Why learn about sustainability?

The natural systems upon which all our lives depend are in decline and will not last.

If you are driving toward the edge of a cliff, just slowing down will not solve your problem. You must turn and go in a different direction.

Sustainability is about turning and charting a new course that will improve the quality of our lives and the lives of our children while restoring the natural systems upon which our lives depend.

We all need to learn how.

Education for sustainability

“We need to teach our children and students the fundamental facts of life – that one species’ waste is another species’ food; that matter cycles continually through the web of life; that the energy driving the ecological cycles flows from the sun; that diversity assures resilience; and that life, from its beginning more than three billion years ago, did not take over the planet by combat but by networking.”
– Fritjof Capra

Education for sustainability (EfS) is an emerging concept that has many of its roots in the environmental education movement. Environmental education is still important, but education for sustainability is broader in scope. It recognises that individual well-being, including human rights and social justice, are just as essential to sustainable development as environmental sustainability.

Sustainability is an interdisciplinary approach and provides a useful framework for the teaching of existing curriculum. In this sense, education for sustainability is not new. In fact most of the material used in GreenKiwi’s courses involves the integration of a broad range of content from existing learning areas, such as: science, social sciences, technology, and health and physical education.

A sustainability framework provides relevance and context for these learning areas. It also allows pupils – citizen decision-makers of the future – to engage in and take responsibility for creating a sustainable future.

As an approach Education for Sustainability requires pupils to develop:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of the key concepts. In particular education for sustainability must focus on the underlying causes of unsustainable practices, instead of just concentrating on their symptoms. Both individual and systemic changes are needed to resolve unsustainable practices. This will require redesigning many systems that currently exist in society.
  2. Attitudes and values that promote a concern for the present and future well-being of our planet and all of the life that it sustains, including humanity. These attitudes and values include excellence, innovation, participation, responsibility, cooperation, diversity and of course, sustainability.
  3. Key competencies that promote active learning – including universal competencies such as: thinking (critical thinking, creative thinking and problem solving; systems thinking and planning), communicating (competent users of words, numbers, images, actions and technology to share information, ideas and experiences), managing self (setting goals and plans, self disciplines, self assessment) relating to others (listening, sharing ideas, co-operating/collaborating, leading/following), participating and contributing (understanding rights and responsibilities, getting involved in the community).