Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: June 2013

But where's the theory?

📥  Comment, News and Updates

I had a day in the Holy of Holies last week – the Royal Institution.   An exhausting whole day, sitting, at least in a ghostly sense, alongside the likes of Davy, Faraday, Dewar, Bragg, Kelvin,  Jeans, Hoyle,  Rutherford, ... .

This was an EllenMacArthur Foundation event and its first CE100 Summit.  This brought "together leading global thought leaders, academics, companies and practitioners to provide a global wrap-up of the most current thinking on key circular economy topics."

As befitted the venue, there were gurus aplenty: maybe future RI ghosts – well, perhaps.  They included:

Walter Stahel, Founder and Director of Product Life Institute

Michael Braungart, Founder and Scientific Director of EPEA

Janine Benyus, Founder of the Biomimicry Institute; and

William McDonough of William McDonough Associates

Of course, Stahel, Braungart and McDonough were in on the ground floor of the Circular Economy – at least in a cradle to cradle sense.  Whilst they were open in their praise of the way the EllenMacArthur Foundation has developed the Circular Economy concept, opening the ideas up to the mainstream, working with global brands, engaging McKinsey to quantify economic benefits, successfully nudging the EU's thinking and policy, and gaining global publicity, they could each be forgiven for being just a little bit peeved that so much has been done, by so few, in such little time – and not by them.

There were lots of speakers during the day, and I came aware better informed about a lot of stuff from psychology to design.  It was all too much, though, and I confess that I abandoned past and future ghosts and went to sit quietly in Berkeley Square for a while amid the great plane trees and listening for its famed, but phantom, nightingales.

The day ended with Mrs & Mrs Google: Eric and Wendy Schmidt, who were present in the evening when Eric gave the first Schmidt-MacArthur Foundation public lecture: An economy that works – changing the rules of the game? At least that was the published title of the talk, but it didn't seem to be what Eric actually talked about.  Still; it had been a long day, and we did get to hear about where he'd been visiting recently.  The roundtable discussion after this seemed to repeat much of the day's deliberations.

In one of my many conversations during the day, someone noted the strong emphasis on practice and practical things in the talks, and said to me: "But where's the theory?"  Well, theory there is, but not on the day (Where was Ken Webster when you needed him?).  But that was rather apt for the Royal Institution where James Clerk Maxwell doesn't get much of a mention – as far as I can see.  Rather, it's all Faraday the experimenter.

But where would Faraday be if he'd not had a Maxwell to explain his observations?  Indeed, where would we all be?

7th World Environmental Education Congress – a review

📥  Comment, News and Updates

One of the advantages of SEEd membership is that you get to know what CEO Ann Finlayson's been getting up to.  Last week she was at the 7th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC  7).  The pic shows UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner telling delegates how important environmental education is.

Here are Ann's comments, taken from the latest SEED News.


I have just returned from the World Environmental Education Congress in Marrakech – well someone had to go!  It did make me feel proud of how well organised our own conferences are – as this one was not. However, there were 1300 delegates present (they think – he number changed every day).   They tried to do everything paperless – but with only 16 computers and the 4-day agenda changing daily, plus the internet unable to cope with us all, I ended up sitting in   a room and hoping for the best.  Turns out this serendipitous approach was   being adopted by all!  Furthermore, there was an alternative agenda approach – you met someone, chatted, asked them when they were presenting and then trotted along having filled your own calendar this way. The only workshops I wanted to attend either didn't happen or I couldn't find.  One of the best ones, however, was where we all decided to make the most of it, discuss the topic and share experiences – fabulous!  It really made me think that in education it is not always good to plan and map everything – one of the best learning happens in other unexpected ways.

This sounds rather like WEEC 1 & WEEC 2 which became by-words for dis-organisation and chaos, though Marrakech does seem to have been especially poor.  Comments I've had from others attending bear this out.  For example, ...

"The programme chaos unsured that I met several very interesting people I might not have talked with, and since it was so hard to figure out the programme, I ended up going to just one theme  – it was obviously the same way for many since there seemed to be a cohorrt that sat in many of the same sessions."

As I noted last week, I didn't go.  In fact, I've only been to one of these, and then only because I was invited.  This was the rather well-organised event in Durban in 2007 where prices and accommodation had been so arranged that a multitude of local teachers, activists and others from across Southern Africa were able to attend, which added considerably to its vibrancy and success.  Inevitably, there was also much singing and dancing, which even a jaundiced and staid European appreciated.

