Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Another pledge to sign

📥  Comment, News and Updates

EAUC is urging us all to sign the pledge.  It says:

A pioneering global initiative to embed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) across post-16 education has now been launched.  We are calling on your institution to sign and commit to the SDG Accord. Come and join your global counterparts in this international initiative.  Download the SDG flyer and petition your institution and students to sign up and spread the message.

This is the message:

Recognising that we are different stages in our journey towards a sustainable future, with differing strategic priorities reflecting our strategic ambitions, areas of expertise and organisational cultures.  This Accord calls upon we, the world’s universities and colleges to embed the Sustainable Development Goals into our education, research, leadership, operations, administration and engagement activities.  We Accord Signatories recognise ...

  • The indivisible and interconnected nature of the universal set of Goals – People, Prosperity, Planet, Partnership, Peace
  • That, as educators, we have a responsibility to play a central and transformational role in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

And we thereby assert that as leaders or individual practitioners, academics, students or researchers, we will:

  • align all major efforts with the Sustainable Development Goals, targets and indicators, including through our education, research, leadership, operational and engagement activities;
  • aim to involve members from all key stakeholder groups in this endeavour, including students, academics, professional staff, local communities and other external stakeholders;
  • collaborate across cities, regions, countries and continents with other signatory institutions as part of a collective international response;
  • using our own unique ways, give an account to both local and global communities on our progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, informing others and sharing our learning;
  • annually report on how our institution contributes to the Goals and what more can we do.


I'll summarise this as "everybody, in HE everywhere, all the time, collaborating with everyone else, should work towards realising all the goals".

At one level, this is fine, although we have been there before: Think Talloires etc.  But at another, more fundamental level it's far from alright.  Universities are places where ideas are critically examined and guidance provided to society about policy shifts and priorities.  As such, it was good to see this reflected in the following rationale of the unique role for HE (my emphasis):

Universities and colleges recognise our unique role in fostering and empowering youth as a force for change, and in fulfilling the urgent need for new knowledge, rigorous debate and critical academic engagement to support the SDGs.  The SDGs can inspire our teaching and learning with their goal of education, for all, for sustainable development.  The SDGs can be a focus for our research: this vision of a fair future for our shared planet generates an agenda of innovation and discovery, but also scrutiny and challenge.  The SDGs offer a catalyst for engagement beyond our institutions, with policymakers and publics alike.  But they also provide an opportunity to turn our gaze inwards, striving for inclusion, equity and sustainability in all aspects of our operations.  In our collaborative endeavours towards common goals, universities and colleges embody the spirit of the SDGs.  We recognise our potential as agents of change for sustainable development - at the heart of local communities, and as part of national, regional, and global networks.

In his 1948 book, Notes towards the definition of culture,  TS Eliot argued that a main outcome of education and knowledge has to be skepticism; that is an ability and willingness to provide criticism of political projects in order to check and/or improve those projects.  He said that it was criticism (growing out of skepticism) that helped societies advance.  It is this idea that lies at the heart of what EAUC is putting forward here.

You can sign the pledge at



Externalities and Arthur Pigou

📥  Comment, News and Updates

Uncosted externalities are seen as a huge problem these days, and the issue must have been around for a long while, if not for ever.  The Economist had a series of articles last week in which externalities  were explored along with the work of Arthur Pigou who proposed ways of addressing them.  The synopsis is here, and begins:

MARKETS are supposed to generate a magical state, where nobody could do better without somebody else doing worse. Awkwardly, they often fail. The reason is that those directly involved in a transaction are not the only ones affected by it. A drive into the centre of town, for example, creates congestion for everyone else; a company dumping waste into a river poisons the downstream drinking water; carbon emissions warm everyone’s planet. Economists have a special name for these extra costs: they are “externalities”. Unfettered market prices do not take them into account.  ...

The main article is here.  It begins:

LOUD conversation in a train carriage that makes concentration impossible for fellow-passengers. A farmer spraying weedkiller that destroys his neighbour’s crop. Motorists whose idling cars spew fumes into the air, polluting the atmosphere for everyone. Such behaviour might be considered thoughtless, anti-social or even immoral. For economists these spillovers are a problem to be solved.

Markets are supposed to organise activity in a way that leaves everyone better off. But the interests of those directly involved, and of wider society, do not always coincide. Left to their own devices, boors may ignore travellers’ desire for peace and quiet; farmers the impact of weedkiller on the crops of others; motorists the effect of their emissions. In all of these cases, the active parties are doing well, but bystanders are not. Market prices—of rail tickets, weedkiller or petrol—do not take these wider costs, or “externalities”, into account.  ...

