Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: September 2017

Puerto Rico conference update

📥  News and Updates

If you're booked to go to the 2017 NAAEE conference in Puerto Rico, you can follow the latest information on the NAAEE Newsroom.  This is their bulletin updated: September 21, 2017, 5:00 PM ET

Letter to conference and Research Symposium registrants:

Thank you for registering for NAAEE's Annual Conference and/or Research Symposium. Like you, we are greatly concerned about Hurricane Maria's impact on Puerto Rico, as well as what it means regarding our conference plans. Until we are able to communicate with our partners on the island, we are unable to make a final decision as to whether the conference will be held. As you may know, the island is without power, and there is still danger from flash flooding. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of everyone on the island, including our colleagues, and their families and homes.

If our partners believe the conference will aid in the island's recovery, through the economic and volunteer support we can bring, then we will honor our commitments to them and to you, our attendees. If they think that our presence will hinder recovery efforts in any way, we will cancel. It is critical that our partners, who have worked so hard with us on every aspect of the conference, weigh in before we make a final decision.

We ask that you continue to be patient and understand that we need to allow them time to assess the situation and the best path moving forward. We do remain hopeful as news organizations are already reporting that San Juan's airport will reopen for commercial flights by the end of the week.

We hope to have another update for you as soon as we can next week. We promise to give everyone enough time and information to adjust plans if needed.  We will do our very best to keep you informed through all of our channels, including emails like this one to all registered participants, as well as on our Facebook page, and other social media, and our online newsroom.

In the meantime, we are providing suggestions for how people can help and will keep everyone updated as we hear more. If you are able to donate, here are a few options:

  • Maria & Irma: Puerto Rico Real-time Recovery Fund (100% of dollars raised will go towards relief for Hurricane Irma and Maria on the island of Puerto Rico)
  • GlobalGiving Caribbean Hurricane Maria & Irma Relief Fund (100% of dollars raised will go towards relief for Hurricane Irma and Maria to ALL islands impacted)
  • Ambulantes: A list of various organizations working with local residents on the ground

More than anything, we are doing all we can to support Puerto Rico and all areas that have been hit by flooding and hurricane damage.  Thank you again for your support and understanding!

The NAAEE Conference Team


Hand-picked, just for me

📥  Comment

The ever-helpful Routledge sent me a list of journal articles I might like to read.  Here they are:

Protective effects of bellidifolin in hypoxia-induced in pheochromocytoma cells (PC12) and underlying mechanisms - Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health; Part A

Natural resources in Kurdistan and the legitimacy of their exploitation by the regional authority: water, oil and gas - International Journal of Environmental Studies

An appraisal of sample preparation, analysis and some toxicological implications of ancient industrial metalliferous pollution - International Journal of Environmental Studies

When in Doubt, Go to the Library: The Effect of a Library-Intensive Freshman Research and Writing Seminar on Academic Success - Journal of Criminal Justice Education

It must know something about me that I'm yet to discover ...


A farewell to the ENSI

📥  Comment, News and Updates

After "more than thirty years of successful collaboration with various partners from all over", the ENSI network is closing down.  The ENSI Board said that owing to the decreasing number of full member countries and the consequent lack of resources it is no longer feasible to carry on. The board decided at its AGM in Vienna to close down its secretariat by the end of June, 2018.  All formal memberships of ENSI end also by this date.  ENSI’s homepage and the access to all documents is ensured after the closure of the secretariat.  The Board said:

We would like to thank you for all your long-time commitment and very valuable contributions to ENSI’s achievements. We, the ENSI board and the ENSI community, look back on successful ENSI life of 30 years. We are especially proud of the following qualities of ENSI:

  • ENSI was based on open dialog and mutual exchange among ENSI partners from research, administration, teacher education and schools.
  • The network was based on high commitment and successful and fruitful cooperation
  • ENSI’s name is standing for expertise, personal and professional engagement in EE and ESD

All this is called ‘the ENSI’s spirit’.  We encourage you to continue to work and communicate in this spirit also in the  future.  That is why we share with you our plan for ENSI in the coming months: We would like to compile an overview about ENSI’s experiences and the developments of themes – which evolved along the dominant themes in politics and school development.

A final ENSI publication is planned, dedicated to the community of and EE, to teachers and teacher trainers, to ENSI-friends and observers.  The working title is: “From EE to the SDGs – 30 years of ENSI – reflective papers”

You'll find the history of ENSI here, along with some of its publications.  I can remember the time it was really influential, but the only surprising thing about its demise, I think, is why it took so long.


Beyond Parody

📥  Comment, News and Updates

I had a nice email the other day from Derek Parody, the Project Director (A303 Stonehenge), assuring me that he had read my comments about the Stonehenge tunnel, and was going ahead.    It read:

Thank you for your response to our public consultation earlier this year.  We have now analysed all of the over 9,000 responses we received and we  would like to let you know that the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has announced the preferred route which will be taken forward.  This marks a major step forward in the plan to improve this section of road which has suffered congestion for so long.

