and industries. Every sector needs to define sustainability with attributes specific to their field and carry forward efforts making sustainability as their core value or focus.  

As a part of Amrita's sustainability initiatives, Amrita University has developed mobile and web applications for crowd sourcing and tracking disasters that help citizens to record events through these applications. Our Landslide Early warning system in addition to these applications have helped in building resilience in communities against natural disasters.  

In our experience in working for and with the communities, we found that it is one thing to develop these applications, and it is another thing to implement these interventions and ensure smooth technology adoption by the communities. We face many challenges during the adoption phase. Communities often fail to realise the need for these technological interventions either due to lack of awareness or remain highly resistant to bring about a change in their lives. Establishing dialogues and a trustworthy relationship with the community members becomes a very important component of participatory research. 

Our planet is at the brink of a crisis, a crisis that seems irreversible and requires a lot of focused and perseverent efforts. That is the prime responsibility of everyone at this juncture. The scientific and non-scientific communities need to look at science and technology through the lens of inclusivity, equity and diversity to be able to ensure restoration of our planet and sustainable future.