by Bob Carlson
CREST is an environmental education center operated by the West Linn-Wilsonville School District which is located just south of Portland, Oregon. One of the key CREST programs is the CREST Farm . The farm is located on surplus district property. Currently, a half-acre of land is producing vegetables for school cafeterias and other uses. Last summer, middle school and high school interns learned how to grow, maintain, and sell vegetables from a farm stand on site. Next summer, the students will operate a 20 family CSA in addition to running the farm stand.
The farm is also used as a field trip destination for K-12 students year round. Each season approximately 600 students visit the farm. Learning activities are tailored to the needs of individual teachers or teams of teachers. Many of the trips emphasize wellness and the benefits of eating fresh healthy fruits and vegetables. Other field trips focus on sustainable agricultural practices that help conserve resources and promote a healthy ecosystem. Lessons include biodynamic farming practices such as maintenance of soil health, natural pest management, crop rotation and wise use of water. Students participate in hands on activities including: planting, thinning, pruning, composting, amending soil, and harvesting.
All of the farm lessons promote ecological literacy by helping kids understand their connection to food and how the production of food can affect ecosystems. They gain an understanding of the delicate balance of ecosystems and the interconnected web of living things.
One of the goals of the farm is to give students a chance to make a difference in their community and the world by participating in service learning. Some students participate in projects that provide food to local food banks and support sustainable agriculture projects in other communities and other countries.
A number of CREST staff help run the farm and create meaningful educational experiences for students. A professional farmer lives on-site and provides technical expertise, a part-time grant-funded educator runs field trips and the internship program, and an AmeriCorps member recruits community volunteers and establishes systems for distributing the food to school cafeterias. She is also offering tasting programs to schools to promote increased consumption of vegetables and fruits.
Submitted by Bob Carlson, CREST Director
Phone: (503) 673-7349
Fax: (503) 570-2969
11265 WIlsonville Rd.
Wilsonville Or. 97070
The symbolic act of learning and living sustainability in the future should intermingle the fabric of natural systems and human made social systems
by Pramod Parajuli, Ph.D.
Doctoral Program in Sustainability Education
The hundreds of thousands of initiatives of this blessed moment are not about the bread and butter, or just about the soil and water alone. Art and the things of beauty are emerging from the most ordinary—a permaculture household in El Salvador, a thread of garlic organically grown in the Chino Valley, Arizona, a solar cooker in the remote Nepalese Himalayas, a Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, a sustainable fishing regulation in British Columbia, or a bag of coffee produced under the canopy of agro-forestry in Chiapas, Mexico. One solar cooker at a time, one biogas at a time, there are millions of solutions, sprouting amidst crisis and seeming chaos. The time has come as William Blake wrote:
To see a world in the grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
What might all these imply as we prepare the future generations of learners, educators and leaders? The eight transitional insights I offer below testify that the symbolic act of learning and living sustainability in the future should intermingle the fabric of natural systems and human made social systems—two most complex systems on earth. A new sustainable human trajectory will not be of humans alone shooting to Mars; it will require re-rooting ourselves with all our multiple senses, and working along with all more than human species.
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First, there is an Inviting Context: Climate of Change amidst Climate Change
By now, almost all have accepted that the climate change is real, undeniable, and is accelerating very fast. Most among us also admit that climate change is caused largely due to the way we live our lives, the ways we extract, use and waste our resources. Many also agree that it is urgent to address it from all dimensions. Fortunately, ferocity of these very real crises are accompanied by a “climate of change.” This is the focus of my paper here, a unique opportunitythat accompanies climate change.
The “climate of change” is evident in the way hundreds of thousands of people and groups who are already involved in changing the way we have been doing things, living our lives or using our tools. In his new book, Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken estimates that worldwide there are at least 2 million such initiatives. Maybe there are more, certainly not less.
Second, learning sustainability should help us live lives and be well in the World.
Let me offer a working definition of learning sustainability. Learning sustainability is “an art and a process that could reorient human beings to become a beneficial member of an abundant biosphere.” First, it is an art and a process. Second, the intent of this art and process is to reorient humans from one mindset/worldview to another that will then lead to new visions, dreams and designs. Third, humans can be beneficial members of the biosphere and that the human needs and that of the biosphere do not have to be in conflict but can be mutually enhancing. Fourth, the biosphere is abundant and based on that we can create foundations for an abundant and equitable human life. Fifth, that we can prepare the next generation who can be beneficial members and who can make the biosphere abundant.