The 2007 congress also had one of the most memorable foot-in-mouth moments of any gathering I've been to.  It was opened by a very big cheese – the Deputy State President no less – who was impressive in every possible sense.  Unfortunately, in her speech, she said that when she was at school she'd found "environmental education boring".  It was not the endorsement the organisers had hoped for.  On reflection, my keynote (later published in EER 15[2]) suggesting that EE hadn't had much impact over the years was probably seen in a similar vein.  Sadly, the DSP wasn't around to hear it; she'd left ages ago, bodyguards in her wake.  I wonder how much of WEEC  7 all those princesses who were attending actually heard – assuming, of course, they ever found the right room.

July 5th Post-script

An upsurge of fair-mindedness impels me to note that ENSI thought weec a success.  See here for details, and a link to Call of Marrakech, which is a manifesto, of sorts.

Craig Mahoney gets a letter

📥  Comment, New Publications, News and Updates

The letter in question is to the HEA from Hefce CEO, Sir Alan Langlands, and concerns funding arrangements for the HEA for 2013 / 14.  It's 11 pages long.  You can read it here.

Sustainability / ESD / sustainable development get 3 mentions.  One is a quotidian reference to the HEA's becoming a sustainable organisation.  This turns out to be code for its needing to be much less reliant on money from the funding councils (ie, the hard-pressed tax-payer).

The second mention is under the heading of Institutional Strategy and Change (paras #21 to #22) it says this:

21. We encourage you to continue to focus your activities around a number of strategic themes to progress aspects of student learning and quality enhancement that are of importance to the sector.  As part of this approach, the Academy must maintain its reputation as a focus of expertise in the pedagogy of specific disciplines and recognising [sic] the importance of engaging students as partners in enhancing teaching and learning.  Specific strategic themes we encourage the Academy to support are listed below.   ...

d. The Academy has a particular role in working in partnership with institutions and other sector bodies to disseminate good practice that will assist UK graduates to maximise their potential and impact on leaving higher education.  We encourage you to continue your efforts, in particular regarding ...

iii  supporting institutions in meeting the education for sustainable development (ESD) and global citizenship agenda and working with professional and sector bodies and staff in subject communities to support ESD;

The third, and a more substantial reference, is under the heading of General Objectives and Priorities (paras #25 to #37), we find, …

37. Sustainable Development.

We are pleased that the Academy recognises Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and request the Academy to continue to recognise ESD as a cross-cutting priority and to proactively encourage and support it.

  • We note the success of the Green Academy and ask that more institutions are supported through a similar process.
  • We look to the Academy to continue with the implementation of a sustainability policy for its own operations and to report regularly and publicly on process.  We invite the Academy to consider participation in the NUS Green Impact Scheme which would have the benefit of strengthening links with the NUS.

The strong message in all this is that Hefce is supporting HEA so that it can support institutions (and professional / sector bodies), so that they can support ESD.

Whilst I suppose we should be grateful for all this support, it seems a pity that there is no direct mention of students or their learning in section #21.d.iii.  I'd have much preferred something much more explicit here, like this:

Hefce wants HEA to work with professional and sector bodies, and staff in subject communities, so that students can learn about sustainability.

... as this puts staff and students and their (sustainability) learning where it needs to be: at the heart of things.


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📥  News and Updates

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Webchat away

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Following the publication of the 2013 Green League last week, the Guardian Higher Education Network hosted a 2 hour live webchat last Friday.

This is how the Guardian introduced it:

"Universities are the true thought leaders of society and if they don't lead the way, there is a risk that less independent voices fill the vacuum with their own agenda on the subject of sustainability, rather than insights based on robust research," wrote Jonathon Porritt for the network last year.

A year on, are universities driving the sustainability movement forward – or has energy on this issue stalled?  The 2013 People & Planet Green League shows some universities are making more effort than others. Manchester Metropolitan University moved from 10th to top place in the table, achieving the highest ever Green League score of 59.5 out of 70.  The biggest jump came from the University of Reading which moved up 42 places to 17th, while the University of Oxford, which failed this year's assessment, moved down 13 places to 132.

What is higher education's role in creating a more sustainable environment for the wider community, as well as its own students and staff?  Is it tradition that's preventing some universities from adopting more ethical forms of procurement, infrastructure and teaching models – or a case of sustainability scepticism among senior heads and academics?

