Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: April 2014

Green Academy evaluation report No 2

📥  New Publications, News and Updates

The Higher Education Academy's first Green Acdemy change programme was launched in 2011 to help higher education institutions to embed education for sustainable development (ESD) into the overall student experience.  This second evaluation report (the first was carried out in 2012) was designed to assess the nature and impact of curriculum developments.  It covers seven institutions from the original 2011 programme:

Bristol University, Canterbury Christ Church University, Keele University, University of Nottingham, University of Southampton, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and University of Worcester.

The report discusses the general features of implementing the work of Green Academy teams including the relationship of activities to major curriculum reforms and other general management tools.  It also looks at the progress teams have made in developing modules and programmes in the formal curriculum, as well as opportunities in the informal curriculum, and the nature of staff development activities.

The report authors, Dr Andrew McCoshan and Professor Stephen Martin, highlight two identifiable long-term effects:

  1. participation in the Green Academy has enabled institutions to set foundations for giving sustainability greater legitimacy and longevity
  2. those taking part in the Green Academy have been placed in a position to lead sustainability implementation and respond positively to events as they happen

The full report is available here.  Comments will follow ...

 

 

 

Contradictions at the heart of EAUC

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to make of the EAUC.   For example, it is smart enough to have persuaded the Scottish Funding Council [SFC] to part with £400k over 3 years to:

“deliver support for Scottish institutions on carbon reduction and reporting.  The aspiration is to inspire further improvement and commitment from the rest of the UK and internationally.”

Commenting on this, Jenny Jamieson, policy officer for the SFC said:

“The Scottish Funding Council are proud to support the pioneering work that EAUC deliver and the effect that it has had in reducing carbon in Scottish universities and colleges. The EAUC are putting sustainability at the heart of the sector ensuring we have effective institutions and engaged students.”

Just so.  However, in the same breath, EAUC is credulous enough to deal with those promoting a multiple choice sustainability literacy test, which, it is claimed, is designed for any student enrolled in any university, anywhere, working at any level, and studying anything at all.  I have commented before on the foolishness at the heart of this enterprise, but it’s worth repeating its key claim which is that:

"All of the questions in this assessment will ensure that future graduates have basic knowledge on sustainable development and both individual and organisational sustainability and responsibility."

No they won’t.  Tests don’t “ensure” anything.  Not even teaching “ensures” anything in this sense.  Learning might, of course – on a good day.  Surely, someone in EAUC understands this.

So, how to explain such contradictions.  Well, it's hard to say.  Lapses of concentration, perhaps, or maybe the organisation has been spending too much time in Edinburgh's New Town with the SFC, and has imbibed too freely of the spirit of RLS.

 

Earth Day Celebration – a word from John of Gaunt

📥  Comment, New Publications

For those who took Philip Larkin's gloomy text about the state of the country(side) too much to heart, fear not.  As AN Wilson noted in his poetry of place book, England, for Eland Books, this country has been going to the dogs from at least the 14th century – longer, probably, if the Anglo Saxon Chronicle is anything to go by.

Evidence?  Well, this is John of Gaunt in Shakespeare's Richard II ...

Methinks I am a prophet new inspired
And thus expiring do foretell of him:
His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:
Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!

Whilst I don't go along with all this, neither am I optimistic – a chronic, morally degenerate condition, as I may have noted before.  There is, however, always hope and social action ...

 

Earth Day Celebration – a line or two from Philip Larkin

📥  Comment, News and Updates

In 1971, Philip Larkin was commissioned to write a prologue to a UK government report, How Do You Want To Live?  This was one of the UK's papers submitted to the iconic 1972 UN Stockholm conference.   Larkin was always going to be a risky choice for such a venture, and it's a matter of record that the great and good in government did not wholly like what he wrote – too near the truth, some thought, to be published in full.  Indeed, the commissioning committee was so discomforted that they cut bits out of the poem, something which Larkin went along with.

Here it is, in its great and gloomy – but not yet quite prescient – original version.  Larkin published this in his collection High Windows:

Going, going

I thought it would last my time –

The sense that, beyond the town,

There would always be fields and farms,

Where the village louts could climb

Such trees as were not cut down;

I knew there’d be false alarms

 

In the papers about old streets

And split level shopping, but some

Have always been left so far;

And when the old part retreats

As the bleak high-risers come

We can always escape in the car.

 

Things are tougher than we are, just

As earth will always respond

However we mess it about;

Chuck filth in the sea, if you must:

The tides will be clean beyond.

