Recently I´ve received confirmation that education and further education have a huge impact on climate change and learned the advantages of organizing international sustainability courses.
Last week I was invited to hold a lecture and workshop on the course Curriculum Development for Climate Change Education in Global South at Tampere University in Finland. My main point was that through education, we could get children, youth, and adults to think about sustainability challenges and solutions. As a bonus impact, the children hopefully will reflect on their thought at home, with their parents and relatives, why education can influence several generations at once.
One of my references I have touched in my earlier blog post about responsible consumption, in which I refer to the city of Ii in Finland, where BBC has identified that “the citizens are confident that the key to effective climate action is environmental education. The children are straining the climate work as they take its message to their homes”.
At the course at Tampere University, I was impressed that the participants were from all over the world, from Argentina, Azerbaidžan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, and the USA. Many participants emphasized that the sustainability challenges in their region are so many that they cannot put a focus on environmental aspects. Based on the discussion we had I realized how great online international sustainability courses are. Beyond reaching participants from different disciplines, you reach participants globally, which is important when you are dealing with sustainability issues which challenges are global. Through the discussion, you also get an insight into how sustainability issues are enhanced in different countries and which are the most urgent ones to work with where.
In December, I read books about climate change that were recommended in different blogs. One of them was The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells (2019). The book includes 12 short and brutal chapters, each of which foretells a specific dimension of our forecast doom: heat death, the end of food, dying oceans, unbreathable air, plagues of warming… The picture from the golf course is from a review of that book. People playing golf at the same time as big fires are going on, just a few kilometers away.
Another book I looked into was Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken (2017). Both books are good and take up consequences of climate change and technical solutions for slowing down the change – but neither of these books touch one key solution that can be applied anywhere, regardless of possibilities for technical investments or focus on other, more urgent sustainability goals for the region, which is education.
Education for sustainable development is central because children and youth are future leaders for all labor markets. The goal is that graduates could take economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits in decision making. For learning this, cross-disciplinary approaches; holistic and systematic thinking is essential (Holm, 2014).
Target 4.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals states the goal that “by 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for:
– sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles,
– human rights,
– gender equality,
– promotion of a culture of peace and nonviolence,
– global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity, and
– of culture’s contribution to sustainable development” (UN, 2020).
In the global report about enhancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, published in the summer, six transformations to achieve the goals have been identified. One of them is that further investments in education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects and life-long learning are needed (Sachs et al., 2020).
In December the European Climate Pact: empowering citizens to shape a greener Europe, was published. The pact emphasized encouraging participation, making the best use of digital tools, building on, and supporting existing initiatives, concerning green areas, green mobility, green buildings, and green skills. The European Commission has a goal to mobilize expertise, provide resources for networking, and support creative approaches with teachers, pupils, and students, to bring together thousands of teachers and schools (EU, 2020).
Those of you who have read my earlier blogs have maybe noticed how fond I am of the SDG Impact Assessment Tool, which I applied at a workshop with Nordic Culture Point NKK and NIVA Education. I think the tool is great for getting a discussion about sustainable development started. Therefore I decided to apply the tool also at this course and asked the participants to evaluate how they are applying the UN Sustainable Development Goals as teachers or coming teachers. One of the participants thought he applied all goals and most had identified many goals they are focusing on. The most common goals were: #SDG4: to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, #SDG5, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and #SDG16: to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
I got feedback from several participants that I made them think, which I am thrilled about, I could not ask for better feedback. The participants were academic staff and teachers or studying to become teachers in higher education, non-formal education, and universities, who I am sure will continue their work for enhancing sustainability issues.
Tove Holm, 19.1.2021
EU, 2020. European Climate Pact. Brussels, 9.12.2020.
Holm, T., 2014. Enabling Change in Universities: Enhancing Education for Sustainable Development with Tools for Quality Assurance. Doctoral thesis. The University of Turku.
Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G., Woelm, F. 2020. The Sustainable Development Goals and COVID-19. Sustainable Development Report 2020. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
UN, 2020. The Sustainable Development Agenda.