Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: September 2015

German students are now €uros in

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has announced the first winners of the UNESCO-Japan Prize for outstanding projects related to ESD.

They are:

Asociación SERES (Guatemala and El Salvador)

~ awarded for its “SERES ESD Youth Ambassadors” initiative, which uses an imaginative approach in its application of ESD.  The project certifies youth ambassadors to train other young people to become facilitators of established sustainability programmes that build community resilience to climate change. It thus inspires and activates youth leadership for more sustainable lifestyles through individual and collective actions.

The Centre for Development of Early Childhood, Non-Formal and Informal Education (Bandung, Indonesia)

~ awarded for its “Eco Friendly Entrepreneurship for Youths and Adults” project, which takes an innovative and committed approach to the development of entrepreneurial skills and local engagement in sustainability. It encourages people between the ages of 18 and 45 to work with their local community to harness local traditions and resources and to create their own products with recycled material. The project preserves local culture and the environment while initiating rural business and stimulating competitiveness through active pedagogies.

rootAbility (Germany) 

~ awarded for its “Green Office Model” initiative, which trains young people as transformation agents to foster a whole-institution approach towards ESD.  Its main actors are university students who form Green Offices as a team with both teaching and administrative staff of their institution. They learn to run their own activities, such as waste recycling, energy efficiency and sustainable catering, while raising their own funding. Green Offices have already been established in six European countries.

The last of these is very like the work that the NUS does here which was also nominated for a prize.  Could be the Germans won because their work has already reached other countries – including the UK.  I'm told that you can find the Green Office model at both Exeter and Greenwich; ironically enough, developments that were funded through the NUS.

Meanwhile, I note the politically-correct distribution of prizes: Asia, the Americas, Europe.  Did they forget about Africa, do you think?   Or is there no decent ESD there – hard to imagine.  However, I suppose we mustn't begrudge the Germans their €50k prize as, with the VW scandal, they will need all the cash and good publicity they can get their hands on.


Lies, damned lies and vehicle emissions data

📥  Comment, News and Updates

I was in Germany when the extent of the VW emissions scandal finally became clear to us all.  Amid all that sausage, cake and beer, there was considerable reputational anxiety – and not just for car-making, though it does employ, one way or another, 14% of the country's workforce.   The idea that Made in Germany might mean something quite different from now on, was clearly a concern.

What was surprising was not that VW cheated the public, as all car-makers do that in relation to their fuel efficiency data – something which the EU turns one of its many blind, corrupted eyes to.  What was really surprising was that VW thought that doing so in the USA was worth the risk given the Fed's willingness to go after transgressors – particularly (though not exclusively) foreign ones.  Last week's Economist has a lengthy piece on the issues – A mucky business.

Well, as a VW driver, I'm inclined to believe the emissions date provided by the company about my car – because it's an electric one, and when it's charged from the Semington A solar array, it really does produce no CO2 or NOx – and no American regulator can show otherwise.  Evidence, I'd say, of a need to shift as fast as possible to carbon-free transport.



All those useful holes under the North Sea

📥  Comment, News and Updates

According to the Telegraph the other week, the UK (that might mean Scotland) will be quids in because of all the empty(ish) oil and gas wells under the North Sea – just right (and almost ready) for the CO2 that will need to be sequestered away for the good of us all once carbon capture technology can be made to work [i] efficiently and [ii] economically.

The T says that the latter is almost there:

Carbon capture has long been dismissed as a pipe-dream. But as so often with technology, the facts on the ground are rapidly pulling ahead of a stale narrative.  The Canadian utility SaskPower has already retro-fitted a filtering system onto a 110 MW coal-fired plant at Boundary Dam, extracting 90% of the CO2 at a tolerable cost.  It used Cansolv technology from Shell.

"We didn't intend to build the first one in the world, but everybody else quit," said Mike Monea, the head of the project.  "We have learned so much from the design flaws that we could cut 30% off the cost of the next plant, but it is already as competitive as gas in Asia," he said. The capture process uses up 18% of the power - a cost known as the "parasitic load" - but it is less than the 21% expected.

