Tell me when you stop agreeing…

Posted on July 24, 2009


ITICSE computing education for sustainabilityWhen we were rolling out the Simple Pledge we spent the day talking, one after the other, to several hundred staff and students.    Some signed straight away, others first wanted to talk about what it means to be a sustainable practitioner and about education for sustainability.    It’s amazing how repeating the same discussuion in quick sucession for a whole day smooths out the bumps in a story.    We arrived at a set of questions, part affirmation, part identifying people’s barriers.

I’ve used the same lines several times since, modifying the questions for the audience (at ITiCSE we had the room stand up, sitting down when they disagreed).    The response is always positive and gets the same result.

A little preamble helps:   Try and follow the spirit of the words rather than getting bogged down in definitions – we can come back to those – and choose “agree” if even your response is “more than agree” (ie agree that icecream is “tasty” even if you think it is “super yummy”).

Tell me when you stop agreeing with these statements:

1. Ecosystems are under stress and are declining, and this is affecting human conditions and futures.

2.  Sustainability – defined broadly as meeting the needs of all current and future generations –  is a reasonable approach to addressing this decline.

3.  Sustainability is the responsibility of everyone, in their whole lives – including work  (this work component we call sustainable practice).

4. This work component – the sustainable practitioner – applies to every career, every discipline.

5.  Acting as a sustainable practitioner means both reducing my footprint (reducing harm) and increasing my handprint (actions towards sustainability).

6. I am currently integrating sustainable practice into my work (ie acting as a sustainable practitioner).

Everyone I’ve tried this with agrees with the premise until the very last question “I am currently integrating…”.

For educators, the last question is replaced with these four:

6. It is the responsibility of higher education to, among other things, prepare every graduate for their careers as sustainable practitioners.

7. Preparing people for their careers as sustainable practitioners is part of the responsibility of every academic.

8.  I would like to be able to integrate Education for Sustainability into my teaching.

9.  I am currently integrating Education for Sustainability into my teaching.

Again, everyone I’ve tried this with agrees with the premise until the very last question “I am currently integrating…”.

People know that that sustainability is important.  They know they should be doing something about it.  For educators that something means integrating Education for Sustainability into their teaching.   That they’re not doing this suggests that there are barriers to be overcome.

There’s a lot of books about personal sustainability, few about sustainable practice and even less about teaching in a way that prepares people for sustainable practice.   Someone should write one and call it “Educating every student as a sustainable practitioner”.    What, that’s me?  Guess I should get back to the typing.