As sustainability educators, at the core of our concern is nothing less than “life” itself. For me the message is loud and clear: We can be resilient and bounce back towards a sound and satisfying life systems for humans and other-than-humans. But as the author of Biomimicry, Janine Benyus, advises, we have to learn from our own evolutionary trajectory and the memory line of DNA. She reminds us to be humble of our techno-industrial accomplishments because other organisms have done everything we humans want to do without guzzling fossil fuels, polluting the planet, over harvesting water, depleting soil or mortgaging their future. For example, how do other species clean themselves and why do humans need soap, shampoo and hot water to clean? Rather than asking “What is the least toxic detergent to use?”, a more hopeful question, Janine Benyus, suggests, might be: “How does nature stay clean?” How does nature thermo-regulate? How could our ecological designs be informed by these biophilic insights?
Third, Food and Gardens could be a Gateway to Deep and Delicious Social Engagements
For the last six years, I was involved in designing and implementing the learning gardens experiment in Portland, Oregon, and now in Prescott, Arizona. We found that engaging children and youth in food and garden can offer avenues for a mode of learning that is multicultural, multisensory, interdisciplinary and intergenerational (Parajuli, 2006; Parajuli , Dardis and Hahn, 2008).
We have been a pioneer in developing curriculum for K-8 children and youth who learn at any point in the continuum between, what I call the “soil to supper, and back to Soil
(the SoSuS) loop. The SOSuS Loop not only connects children and youth with the earth, it also connected people to people, communities to communities (Parajuli, 2009). We then explore the continuum between “food to foodshed” and “water to watershed.”
Our initial conclusion is that if designed carefully and tended with heart, learning gardens may offer a series of benefits to enhance and deepen learning:
• impact a school’s physical as well as learning environments
• lead to academic enrichment and achievement for students
• enrich learning of the whole child
• cultivate and nurture motivation, resiliency and leadership among children and youth
• promote multi-sensory learning
• be applicable to grade by grade, subject by subject, and season by season instruction and learning
• use recurring themes over K-12 span of experience
• effectively link ecology, culture and learning
• enhance interdisciplinary inquiry
• address and fulfill academic benchmarks
• provide the seasonal framework for learning
• teach both time (linear and cyclical) and a sense of place
• link experience to meaning, thought to action and classroom to community
• be the best sites for inter- and intra-generational learning, and
• connect/collaborate with the larger food and garden community
Not only in the arena of nutrition and learning, our engagement in food, water and soil can take us towards a mode of social engagement that is not only “deep” but also “delicious.” Interestingly, the flavor of local, organic, and sustainable food economy is much more alive in urban centers than in rural farms and communities. Here again we are witnessing the melting of the old fences that divide the rural from urban, industry from agriculture, soil from food and people from the planet. By changing our food habits and preferences, we are witnessing a wide-ranging and a deep process of change from the very belly of the techno-industrial beast and what the food author Michael Pollan calls, the nutritional/chemical complex. Transition towards local and sustainable food could give us the most delicious inter-economic partnership, as premised in the diagram below.
Fourth, Enhance Maximum Partnerships to create a world that is not only Ecologically Sustainable, but also Socially Equitable and Bio-culturally Diverse.
For the last seven years, I have developed and used a “Partnership Model of Sustainability” as a guide to practice pedagogy for transformational leadership among the new generation of learners and leaders. This model addresses the issues of economy and ecology on the one hand and equity and bio-cultural diversity on the other.
A brief description of the four partnerships follows.
Intra and Inter-generational partnership: Explores social classes, gender, caste, race, ethnicity and other human created institutions and practices of social inequities and cleavages. Attention to intra and inter generational equity and partnership is urgent because inequality is also at the core of current ecological crisis.