– But what do I feel now? Doubt?

 

Or age, simply? The crowd

Is young in the M1 cafe;

Their kids are screaming for more –

More houses, more parking allowed,

More caravan sites, more pay.

On the Business Page, a score

 

Of spectacled grins approve

Some takeover bid that entails

Five per cent profit (and ten

Per cent more in the estuaries): move

Your works to the unspoilt dales

(Grey area grants)! And when

 

You try to get near the sea

In summer ...

It seems, just now,

To be happening so very fast;

Despite all the land left free

For the first time I feel somehow

That it isn’t going to last,

 

That before I snuff it, the whole

Boiling will be bricked in

Except for the tourist parts –

First slum of Europe: a role

It won’t be hard to win,

With a cast of crooks and tarts.

 

And that will be England gone,

The shadows, the meadows, the lanes,

The guildhalls, the carved choirs.

There’ll be books; it will linger on

In galleries; but all that remains

For us will be concrete and tyres.

 

Most things are never meant.

This won’t be, most likely; but greeds

And garbage are too thick-strewn

To be swept up now, or invent

Excuses that make them all needs.

I just think it will happen, soon.

 

Clever stuff, where every comma is made to count.   Required reading, I'd have thought, in all ESD 101 courses.  I was reminded of all this by Ian Hislop's recent BBC2 series on the "olden days" – his thesis being that we English are not just obsessed with looking to the past, but actually see it as some sort of guide for the future.  All very witty and rather sly.

 

 

Earth Day Celebration – readings c/o Berghahn Journals

📥  Comment, New Publications

In celebration of Earth Day, Berghahn Journals are giving free access to a special virtual issue that focuses on climate change.  It features a collection of articles from eight journals spanning multiple disciplines which deliver scholarly and informed opinion on environmental studies and other related subjects.  You can access the issue here.  Its contents are ...

"Adaptation - Genuine and Spurious: Demystifying Adaptation Processes in Relation to Climate Change"

[Environment and Society-Advances in Research]

"Unintended Consequences: Climate Change Policy in a Globalizing World"

[Environment and Society-Advances in Research]

"Climate Research and Climate Change: Reconsidering Social Science Perspectives"

 [Nature and Culture]

"Changes in the Weather: A Sri Lankan Village Case Study"

[Anthropology in Action]

"The Eschatology of Global Warming in a Scottish Fishing Village"

[Cambridge Anthropology]

"The Science-Politics of Climate Change in China: Development, Equity, and Responsibility"

 [Nature and Culture]

"Bleu, Blanc...Green? France and Climate Change"

 [French Politics, Culture & Society]

"Divergent principles, development rights, and individualism in the Greenhouse Development Rights framework"

[Regions and Cohesion]

"Welfare after Growth: Theoretical Discussion and Policy Implications"

[International Journal of Social Quality]

"Reading Climate Change in J.G. Ballard"

[Critical Survey]

"'All These Things He Saw and Did Not See': Witnessing the End of the World in Cormac McCarthy's The Road"

[Critical Survey]

Marvellous.

 

It seems that "climate change is slowly moving from the headlines to the classroom"

📥  Comment, New Publications

The other day, the International New York Times has a feature on (international) ESD.  It begins:

"From Mauritius to Manitoba, climate change is slowly moving from the headlines to the classroom.  Schools around the world are beginning to tackle the difficult issue of global warming, teaching students how the planet is changing and encouraging them to think about what they can do to help slow that process."

It only features two folk from the UK – Michael Gove gets a couple of mentions – neither very positive – with 17 year old Esha Marwaha getting all the approbation for her on-line opposition to his policies – which shows, if nothing else, the power of eco-citizenly activity.

Marwaha is quoted as saying: “For me education has been something that’s opened my eyes completely to everything around me.”  Of her climate activism, she added:

“I wouldn’t have done it had it not been for my classroom experiences.”

Just so.  Those very familiar with ESD and England's education system will spot the inaccuracies and simplifications in the report, and no doubt feel suitably upset that they were not themselves quoted.

 

UAE in top 5 for ESD – says British expert

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Last week’s GulfNews – essential reading I find – reported a “leading educationalist” as saying that …

“The UAE is among the top five countries in the world in sustainability education, inspiring students to take part in advanced sustainability coursework and sophisticated green practices.”

The G’News reported that Shaikh Sultan Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Managing Director of the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, and Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Qutami, Minister of Education, signed a memorandum of understanding on integrating education for sustainable development into the UAE national curricula.

