Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know

If you happen to be in Singapore and you can make it by on the 30th…

The Environment and Sustainability Research Cluster of HSS cordially invite you to a seminar by Dr Michelle Merrill, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Environment and Sustainability Research Cluster. Her topic is Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know.

Details of time/venue: 30 April 2014, Time: 3:00pm – 4:30pm,   HSS Meeting Room 4, Level 4 (HSS-04-71), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know

It is easy to find evidence for unsustainability. Almost everyone has heard about the problems (climate change, air pollution, water scarcity, soil degradation, biodiversity loss…) and it is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which multiple converging crises precipitate devastating social, economic and political shocks.  Most would agree that, even without such doomsday scenarios, solving these unsustainability crises is an obligation we have to future generations; intergenerational well-being demands that we learn to be good ancestors and leave a world that works for our descendants.  While most sustainability problems actually have solutions that could be implemented without waiting for tomorrow’s technology, the solutions are often dismissed as “not feasible,” with the clear implication that leaders in industry, government and academia do not really know how to resolve these interdependent problems.  Sustainability requires not just new technologies and industrial processes; it also requires new attitudes and mindsets, especially the ability to consider how consequences travel through interconnections in complex adaptive systems.  Colleges and universities are where tomorrow’s leaders should gain the skills to wisely address these challenges.

Education for sustainability is essential for intergenerational well-being and the long-term viability of society. It also provides an ideal platform for students to learn and apply interdisciplinary critical thinking.  This talk will investigate strategies for promoting interdisciplinary education for sustainability in tertiary education.  Concepts and pedagogies that were implemented at Cabrillo College (California, USA), and preliminary results regarding their efficacy will be addressed.  The talk will review some of the organizations and strategies for promoting professional development in education for sustainability around the world.  Plans for fostering a strong network of sustainability educators across colleges and universities centered in Southeast Asia will be presented.

Michelle Y. Merrill Biographic Sketch:

Michelle Y. Merrill (Ph.D.) studies teaching, learning, cultural evolution and culture change.  Since 2004, her focus has been on the application of those concepts to sustainability:  how we can connect with, learn from and teach one another to co-create a resilient, regenerative future.  She is particularly interested in applying principles, examples and metaphors from ecology and evolutionary biology in solving human design problems in both the social and technological arenas, especially systems thinking and biomimicry. Before embarking on her current research project on sustainability and pedagogy at NTU, she worked at a community college in California, developing sustainability-themed courses, advising student clubs, and supporting college efforts to enhance institutional and community sustainability and social justice.  She won the 2013 John D. Hurd Award for Teaching Excellence at Cabrillo College.

Dr. Merrill’s previous research was on the evolution of primate behavior, giving her a broad grounding in tropical ecology, primate and human evolution, social networks, cooperation, learning and communication.  She studied wild orangutans (Pongo abelii) on Sumatra, and bonobos (Pan paniscus) in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and at the Language Research Center (Decatur, Georgia, USA).  Her doctoral dissertation in Biological Anthropology and Anatomy from Duke University (2004) was on Orangutan Cultures: Tool Use, Social Transmission and Population Differences.  Her experiences in tropical rainforest fieldwork inform her current approach to sustainability, emphasizing the need to address social and economic development along with environmental conservation to protect and preserve endangered great apes and other species, including our own.

…Meanwhile, Happy Earth Day!

Aside

So we broke yet another record for CO2 at Mauna Loa, with another daily average over 400ppm.

There’s the “…ugh, we’re in so much trouble” graphic that goes with it:

Is it time to panic yet?

An then there’s the, “wow, we’re cooked” but oh-so-cute toaster widget:

We're Toast!

WordPress won’t allow the active widget – click to see it in action and get it for yourself.

Let’s toast to a brighter, less toasted future! (Sorry…I was in a Rocky Horror cast for a long time…)

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How Many Products with Palm Oil Do You Use in a Day?

I think… I hope… I’m doing a bit better than Lael Goodman, the author of this post: “How Many Products with Palm Oil Do I Use in a Day?

But I don’t really have a kitchen where I am now, so what oil is used at the hawker centers and cafeterias where I mostly eat is not something I’ve even begun to investigate.  And yeah, even the organic brands of toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc. are frequently made with palm oil.  Here’s some of Lael’s daily guilt trip:

…But even though I know that palm oil is ubiquitous in everyday products, I’ve never assessed its role in my life. That was, until yesterday.