Inter-species Partnership: Addresses ecological, philosophical and ethical aspects of human’s relationship with the more than human worlds. I am teaching that we humans are nature in microcosm. “We are nature in every molecule and neuron,” says Paul Hawken. “We contain clay, mineral and water; are powered by sunshine through plants; and are intricately bound to all species, from fungi to marsupials to bacteria. In our lungs are oxygen molecules breathed by every type of creature to have lived on earth along with the very hydrogen and oxygen that Jesus, Gautam Buddha and Rachel Carson breathed” (Hawken, 2007:71-72).
Inter-cultural Partnership: Examines the field of biological, cultural, and linguistic diversities and the inextricable relations between the three. It is about recognizing what I call the “ethnosphere,” the diversity of knowledge systems and diverse ways of knowing, teaching and learning.
Inter-economic Partnership: Includes mapping and reshaping of the global North and South as well as the social and economic institutions, trade, arrangements for exchanges and surplus, fair trade and free trade, rural and urban, agriculture and industry, raw and processed materials, and producers and consumers. Moreover, water, food and soil will be one of the most critical elements in the future of humanity.
Fifth, Learn and Lead for both Biospehric and Ethnospheric Health.
Through a deeper probing of the partnership model of sustainability, I have learned that no human solutions could be found by just rearranging the human world. We need to reshape our relationship with the more than human world. In the same way, ecosystems regeneration could not also be achieved by “fencing off” humans from the so called pristine natural areas but by changing how humans live their lives (Parajuli, 2004; 2001 (a and b). Thus our challenge is how to maintain the delicate balance between biospheric health and ethnospheric health.
In order to create the confluence between the three realms, the learning environment should be multisensory, multicultural and intergenerational such that it fosters interdisciplinary inquiry. Much ink has been dried writing about multicultural education, as if adequate solutions were found simply by rearranging human relations, in race, class and gender terms. While that is absolutely necessary, it is tragically inadequate. I realize that the future lies in multi-sensory pedagogy that nurtures our multi-sensory engagement in and with the earth. As eco-philosopher David Abram awakens us: “The fate of the earth depends on a return to our senses.”
Sixth, Learning should inculcate Integral Visions and Designs
The readers of this journal have worked miracles in the outward-bound and experiential education fields. But most of this genre is poised as antithetical to skills needed for what I call the “homewardbound.” On the other side, many of us have worked in creating sustainable livelihoods, through agro-ecology, permaculture, fisheries, sustainable industries and such. These homeward-bounders have hardly any time to enjoy raw nature, like the “outwardbounders” do.
There is hardly any dialogue, sharing and mutual learning between the two genres. Such isolation does not allow us to find integral visions or integrative solutions. In other words, how could we bring the David Thoreau(s) and Wendell Berry(s) in the same imagination? Vandana Shiva(s) and Jenine Benyus(s) at the same table? I urge us to develop such learning designs that connect the outward-bounders with the homeward-bounders, the wild with the domestic, nature with culture and the forest with the farm. A deeply and truly integrative vision and design is needed to heal the wounds that have been inflicted between the cities, where most of the consumption happens, and the rural where most of the production happens. The same could be accomplished between the industrial sector that eats up bunch of raw materials and agriculture where such raw materials are sustained. How could we bind the buyers and the producers by the same thread of ecological health, diversity, justice and integrity?
Seventh, let us move from Discourse to Design
My students tell me that they want to learn deep sustainability in product as well as process, in content as well as the method of inquiry. I am convinced, it is not by saturating them with discursive pessimism (even when substantiated with facts) but cultivating in them incurable optimism but which is informed by reliable dreams and viable designs. In my courses, such as Leadership for Sustainability, Sustainability Theory and Practice, Modes of Scholarly Inquiry, each student begins to articulate his/her wildest dream that they want to achieve in ten years. Then they follow a 4Ds protocol: Diagnosis, Dream, Design and Delivery. It is important that we embrace diversity of learning needs of each student and let them grow into their own space and dreams. But push them to the wildest side, we must.
Eighth, Cultivate Leadership in the open Space of Democracy
Terry Tempest Williams has articulated the notion of open space of democracy for our turbulent times. She writes: Open space of democracy is interested in circular, not linear power—power reserved not for entitled few but shared by many (Williams 2004). I also want to introduce a fairly new book by Otto Scharmer, entitled, Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges. To begin with, Otto asks us to have open mind, open heart and open will. Only when we let go of the old habits, dreams and designs (the left line of the U), we can transition towards letting come of the new habits, designs and dreams (the right line of the U). The bottom line of the U is the incubation process between the letting go and letting come.