"We're seeing excruciatingly slow progress from too many universities in some criteria such as ethical investment given the urgency of the climate challenge," says Louise Hazan, who created the People & Planet Green League.  Are universities failing to connect academic research into climate change with their own decisions on who they procure from, and partner with?

How can education respond to these complex challenges?  In this debate, we want to hear your views on how far the sector has come on university sustainability, and ask in what way it's more than just a green issue. How does it impact on leadership, teaching and learning, research, procurement and the overall mission of the university?

Here's what we're looking to discuss:

  • How sustainability research is being supported and funded
  • Challenges and benefits of ethical procurement
  • Education's role in a sustainable future
  • Collaborative partnerships
  • Where to focus university efforts

I'll pass over the Guardian's pathetically uncritical stance on Green League methodology, and just comment on the Webchat, the early stages of which I followed as it rolled out.

I kept up for the first hour before following the diverse strings of comment finally got the better of  me.  Actually, I thought the problem was that contributors didn't keep to the strings, but tended to launch their own comments into the aether just where they wanted to so that the discussion (ie, comment / responses) was literally all over the place.  Fine for them, but as there were some 320 individual comments by the end, this was hard for the rest of the world to keep up with.  A bit of moderation (in both senses) would not have come amiss.  I caught up with the whole thing at the end of the afternoon.

All told, I was rather disappointed that there were so few actual academics amongst the 11 Guardian panellists (details of whom you can see at the link, above).  By this I mean those university staff with disciplinary expertise and interest in sustainability who both teach and research (about) it.  There are a lot of these across the UK now, but, because of how the Guardian set the panel up, they were marginalised.  Instead, we had a combination of those whose prime responsibility is for university estates (think reducing carbon and changing behaviours), and those who see it as their mission to champion ESD and integrate it into disciplines.

The trouble with the latter is that this is not an issue that most academics are likely to bother about.  If they are interested (and some clearly are), they are likely to ask: How can I bring a focus on sustainability into what I do now?  This is not quite the same thing.

These dispositions might be put like this:

A – How can ESD be integrated into discipline-based teaching?

B – How can I integrate a focus on sustainability into my discipline-based teaching?

To a superficial eye, A and B look pretty much the same, and any eventual outcomes may well be of the same form and structure, but they start from quite different positions and psychologies.  A is a question put by outsider experts to themselves, whereas  B is a practitioner's grounded question.  So, if actual academics (and hence students) are really to be helped, might it not be better if all those across HE (and FE) who want to achieve A, put their efforts into helping those out there who are (and might yet be) interested in B.


Green Academy outcomes – more clarity please

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Here are the details that HEA has released about this year's Green Academy participants.  Two things strike me about all this: [i] the breadth and potential richness of it all; [ii] the lack of clarity about just what proposed outcomes are.

As I noted earlier, I don't envy the HEA's evaluators their task of sorting out just what's been achieved (as opposed to merely being done).  The institutions may find that tricky too.  I fear that it will all be hugely successful, but that little will change as a result.  I wonder, for example, if any of them have identified KPIs.  Given that Hefce has singled out  the Green Academy as an on-going priority for the HEA, greater clarity about desired outcomes might have been prudent.

Here's what they say ...

Anglia Ruskin University - Connecting up experiences of sustainability at Anglia Ruskin University

Membership of the Green Academy will help us connect-up students and staffs experience of sustainability. This is essential if sustainability is to become embedded within our culture and values.

  • Connecting strategic goals with organic growth. In order to ensure that there is not just compliance but genuine commitment to our strategic targets we have been emphasising ‘why’ embedding sustainability is so important. We now need development additional practical programmes which can have significant and long term impacts on student’s formal and informal learning.
  • Connecting sustainability with high quality learning and teaching. We aim to use sustainability and its links with employability, to raise the quality of teaching and learning by encouraging changes in pedagogy which give our students agency for change.
  • Connecting the formal and informal curriculum and research. In order to forge links between the formal and informal curriculum and research we have initiated a number of student centred projects across the University, including Go Green, The ESD badge, Biodiversity benchmarking and Green Marketing. They are designed and/or implemented by students providing valuable employability skills whilst making a measurable difference to our University.
  • Connecting academic and support staff and students. Estates based environmental initiatives have paved the way for a fuller consideration and appreciation of sustainability at ARU. We now need to broaden the appeal of these environmental projects, to link them more fully with the formal curriculum and engage academic staff as well as support staff in their operation.