All this will be seen as bad news by the keep it in the ground lobby who think that it's unused oil and methane rather than CO2 that should be in these wells.  Then there's the point that any spare holes might have to be used for all that extra CO2 that will need to be sucked out of the atmosphere once we overshoot the 3 gigatonne carbon budget that experts say that the Earth is 'allowed' – as we surely will.  Anyone who sees COP21 as changing any of this looks like a terminal optimist.

Whatever you think of all this, the piece has excellent graphics and data.


Nothing's a long way further than Telford

📥  Comment, News and Updates

There are good reasons why Housman set his poem comparing Shropshire and London in Knighton, rather than Telford, not least because the River Teme doesn't flow through the north of the county; Telford's being a new town may also have had something to do with it.  Housman was certainly spared the problems of navigating the shopping centre where I got lost the other morning as I walked to the misleadingly named Telford Central railway station.

I stayed in Telford en route to Growing Up Green & Global, event at Harper Adams University, organised by Learning 2B Sustainable, where NAEE had a stand in the über-functional university sports hall that lurked behind a rather fine Art Deco building set within leafy grounds.  I never left the hall, eschewing the lure of keynote addresses, and discussion panels, preferring to talk with fellow exhibitors and passing delegates for the whole day.  I'd never done that before.

As if to emphasise that nothing's a long way further than Telford, my journey home took four and half hours, the rail gods conspiring against me with slow-running, missed connections, and that multitude of assorted delays that are the everyday experience on our slow speed rail network.

For the record, the Housman poem (which of course is not really about London, Knighton, Thames, Teme – or Telford) ends:


By bridges that Thames runs under,
In London, the town built ill,
’Tis sure small matter for wonder
If sorrow is with one still.

And if as a lad grows older
The troubles he bears are more,
He carries his griefs on a shoulder
That handselled them long before.

Where shall one halt to deliver
This luggage I ’d lief set down?
Not Thames, not Teme is the river,
Nor London nor Knighton the town:

’Tis a long way further than Knighton,
A quieter place than Clun,
Where doomsday may thunder and lighten
And little ’twill matter to one.


Quality Education, Zanu PF and ESD

📥  Comment, News and Updates

As a post-script to my recent posting about Zimbabwe, I searched for Quality Education on the Zanu PF website (required reading from now on, I think) and was led to this speech by Mugabe.  No wonder he's a leader of men (and women).  I then searched for ESD, and got the same speech, which goes to show that, in Zimbabwe at least, ESD and quality education are seen as compatible!  I wonder if they have told UNESCO.



Let's make October 5th Nick Clegg Day

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Nick Clegg's new plastic bag tax / charge comes into effect on October 5th across England.  From that date, retailers with >250 full-time (equivalent) employees will have to charge at least 5p for the single-use plastic bag.  The idea is to encourage people to re-use bags or to use ‘bags for life’.  It's part of the nudge-nudge behaviour change campaign, and the 5p (or more) goes to charity.

It's a fair bet that few people know this is coming, and an even safer one that no one know whom to thank (or blame, according to your view point).  When people complain (or cheer) and discover that it's Clegg to whom credit / blame is due, his public standing will either plummet further (or rise).  As we should be open about the source of such a progressive / regressive move, I hope the government will make October 5th Nick Clegg Day as an annual reminder.

The full details of the charge / tax can be found on the Defra website.





There but for the Grace [of] Mugabe, go we all

📥  Comment, News and Updates

I don't know about you, but I always find Arjen Wals' Transformative Learning blog both entertaining and informative.  It is, for example, one of the few places you can go to keep up to date with the growing amount of plastics in the oceans.  Sometimes this infor-tainment (or is it enter-mation?) can be a heady mix, and the most recent post was a good example.