I urge the readers, you draw a U and practice for yourself.
Benyus, Jenine. (2004). “Biomimicry: What would nature do here?” in Nature’s operating instructions: The true biotechnologies. Ausubel, K. and Harpignies, J.P. (eds). San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. PP 3-16.
Capra, Fritjof. (2002). Hidden Connections. Integrating the Biological, Cognitive, and Social Dimensions of Life into Science of Sustainability. New York: Doubleday.
Hawken, Paul. (2007). Blessed unrest: How the largest movement in the world aame into being and why no one saw it coming. New York: Viking (published by the Penguin Group).
Jones, Van. (2008). The green collar economy: How one solution can fix our two pressing problems. New York: Harper Collins.
Parajuli, Pramod. (2009). Greening Our Cultures: Emergent Properties of Life and Livelihoods, Learning and Leadership. Manuscript. Prescott College.
Parajuli, Pramod. (2006a). “Learning suitable to life and livability: Innovations through learning gardens” Connections 8: 1: 6-7.
Parajuli, Pramod. (2006b). ‘Coming home to the earth household: Indigenous communities and ecological citizenship in India” in J. Kunnie and N. Goduka Eds. Indigenous Peoples’ Wisdom and Power. London: Ashgate. pp. 175-193.
Parajuli, Pramod. (2004). Revisiting Gandhi and Zapata: Motion of global capital, geographies of difference and the formation of ecological ethnicities. in Mario Blaser and Harvey Feit eds, In the way of development: Indigenous Peoples, life projects and globalization. London: Zed Press. Chapter 14. pp. 235-255.
Parajuli, Pramod. (2001). How can four trees make a jungle? The world and the wild. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. pp. 3-20.
Parajuli, Pramod, Dardis, Greg and Hahn, Tim. (2008). Curriculum Development and Teacher Preparation for the Learning Gardens. A report submitted to the Oregon Community Foundation.
Shiva, Vandana. (2006). Earth democracy. Boston: Southend Press.
Stone, Michael. K and Barlow, Zenobia. (eds.). (2005). Ecological literacy: Educating our children for a sustainable world. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.
Williams, Terry, Tempest. (2004). The open space of democracy. Barrington, MA: Orion Society.[/password]
Pramod Parajuli is the Director of Program Development in Sustainabililty Education at Prescott College in Arizona. He has designed and developed various academic and community empowerment programs including the Learning Gardens and the Leadership in Ecology, Culture and Learning (LECL), a graduate program at Portland State University, Portland, Oregon (2002-2008). At Prescott College, he is incubating several new innovations that could build on its forty years of accomplishments and seek new heights and horizons.
by Sandy Frost and Ben Swecker
For many people, a trip to Alaska is the dream of a lifetime. Yet cost and logistics keep many people away. In 2002, a group of dedicated educators joined forces to make such a visit— if only a ‘virtual’ visit—a reality for thousands of children across the Western Hemisphere. Blending good, old-fashioned interpretation and education know-how with technology, the Winging Northward—A Shorebird’s Journey distance-learning project brought the amazing resources of the Copper River Delta, Alaska to a diverse audience. This innovative and ambitious project developed over three years. The following article chronicles the miles traveled, and those yet to come, for this effort.
The Copper River Delta
Each spring, a wildlife spectacle on the scale of the great game migrations of Africa takes place throughout coastal Alaska. Along intertidal mudflats, millions of shorebirds rest and refuel on their long journey to their breeding grounds in western and northern Alaska. These migratory birds rely on critical wetland habitats throughout their journey. Many people are passionate about shorebird conservation and education. No one who has had the opportunity to witness this spectacle can fail to understand the critical need to conserve migratory birds and the habitats that they rely on. Shorebirds, in their spectacular and dramatic migration, can provide a “hook” for educating people about the plight of Neotropical migratory birds and wetlands.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Copper River Delta to North America’s migratory birds. This productive coastal wetland supports a rich and varied array of fish, wildlife, and human uses. Brown bears stalk the tidal marshes where trumpeter swans nest, coho salmon spawn in groundwater-fed streams, and mountain goats scale the rugged peaks.