University of Chichester - Learning for the Future: Embedding Sustainability in the Curriculum

The University of Chichester has come a long way in greening its operations. However, this approach is quite systems orientated is and aligned to Environmental Management Systems. This is not particularly student facing, and despite some pockets of best practice, we have failed to develop a more central and institutional strategy for embedding ESD. Therefore the aim of Learning for the Future: Embedding Sustainability in the Curriculum, is to gain support in drawing together discrete pockets of activity, and to create a holistic approach to delivery that we can offer to staff and students – an effective green hub – that will also serve to frame wider green development across the University.

De Montfort University - Green citizens for the real world

From involvement in Leicester’s successful bid to become the first environment city in 1991, creating the unique Institute for Energy and Sustainable Development in 1994 to forming the cross university Sustainable Development Task Force, De Montfort University has demonstrated commitment to sustainable development. A ‘Strategy for Sustainable Development’ was adopted in 2008 leading to ‘a commitment to make a significant contribution to global efforts to achieve environmental sustainability’ being enshrined in the University Strategic Plan in 2011. Current strengths are an interdisciplinary approach between estates and research, carbon management and post-graduate taught provision with an increasing emphasis on energy, industrial sustainability and Green ICT/Digital Economy.

University of East Anglia - Greening Tomorrow’s Leaders: Developing sustainability perspectives and skills across disciplines at UEA

Should every graduate be able to bring a sustainability 'perspective’ to their chosen field of study? If so, how can this be achieved across the varied, even contradictory, ways in which our academic departments understand and teach sustainability-related topics?  This project will draw together the practical and theoretical ways in which our rural campus can engage new pedagogical approaches, develop 21st century employability skills and ensure a more integrated student experience.

University of South Wales- Embedding Sustainable Development in a New Welsh University

The University of Wales, Newport and the University of Glamorgan are planning to form a new university in south east Wales in 2013. Both institutions have a good record of innovation in environmental management and in curriculum development related to sustainable development. This collaborative project will involve staff and students from both institutions working to develop a sustainable development ethos across the new university. Students will play a key role in shaping and communicating the vision of a sustainable development focused institution. Whilst continuing to make improvements in environmental performance, the university will also develop the economic and social dimensions of sustainable development, embed SD in the curriculum more explicitly and ensure that sustainability skills are developed by all learners particularly at undergraduate level. This is a unique project using change management tools from the very outset of a significant higher education merger.

University of Kent - ‘4C’ing the Future: an inclusive approach to sustainability

The University mission emphasises the need to ‘use natural resources creatively, responsibly and sustainably’ and this proposal seeks to create a framework that will promote values, ideals and practical aspects of living, studying and working in a sustainable way that will inform future policies and practice using the 4C model (Jones et al, 2010). Building upon the initial success of the Creative Campus, Green Impact and Carbon Management projects, there is now a need to coordinate efforts in a way that increases student engagement and informs strategic sustainability plans, in order to encourage further development of a culture for sustainability in the formal and informal curriculum, both on campus and in the wider community.

With a team of academics, students, Kent Union and Estates, participation in the Green Academy will help us to review our current provision and practice, and coordinate our efforts towards developing a more sustainable future at Kent. Our aim is to develop a framework and case studies for integrating such opportunities within the curriculum in a more systematic way to address key priorities in the Estates, Employability and Learning & Teaching Strategies that will broaden the experience and skills of students to meet the demands of the 21st century as global citizens. ‘Students are environmental champions, and expect the University to demonstrate corporate and social responsibility in the use of natural resources…which can only become more important in the future.’ (University Plan 2012-15).

University College London - Unlocking the Potential

University College London (UCL) has identified sustainability as a core value for the institution. In this regard, UCL recognises that, as a world-class, multidisciplinary university, it has an important role to play in contributing to sustainable development: addressing the environmental and social impact of our activities and operations; and deploying our academic excellence, entrepreneurship and research activities to tackle real-world challenges, and contributing to the solutions.

With the launch of UCL’s first Environmental Sustainability Strategy, the role of education and research in delivering sustainable development has been bought to the fore, as a core sustainability objective for the Institution. UCL already provides education for sustainable development through a number of its disciplines and departments but the focus is now on understanding the strength of this activity and how it can be developed. This will focus on the formal and informal education, which is provided through assessed education, conversation and experience.

