Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: July 2014

Coming out – and signing off, pro tem

📥  Comment

I finally said it out loud, and in a reasonably public place: that I think of zoos, safari parks and the like, as little better than prisons.  This view has been a long time coming but I know when it started; it was an encounter with a (di)stressed polar bear in Bristol Zoo in the late 1970s.  And it was finally cemented, first, by the exploitative and never ending false panda pregnancy saga in Edinburgh, by the slaughtering of healthy zoo animals that were surplus to genetic plans, and then by the sight of a squalid safari park from a West Midlands train a few weeks ago.  There can surely be few better organisations at so systematically deceiving the public — and perhaps themselves – about what they do.

As Oscar Wilde so nearly said ...

I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in zoos
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother's life,
And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
With a most evil fan.

This too I know – and wise it were
If each could know the same –
That every zoo that humans build
Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
How men their brothers maim.

That's it.  Back after a week or so.


Creating a Learning Society in Edinburgh

📥  Comment, Talks and Presentations

Joseph E. Stiglitz will deliver the 2014 RSA Scotland Angus Millar Lecture on the topic of Creating a Learning Society.   The RSA’s blurb says:

It has long been recognised that most standard of living increases are associated with advances in technology, not accumulation of capital.  And it has also become clear that what separates developed from less developed countries is not just a gap in resources or output, but a gap in knowledge.  In fact, the pace at which developing countries grow is largely determined by the pace at which they can close that gap.  Thus, in understanding how countries grow and develop, it is essential to learn how they learn and become more productive, and what government can do to promote learning.

Stiglitz will discuss this insight's significance for both economic theory and policy.  Elaborating on the themes of his new book with fellow Columbia University economist Bruce Greenwald, Creating a Learning Society, Stiglitz will explain why the production of knowledge differs from that of other goods, and why market economies alone are typically not efficient in the production and transmission of knowledge.  This perspective has implications for global trade regimes, industrial policy, and intellectual property regimes.  In fact, virtually every government policy has impact on learning – something that policy makers must acknowledge in both developing and advanced countries.

It will be instructive to see the degree to which Stiglitz, who, for many, is something of a greenish guru, sets out a sustainability framing for all this learning he's keen on.  After all, what subsequently gets done (and not done) is important – or is learning morally neutral these days?


Blackberries causing moral panic in Islington

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Committed urban types, happily back in London after a rare foray into rural parts, are said to be worried that the early sightings (and tastings) of ripe blackberries are harbingers of early-onset climate change.  The panic was enhanced, no doubt, because a favourite store, Waitrose, is also full of the bulbous, glistening, black berries.

Concerns reached the newspapers the other day.  Happily, someone was eventually found with enough nous to know that there is huge variation in the ripening times (and sizes) of summer fruit – something most of us safely beyond the North Circular Road already knew.  I blame all that expensive public school education: too much Cicero and Seneca at the expense of common science.

The UN looks to end poverty – but not yet

📥  Comment, News and Updates

The outcomes of the UN General Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is now available.  There are 17 SDGs and 169 targets, including 62 targets in relation to implementation.  These proposals will now be submitted to the UN General Assembly for consideration. The 17 goals are:

1   End poverty in all its forms everywhere

2   End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

3   Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

4   Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all

5   Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

6   Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

7   Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all

8   Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

9   Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

10   Reduce inequality within and among countries

11   Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable .

12   Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

13   Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

14   Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

15   Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

16   Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

17   Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

It’s easy to be cynical about some of these glib-sounding aspirations; for example, End poverty in all its forms everywhere.  However, if you look at the proposed targets, things get more detailed, and in many instances, more meaningful.  For example,

1.1. by 2030 eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day

1.2. by 2030 reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions

1.3 implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable

1.4 by 2030 ensure that all men and women, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership, and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology, and financial services including microfinance

1.5. by 2030 build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations, and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters

1.a. ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular LDCs, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions

1.b. create sound policy frameworks, at national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investments in poverty eradication actions

All this sounds absolutely worthwhile, unless you're misguided enough to think that poverty's necessary to help keep the global population down.  But note the switch here from absolute to poverty to relative poverty.  Realistic, I thought, given that the poor have always been with us, and. relatively speaking, likely always will no matter what the UN does.


The Sage of Twickenham and the circular economy

📥  Comment, News and Updates

When Vince Cable, the widely-acknowledged Sage of Twickenham, was asked a question in parliament the other week about the circular economy, he showed absolutely no understanding of what the term means.

Dear me!  What do they get up to all day in BIS?  Does no one keep an eye on the economy and what companies are up to?  This suggests that the new CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has some serious lunching to do.




