Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: November 2011

HEA Academic Lead for Education for Sustainable Development

📥  News and Updates

I need to add my welcome and congratulations to xxxxxx (I don't know either).  As yesterday's ESD Project e-newsletter notes:

This highly motivated and engaging individual will have the pleasure of coordinating and/or leading on the rest of this year's work on ESD. Projects and events include: the Interdisciplinary Workshop in December, the Policy Think Tank, and accompanying workshop, around employability, the green economy and green skills; lessons learned from Green Academy, including guidance for HEIs; and the NUS follow-up research into students' skills and attitudes toward sustainable development.

... and much more.  Really good to see the Academy making this appointment.


Responsibly sourced concrete

📥  Comment, News and Updates

I'm grateful to Nick Jones for forwarding the latest newsletter from the BRE group which reports that 70% of UK concrete is now responsibly sourced, and covered by BRE Global’s BES 6001 Responsible Sourcing certification.

Being curious as to what this could possibly mean, I delved further only to discover that Responsible Sourcing of Construction Products ...

provides a holistic approach to managing a product from the point at which a material is mined or harvested in its raw state through manufacture and processing, through use, re-use and recycling, until its final disposal as waste with no further value.

is demonstrated through an ethos of supply chain management and product stewardship and encompasses social, economic and environmental dimensions.

addresses aspects such as stakeholder engagement, labour practices and the management of supply chains serving materials sectors upstream of the manufacturer.

So there we have it.  This makes blogging worthwhile.

Mind you, if you want a (w)hole new take on holism, just click here.


Cradle to cradle to ... what exactly?

📥  Comment, Talks and Presentations

At the Management International Conference in Portorož, I listened to a confident presentation about cradle to cradle ideas by Albin Kälin, CEO of EPEA Switzerland.  I suppose I should say Cradle to Cradle® as this phrase has been registered.  Anyway.

EPEA Switzerland says that it

implements with an experienced management team Cradle to Cradle® projects in all industries in Switzerland, Austria and the textile industry worldwide ... .

In terms of efficient husbanding and use of increasingly scarce and expensive resources, and the shift to more of a design philosophy that it entails, all this seems self-evidently a good idea, and something to welcome, as is the positive focus on the quality and integrity of both processes and materials.  But I think there may be an elephant in this cradle, if I can mince my metaphors.  It's captured in this question which I asked Kälin:

Whilst I can see the sense of this approach to resources and to product design, it seems that one might argue that the two most obvious outcomes will be [1] sustained (in the enduring sense) corporate profits, and [2] rich consumers with an eased conscience.  It is less obvious that this will be of any help to the world's poorest billions.  I wonder how you respond to this.

His answer was not convincing — in fact, it wasn't an answer to the question at all.  Had the question been asked by an EPEA insider, it would have seems almost blasphemous, I suppose, whereas because it came from me, an outsider, it was merely an attempted critical opening to conversation.

There does need to be a convincing answer, though, as the question will get asked by people much less sympathetic to the idea, and much more anti-capitalist, than I am.


Managing sustainability?

📥  Talks and Presentations

I'm jus returned from Slovenia where I gave a keynote at the 12th Management International Conference, MIC, in Portorož.

The title of the conference was Managing Sustainability?, and I was asked, in particular, to talk about the ? in the title which I did by focusing on universities and how they set about addressing sustainability.  My talk was: Sustainability and the Idea of the University: learning into the future, and I drew on past activity and writing with some new thoughts about agency and leadership.  I was asked an unusually good question about the future element of the talk, and the meaning of learning our way into the future.  The questioner was appropriately sceptical about the possibility of this.

But it seems to me that university teachers are caught betwixt a past (which is not yet over) and a future (which is here already).  They have the responsibility of helping their students value aspects of the past, and to be discriminating about this, whilst helping them to understand the future that is emerging in contexts pertinent to their studies, and thus preparing them for critical participation within this, and this might apply as much to the social context as it obviously does to the workplace one.

Perhaps this is the best justification for work placements, sandwich courses and other workplace links where students get first-hand exposure to new ideas and practices, and the difficulties and excitement associated with their incubation and evolution, doing this in the demanding cauldron of the real economy.  I wish I'd had the wit to say this in my talk.


... nor hell a fury like an academic scorned

📥  News and Updates

Next Easter, classics Professor, Edith Hall, is moving across London, from Royal Holloway to King's in a move prompted, we're told, by her present university's reaction to funding changes.  The Observer, today, carried some detail of the ins and outs of the matter.

The paper quotes from Hall's resignation letter:

The intense stresses of a professional environment in which the senior management do not in my view uphold the values definitive of a university, and whose fiscal competence I do not trust, make it impossible for me to continue teaching and conducting research at Royal Holloway.



Compensation please – we’ve far too much oil

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Saudi Arabia is one of two countries that have declined to endorse a report on the Green Climate Fund, one of the few ideas, you'll recall, that was spawned in 2009 in the UN meeting that became known as Nopenhagen.  It was then agreed at Cancún, last year, when a transitional committee was set up to sort issues out and report at Durban – next week.

The FT reports that the Sauds wanted more in the report about 'response measures'.  This is code for compensation for oil producing countries for loss of income because climate change policy measures will reduce their income.  Words (almost) fail me.  The other non-signature is the USA, although for different, and perhaps better, reasons – though that’s a personal view.


Rachel Carson: a child's world

📥  Comment

Now and then, I come across fragments of text which resonate.  Maybe it's the thought of my grandchildren that provokes this:

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement.  It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.  If I had influence with the good fairy, who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from sources of our strength.

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at east one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.  Parents often have a sense of inadequacy when confronted on the one hand with the eager, sensitive mind of a child and on the other with a world of complex physical nature, inhabited by a life so various and unfamiliar that it seems hopeless to reduce it to order and knowledge.  In a mood of self-defeat, they exclaim, “How can I possibly teach my child about nature — why, I don’t even know one bird from another!”

I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel.  If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.  The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil. Once the emotions have been aroused – a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love – then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response.  Once found, it has lasting meaning.  It is more important to pave the way for a child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts that he is not ready to assimilate.

Just so – and thanks to the beautiful writing of Bronwen Hayward for this reminder.  I'm looking forward to reading more ...

Carson, R. (1965). The sense of wonder. New York; Harper & Row.

The Isle of ... Green

📥  News and Updates

The Economist carries a short piece this week on well-connected efforts to make the Isle of Wight self-sufficient in just about everything: the Isle of Green.  However, as an irregular traveller on the Red Jet service from Southampton to Cowes, I reckon the Island is missing a trick or two.

As Red Jet has no toilets on board its hovercrafts, the Ecoisland partnership might find ways of incentivising passengers to wait until they reach Cowes before relieving themselves, instead of doing it on the mainland.  With much needed extra water from the pee, and fertilizer from the poo, the Island could be quids in – though RedJet might need more emergency mops and buckets.

20 questions in the woods

📥  Comment, News and Updates, Talks and Presentations

A good day at the Hampshire Collegiate School on Friday, opening their splendid new learning outside the classroom facilities.  What a wonderful setting for the addition of a building that is not only nicely designed and constructed (by their own staff), but which fits so beautifully into the surroundings.  What fortunate youngsters.

An excellent, if somewhat scary, part of the day was being interrogated by a year 6 group, each of whom came with a carefully-crafted sustainability-focused question.  These really covered the ground, and I was stretched!  I found myself thinking: I’m not used to this.  But when I asked the children questions about their questions, they weren’t quite expecting it, so maybe they weren’t used to that either.  The best question, though, was from the girl who asked:

What's it like being a professor?   What do you do?

I answered as truthfully as I dare.