In the 2012/13 academic year, UCL will launch the Global Citizenship programme which will seek to engage 4,000 undergraduates from all disciplines studying courses with sustainability-themed content each year.

This proposal is about unlocking the potential of UCL’s staff and students: understanding what and how UCL currently provides education; embedding the principles of ESD into our Global Citizenship Programme; and drawing knowledge from our experience and others to develop formal and informal education opportunities.

Nottingham Trent University - Food for Thought

The Green Academy Initiative at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) on the subject of ‘food for thought’ enables us to engage both staff and students with sustainability in terms of practical positive action, research, learning and teaching using the theme of food. It is intended that the focus of ‘food for thought’ will later lead to further activity in other areas of sustainability outside of the theme of food.

Our institutional mission to provide ‘education and research which shapes lives and society’ reflects our existing commitment to sustainability. NTU has made major achievements in the area of sustainability in recent years with clear related strategy and activity in the areas of estates, procurement, waste, volunteering, catering and curriculum (see our Graduate Attributes)

One project to be introduced within the Green Academy is a project called ‘Sustain Yourself’ which aims to engage students in ESD through the themes of food and health. The project will involve a series of optional cookery courses’ to ‘sustain yourself’ throughout the academic year. It is intended that the sessions will support students to adopt healthy lifestyles, develop important life skills, socialise with other students, feel more ‘at home’ at the university and place their activities and consumption patterns in the context of wider local and global networks e.g. in terms of food supply and security and food miles. The project which builds on an existing course led by the School of Education will link to existing initiatives such as work by NTU catering on sustainable food, student cookery books which have been developed by Support Services and others.

University College Plymouth, St Mark and St John - Sustainability and Identity

Embedding of sustainability within the curriculum and placing upon all members of the University College community a duty of care towards the environment is the key focus of this project. The University College has at its heart a notion of social justice and community focus but this is not well reflected in a joined up approach to what sustainability really means for the institution. Much is done within the institution, including the operation of a ‘corporate social responsibility group’, student volunteering in the local community and, in some academic areas such as teacher training and outdoor adventure education, a great deal of curriculum work is undertaken on the environmental impact of the way we live our lives. However this message is not coherent, nor spread more widely across the institution and this project will focus on a holistic approach to sustainability, linked in with a reassertion of the lived identity of the University College. The project will link into curriculum content, our ‘professional plus’ award for students undertaking extra curricula activities in the sustainability field, estates developments and ‘greening the campus’ initiatives. Our specific ideas are under-developed and we would use this project to expand and develop a more specific and deliverable strategy. This initiative comes at a time when the University College has been recommended for university title and we will be reviewing what this means for our identity, our priorities and our projected institutional image – sustainability as a strategic identity driver will enhance our USP.

University of the Arts, London College of Fashion - Lightening the Load: Creating Change for sustainability through Fashion Education

London College of Fashion is proud to be working with HEA’s Green Academy programme to develop long-term transformational change for sustainability across the institution. As a world leading fashion educator we are committed to nurturing people to have the competencies and skills to negotiate an ever-changing world facing critical shifts of resources, economy and power. We want to rethink the university experience to create a space that allows students and staff to be experimental, critical, global, interdisciplinary and collaborative. We want industry and society to be inspired to work with us as we act on both current and longer-term imperatives. Moving beyond the service‐led model of education provision can nurture a culture of creativity and critical thinking, capable of responding to global and local issues with new models for thriving societies and economies. Fashion offers an apt context for Education for Sustainable Development, and through its power as a communicator, can have impacts far beyond one industry, to contribute to greater balance in society, economy and humanity.

With support and guidance from the GA mentors, we aim to:

  • Work with ESD and transformational change experts to develop a 10-year plan for institutional change for sustainability at LCF through co creation with its community.
  • Develop processes, projects and benchmarks that articulate and embody this vision for teaching and learning, sharing across subject areas.
  • Consider internal and external communication of a culture and strategy of sustainability.



Ofscoff and Ofplot collaborate to boost rural jobs

📥  News and Updates

The Director of Ofscoff's Equalities Office, Dr Rhoderic McSwain, confirmed in a statement today that he was looking into the scheme that the Chinese authorities put in place for numbering plants during the 2008 Olympics:

"This was a bold initiative in terms of equalities and more broadly in relation to social justice", Dr McSwain said, "and the Chinese government was to be congratulated not only for their plans, but also for the vigour with which they were pursued."