Maitha Al Habsi, Chief Programmes Officer at the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, said that the scheme aims to embed sustainability into the UAE’s education system and curriculum for K-12 pupils in schools across the country.  Al Habsi added that integrating this was not a one-off activity but an ongoing process of understanding local and global, social, environmental, cultural and economic trends and translating those into meaningful data and competencies for young people.  She said:

“It is a unique initiative that contributes to promoting awareness of sustainability among young Emiratis and creating leaders capable of shaping a sustainable future”,

Al Habsi confirmed that the scheme will create sustainability citizens who …

  • accept that they have a responsibility both as individuals and as members of society to act in a way that acknowledges the rights of future generations;
  • will be able to explain why wasteful production and disposal is harmful to the environment and why they cannot continue indefinitely;
  • will be able to assess the sustainability of their own lifestyle; and
  • will understand the principles of sustainable living and the ways in which they can make a contribution.

Exactly; and in the UAE, there is much explaining, analysing and understanding to do.

Apparently, the other four of the top 5 countries are Australia, Canada, Finland, and New Zealand, but I’m wondering why Scotland didn’t make the cut, particularly as Canada and Australia have federal systems where not all provinces are equally excellent in ~ESD.

 

Rio 2 – an EE of sorts in 3D

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Rio 2 is set in the Amazon, and I watched it over Easter with my grandchildren.  It was technically brilliant, of course, full of smart tributes to Holywood, and, appropriately for a film whose messages were so black and white, it was a riot of colour.  Its themes were eternal: human greed and folly, alienation, and redemption, and the animals portrayed in the film were all possessed of a good range of human qualities.  Indeed, they were all so very human most of the time that the key point of the film was really the alienation of nature from nature itself.  Here's a synopsis that will have you dashing for your local Showcase cinema ...

In RIO 2 we find Blu, Jewel and their three kids living the perfect domesticated life in that magical city. When Jewel decides the kids need to learn to live like real birds, she insists the family venture into the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in with his new neighbours, he worries he may lose Jewel and the kids to the call of the wild.

Existential stuff.  The highlight for me was a turtle capoeira which took anthropomorphism to new depths.  I'll not completely ruin the plot, but needless to say, all ended well, apart from for the head logger who came to an appropriately sticky end.  In fact he was the only one who died in the whole 90 minutes – apart from a few dozen trees which Holywood seems not to regard as living.

The cinema was almost empty, and so there were not many impressionable minds imbibing this perversion of life, but if this was the only learning about the human – rest of nature relationship that they encountered over Easter, it's a gloomy prospect.  As to what they could have learned, here’s how Tom Paxton might well have summed it up …

What did you learn from the film today,
Dear little child of mine?
I learned that eco-warriors hardly ever lie.
I learned that animals never die.
I learned that loggers will all pay for their crimes.
I learned that we live in the best of times.
That’s what I learned from the film today.
That’s what I learned from the film.

And so, of course, did I.

 

HEA soon to be free from public influence and accountability

📥  Comment, News and Updates

I wrote the other day about the steady reductions in tax-payer funding from to the Higher Education Academy [HEA] from the Higher Education Funding Council for England [Hefce].   One consequence of this is that when the funding stops entirely, so will the letters to HEA from Hefce telling it what its priorities might be:  There are consequences to this cutting loose of the HEA:  No money – No contract – No letter – No guidance.

Given that these letters, and the guidance (instructions) they contain, have essentially come down from the government (with Hefce as courier), this means that the HEA will, in effect, be free of a major source of political and public influence, which seems odd, given its role.  And where influence falls away, so does accountability.  What will a privatised HEA look like?  Meaner and leaner, no doubt.  What will it do?  Will it have even less interest in sustainability?  We shall see.

 

New environmentalism and the circular economy

📥  Comment, Talks and Presentations

The other day I watched EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik give a presentation on TEDx.  He was supposed to be talking about “New environmentalism and the circular economy” – but he didn’t.  The talk was full of scary data, mostly around population, and the whole thing was so dull.  I struggled through to the end to the point when he began to take his clothes off, then I switched off, fearing that TEDx was getting into porn.  His main argument was openly self-serving: that business needs regulators like football needs referees, and hence (surprise surprise) that EU commissioners (as über-regulators) do a really fine job.  He said that Commissioners are much more responsible chaps than the here today and gone tomorrow politicians we actually elect.  Quite disgraceful – what is TEDx up to giving folk like this a platform?

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to hear about the circular economy.