With a love for learning and a love for the Earth, and three hours a week, a group of older students turned an abandoned plot of land in their neighborhood into a wetland conservation site.
The group of 51 students at Shilin Community College held an eco-pond completion ceremony yesterday and promised to maintain the wetland even after their class is finished.
“Building the pond is only the beginning. With it I’m going to teach them how to be environmental educators and guide people through wetlands,” said Chen Te-hong (陳德鴻), head of the Society of Wilderness and the class teacher.
WETLANDS’ VITAL ROLE
Wetlands are an important source of nutrition for many types of plants, animals and insects, as well as an important habitat for them, he said.
“The damage done to wetlands is more severe than people think,” he said.
Fortunately in recent years more people are starting to pay attention to what they are doing to the environment, Chen said, adding that the concept of “land morality” is beginning to be spread.
“The idea of land morality is to let nature take over when it comes to ‘designing’ a green space,” he said.
For example, the constructed wetland that Chen’s class built doesn’t have carefully pruned trees and mown grass.
ACCORDING TO NATURE
“We are educated to think that orderly is the way parks should be, but we should provide an opportunity for the environment to evolve according to nature, rather than demanding that trees and grasses comply with human desires,” he said.
The student leader of the class, Liao Yong-song (廖永松), who is in his 60s, said the class was very meaningful to him and that he wished to become an “ecosystem maintainer” and guide at the site after he finishes the course.
“We have planted many things that should originally have existed here [if the land hadn’t been damaged],” Liao said.
Most of the students were surprised to learn what nature should be like, how much damage humans have done to it and why the survival of small animals and plants is directly linked to human survival, he said.
“The food chain is like a pyramid with humans at the top. If the life forms on the bottom — which support the beings in the middle — don’t survive, then humanity will face collapse,” Liao said.
“When we try and conserve and protect nature we are actually protecting ourselves,” Liao said.