The  consultation responses, along with further studies and assessments, have influenced the route announced today.  The route includes a twin-bored tunnel at least 1.8 miles long through the World Heritage Site and improved junctions with the A360 and the A345.   It also includes a northern route for the long-awaited Winterbourne Stoke bypass.  We will now continue to develop the scheme in more detail and there will be a further public consultation early next year before the more detailed plans are submitted for development consent.

You can read much more information on our website where you will find our Moving Forward: the preferred route booklet, the full Report on Public Consultation and the Scheme Assessment Report.

I know all the arguments against the idea of a tunnel: all that unstable chalk, and the runes yet to be discovered and read, but overall I value the idea of a landscape with no A303.  It is a great pity, however, that the tunnel's not going to be longer – at both ends.

As all this will cost at least £1.6bn, it's hard to disagree with Lew Grade when he said that it would surely be cheaper to move the stones.



📥  Uncategorized

This is what UNESCO had to say about its WEEC in Vancouver – in case you missed it.

“To craft a more inclusive and sustainable future for all, we need greener economies, greener legislations, and most of all, we need greener societies,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on her video message at the opening ceremony of the ninth World Environmental Congress (WEEC) held in Vancouver, Canada on 9-15 September. “This calls for new ways of seeing the world, new ways of thinking and behaving as global citizens. This is why sustainability must start on the benches of schools.”

The WEEC is the largest international congress addressing education for environment and sustainable development, taking place biannually. The title of the 9th congress was “Culturenvironment: Weaving new connections”. The organizing committee proposed broad and inclusive topics on environmental and sustainability education with particular interest of the interplay among cultural and environmental factors this year.

The opening ceremony was inaugurated by the traditional welcome and acknowledgement with Elder Shane Pointe, together with the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Canada; Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa, Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, Morocco ; David Zandvliet from the Institute for Environmental Learning, Canada and Mario Salomone from the WEEC Network.

This congress also marked 40 years from the world's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education, organized in Tblisi, Georgia in 1977 by UNESCO in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The panel session, moderated by Milt McClaren, Royal Roads University, Canada, reflected the achievements made since Tblisi and upcoming challenges around environment and sustainability. It included Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability, York University, Canada; Ekaterine Grigalava, Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia; Tamar Aladashvili, Department of Environmental Policy and International Relations, Georgia; Julia Heiss, UNESCO Team Leader of Education for Sustainable Development; Elliott Harris, UNEP.

UNESCO also introduced the publication “Education for Sustainable Development Goals” in a workshop organized by UNEP, and the work for monitoring and evaluation of SDG Target 4.7 in a paper session organized by the Sustainability and Education Policy Network.

What, I wonder, are we to make of "the benches of schools".


The World’s Largest Lesson – a suggestion

📥  Comment, News and Updates

It's almost time once again for the World’s Largest Lesson which sets out to introduce "the Sustainable Development Goals to children and young people everywhere and unites them in action".  The WLL website says "17 Global Goals to achieve these 3 extraordinary things by 2030".  This struck me as odd, given that there are 17 goals but only 3 things.  These turn out to be:




However, not all of these will be achievements, as "fight" and "tackle" are what we might term 'on-going verbs'.  Only "end" seems to be achievement-oriented, and then it's only 'extreme' poverty that's being ended.

All this simplicity is an attempt to make the complex goals more understandable to a young audience.  The website goes along with the usual practice by representing the statements of goal by slogans.  Thus:

  1. "End poverty in all its forms everywhere" [1] becomes "No poverty"
  2. "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages" [3] becomes "Good health and wellbeing"
  3. "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls" [5] becomes "Gender equality"
  4. "Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation" [9] becomes "Industry, innovation and infrastructure", and
  5. "Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss"[15] becomes "Life on land"

... and so on.

The first and second of these might be thought reasonable. although adding "for all" to [2] would have helped.  The third is much less so as the crucial qualifier: "empower all women and girls" is lost.  The fourth and fifth, however, are just nonsense as no attempt has been made to represent the goal in a meaningful way.  Goal 15 doesn't even say "Protect life on land" which would have been much more to the point.

Whilst part of the problem lies with the way the goals are written (or over-written), there's also a problem with the way that they have been turned into slogans by organisations that ought to know better, and so here's my suggestion for a lesson:

Ask students to think about the goals and create their own meaningful précis of about 6 words.  There would then be a discussion of which are seen as the most effective and why.




HEFCE and the lack of sustainable development

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Whatever has happened to the HEFCE Sustainable Development Plan?  Do you know?  If there has been an update recently, I've missed it.  There was a clear commitment to producing updates in the Sustainable Development policy framework document [2014/30] – see page 21.  That was 3 years ago.

Perhaps there's no development to report – unsustainable or otherwise.  I hear a new broom is in the HEFCE offing so maybe priorities will change and they will take sustainable development seriously again.