Much of this incomparable wetland ecosystem is public land, managed by the Chugach National Forest. Recognizing the significance of the Copper River Delta to the fish and wildlife resources of Alaska, in 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) stipulated the delta be managed chiefly for the “conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats.” Throughout the National Forest System, there is only one other area with a similar congressional mandate.
Over the last decade, the Cordova Ranger District successfully developed an innovative education and interpretive program focused on the fish and wildlife resources of the Copper River Delta. However, the relatively small number of people reached with their education effort continued to be a concern. In an effort to widen the education ‘net’ and leverage their limited resources, the district gathered a powerful coalition of partners who shared their passion and goals. The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network stepped up to the plate as the lead nongovernmental partner, while the US Fish & Wildlife Service (National Conservation Training Center) provided critical guidance and support. Finally, the linchpin of the effort was the exceptional work of the Prince William Network—an educational institution affiliated with the Prince William County Schools in Manassas, Virginia.
Although these partners brought great energy and vision to the table, they did not bring large pots of money. Instead, the early efforts of the project were focused on securing funding through a number of sources. A project of this scope requires a significant investment. The partners were successful in securing over $100,000 in competitive grants from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the Alaska Coastal Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Wild Outdoor World Magazine, the US Forest Service—Conservation Education grants, and US Forest Service-International Programs. These funds were matched with generous in-kind contributions of labor, materials, and services.
Through the generous support of program partners and sponsors, the entire program was available at no charge to students and teachers.
“Winging Northward—A Shorebird’s Journey” is a comprehensive education project focused around a live, satellite-broadcast “field trip” from the Copper River Delta on May 8, 2002—the peak of shorebird migration. Although the highlight of the project was the broadcast, an entire web of supporting materials was spun around the televised event. The partners launched a dynamic website in November 2001, supported a live webcast, produced supplemental education materials, and developed an evaluation program.
In an age when it is challenging for teachers to arrange natural resource field trips, especially in urban areas, an electronic field trip reaches kids where they are—in the classroom. The ‘virtual’ field trip used satellite and internet technology to beam the shorebird excitement into classrooms in Alaska, Canada, the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
Teachers, parents, and students used online monthly activities and entered a poster contest to prepare for the field trip. The website offered a teacher resources center and exciting classroom activities that supported the monthly theme and were correlated to national education standards. Maya, the western sandpiper, was the program and website host and led children through her world as she journeyed from her wintering grounds in Mexico, north, to her breeding grounds in western Alaska.
Just as shorebirds know no boundaries, so did the project reach across the Western Hemisphere. Partners in Mexico provided critical links to the Spanish-speaking world and resource information about the shorebird’s wintering grounds. The website was bilingual and the broadcast was simultaneously translated in Spanish. The English broadcast was also close- captioned.
Interactive elements pulled the students into the wetland world of the Copper River Delta in the grand finale broadcast. Students learned about shorebird adaptations, wetland habitats, and migration across international boundaries. They met biologists and local Cordovans, watched as Alaskan students explored the mudflats and observed the swirling shorebird flocks, and interacted through e-mail, fax, and phone to relay questions and game answers. From the Virginia studio, classrooms won prizes—such as a 4-foot fleece shorebird—during the mystery game.
The project also featured a live webcast during the broadcast. This webcast reached many additional children and was available, on-demand, for six weeks after the live program. The combination of satellite and internet technology assured the broadcast was accessible to the largest possible audience.
Marketing for the project included a full-page advertisement and feature story in SatLink Magazine (the leading publication for distance-learning programs), a full-color brochure sent to schools across the country, numerous notices posted on educational and resource list serves, presentations to professional organizations, and rigorous working of established networks.
Looking back at a project, and analyzing its strengths and weaknesses, is an important step that’s often skipped in education and interpretive projects. Realizing the value of a rigorous
evaluation for future distance learning projects, the partners have developed a comprehensive plan to take a critical look at the effort and share that information with others.