A small town in Germany

📥  Comment, News and Updates, Talks and Presentations

I was at the University of Vechta in Lower Saxony on Monday making a presentation at the start of a summer school on Empirical Research on Education for Sustainable Development – Themes, Methods and Trends.  I was the warm-up act for what is a serious venture with some 35 PhD students from across Germany (and Switzerland).  The 9 day programme includes sessions on:

  • A taxonomy of topics, methodological approaches and objectives
  • Qualitative-reconstructive teaching-learning research on education for sustainable development
  • Measuring Affective Attributes in Education for Sustainable Development
  • Triangulation approaches in research on education for sustainable development
  • Transdisciplinarity and Transformation in Science: Implications for research on education for sustainable development
  • Analysing competence development processes: overview of a heterogeneous field of research
  • Transfer and diffusion research on education for sustainable development
  • On the future of educational research in education for sustainable development

... together with a host of workshops and discussions.  Die creme de la creme of German ESD research will be presenting.  It's an impressive programme however you look at it, and very ably put together by Marco Rieckmann and Matthias Barth.  I felt honoured to be included.


Contemplating Steve van Matre

📥  Comment, Talks and Presentations

On Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th September, at the Bishops Wood Centre in Worcestershire, you can, if you pay enough money, contemplate with the Earth Ed Guru himself: Steve VM.

But, really, why would you – despite the tempting take-away offer of:

  • Focused contemplative exercises in the natural world
  • An overview of the “energy path” humans are travelling
  • A personal plan and ways of articulating our 'service' to the natural world
  • Priceless rejuvenation

Now, if they’d invited Steve van Zandt … . As it is, I’ll be staying at home and reading some Wordsworth.




Lice in London

📥  Comment, News and Updates

The London International Conference on Education (LICE) is "an international refereed conference dedicated to the advancement of the theory and practices in education".  LICE promotes collaborative excellence between academicians and professionals from education.  Its aim is to "provide an opportunity for academicians and professionals from various educational fields with cross-disciplinary interests to bridge the knowledge gap, promote research esteem and the evolution of pedagogy".

So far, so good.  But see if you can find sustainability / ESD / EfS / EE / DE / SDE / LSD /etc in this lengthy list of Lice-14 topics ...

*Academic Advising and Counselling

*Art Education

*Adult Education

*APD/Listening and Acoustics in Education Environment

*Business Education

*Counsellor Education

*Curriculum, Research and Development

*Distance Education

*Early Childhood Education

*Educational Administration

*Educational Foundations

*Educational Psychology

*Educational Technology

*Education Policy and Leadership

*Elementary Education



*Health Education

*Higher Education


*Human Resource Development

*Indigenous Education

*ICT Education

*Kinesiology & Leisure Science


*Language Education

*Mathematics Education

*Multi-Virtual Environment

*Music Education


*Physical Education (PE)

*Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)

*Reading Education

*Religion and Education Studies

*Rural Education

*Science Education

*Secondary Education

*Second life Educators

*Social Studies Education

*Special Education

*Student Affairs

*Teacher Education

*Cross-disciplinary areas of Education



I couldn't find them either.  However, they are clearly so important to LICE that it helpfully brings them all together here:

*Other Areas of Education

That's a relief.  See you there ...


The great unamerican songbook

📥  Comment, News and Updates

My grandchildrens' end of year concert was themed this year.  You will work out what this was from this selection of songs:

Eat healthy food      Give me 5
Pick bananas            Apples and bananas
Vegetables                Gimme 5 (essentially a reprise)
Enjoy                         Food song

You get the picture.  In other hands this might have been heavy going; more propaganda than pianissimo, but the teacher song writers managed deftly to rise above the messaging.  They even managed to insert a potentially subversive line about 'preferring burgers and chocolate cake', no doubt tongue in cheek. Let's hope the food police didn't notice.

I found myself wondering whether the likes of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter ever wrote songs like this.  If they did, the great American public probably took no notice of them.  Mr Gove must secretly be pleased to be well away from all this. 


UKIP alert – the rise of the non-native species

📥  Comment, New Publications

According to a report in the Guardian 1,875 non-native species were counted in Great Britain in 2012 – a figure increasing by 10 species a year, it seems.  282 of these have become invasive.

The parliamentary report, Invasive Non-native Species, says there needs to be better prevention, surveillance, monitoring and eradication measures, and new powers to kill off such species before they become established.  It seems that existing laws do prohibit the release of non-native animals and plants into the wild, but have never been used to prosecute anyone, and MPs warned that these are unlikely to provide the level of protection needed.

Sadly, we may have to wait until there's a UKIP minister at Defra before there is decisive action ...