Saturday, November 27, 2010

World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day

This coming Friday, December 3rd, marks World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day.
Sustainable development is an issue all countries in the world are currently looking at. The degree of emphasis and the level investing resources invested however varies from one country to another; but regardless of whether we are talking about industrialised or developing countries, the quest for environmentally sound, socially just, economically viable and ethically acceptable development needs to be regarded as a priority by all nations of the world.

For many years now, a large number of initiatives have been carried out throughout the world to attempt to stoke up awareness about sustainable development and promote initiatives to achieve it.

The 1987 Report "Our Common Future" produced by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), "Agenda 21" produced by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the "Johannesburg Declaration" produced following the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 are examples of the type of initiatives being worked on internationally. These have been complemented by the various "National Sustainable Development Strategies" produced prior to UNCED and after Johannesburg.
As a club committed to sustainability, this marks a great opportunity to learn from others around the world about the myriad faces and facets of this thing called "sustainable development."

What is being developed and what is being sustained? So far, much of sustainable development seems to have been a global corporate-governmental collusion that has served the advantage of the already wealthy and powerful. Looking at just water issues in India, Bolivia, and Africa, the idea and practice of sustainable development might seem an oxymoron. There is no doubt we have a conundrum on our hands if we hope to bring health and material prosperity to 6.8 billion people and counting. Maybe we should be going for what James Lovelock, father of the "Gaia theory" has called a "sustainable retraction" and/or get in on the Transitions Initiatives. Or maybe that's just doomsville.

As teachers, we have a significant role to play. What do hope to sustain? Who do we develop? What and whose purpose does all of this serve? In a world of uncertain futures, how and for whom do we conceive of our teaching? These are the biggest questions we have to answer. Ultimately, we are servants and we have to serve people well.

What should education for sustainable development look like right here at Penn State and in the Centre Region? Where should we go?

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