McSwain added,

"Where something like this happens, it's really important that it's properly funded, and rigorously applied",

He confirmed that Ofscoff is in talks with government about introducing a similar scheme in England, noting that this fits particularly well with Whitehall's plans to develop the rural economy.  Dr Flora MacIvor, Ofscoff's Head of Increasing Underemployment Studies, added that if such a scheme were introduced here it would bring a massive boost to employment in the countryside:

"There will be a need for inspectors and auditors on an unprecedented scale", she added, "which will boost rural incomes.  This is a win-win development."

In response to an enquiry about costs and efficacy, from the regulatory framework correspondent of Rhubarb and Celery Today, Ofscoff's Head of Forcing, Dr Malcolm Graeme, said that he thought that there would be little difficulty in the agricultural sector where compliance to Ofscoff's policies was well established, and a robust system of incentives was in place.  However, referring to a recent internal report from Ofscoff's Vegetable linearity in agricultural practice task group (VEGELAP) there were likely to be problems in allotments and private gardens where opposition to the benefits that Ofscoff brings was still to be found.  Dr Graeme said that talks were in taking place with the newly appointed Director of  Ofplot [Note 1] to see what could be done to allign policy and practice both in relation to chaotic growing practices and inappropriate attitudes.

Dr McSwain denied rumours that, at this stage anyway, there were plans either to name individual plants, or to number components of plants (such as peas inside pods).  Acknowledging that the logic of the initiative did argue for this, McSwain confirmed that the technology was not yet in place to enable this to happen.

Note 1

Ofplot is the newly set up government quality agency for allotments, domestic and school gardens, window boxes, patio tubs, and all hitherto unregulated growing spaces in England.  Its new Director, Professor Caleb Balderstone, said that he looked forward to working with Ofscoff, and did not envisage too many turf wars over territory or jurisdiction.  Balderstone added that Ofscoff's new initiative complements his own interests in whether plants with special growing needs do better when grown separately, or when integrated into borders.


Good government progress in mainstreaming sustainable development – or so we're told

📥  Comment, New Publications

In February 2011, the government launched its vision for mainstreaming sustainable development in relation to the operation of its buildings and estates, including the goods and services that it buys and the policies it makes.  Defra has now reported on progress in this.  Their website says:

Sustainable development requires consideration of the economic, environmental and social factors in decision making to deliver the right policies now and enable others to do the same in the future. Defra has published this report on behalf of the government to provide an overview of what has been achieved so far in the move towards mainstreaming sustainable development.  The report will be of interest to those with a concern for sustainability in government, but also more widely.  It is intended to facilitate scrutiny of our progress to date. The government continues to move towards fully embedding sustainable development in its policies and operations and solid foundations have been put in place to enable further improvement in this area.

There is not much in the report about education:

Building sustainable development capability across Government

Many Departments, such as DH/NHS, DWP, Department for Education (DfE), HMRC, MOD and DECC, have dedicated Sustainable Development Units. These units are helping to drive capability and provide a range of resources on their internal or external web sites.

There's more about about learning and training:

The UK Government Sustainable Development Forum was established to provide updates on each administrations activities and share experience and learning. Government has also been working with Civil Service Learning (the Government’s central training resource) to embed sustainable development in relevant training materials.  Some departments also provide their own in-house training.  DWP has run master classes for staff to raise awareness of sustainability.  DECC is incorporating sustainable development into the development of a standard operating model for policy and project development. Staff are supported through a range of guidance and training.  Learning material and case studies from the London 2012 Games, including sustainability, are available on the Learning Legacy website

Many Departments have been driving improvements to their staff’s understanding of sustainable development through training, sharing of good practice and the development of tools. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) launched a “Sustainability and Environmental Appraisal Tools Handbook” in March 2011.  It is the single point of reference for appraisal tools used on Estates related plans, programmes, projects and activities such as military training within MOD. It sets out guidance and methodologies for the suite of tools

Defra’s National Sustainable Public Procurement Programme includes training modules.  New sector specific modules as well as general carbon literacy training have been added. The DH has embedded sustainable procurement within the “NHS Standards of Procurement” issued in May 2012, and supports the NHS with guidance and training on procuring for carbon reduction and ethical procurement, and through the NHS Sustainable Procurement Forum. DCLG undertook to publish a pipeline of future procurements as part of its commitments in 2011.  This is on its website in a section aimed at SMEs and includes other support such as training.

