Lessons from nature


Undervaluing sustainability

When we deliver an education programme we have the best intentions. We want learners to reflect on their actions and how they can become more sustainable. Part of this process is to think about our values and how they support or undermine sustainability. Whether this process is explicit or implicit it is a fundamental part of the learning.

So...we think hard about the values we want to promote - care for nature, respect for others, social justice. But, are we promoting other values accidentally? And are we accidentally reinforcing stronger values that lead to less environmentally responsible behaviour? One well known environmental organisation provides iPads for students to record data and process information; this makes the technical part of learning faster and easier, and probably a bit more fun as well. However, by providing iPads they are also reenforcing some pretty strong values around social recognition, power, authority and success.

Why does this matter? Tim Kasser is an American psychologist and book author known for his work on materialism and well-being. His research has demonstrated that values based on self-direction (all about me) tend to lead to less environmental responsibility, and values based on self-transcendence (all about community and other) lead to greater environmental responsibility. Not only that, people with self-transcendence values tend to be much happier and content with their lives. Find more out about Tim and his work here or watch the video.

So what does this mean for learning? We need to have a much clearer understanding of the values we embody and the values we do not. And be clear how values that we do not adhere to creep into out work. A useful starting point is to look at the work done by Common Cause. And always keep asking if what we are doing is the best we can.

Author: Richard Date: 01.07.2013