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  • Civic Education for Sustainability

  • UNIT 5: SOCIAL AND POLITICAL DIMENSION -- Topic 3: Safe and Just Environment


    A key priority for sustainable living should focus on developing long term political and social policies that will enable the global community (human and non-human) to live within planetary limits. From an ecological perspective the finite nature of the planet we inhabit contains boundaries, that if exceeded will cause systems to collapse with potentially major and unexpected consequences. It is accepted that human cannot flourish with adequate access to clean water, clean air, food shelter and other life support systems. Therefore, the challenge of the twentieth first century is to provide a safe and just place for humans to flourish within these wider and increasingly pressured ecological limits.

    At the UN Paris summit in 2015 nations from around the world adopted and agreed to implement a set of goals. These are known as that Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs and apply from this date to 2030. These goals provide a framework for future policy and action which hold out the promise of a safe and just environment in which all people can have their basic needs met. Implementing these goals suggests the need for transformative thinking, leading to economic policies which acknowledge and safeguard natural resources and respect the rights of human beings.


    In this topic  students will have considered the notion of prosperity and understand that it involves a number of dimensions.  The acquisition of material wealth is one aspect but a broader perspective includes human happiness and well being and a concern for the future generations and the balance of life on Earth. Through their engagement with a specific issue students will have investigated relevant facts and information, reflected critically on what they have learnt and developed their own perspectives and points of view.   One possible outcome is that they will have become more involved with the community in relation to environmental justice. It is recognised that this is a slow process but every student should have acquired the foundations for future action.

    Activity 1: Students should define the concepts of "safety" ,  "justice", and "environment". They will write their ideas on the class board. At the end there will be a collective description of these terms. The students will then try to connect their definitions to the environment and state examples. The teacher will then develop a discussion regarding elements that may be missing from the students presentation.


    Activity 2: The students will apply what they have learned about environmental safety and justice t based on their observations and experiences. This could be done through taking photographs and sharing them in the class portal and subsequently discussing them in a class forum.   

    Activity 3: Case study: The teacher will present an actual situation (i.e. developing beachfront property for commercial use,  building an electrical power station in urban areas, building parking lots, building recreational parks, building and expanding roads, etc. ).  The class will conduct a discussion concerning the situation from the vantage point of environmental justice and safety. They will suggest means of civil action that could be taken in order to improve the situation. This could also be done as a group activity with case studies distributed to various groups within the class. This can also be done as a "role playing" activity(community interest groups, journalists, developers,etc) 

    Activity 4:  Students will watch Kate Raworth, who has devised the idea of 'doughnut economics, giving a TED talk:

    Doughnut Economics

    Figure 1 - Securing prosperity in the years ahead involves building on secure social foundations and respecting ecological limits. (After Raworth 2017

    The diagram illustrates how the things which human beings need in order to flourish are linked (a) to ecological limits and (b) based on human needs. If we put too many demands on the environment we risk degrading the planet on which we depend.  If fail to create the conditions where everyone is able to meet their fundamental needs for water, food, housing and social justice we are creating deprivation and misery which is liable to get worse as resources became scarcer. The optimum position - the green area in the diagram - is a just and safe place for everyone and which we need to promote.  Students should discuss what they think prosperity means.  Is it just that some people are very rich while many are very poor?


    Compulsory Literature:

    Jackson, T. (2017). Prosperity without Growth. London: Routledge


    Raworth, K. (2017). Doughnut Economics: Seven ways to think like a Twentieth Century economist. London: Penguin.


    United Nations (2015). Sustainable Development Goals


    Supporting Literature:

    Porritt, J. (2013). The World we Made. London: Phaidon Press


    Maxton, G. and Randers, J. (2016). Re-inventing Prosperity: Vancouver: Greystone Books.