Every Tom, Dick and Walter ...

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Wherever you go – to the shops, the pub, the cinema – there's seemingly no escaping the sustainable development goals.  But these are often invoked to add some spurious relevance to whatever was going to happen anyway.  There was a glaring example of this last week when a conference was announced with an SDG fanfare to whip up interest – even though what was going to be focused on didn't mention the goals.  Shameful, really.

I was interested, therefore, to get an invitation to take part on a new study:

Sustainable Development Goals and Sustainability Teaching at Universities

This is being carried out by the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme and World Sustainable Development Research and Transfer Centre [that's IUSDRPWSDRTC if you didn't know; it's even longer in German].

As the name implies, the study,

"... will ascertain the extent to which the SDGs are currently being considered or approached as part of the teaching programmes offered by universities round the world."

As usual,

"... the results will be published as a scientific article in a high-impact journal, and those contributing to the work are able to obtain a copy of the paper when it is completed, if they wish."

Tempting, of course, but not really for me, although, contrary to what I noted, above, this does seem to be an example of an initiative that is actually about the goals.  My guess is that there a lot going on in universities about the goals.


1 of 30 under 30

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Congratulations to Quinn Runkle of the NUS for making it into NAAEE's 30 under 30.  NAAEE says:

Started in 2016, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and this year, adding support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Global Environmental Education Partnership, the EE 30 Under 30 program recognizes individuals in the U.S. and internationally, 30 years of age or younger, who are game changers in their communities.  These you ng people are taking on leadership positions to make a difference for the planet. They are engaging their communities, building relationships, and using the power of education to create change.  These youth are also recognizing the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity and applying those principles to their work. We look forward to recognizing these remarkable young leaders and helping to share their stories with the rest of the world!

This year, NAAEE says that it ...

"received many outstanding applications, demonstrating the great work that young people are doing around the world to create a more sustainable future".

So, well done Quinn.  NAAEE has details of all 30 EE 30 winners from last year.


Another gloomy UNESCO Report on ESD

📥  Comment, News and Updates

There's a new UNESCO report [*] that sets out to offer reflections on "an aspect of Education for Sustainable Development" by the UNESCO / UNTWIN Chairs.

Although it's sub-titled "a decade of progress", the editors' Foreword gives the game away.  In between pleas for more cash, it's a story of little happening other than by committed enthusiasts:

"The UNESCO Chairs, together with UNITWIN projects, made an active contribution to the worldwide UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development. In particular, in the area of higher education, but also in other educational sectors, the UN Chairs have kick-started a wide variety of interesting activities, as the contributions to this volume demonstrate. Even though a number of UNESCO Chairs focusing on specific issues related to sustainable development, and to education for sustainable development, have been established in several countries over the past few years, it has unfortunately not yet been possible to anchor sustainability in the teaching that occurs in higher education – apart from individual examples, such as Sweden, where higher education institutions are legally required to promote sustainable development. UNESCO Chairs should be given the resources and opportunities to take on even greater responsibility for this area of education, as its graduates play a key role in disseminating ideas about how society should develop, and they make a significant contribution to sustainable development through science and research.

But all's not lost as the SDGs come charging over the hill on a white horse to rescue us all:

The current publication provides a reference point, reflecting the past achievements of the UNESCO Chairs’ diverse areas of thematic focus during the worldwide UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development, their outlook for the Global Action Programme (2015-2019) and beyond in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs mark an important turning point in the focus of the UNESCO Chair and UNITWIN Programme work as well as a challenge to build on their acknowledged achievements. As highlighted earlier, the SDGs place an earnest call on higher education institutions to focus their endeavours on addressing the world’s most fundamental developmental issues – not only those related to education but on all areas of human activity – from clean water and healthy living spaces, to peace building, issues of gender disparity and non-discriminatory prosperity. The challenges for the UNESCO Chairs on ESD, and indeed for all the UNITWIN Networks and Chairs across all fields of activity, is to now use their power of collective creative thought to find solutions to meet these challenges.

The Chairs, meanwhile, have a new role:

The Chairs in ESD have now entered a period of consolidation and forward strategizing - a period which requires them to look beyond the theory to the practical and to pertinent problem solving. Turning theoretical knowledge into practice demands them to be at once trans-disciplinary in their implementation design worldwide, to cooperate and collaborate with the wider family of UNESCO Chairs and to urge the full embodiment of ESD into the broader research, teaching and learning higher education agenda towards 2030.

Heaven help us all.  Meanwhile, the UNECO graphic designers need a good talking to, as their idea of an appropriate graphic is to show two heads with cogs inside them.  Is it, do I hear you suggest, a rather clever ironic comment on the thinking that got us into this mess.  Well, maybe, but UNESCO hardly has a reputation for irony.


  • Michelsen G. and Wells P. J. (Editors) A Decade of Progress on Education for Sustainable Development Reflections from the UNESCO Chairs Programme. Paris: UNESCO. Freely downloadable.