Although "more" doesn't amount to all that much.  Ironically, a case study on schools deals with energy, not learning:

Case Study (14): DfE – Supporting Schools to reduce their energy bills

DfE is providing £8 million to support Schools to reduce their energy bills through the Salix Finance Energy Efficiency Loans Scheme.  It allows public sector bodies to apply for an interest free loan to finance up to 100% of the costs of energy saving projects.  DfE is also working with Energy Services Companies (ESCos) to help schools significantly reduce their energy use and save money.  For example, the Greater London Authority RE:FIT programme has used ESCo principles to deliver average yearly savings of £26,500 on secondary school energy bills, following an average investment of £87,000.  For primary schools, average annual fuel bill savings of £8,200 per year were achieved following an average investment of £38,000 per school.

... although I guess somebody learned something from all this.  Whoever that was, it doesn't look as if it was the DfE's curriculum division.

This is the report's concluding commentary:

Over the past two years much progress has been made to deliver on the Government’s vision for sustainable development.  Structures are in place to ensure sustainable development is being considered across policy, estates and operations.  There are numerous examples, more than this report can include, of Departments driving forward sustainability in policy, operations and procurement.

The Coalition Government’s “Mid Term Review” published in January 2013 sets out the achievements and the policy priorities for Departments, often working together, until 2015.  Further information will be set out in Departmental Business Plans alongside details of how they will continue to mainstream sustainable development across their activities.

Government also recognises that the delivery of sustainable development will always be a work in progress: the outcome of decisions made now in relation to the longer term will take time to become clear and new challenges will present themselves.  The development of policy will continue to require the weighing up and balancing of a number of economic, environmental and social factors.

Having identified the good progress that has been made, Government has also identified areas where improvements can be made.  Government’s Business Planning and Annual Report and Accounts cycle will continue to be a key element of the approach to mainstreaming. Revised guidance to Departments should lead to improvements and greater consistency in Departmental sustainability reporting.  Government will consider the outcome of its baseline evaluation into the effectiveness of sustainable development appraisal guidance and whether further improvements are needed.  To ensure consistency Departments will continue to work together to share good practice in mainstreaming sustainable development.  Revised sustainable development indicators will be published in summer 2013 and Departments will continue to work to meet their Greening Government Commitments.

All looking good, then, and sunny uplands beckon.  No wonder the government thought it didn't need to fund the Sustainable Development Commission.


Time to learn to stop worrying and to love ...

📥  Comment, Talks and Presentations

No, not the bomb, in the Dr Strangelove sense.  Rather, in a John Foster sense, it's climate change:

this irruption of the ineliminably wild back into lives which had forgotten it.

This was one of the main themes of John's I-SEE seminar in Bath the other week in which he explored a wide-ranging set of post-sustainability issues.  One of the reasons I like reading John's books is the arresting nature of his language.  I turn pages, anticipating the next assault on my senses.  It's the same when he gives talks.  Here are a few sound bites

The global alarm clock must be set very firmly to snooze

Sustainability policy and planning is trying to do serious engineering work with a set of lead spanners

Conceptual vertigo: we keep on pretending because we daren't look down

A peculiar form of life endeavour: the project of having projects

Willed optimism warps thought (and inhibits learning)

A point that struck me with some force was John's argument that sustainability is now a hegemonic future-focused discourse which occludes concern for the present, and that, because the present was the originally focus of environmentalism, we no longer have adequate language to focus on the natural world as it is now.  This loss of a present-focus applies to environmental education as well, it seems to me.

All this reminded me of Chesterton's epic poem of white horses, which seems more apt by the day.  In this, Mary, the mother of Christ, says this to Alfred, ahead of his battle with the Danes at Ethandune in May 878:

… The wise men know what wicked things

Are written on the sky,

They trim sad lamps, they touch sad strings,

Hearing the heavy purple wings,

Where the forgotten seraph kings

Still plot how God shall die.

The wise men know all evil things

Under the twisted trees,

Where the perverse in pleasure pine

And men are weary of green wine

And sick of crimson seas.

You and all the kind of Christ

Are ignorant and brave,

And you have wars you hardly win

And souls you hardly save.

I tell you naught for your comfort,

Yea, naught for your desire,

Save that the sky grows darker yet

And the sea rises higher.

Night shall be thrice night over you,

And heaven an iron cope.

Do you have joy without a cause,

Yea, faith without a hope?


I live 5 miles from 'Ethandune'.