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Suryo W. Prawiroatmodjo

Conservation begins in the classroom

Published in 1990clockTime to read: 55s
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Suryo Prawiroatmodjo’s tireless efforts to make environmental education the cornerstone of conservation efforts took root at home and quickly spread throughout Indonesia and beyond.

locationIndonesia

Suryo Prawiroatmodjo trained as a vet, but he had little interest in vaccinating dogs and cats. His passion was for the wider environment, his love of the outdoors nurtured during yearly trips with an aunt to the rugged eastern reaches of his native island of Java.

After receiving the Rolex Award, I became better known and was invited to join Caretakers of the Environment International. I knew then that I was not alone. Their network of environmental educators around the world became a moral support for me, feeding me new knowledge and new methodologies.

For Prawiroatmodjo, who died in 2013, conservation was never just about planting trees. He believed protecting the planet required a radical shift in people’s attitudes and set about achieving that. He became active across the island, successfully networking with teachers to include the environment in school curricula.

With help from his Rolex Award and the World Wildlife Fund, he was able to buy land and build, on the slopes of the sacred Penanggungan volcano in east Java, the country’s first centre for environmental education. This became a magnet for students, educators and conservationists worldwide, and inspired similar centres in west Java and Bali. This growing web led Prawiroatmodjo to establish the Indonesian Environmental Educators Network.

Many other successes followed. He persuaded Surabaya State University to launch a two-year postgraduate programme in environmental studies, the only one of its kind in South-East Asia. Even after his diagnosis with Crohn’s disease, Prawiroatmodjo – he once described himself as a broker and agitator rather than a teacher – continued to campaign, cajole and coordinate. He wrote a book, Enjoy and Play with Nature, a guide to using the environment to teach subjects from mathematics to sociology.

Prawiroatmodjo won many honours in his lifetime, including being listed as a Laureate on the Global 500 Environmental Forum’s honour roll.

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