The third and final day of the EAUC conference was another good’un with a couple of the true highlights of the event taking place on the Thursday morning. Now I may be a little biased but I started my day with a workshop on Sustainability Report Writing that was one of the best! Perhaps it was no surprise as it was led by our very own Kat Thorne along with Sheri Leigh-Miles from ESD Solutions and Harriet Waters from Oxford Brookes.
The focus of this session was very much in the workshop and getting everyone to work together in groups to discuss whether they are doing sustainability reporting, why it would be a good idea to do it and how would be the best way to go about it. There was a really good mix of people in the room who had experience of sustainability report writing, those who were embarking on it for the first time and those that were just starting to think about it – this was coupled with a couple of participants who had experience from outside of the sector and were able to give an insight into a different perspective on report writing.
Many people sited the main reasons for report writing as a good way of looking back at what they had done, a useful tool for communicating and a good way of retaining focus on the key topics and issues. It could also be used as a way of giving figures and facts a narrative so that others would be able to understand the ‘why’ behind the figures being reported, especially useful for when targets have not been met. There was also talk of using the report as a form of education by getting students involved in the reporting – something we are keen to trial here at Greenwich.
After this workshop it was off to one titled ‘Producing Unique Planet Minded Business Leaders’ focussed on how education for sustainable development could be integrated within business schools. Exeter had an interesting example from their new One Planet MBA (http://business-school.exeter.ac.uk/mba/) of how sustainability in a business school setting could work as a standalone course. Jeremy Moon from the Business School at Nottingham University discussed the problems with how business schools are ranked in league tables. 40%of business school benchmarking still based on graduates salaries a hurdle that would need to be overcome if sustainability in business schools is to be mainstreamed.
As the conference was winding down there was still time for one last chunk of inspiration through the final address from Satish Kumar. Satish Kumar is long-term peace and environmental activist who has been the editor for Resurgence Magazine since 1973 and a big influence in environmental focussed education as a founder of Schumacher College and was on fantastic form, waxing lyrical about his vision for what the education sector should be doing for sustainability. Satish asked us to look to the Greek origins of the word economy and emphasised the importance of ecos and nomos, home and management respectively and how in Western civilization we fail to realise the importance of viewing ecos as the planet Earth. Satish asked us how can we manage the planet without ecology – knowledge of the home?
Satish used an example of the level of return on investment you get with banks versus nature. When you invest in a bank you get 0.5% interest whereas if you invest in soil you get so much more, all it takes is one seed and some water and you can grow a tree that will give you 1000s of fruits year after year after year. Satish told us to go outside, to experience nature, to let our children experience nature and talked about the principles behind Schumacher College where the students spend a lot more time outdoors and get to experience nature first hand while learning.
Satish touched on energy too – he asked us why do we spend so much money and time going to war, fighting over oil when the sun gives enough energy to supply the entire human race’s needs for more than a year every hour. He posed the same question about water, why do we pay a fortune to pump water around (especially in the UK) when every roof, field, garden has water delivered free of charge, de-salinated by clouds? He told us that we must put solar panels and rainwater harvesting on every roof in the country and use the technology we have to enhance and get the most out of nature. Satish admits that he is idealistic but asks us what is wrong with idealism when realism has got us to where we are today:
“Look at what realists have done for us. They have led us to war and climate change, poverty on an unimaginable scale, and wholesale ecological destruction. Half of humanity goes to bed hungry because of all the realistic leaders in the world. I tell people who call me ‘unrealistic’ to show me what their realism has done. Realism is an outdated, overplayed and wholly exaggerated concept.”
Before we knew it Satish had received a rapturous applause from the inspired sustainability professionals of the education sector and we were on our way back home to try and take some of that inspiration and use it towards what we are doing across the sector.
Just as a little extra have a look at Aston University’s take on the conference through their Storify: http://storify.com/GreenAstonUni/eauc-conference-2012