This evaluation includes informal feedback from teachers and students, and a pre- and post- assessment test that will quantify the educational effectiveness of the project. These results are being synthesized, but preliminary results show an excellent educational response. Test results suggest that students showed a 20% increase in knowledge about shorebirds after they watched the program.
The partners are also committed to producing follow-up projects that will leverage the educational value and life of Winging Northward. These projects will be available by December 2003, on a CD and will include a project report, complete curriculum, complete website, an edited version of the broadcast, and supplemental information.
We estimate that well over 300,000 children took part in the live broadcast. Over 850 sites in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico registered for the program. During the broadcast, 1266 emails flooded the network.
Technology makes all the world our backyard. By forming coalitions, rigorously focusing on educational objectives, and celebrating what makes our piece of the world special, the partners effectively reached children across the Western Hemisphere.
Winging Northward brought shorebirds and wetlands to kids who may never have the chance to experience hundreds of thousands of migratory birds teeming on mudflats and swirling in the air. They didn’t come back from the electronic field trip muddy, but they learned that everyone, whether urban or suburban, plays a role in conservation. When the broadcast was over and the shorebirds moved on, students carried with them a little piece of a national treasure—the Chugach National Forest. Our vision is that they will channel that energy into nurturing a local habitat.
For More Information
“Winging Northward—A Shorebird’s Journey” http://shorebirds.pwnet.org/ Chugach National Forest http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/chugach/cordova Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival http://www.ptialaska.net/~midtown/ Sister Schools Shorebird Project http://sssp.fws.gov/
Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
Global Issues – Global Opportunities: Population, Poverty, Consumption, Conflict, and the Environment
by Gilda Wheeler
Abstract: This article discusses the important role of educators in helping students understand, connect to, and act on critical global issues facing us today and in the future. Global issues impact social, environmental, economic, health, and security concerns. Global issues are interconnected and hold the potential for far-reaching impacts on large numbers of people. What is important to remember as we explore global issues is that while they may be daunting, because of their interconnectedness they can provide us with opportunities to help create a sustainable world. By approaching global issues from a systems perspective we can help students create a world that represents their highest aspirations. It is up to each of us individually and as a community to make the choices and take the actions to create a future we want for ourselves and for future generations.
The idea of issues that are truly global in scale is new to us. It emerged late in the 20th century, perhaps when humans first saw images of the Earth from space – a small blue-green planet devoid of boundaries and arbitrary political divisions. Regardless of their novelty, global issues are so important that they may literally determine the future of the human species. Global issues impact virtually all social, environmental, economic, health, and security concerns. And those concerns are, in themselves, global issues. Perhaps one of the most important roles that educators have today is helping our students understand global issues, see the connections to their own lives, and empower them to create a sustainable world.
Defining Global Issues
Since the study of global issues is relatively new there is not agreement as to how one defines a global issue. For the purpose of this presentation we will define global issues as follows. Global issues are those that have, or hold the potential for, far-reaching impacts on large numbers of people. Global issues are trans-national, or trans-boundary, in that they are beyond the capability of any one nation to resolve. Global issues are persistent or long acting in that they may take years, decades, or even generations to be fully felt, and may require similar time frames to be resolved. Finally, global issues are interconnected, which means that a change in one – whether for better or worse – exerts pressure for change in others.
World population exceeded six billion in 1999 – doubling from three billion in 1960 – and is currently increasing by 80 to 85 million people each year. Depending upon the choices we make over the next few decades, demographers at the United Nations project world population in 2050 could be anywhere 7.3 billion to 10.7 billion. A number of factors drive this growth. At the most basic level, it is because far more people are born each year than die. Advances in nutrition and health care have increased survival rates and longevity for much of the world, and shifted the balance between births and deaths. Another is population “momentum”. Even though fertility rates have come down worldwide, there are many more people of childbearing age today than ever before. Roughly half the world’s population is under age 25, so as those three billion people start families over the next few decades, world population will likely increase by several billion. Another reason for continued high levels of population growth is that fertility rates remain relatively high in some populous regions like Africa and South Central Asia. Decisions about family size are often based on economic factors, and in poorer societies, having numerous children may be an important asset. They provide support and security in parents’ old age, help raise food, haul water, care for younger siblings, and gather fuel wood. Children may also work for wages outside the home, be indentured, or even sold to help support the family.