All very informative.  I found the part on internalities, to be particularly interesting.  Unlike externalities, which tend to affect us in a general sense, internalities are at the heart of who we are and how we live our lives.


More on Tbilisi's legacy

📥  Comment, News and Updates

As I scrolled down the front page of I was startled to come across 4 audio clips of me talking about the Tbilisi declaration – and then I remembered being interviewed one afternoon about it all.  I had quite forgotten.

It's a page devoted to the recommendations which says:

The Final Report from Tbilisi published by UNESCO and UNEP includes a declaration and series of recommendations that guided the development of the field of environmental education around the world. We now take a closer look at Recommendation Two, which articulates the goals, objectives, and guiding principles of EE, with audio commentary by University of Bath Emeritus Professor Bill Scott.

There are 5 audio files:

Introduction / Goals of EE / Objectives of EE / Guiding principles of EE / Why Tbilisi matters

Only a personal view, of course, and there are other views further down the page.  There are clouds of "Errs" and "Ums" in my audio tracks; but whether, obliquely and by inferenceillumination comes, is up to you to decide.


The World We'll Leave Behind

📥  New Publications

The World We'll Leave Behind: Grasping the Sustainability Challenge is a new book that Paul Vare and I have written for Routledge / Greenleaf.

Here's the synopsis:

It is now clear that human activity has influenced how the biosphere supports life on Earth, and given rise to a set of connected environmental and social problems. In response to the challenge that these problems present, a series of international conferences and summits led to discussions of sustainable development and the core dilemma of our time: How can we all live well, now and in the future, without compromising the ability of the planet to enable us all to live well?

This book identifies the main issues and challenges we now face; it explains the ideas that underpin them and their inter-connection, and discusses a range of strategies through which they might be addressed and possibly resolved. These cover things that governments might do, what businesses and large organizations can contribute, and the scope for individuals, families and communities to get involved. This book is for everyone who cares about such challenges, and wants to know more about them.

Publication is in February 2018, but you can pre-order now!


Tbilisi according to Bill Stapp – up to a point

📥  Comment, News and Updates

The actnowforee website has a 4.5 minute voiced-overed video / animation presentation that covers a number of points made by Bill Stapp in a report on the Tbilisi conference.  You can see/hear it here , and it's good to hear these contemporary comments.  But there's no point watching it if you're looking for insight into environmental education as it is hardly mentioned – or if you're looking for a great animation.  However you will get a good feel for how hard they all worked (0600 to 0300), and what a great experience they had: delightful time!  very friendly people!  lovely city!  magnificent bread!  excellent preparation! ... .  This blandness is unlikely to be Stapp's fault as what we have is abstracted from his report which I know was critical in parts.  I've been looking for the original, but to no avail.  I'll keep trying.

On the same page, there's a 5 minute film of some of the conference highlights.  As I may have noted before, this is much better if you turn the sound down very low.  In it, watch out for how often there are shots of Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow the UNESCO Director at the time.  This is his UNESCO profile.  For what is probably a more balanced view of Mr M'Bow's many talents and interests, see this.

In watching both videos, I'd say it's important to bear in mind that in 1977 the Cold War was still raging.

📥  Comment, News and Updates is a campaign that has been developed by GEEP – the Global Environmental Education Partnership – which, you'll remember I am involved with.  Although I've not been going to meetings lately, I've done a fair bit of textual scrutiny.

GEEP has issued a call for action which you'll find here.  This sets out 10 draft actions for the future, "crafted with input from GEEP leaders from around the world ... and feature top priorities for the next decade in environmental education".

The actions are:

  1. Become an Advocate for Environmental Education
  2. Build a Bigger, More Inclusive Field
  3. Promote Environmental Education's Role in Advancing Civic Engagement
  4. Build and Sustain Global EE Leadership
  5. Invest in Research to Continuously Inform and Improve Practice
  6. Deepen and Expand Collaboration and Networking
  7. Expand Environmental Education's Role in Achieving Conservation Success
  8. Provide Universal Access to Environmental Education and Nature
  9. Strengthen Environmental Education's Role in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals
  10. Develop a Global Fund for Environmental Education

GEEP asks: "Which actions do you believe are most important? What's missing? Cast your vote for your top three priorities and let us know what you think.Your input will shape our action plan for the next 10 years.  Together, we can use the power of environmental education to create the world we want."

You can vote here.


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.