Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Sustainable Development Educational Practice

by Lloyd on 18.02.10

For each of the areas that come up on the course, I intend to write a short piece of work. I hope that while some reflections will be personal to me, I will be able to underpin much of my ideas about sustainability and learning though validating them with theories and academic writing thought the subject.

Initial thoughts
Why am I interested in sustainability in practice?
I have been active in sustainability education for a number of years. Previously I was more active in sustainability education and advocacy though that education to international institutions such as the UN.
I am critical of the environmental lobby that focuses on trying to make people feel guilty and also that seems to consider capitalism a solution to environmental problems through invitation and entrepreneurship.
I have found that very often there are two approaches that I feel don’t represent the needs of many people or inspire change. One of these approaches I call the sceptical environmentalist, these are people that maybe still doubt runaway climate change and say that much of the problems are caused and about other things. Maybe that we need more capital, better competition within companies and see solutions though invitation rather than reduction.
The other is what I would term the guilty environmentalist; this has been the main focus for many years of much of the environmental movement. The feeling that we should feel guilty for all our actions. That its all about personal actions that we each have ultimate responsibility for and by consuming we are making personal choices to kill the earth.
These two view, have, in my view become as damaging as each other. The sceptical view feeds too much in to climate denial, as well as not truly valuating the reduction that we will have to make, they engender a feeling of inertia in people as “scientist and experts” will fix it though [capitalist] development policies. The guilt view, however has lead to much alienation from working people. They spread a message of doom and fear (much like the fear that was used to make pre-emotive attack against Iraq). Though fear they not only paralyse people (the information is overwhelming), they also individualise the guilt. Rather than leading my example, and using collective actions and engaging workers they have used competition, and individualisation. This creates little link to the wider world which is important in any suitability message and it also creates us and them (the people who are good=environmentalist and the people that are bad=everyone else) rather than engaging the whole.
I am interested how we can move forward in engendering a more positive outlook to environmental change and social development. I believe that though the ideas of sustainable development where we bring together the environmental, social and economic elements of positive sustainable development we can reach and change more peoples lives.
The development of the term “climate justice” has also been to reflect the fact that while preserving the world, we need also to create a more equitable world along with that so there is something worth saving, as it were.
I have been planning a study session and seminar series at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg, where we will look at sustainable development in a wider context the title of the week long session is “More than just recycling : Peer education for sustainable development” reflecting the fact that we need to not only tackle pure resources needs but a more fundamental look at the world we living in including the education that we get and how we learn.

What do I hope to learn and achieve though the module?
I want to learn about putting sustainability in to practice and also how people can be inspired to take home projects from educational they experience outside of their community implementing them and creating change within the community.
Exploring educational methods and also how we make choices about sustainable development I would like to develop an understanding of the wider sustainable development issues and how we in the global north can make progress in a fair way and while supporting comrades in the global south.

I have a few areas that I would partially like to consider and then some that I would like to “monitor” through out the project.

1) Answer question with the wider group – what is sustainable development for us, are there differences in perspective for people from the global south and/or other backgrounds?
2) What is sustainability and what is development and why do we need either/both?
3) How do educational experience inspire action/change?
4) How can I monitor and support change though peer education in local communities?
5) Does change occur though education or are the solutions more fundamental (ie government action/revolutions etc)?

What do I think I need to help me meet my aims and expectations?
I think that I will need to look carefully at how I monitor the work and how is change recorded. It is easy to hypothesises about change though seminars and the learning outcomes but pretty hard (in a 20 credit module) to evaluate in details the actual and perceived change.
I feel that regular follow up and meeting to order my thoughts and help develop ways of recording ideas will be invaluable in the course. I will utilise other at the study session and my colleges in the Council of Europe team.
I will need to make sure that I am writing regular reports. With conflict resolution, although a chore I will need to get back in to the habit of weekly reports/dairies.
It would be helpful for me to know a bit more what is expected from me, in terms of assessment. I would like to be able to explore some of the education work done though the Treehouse and the housing cooperative that I live in terms of living sustainability, but am also aware that I could expand this too far and need to have some parameters worked out and supported.

What is sustainability for me – why work on it?
Sustainability is a contentious concept, it not clear but what I think we have to consider is the three elements that are important to sustain human life on this earth as it is at the moment that is Environment, Economy and Society and the betterment for each one. In 2001 when I was part of an international project getting 4000 young people together to live sustainability for the week we had many dissuasions about what is sustainability. We came up with this statement”

So what does ‘sustainability’ mean?
At present levels of consumption in the UK we’d need three more planets like Earth to provide, indefinitely, for all our needs. In the words of a 10-year-old “we use too much stuff”.
Probably the most well known definition of sustainable development is
“development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
(Our Common Future, The Brundtland report, 1987).
This report called for an improvement of the quality of life for all the world’s people without increasing the use of our natural resources beyound the earth’s carrying capacity. Efforts to build a truly sustainable way of life, the report says, will require the integration of action in three key areas:
• economic growth and equity
• conserving natural resourcs and the environment
• social development.

Quite clearly this isn’t everything and also the debate and agenda has moved on a lot since then and the definition opens up more questions.
We can look in more detail in what is a good society, what is a good economy and what is a good environment? These questions in tern open up more than they answer!
How we measure a good society let alone “good” economic development – good for who, for what and why development?
Development is often seen as the ultimate “dream”, but it hasn’t always been immediately. I am reminded of the industrial revolution, when people started to work in factories, for long days, in crowded housing in cities rather than country the health and general wellbeing of the population plummeted. While clearly there was some benefit for that capitalist economic model and the critique of this new hyper industrialised society would lead to socialist and even pos-modernist thinkers were the peoples individual “wealth” improved?, in a lot of cases no. Were the health of people decreased and the model of family started to disband, social progress in this instance has to be questioned.
Sustainable Development therefore, buts a qualification on development, rather than just bumbling forward, without looking where we are going, without considering the social, economic and environmental impacts of our lives we will be unable to sustain our planet, our “good” society and our economy.
While I have not defined “What sustainable development is” in terms of defined outcomes (a utopian vision right now seems hard to come by and not particularly useful), I think that we have to consider the process in which we work towards a set of goals and principles without always knowing the narrow outcome in terms of predictions.
The fact that we work on it is for a desire for a better world, and asking some of those fundamental questions of what is a good society, what is progressive development etc, help us understand human being and the world we live in better.

Leave a comment

Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Contact Lloyd

Click here

Follow Lloyd