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Lesson 1: Course Introduction / Sustainability & Systems Thinking

This series of slides provides a resource that high school teachers can use to deliver a class on sustainability and social justice.

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Lesson 1: Course Introduction / Sustainability & Systems Thinking

  1. 1. John W. Eppensteiner III Master of Environmental Studies University of Pennsylvania Teaching and Preaching Sustainability and Social Justice: A Resource for Catholic High School Teachers Lesson 1: Course Introduction / Sustainability & Systems Thinking Grade Level: 11-12 Class Size: Approx. 20 students Time: 50 mins Setting: Classroom Background Information: One of the most important concepts to grasp when learning about sustainability is that all of our actions have consequences because we all exist within the same “system” – Planet Earth. Many of the impacts we have on our planetary systems are the indirect result of our everyday actions. This course is designed to help students fully appreciate these consequences in an attempt to help shape a more sustainable future. Guiding Questions: • How do the decisions I make, both consciously and unconsciously, impact the rest of life on Earth, both directly and indirectly? Learning Objectives: As a result of this lesson, students will be able to... • Define sustainability in their own words. • Describe the four skills essential for practicing sustainability. • Describe how a “systems analysis” is conducted. Vocabulary: • Commons • Sustainability • Systems Thinking • Proxies Personal Exploration Questions: 1. What “proxies” do I employ to live the way I do? Suggested Assignments Activity / Homework 1. Conduct a systems analysis for a common household food item (i.e., popcorn, ice cream). Describe the energy and material inputs, outputs, and pathways over the entire life-cycle of the product – from production to end use. This can take the form of a diagram or drawing.
  2. 2. Resources: Reference Documents • Cloutier, David. Walking God's Earth: The Environment and Catholic Faith. Liturgical Press, 2014. • Hardin, Garrett. "The tragedy of the commons." science 162.3859 (1968): 1243-1248 • Segalàs, Jordi, Karel F. Mulder, and Didac Ferrer-Balas. "What do EESD “experts” think sustainability is? Which pedagogy is suitable to learn it? Results from interviews and Cmaps analysis gathered at EESD 2008." International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 13, no. 3 (2012): 293-304 • Wiek, Arnim, Lauren Withycombe, and Charles L. Redman. "Key competencies in sustainability: a reference framework for academic program development.“ Sustainability Science 6.2 (2011): 203-218. Systems Thinking • Arizona State University: Sustainability Science Education - http://sustainabilityscienceeducation.asu.edu/course/sustainability-competencies/systems-thinking/
  3. 3. Teaching and Preaching Sustainability and Social Justice: A Resource for Catholic High School Teachers Developed By: John W. Eppensteiner III Master of Environmental Studies University of Pennsylvania Graduation: Spring 2015 1
  4. 4. 2 Resource Overview • This resource provides a framework that Catholic high school teachers can use to deliver a semester-long class on the concept of sustainability, emphasizing the moral imperative to act. It is designed to impart an understanding of current and future environmental issues and the implications those issues have on human health and well-being. It is intended that the class be taught one day per week over the period of one semester, with the primary audience being high school juniors or seniors. • The resource provides fifteen lessons that cover the main themes in environmental and social sustainability. The thematic areas include: systems thinking; global changes; water, food, and energy systems; consumption and waste; biodiversity; ecological economics; corporate responsibility; effective communications; innovations in sustainability; and personal impact and leadership. • Each lesson includes a lesson plan – which provides an overview of the topic, guiding questions, learning objectives, suggested assignments, and resources – and PowerPoint slides – which allows the presenter to cover the selected topic in a fifty minute class period. • The resource also suggests projects that students can undertake to support their learning of the subject matter. These projects, referred to as Capstones, are a way for students to demonstrate their passions and professional promise, while having a concrete impact on the advancement of sustainability.
  5. 5. Course Design • Lesson 1 – Course Introduction – Course Overview – Capstone Projects – The Global Commons and Sustainability – Systems Thinking • Lesson 2 – Global Changes – Population Growth – The Basics of Climate Change – Impacts of Climate Change • Lesson 3 – Sustainability and the Catholic Identity – The Catholic Worldview – The Moral Imperative – Religion and Ecology – Uniting for Sustainability 3
  6. 6. Course Design • Lesson 4 – Water – The Global Water Crisis – Human and Environmental Impacts – Water Sustainability – Innovations and Solutions • Lesson 5 – Food – Feeding a Growing Global Population – Contribution to Climate Change – Impacts of Climate Change – Food Justice • Lesson 6 – Energy – Energy Trends – Human and Environmental Impacts – Energy Innovations and Solutions 4
  7. 7. Course Design • Lesson 7 – Consumption & Waste – Global Consumption Patterns – The Impacts of Consumption and Waste – Waste Reduction Solutions • Lesson 8 – Biodiversity – Drivers of Biodiversity Loss – Biodiversity and Human Well-being – Conservation Efforts • Lesson 9 – Ecological Economics – The Concept of Ecological Economics – Economic Evaluations – Examples of Services – Challenges 5
  8. 8. Course Design • Lesson 10 – Corporate Responsibility – Corporate Impacts – The Risk/Opportunity Lens of Sustainability – Sustainability Concepts for Industry • Lesson 11 – Professional Speaker – Identifying and Inviting a Speaker – Questions on Personal and Professional Development • Lesson 12 – Taking Action – Key Actions Currently Underway – Understanding Scale (Global to Personal) – Contributing at All Scales 6
  9. 9. Course Design • Lesson 13 – Effective Communications – Understanding Your Audience – Crafting a Message – Dealing with Skepticism – From Message to Action • Lesson 14 – Innovations & Future Considerations – Innovations by Thematic Area – Our Sustainability Journey • Lesson 15 – Capstone Presentations – Student Presentations – Closing Thoughts 7
