Educating students about making the world a better place for all is key
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) seeks to equip learners with the knowledge, skills, values and competencies that contribute to healthy and just, economically viable and ecologically sustainable futures for all. To become more sustainable, we must recognise and respond appropriately to the complexity and interconnectedness of issues such as conflicts, poverty, wasteful consumption, environmental degradation, climate change, urban population growth, gender inequalities, and other human rights violations.
The problem is that a significant number of us are apathetic about these and other sustainability issues, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that many of our actions are negatively impacting our societies, economies and environment.
To foster sustainability, we need to re-balance individual and societal "needs and wants". Education plays an important role in this, as it can enable learners to challenge unsustainable thinking and practices, and promote change agency for, and action on, sustainability.
The United Nations (UN) recognises the critical role of education in effecting positive change for sustainability. While there have been some notable successes, significant work still needs to be done in changing attitudes and behaviours. In particular, we need to be 'educated' differently about and for sustainability, as the evidence to date shows critical failures in our current educational processes in that 'the more educated we become, the less sustainable we are'.
The UN University acknowledged RCE Dublin as a Regional Centre of Expertise in ESD for the greater Dublin area in March 2014. It is part of a network of 129 regional centres of expertise in education for sustainable development across the globe that are acting at local, national, regional and international levels to promote peaceable and sustainable futures for all. RCE Dublin is coordinated by Dublin City University (DCU) and its partners include DCU, Educate Together, An Taisce, Dublin City Council, JustForests, FightingWords, ECO-UNESCO and The Green Way.
RCE Dublin will challenge learners' mindsets on sustainability and through a number of action projects, it will address local sustainability issues within the greater Dublin area:
* Green Teen Transitions facilitates the transition of unemployed youth towards further education and/or employment in the green economy
* The What-if: Disaster Mitigation schools competition will challenge post-primary students to develop proposals to mitigate potential threats to the environment
* World Café sustainability forums will engage the general public in examining urban sustainability through the lens of Irish literature in 2016
* Horticultural Histories will use innovative means, such as foraging competitions, to help map indigenous practices that support bio-diversity, sustainable consumption and eco-management within the built environment
* A number of online modules such as Ethical Sustainability and the Earth Charter will be launched for students and educators within primary, post-primary, further and higher education, from September 2015.
Charlotte Holland is director of the United Nations University (UNU) acknowledged Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) in Education for Sustainable Development for the greater Dublin region, RCE Dublin