The Church of South India (CSI) is the first Church in India to make environmental concerns a key focus of its mission.
The Anglican Communion has a distinct and powerful role to play in tackling climate change. As a global, connected body with a shared identity that transcends national borders, its member churches are involved in every part of the story of climate change, from being part of the disaster-stricken communities and the aid response to being polluters and powerful political influencers. It is both local and global. This network both contributes to the problem and the solution of climate change. Campaigning and acting for climate justice is how the church is working for change.
‘Greening the world’ is an integral part of the school day
Indian primary school children are leading the way in practically tackling climate change in their area with a special initiative which has a wide-ranging impact on their education, their lives and their community.
CMS Lower Primary School Ennooramvayal, in the Diocese of Madhya Kerala in the Church of South India, is part of a scheme to develop community responsibility towards forest management and its importance as a natural resource. Pupils are learning about the significance of trees in providing a healthy environment for the world.
The project makes use of the strip plantation of fast-growing species on sides of public roads, rivers and irrigation canals and aims to begin planting forest areas in new places.
Each child from CMS LP School is given the responsibility of planting and nourishing at least one plant every year. So, over the past 10 years 50,000 trees have been planted and nourished on and around the school campus. The program has not only helped afforestation, but also attracted a number of animals and birds who have made the area their new habitat. This has a vital impact on restoring the local eco system.
Headteacher, Sabu Pullattu, said, “Our school is a green school. The students, who are aged between 5 and 11 years old, now see ‘greening the world’ is a spiritual exercise, in order to save the world from the impact of climate change. The children are influencing the whole village.”
Working in partnership with others, the school has been receiving saplings from India’s social forestry department and has also been supported by the Church of India Synod Department of Ecological Concerns, which has been offering guidance on the program.
Prof Dr Mathew Koshy Punnackad, Honorary Director of the Department of Ecological Concerns, said, “The Church of South India (CSI) is the first Church in India to make environmental concerns a key focus of its mission. They partnered with the Centre for Science and the Environment, a leading NGO based in New Delhi, to prepare an environmental curriculum and methodology for the ‘Green Schools Programme’ to be implemented in schools across the region.”
According to the CSI Bishop of Coimbatore Diocese, the Rt Revd Timothy Ravinder, the Church of South India has enshrined the urgency and the need to protect the integrity of creation in its programmes. He said, “In the Green School programme the students and the teachers are actively involved in bringing about awareness of climate justice and the importance of sustainability. The Green School programme was started in 2015 and we are already seeing the results of transformation through the wonderful work that is being done by the students, staff and the clergy.”
Prof Punnackad said the programme encouraged students to think critically and provide solutions towards more sustainable living patterns. He said, “Students are helped to learn sustainable development issues, such as climate change and biodiversity. ‘Green Clergy’ and ‘Green teachers’ are working as facilitators in moulding future generations.”
Headteacher at CMS LP School said, “Our school was among the six best ‘Green Schools’ in India in an audit of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.” The school has received numerous awards and commendations for its approach over the past few years.
In addition to tree planting, pupils help tend a whole range of vegetables and flowers growing around the school campus. Produce from the grounds is used to make school lunches each day and there is also a fishpond, where students learn about fish management.
As part of the greening project in the school the pupils have been actively finding alternatives to plastic, swapping plastic pens with card pens and replacing synthetic school bags with homemade cloth versions.
The strong emphasis on thinking about ecology and protecting the planet has also led the school to respond to natural disasters in their country such as recent floods, as well as delivering food parcels to old people’s homes.