  10. 10. Capstone Project • The Capstone is an opportunity to showcase your knowledge, passion, and professional marketability. • The Capstone incorporates many of the skills necessary for success in college and your career, such as: – Organization – Project management – Leadership – Time management – Research and data analysis – Communication • Completing a Capstone is way for to distinguish yourself amongst your peers while at the same engaging in meaningful work. • A list of potential Capstone projects will be provided to you, but do not feel limited by this list. – Be creative; find a problem and solve it! 8
  11. 11. Lesson 1 – Sustainability & Systems Thinking • One of the most important concepts to grasp when learning about sustainability is that all of our actions have consequences because we all exist within the same “system” – Planet Earth. Many of the impacts we have on our planetary systems are the indirect result of our everyday actions. This course is designed to help students fully appreciate these consequences in an attempt to help shape a more sustainable future. 9
  12. 12. Course Intro – Tragedy of the Commons The Tragedy of the Commons • A commons is an area to which one cannot prevent access to it. • In 1968, the ecologist Garrett Hardin put forth an economic theory in terms of the commons that states: – Individuals acting independently and rationally according to each's self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons) – Video (~2min): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZDjPnzoge0 10Hardin, Garrett. "The tragedy of the commons." science 162.3859 (1968): 1243-1248.
  13. 13. Course Intro – The Global Commons The Global Commons • The atmosphere, oceans, the ozone layer, and our climate are examples of the global commons. – No one can prevent access to the climate system or prevent human activities in separate parts of the planet from affecting the climate. • How then do we protect the global commons ? For ourselves? For our children? For their children? 11 – How do we sustain the planet’s ability to support life as we know it? – How do create we a world that is right and just? A planet that we would all want to live on in perpetuity?
  14. 14. Course Intro - Defining Sustainability Pick Your Favorite • Definition 1 – “Enough, for all, forever.” – African chieftain • Definition 2 – “The possibility that human and other forms of life will flourish on the planet forever.” – John Ehrenfeld • Definition 3 – “Sustainable development is the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” –Bruntland Commission • Definition 4 – “Sustainability encompasses human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods, and a better world for all generations.” – Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education 12
  15. 15. Course Intro - Defining Sustainability Different Names in Different Contexts • Sustainability • Environmental Sustainability • Corporate Social Responsibility • Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) • Triple Bottom Line accounting 13  Ultimately the question is... How do the decisions I make, both consciously and unconsciously, impact the rest of life on Earth, both directly and indirectly?
  16. 16. • A cornerstone of Sustainability is the ability to put the following four skills, or competencies, into practice: – Critical Thinking: the mental processes of discernment, analysis and evaluation from an open-minded point of view. – Systems Thinking: the ability to collectively analyze complex systems across different domains (society, environment, economy, etc.) and across different scales (local to global), thereby considering cascading effects, inertia, and feedback loops. • The ability to analyze complex systems includes comprehending, empirically verifying, and articulating their structure, key components, and dynamics. – Interdisciplinary Thinking: the ability to involve and learn from different professionals to solve problems and to communicate issues among a variety of stakeholder groups. – Values and Ethics: the ability to show and articulate a reverence and respect for all life. 14 Course Intro – Sustainability Essentials Adapted from: Jordi Segalàs Karel F. Mulder Didac Ferrer-Balas, (2012),"What do EESD “experts” think sustainability is? Which pedagogy is suitable to learn it?", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 13 Iss 3 pp. 293 - 304
  17. 17. Course Intro – Systems Thinking Systems Analysis • One commonality all systems have is that matter and energy are exchanged within and through the system – These exchanges are classified as either Inputs (additions to the system) or Outputs (losses from the system) – Mapping the “pathways” by which these exchanges happen (also referred to as “flows”) is essential to understanding how the system works 15 Sustainability requires “an intimate understanding of the inner fabric and dynamics of complex social-ecological systems as a prerequisite for identifying intervention points, anticipating future trajectories and staging transition processes.” – The examination of the inputs, outputs, and exchanges within a system is known as a “systems analysis.” – Systems Thinking video (~3 min): http://sustainabilityscienceeducation.asu.edu/co urse/sustainability-competencies/systems- thinking/ Source: Wiek, Arnim, Lauren Withycombe, and Charles L. Redman. "Key competencies in sustainability: a reference framework for academic program development.“ Sustainability Science 6.2 (2011): 203-218.
  18. 18. Course Intro – Proxies Out of Sight, Out of Mind • For many of us, we have become detached from the systems for which we are an integral part of. – The writer, Wendell Berry terms our present economic system an “absentee economy,” noting that “most people aren’t using or destroying what they can see.” “We are almost entirely dependent on an economy of which we are entirely ignorant.” • We would respond to someone spilling toxic chemicals into the lake we swim in, but we ignore the pollutants being pumped into the atmosphere from which we all breath. – The solution for Berry is that we all ask ourselves this question, “What proxies have we issued, and to whom, to use the earth on our behalf?” 16 This course challenges you to understand your place within the larger system, to expose patterns of injustice, and to be responsible for our proxies in this world. Source: Cloutier, David. Walking God's Earth: The Environment and Catholic Faith. Liturgical Press, 2014.

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