Consumption & Environment
One approach scientists are increasingly using to explore the issue of the Earth’s carrying capacity (the number of people the Earth can support over time) is through the concept of “ecological footprint” pioneered by Mathis Wackernagel and William Reese. The footprint model calculates the area of the Earth’s productive surface (land and sea) necessary to support a particular lifestyle or level of consumption. Through the ecological footprint lens we see that a person’s lifestyle has as much (or even more) of an impact on the planet than the mere numbers of people on the planet. By mapping the items of everyday items such as food, clothing and transportation, through Facing the Future’s activity Watch Where You Step, students begin to see what makes up their ecological footprint, and more importantly what they can do personally and what we can do collectively to reduce the total human footprint on the Earth.
Poverty, Scarcity, Impacts, and Sustainability
As we enter the 21st century, the gap between the world’s rich and poor is widening, both within and among countries. The United Nations identifies 2.8 billion people surviving on less than two dollars a day. Overall, the richest 20 percent of the world’s people control 86 percent of global income, while the poorest 20 percent control barely one percent.
The impacts of poverty, over consumption, and resource scarcity are varied. They include environmental destruction – richer nations and individuals can afford to over-consume resources, while poorer nations and individuals are often forced to over-exploit the environment just to survive. They include migration – people are forced to move in search of adequate resources. And they include conflict – wealthier nations and individuals fight to keep what they have, while those suffering a lack of resources fight to obtain them.
The solution this cycle of resource scarcity and poverty is to develop sustainable practices. We can help students understand the complexity and interconnectedness of scarcity and poverty through Facing the Future’s classroom simulation activity Fishing for the Future” in which students “fish” over several seasons. This activity also helps students understand the concept of sustainability as they over-fish their oceans and realize that they can “survive” and the resource base can be maintained by establishing sustainable fishing practices.
Linking Global Issues to Action
The good news is that we have the knowledge and tools today to help create a sustainable world. There are both personal and structural solutions that we can help our students identify and act on. On the personal level these include among many other things reducing our consumption, recycling, supporting sustainably developed products and food, considering our own family size, and engaging in the political process. On the structural level, as a nation we can help provide reproductive and community health care so people can make choices about their family size and be assured that they and their children will survive and be productive members of society. We can help alleviate poverty so people can support their families and aren’t forced to make decisions of “rational desperation” that may not be good for the environment. And finally we can develop new ways of measuring progress that take into account environmental and social impacts along with more traditional economic indicators.
We can help our students identify these solutions and begin the process of changing the way we think and act by using the lens of a system thinking process that recognizes the interconnectedness of all people and of all global problems. This perspective offers us a starting point; the only principle we can then follow is one of sustainability. The only “answer” is one that doesn’t create new problems but rather searches for underlying causes and their links across the spectrum of issues and finally rests on common ground.
We have the tools at our disposal to create a world that represents our highest aspirations. It’s up to each of us individually and as a community to make the choices and take the actions to create a future we want for ourselves and for future generations. To learn more about actions that educators and their students can do to make a positive impact in local communities and in the world, visit Facing the Future’s websites at www.facingthefuture.org.
Facing the Future: People and the Planet. Curriculum Guide: Classroom Activities for Teaching about Global Issues and Solutions 2002
Facing the Future: People and the Planet. Facing the Future: Population, Poverty, Consumption and the Environment 2001
Population Reference Bureau website www.prb.org
Redefining Progress website, www.rprogress.org
United Nations Development Program website, www.undp.org
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization website www.fao.org
Gilda Wheeler is currently the Program Supervisor for Environmental and Sustainability Education at the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public instruction (OSPI). She is responsible for supporting districts, schools, teachers, and students in implementing legislatively mandated environmental and sustainability education in Washington state. This includes the development of integrated standards and assessment and professional development for classroom teachers and non-formal educators. Gilda also serves on a number of state and national boards and committees including co-chair of the E3 Washington K12/Teacher Education Sector steering committee, national K-12 Sector of the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and the Council of Chief State School Officers EdSteps Global Competency work group.