It tell how AW was invited to give a keynote at an Education Expo in Zimbabwe, and, on arriving at Harare airport, discovers he's sharing a platform with the local dictator, Uncle Bob himself; not only that, but there are 5–6000 people plus dignitories (and some Zanu PF bully-boys, no doubt) waiting to hear what he has to say.  AW is supposed to be talking about 'Growing Socio-economic Opportunity through Quality Education in the 21st Century' which is a topic that Zanu PF zealots probably don't like very much on the grounds of its inherent neo-liberal, revisionist, and neo-colonial tendencies – quality education, indeed!

Happily, however, by the time AW got to the venue, Uncle Bob had hoofed it to parliament, and most of the 6000 had vanished as well.  You will find more details of the Expo and AW's address in the blog.

But there's a twist to the story that AW seems not to know about.  It transpires that Uncle Bob went on to give the wrong speech to parliament (which he was supposed to be opening) – he repeated his state of the union address he'd given a month ago.  The state of politics in the country is such that no one dared tell him, and the faithful clapped anyway.  But it does reveal the possibility that the Great Dictator was so discombobulated by the prospect of meeting AW that he got all confused.

Such is the power of academics who would dare speak truth to power.


Carbon literacy in Manchester

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Manchester Metropolitan University [MMU] says that it is leading the world when it comes to teaching students to become “carbon literate”.  It seems that students from MMU's Department of Food and Tourism Management have become the first in the world to gain a Carbon Literacy Certificate as part of their university course.  MMU says that this will help them impress employers in the future.

The students in question are studying Masters degrees in events, hospitality, food and tourism management programmes, and the teaching programme was externally accredited, and the certificates awarded, by an independent low-carbon future charity, Cooler Projects.

Dr Chris Stone, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Food and Tourism Management, has said this:

“Students recognised the importance of learning about the carbon emissions and climate change imperative in the twenty-first century and were hungry for knowledge about the subject.  Employers are seeking graduates with the knowledge and skills to address sustainability issues, and the award will provide a valuable addition to students’ CVs.  The carbon literacy project will be further extended across the teaching programmes of the Department of Food and Tourism Management in 2015-16.”

And Phil Korbel, Co-Director of the Carbon Literacy Project, has said this:

“Manchester Met has been a long-time partner for our project and getting Carbon Literacy embedded in university courses is essential if we are to succeed in creating the world's first Carbon Literate City. These graduates are real pioneers, the first in their fields to be Carbon Literate, and they will now go forward to generate and implement great ideas on how their sectors can make a real difference to a safer future for us all.”

Well, this is all very good (and very well, too), and an indicator of that old adage beloved of Mancunians that Manchester does it differently, does it better, and did it yesterday. But the claims seem overblown, so I'll be looking out for all those future comments from impressed employers.


LOtC – learning what, not where

📥  Comment, News and Updates

The folk that run Learning Outside the Classroom say you can improve personal development through learning outside the classroom.  Well, I suppose they would, just as you can do this in all sorts of other ways – such as inside the classroom.  It's recent mailing to members and supporters said:

With the new Ofsted Common Inspection Framework including an increased focus on personal development, now is the ideal time to look at your learning outside the classroom (LOtC) provision and think about how you can improve pupils’ personal development through LOtC activities.

Learning outside the classroom can help to develop pupils’:

  • spiritual awareness by developing the use of creativity and imagination in their learning through encountering a wide range of experiences and stimuli;
  • moral understanding by giving real world context to moral and ethical issues to help them understand different viewpoints;
  • social skills by enabling them to participate in a variety of communities and social settings;
  • cultural engagement by giving them access to a wide variety of cultural experiences.

Evidence shows that LOtC can also improve pupils’ attainment, improve behaviour and increase engagement with learning.

Whilst I am sure it can, but everybody says things like this and LOtC seems to be clutching at Ofsted straws here, with circular phrases such as "cultural engagement by giving them access to a wide variety of cultural experiences" are just rather pathetic.

So, what's special about being outside?  Does LOtC know?  The last Ofsted report on all this was in 2008 and now looks dated – well, it was two governments ago, which seems like a generation.