Category Archives: Sustainability

The Steady State Economy

I recently heard John Key speak to a gathering of Chamber of Commerce people plus other Dunedin employers (education sector). He was giving us a very positive message about the health of the economy and how it was  beginning to grow again. Economic growth was going to be our future and our saviour. More jobs would flow from drilling oil and gas just off our coast. No mention of the greenhouse gas emissions this would ultimately lead to of course.

Here is an article about an alternative to “Growth” which is worth reading: The Benefits of Steady State Economy




Student Activities

Here are a list of ideas I have for activities students could undertake as part of their courses in order to learn about aspects of living sustain-ably.

Focus on Politics

1.Choose an issue e.g. Child Poverty (How to tackle), Transport (future strategies), Energy (future strategies), Trade (future strategies)

Make an appointment to interview local party representatives (National, Labour, Greens, Act) and find out what their party’s policies are in response to the chosen issue. Compare and contrast the party’s policies and try to make predictions or judgement on the effectiveness of these policies and which party you think would be the better party to vote for with respect to this particular issue.

2. Look up the National Party policy for an issue (social, economic or environmental) and compare it to two other political parties

What is the same, how do they differ, what are the possible effects of each policy?

3. Research Southern Basin Oil drilling. Write a persuasive argument for or against. References:,,

Focus on Food Security

Develop a group/community project to increase the local food production of Dunedin.

  • Create a permaculture garden either in their own garden, a community garden or a friend’s garden. (
  • Network with local food producers (meat and vege)  to increase  production, develop community sharing networks, labour for food exchanges etc. Try to decrease reliance on supermarkets.
  • Lobby the DCC to increase community gardens and form a working group (

Join the local Student Environmental group and get involved with a project. STUDENTS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION (SEA)

An OUSA society with a focus on sustainable environmental practices in Dunedin. They have many different projects, field days, workshops etc. on the go during the university year, including gardening initiatives such as seedling giveaways. web page: email:
Campus Greens
Young Greens
Focus on Climate Change Action
Compare the main political party’s policies on climate change.

Reorientation of Education for Sustainability

It is argued that “Education is an essential tool for achieving sustainability. People around the world recognize that current economic development trends are not sustainable and that public awareness, education and training are key to moving society toward sustainability” (Hopkins & McKeown 2000).

Reference: Hopkins, Charles and McKeown, Rosalyn. (2000). Chapter 2, Education for sustainable development: an international perspective in Tilbury, D., Fien, J., Stevenson, R.B., and Schreuder, D. (2000). Education and Sustainability: Responding to the Global Challenge

The following are the main points I have pulled from this reading and my reflections regarding our apprroach to EFS.

There are two differing approaches to sustainability in the world: “sustainable economic growth” and “sustainable human development”. The former does not support the transformation of current social or economic systems and the latter demands radical departures from the current system.

I don’t think Otago Polytechnic’s current  aims, visions and policies will lead to a reorientation of education which would equip our students with the knowledge to distinguish between these two approaches to sustainability. A more radical change is needed to develop a  “new world ethic of sustainability”. This new ethic is based upon two interdependent sets of principles
– one related to our responsibility to care for nature (or ecological sustainability) and another related to our responsibility to care for each other (social justice).

The long-term task of environmental education is to foster or reinforce attitudes and behaviours compatible with this new ethic. It should
focus  sharply on developing understanding of and links between environmental quality, human equality, human rights and peace and their underlying political threads.

Issues such as food security, poverty, sustainable tourism, urban quality, women, fair trade, green consumerism, ecological public health and waste management as well as those of climatic change, deforestation, land degradation, desertification, depletion of natural resources and loss of biodiversity are primary concerns for both environmental and development education.

This entails involving people in questions about the ownership of common property resources, issues of international and intergenerational equity, investigations into regional and national ecological footprints and, most importantly, engagement in debates about qualitative versus quantitative growth.

My conclusion is that as a country and as an institution we need to decide where we stand politically, and radically and rapidly respond to the challenge of  educating for sustainability.

