I flagged new report from the Higher Education Academy in a recent tweet (@atlasann–I often tweet about resources you can use in teaching sustainable design). The report comes from the Geography& Environmental Sciences section, but I think it has relevance to anyone struggling to teach climate change issues. Ranging from the use of “the campus” as a resource to online teaching tools such as discussion boards, the report suggests a variety of avenues for engaging students.
However the authors also argue that educators face a challenge of “green fatigue” among students while also struggling to teach across disciplines for an issue that has serious scientific, technological and political dimensions. But we need to get on with it. Starkly, the authors write:
“Overall, there is a sense that we are running out of time and that significant climate change impacts are to be expected in the 2020’s and 2030’s, such as the predicted abrupt reduction of sea ice cover after 2024 with the melting of 4 million km2 over 10 years and complete absence of summer sea ice by 2040 (Holland et al., 2006). The 2010’s perhaps represent our last opportunity to drastically curb greenhouse gas emissions and moderate significant climate change impacts because of the lag in the atmosphere-ocean system. Therefore, in Higher Education, the next few cohorts of students are the last graduates that could effect meaningful change, both in their influence on political decisions, their roles in the workplace, and their behaviour as individuals.”
Got that? I added the italics. The design students you’re teaching right now are the ones that really matter. We all try to “do better next year” in how we run our courses, but we probably also hope that over time, students will arrive at university with more background on issues of sustainability. They probably will, but by then it may be too late.