Game Over or Game On?

Game Over or Game On?

For the past three years, I’ve taught a required graduate course on the Ethics of Sustainability in the Design for Social Innovation Program at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. During this time, I’ve witnessed the unintended results of educating about unsustainability.  Although my students come from all over the world, they have at least a few things in common at the beginning of the year. These young people report feeling depressed, hopeless and guilty. Many of these students, believing they hold degrees in sustainability, have become experts in its opposite--unsustainability. They are nervous at first at the thought of discussing the ethics of sustainability. They tell me that their professors were very effective at pointing out that it’s too late, that we’ve already exceeded too many critical thresholds and that there is no way back. Game over?   

My response to them is always the same, “I think what your professors have actually been saying is that they cannot imagine and they don’t know how we are going to pull off the mid-course correction that is required if we want human and other life to flourish on Earth indefinitely.  I think this has more to do with their imaginations, mental maps and knowledge base than it does our fate.”  Game on.

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Teachable Moments | Let’s Optimize Our Children’s Capacity to Be Creative and Smart

Sir Ken Robinson describes creativity as, “a process of having original ideas that have value”1. Fritjof Capra describes it in this way: “Creativity is a key property of all living systems and contributes to nature’s ability to sustain life”. Either way, it’s a good idea if you like living. We should be cultivating it.  Sir Ken is famous for describing how our industrial model of schooling kills creativity by not preparing us to be wrong—by not honoring our originality and by operating mindlessly - trapped in the past, instead of taking us into the future we cannot grasp yet.  Fortunately, we have already begun to create learning organizations designed around how students learn for the future we want.  We have some exemplars of schools that are intentionally educating for a sustainable future.  We don’t have enough yet and we don’t have the data we need yet to go to scale.  I invite you to make the commitment to optimize our children’s capacity to be creative and smart, to be responsible and to make their unique contributions.  It is less expensive and more productive to educate for sustainability then it is to educate for un-sustainability.  You can quote me on that.  Better yet, join me.

- Jaimie Cloud for The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

 

1. Azzam, A. (Setember, 2009) Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept09/vol67/num01/Why-Creativity-Now%C2%A2-A-Conversation-with-Sir-Ken-Robinson.aspx

Teachable Moments | Water Here, There, Not There, & Where?

The California Drought, flooding in North Carolina… water water here, there, not there, and where?  Water is one of our most precious natural commons.  We –you and me- must tend it as such.  The fact is we all depend on it (we can only last 3 days without it) and we are all responsible for taking care of it. California has legally declared that every citizen has a right to safe drinking water, and Detroit has privatized it.  Regardless of how our State governments perceive it, we need to learn the difference between natural changes and disruptions that are part of dynamic life on Earth, and the kinds of changes that we are contributing to, and, therefore, can do something about.  There is never going to be more or less water on Earth.  We have what we have.  This is due to the First Law of Thermodynamics (Matter and Energy don’t appear or disappear on Earth) and gravity.  We cannot run out of water, but, we can disrupt or displace the water cycle in our places, and we can undermine its quality by polluting it and by causing saltwater intrusion, if we are not careful. We are all responsible for the difference we make. 

Here is what we can do:  

  • Respect and contribute to its purity. Keep it clean. Don’t dump chemicals or drugs or weird things down the drain or the toilet. There is no such place as away.
  • Value its value. Celebrate it, think about it and use it well and wisely  
  • Avoid disrupting its natural cycles. Make sure our towns plant trees and plants, maintain and restore soil fertility, build green roofs wherever possible, make the shift to clean green renewable energy,  and use permeable surfaces wherever possible (roads, sidewalks, driveways).
  • Tap the power of its limits. Don’t waste a drop of it. Individually and collectively monitor the water tables in our regions and make sure we don’t use more faster than nature can replenish it there.

Here is a quote I picked out from an article at CityLab.com on the California drought.  “The drought [in California] is dragging on. Water is only becoming more precious and more expensive.” 1

The truth is, water cannot become more or less precious. It is the source of life on Earth. It is more “expensive” because we have made good clean water a scarce commodity instead of a limited commons.  We have not been tending it.  Now would be a good time to do so.

- Jaimie Cloud for The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

 

1. Bliss, L. (Oct 1, 2015) Before California's Drought, a Century of Disparity. Retrieved from http://www.citylab.com/weather/2015/10/before-californias-drought-a-century-of-disparity/40774