Steve Keen: Economic Crisis and solution – abolish debt

from Saturday Morning on Saturday 26 May 2012

Professor of economics and finance at the University of Western Sydney, author of Debunking Economics, and one of a minority of economists to predict the current financial crisis.

Professor Steve Keen comes up with a radical solution to the gobal economic crisis. He targets neo-classical economics which is a consumer oriented economy.  He suggests we need to think collectively and socially and abolish debt. We need to bail out people rather than the finance sector (listen from about 30 mins in).

What does education for sustainability mean to the Otago Polytechnic?

This was the vision back in about 2006?…

In 2004 the Otago Polytechnic Leadership Team made a commitment to become a sustainable organisation and a leader in the field of education for sustainability. However, rather than deliver specialist courses in environmental studies, OP has elected to weave education for sustainability into each and every programme of study.

A clear process has been established by the academic board to meet the goal of EFS content within each programme by mid 2009. This process requires both the programme content and the process of educating to be considered, with experiential education and inquiry based learning being desired ahead of the lecturer talking at students, which has low long term learning value.

No courses are being prescribed in “how to” best integrate EFS into programmes across the board, rather ‘early adopter’ schools have been supported to find different approaches that best meet the needs of their staff and students. For example, the design school has elected to integrate all EFS initiatives into existing courses, where as the health and community school has decided to offer a stand alone EFS “101” type programme to all first year students, then integrate this into year two and three courses.

All new programmes under development are required to contain EFS content and process. An OP ‘graduate profile’ across all disciplines will now include being action competent as a sustainable practitioner in their field.

It is now April 2012 has this vision been realised? Did we make the right decision not to deliver specialist courses in environmental studies?

The words “sustainability” appear in a number of places in OP documentation. Our statement of priorities include these two:

Priority 3:  Strengthen our relationships with all of our stakeholders, building partnerships which will benefit our learners and communities, and build our sustainability.

Priority 8: Develop a sustainable platform to achieve our goals, encompassing financial and organisational sustainability and world class organisation and management.

Do either of these priorities actually have anything to do with educating our students about sustainability? I am starting to see why there is so much confusion in this institution about what all this “sustainability” stuff is all about.

Is this the reason why New Zealand has fallen short in it’s commitment to Education for Sustainability – Institutions like ours have not taken a firm enough grasp of the topic. In most departments we are skirting around the edges and not taking the job of “EDUCATING for sustainability” seriously?

I think we need our own Earth Summit to reprioritise!

New report shows 20 years of environmental inaction threatens NZ’s natural heritage

The WWF’s report reveals NZ  is falling short on important commitments made at the 1992 Earth Summit. Commitments were made on greenhouse gases, water quality, land and marine biodiversity, fisheries and education for sustainability.

We are FALLING SHORT in our commitments to Education for Sustainability. This is a disgrace!

On a more positive note, I was very impressed with the posters I saw in the corridors of D block at Otago Polytechnic

The BIT students were obviously being encouraged to focus on environmental issues in their studies. Well done Sam et al!

Fossil fuel subsidies – fund clean energy?

Governments are artifically lowering the price of fossil fuels. Most of the world’s fuel subsidies are given out in transitional and developing countries – especially those which themselves export fossil fuels.

Speaking to the Guardian, Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that a phase-out of subsidies would avoid 750m tonnes of CO2 a year by 2015, potentially rising to 2.6 gigatonnes by 2035. He claimed such cuts could provide around half the emissions reductions needed over the next decade to reach a trajectory that would limit global warming to 2C, considered the limit of safety by many scientists.

“Fossil fuel subsidies are a hand brake as we drive along the road to a sustainable energy future,” he said. “Removing them would take us half way to a trajectory that would hold us to 2C.”

See full article here:

Question. How do we influence the governments of places like Nigeria?

Would a campaign to put the pressure on world leaders at the G20 Summit in Mexico and at the “Rio+20 Earth Summit” coming up in Brazil work?

Let’s get it on the agenda for Rio – email Amy Adams see link below:\

The suggestion is to use the trillions of dollars of subsidies to fund clean energy alternatives. Now that makes sense.