Strong sustainability recognises that society and the economy function within a superset; the Environment. The Economy is a subset of society. This model places the sustainability of the environment as more important than the sustainability of society and the economy, because if the environment cannot be sustained then neither can the other two. This model is preferable to the Triple Bottom Line model which gives all three equal value which in reality means the values sustaining the economy tend to dominate (http://nz.phase2.org/what-is-strong-sustainability)
What does this mean for NZ? The site referred to above lists 6 essential conditions for a sustainable New Zealand. I will highlight the one I think is most important:
Enabling condition 5
Strong sustainability understanding is deeply embedded in all of New Zealand’s governance, economic, legal, and educational systems, and all applications of these systems.
All other enabling conditions should flow from this. To achieve this it places great importance on our elected governments to get it done. This means it places great importance on us, the citizens of this country to elect the right government and keep them on the path we believe is right.
I think perhaps what this means for us in our role as educators is to not only teach ecological literacy but also political literacy. Young people have the poorest turn out at elections and who can blame them? How many of them have a clue what the various political parties stand for? We had an election recently (last year in fact) and yes I was aware of talks occuring on campus (usually after hours) from some of our electoral candidates, however I was dismayed to find the very small audiences present at these events.Perhaps some of these events could be included in our course curriculum/assessments?
Otago Access Radio 105.4fm and Sam Mann and Shane Gallagher are doing a great job with their sustainable lens programme. Here are some podcasts:http://www.oar.org.nz/browse-podcasts/#
The last podcast begins by discussing fracking. Did you know 4.4 million Ha of NZ land has been approved for fracking? Apparently the so called impermeable rocks are not impermeable at all!!
Web Development (Web1) in the BIT at Otago Polytechnic taught by Sam Mann is a good example of how education for sustainability could look. Check out the latest podcast in sustainable lens 2012-05-03- Sustainability Show (59 mins) to find out more. The notion of ‘Sustainability’ has been broadened to include productivity in the workplace. The discussion about social networking and gaming addiction was interesting from the point of view of was it actually off the topic? Is it part of “strong sustainability’. Personally, I think (in a wobbly kind of way) we are far too early into our journey of educating for sustainability to extend the definition of sustainability to workplace productivity. The discussion on recycling old computers was much more on the mark.
There is also an Eco Living In Action Show on access radio. These programmes look at positive and fun ways to bring people on board with sustainability. I am reading Niki Harre’s book, Psychology for a Better World: Strategies to Inspire Sustainability (which can be downloaded for free from www.psych.auckland.ac.nz/psychologyforabetterworld and she warns against scaring or bullying people into changing their behaviour.
So what does strong sustainability mean for me in my role at OP – I think my best course of action will be in awareness raising and rallying for positive action. This can be directed at both staff and students. I will shortly be circulating a petition against assest and I am thinking about sharing resources – land, equipment, gardens etc and taking the ‘Living Campus’ off campus and into the suberbs. (I have done this on an individual level already, but I should extend it to the community level).