What I found was astonishing, even to me: I use palm oil and its derivatives every single day. Multiple times a day…

In just one day, I used at least twelve products that contain or might contain palm oil:

[1] Kellogg’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Limited Edition Cereal: Chocolatey Almond: hydrogenated palm kernel oil, palm kernel oil
[2] P&G’s Head and Shoulders shampoo: sodium lauryl sulfate*, sodium laureth sulfate*
[3] L’Oréal’s Garnier Fructis conditioner: cetyl alcohol*
[4] Unilever’s Dove white beauty bar soap: stearic acid*, sodium palmitate*
[5] Unilever’s Vaseline body lotion: stearic acid*, cetyl alcohol*, glyceryl stearate*, glycerin*
[6] Galderma’s Cetaphil moisturizer with sunscreen: glyceryl stearate*
[7] Colgate-Palmolive’s Colgate toothpaste: sodium lauryl sulfate*
[8] Revlon’s Almay mascara: stearic acid*
[9] Daily vitamins: vegetable magnesium stearate*, vegetable stearic acid*
[10] J.M. Smucker’s Jif natural peanut butter: palm oil
[11] Pfizer’s Chapstick lip balm: cetyl alcohol*, tocopheryl linoleate*
[12] Unilever’s Pond’s cold cream: cetyl alcohol*

It’s easy to think that because I don’t regularly frequent McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts that my palm oil use is limited. But I can see now that palm oil is pervasive in both my professional and my personal life.

Luckily, a lot of companies whose brands I use have already begun stepping up to the challenge by making commitments to ensure that the palm oil they use is free of deforestation and peatland destruction. I know my Colgate-Palmolive toothpaste,  L’Oréal conditioner, Kellogg’s cereal, and Unilever soap, lotion, and cream are made by companies who have made this public commitment, making my daily routine a little more sustainable.

Click here to send an email to other companies urging them to make a deforestation and peat-free palm oil commitment.

from http://blog.ucsusa.org/how-many-products-with-palm-oil-do-i-use-in-a-day?

What I’m up to now…

In case you’ve been wondering, I’m now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.  My beloved has been tracking our weekend trips on Tumblr.

Singapore Botanical Gardens

Me at Singapore Botanical Gardens. Photo by Erik S. Peterson. See more at colorjedi.tumblr.com

My first big project is to prepare for this workshop:

This workshop is meeting Thursday 27 February – Friday 28 February 2014 at the Nanyang Executive Center (NEC) of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.  It is open only to invited speakers and guests, plus NTU students and staff who register by 24 February.

The objectives of this workshop are: 1) to explore the practice and pedagogical themes applied to sustainability education in Asian countries; 2) to review how sustainability is conceptualized and studied in different disciplines such as Science, Social Sciences, Economics, Engineering, Business, etc.  This workshop is funded by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), to be held in conjunction with and mark the 10th anniversary of the School of HSS at NTU.

Professor Sing C. Chew  (Humboldt State University, California, USA and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig, Germany) will deliver the keynote address on “Sustainability in Education.”  Other presenters hail from 17 different countries.

So amazing… so much to say… and so busy I gotta get back to it.  More ponderings in a couple weeks, I promise hope.

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Good News (at last): A Palm Oil Victory

Re-posting from forestheroes.org

Why all the fuss about palm oil to begin with? Well if you’re new to the campaign and this blog, the palm oil industry is currently one of the most environmentally destructive on the planet. The rapid spread of palm oil plantations is responsible for rampant deforestation, endangered species habitat loss, and severe climate and local air pollution. Though there are now hopes that today’s announcement could begin to change that.

Wilmar’s new “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation Policy” would, if implemented, catalyze a wholesale change in how palm oil is produced, and where plantations are sited.

So what exactly does the policy entail? Basically, it calls for numerous provisions to change the way commodities are sourced:

  • No Deforestation: No more cutting down the rainforest for agricultural production.
  • No Exploitation: Protect the rights of workers and communities, including the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.
  • Protects High Carbon Stock landscape: Including peatlands of any depth.
  • Protects High Conservation Value forests: No more clearing of forests that are habitat for endangered species, such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, elephants, and rhinos.

Up until now, the largely unregulated — and rapidly growing — industry has laid waste to more than 30,000 square miles of tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia alone. Palm oil is a $50 billion a year commodity that winds up in roughly half of all consumer goods for sale, including snacks and sweets and soaps and detergents and countless other packaged goods. Over the past decade alone, palm oil imports to the U.S. have increased nearly fivefold. The incredible loss of richly biodiverse rainforests to clearcutting also threatens the 400 or so remaining Sumatran tigers, as well as orangutans, elephants, and rhinos. Not to mention the tens of millions of people who depend on the forests to survive. Then there’s the climate impact of stripping the world of some of its most important carbon sinks. Factor in forest loss, and Indonesia is the world’s third largest source of global warming pollution.

Just days left to save Aceh’s forests – Sumatran Orangutan Society

Last week, I gave yet another talk on orangutan conservation, with student presentations about the problems with palm oil, deforestation, mining and the bushmeat trade and how these threaten nonhuman primates.  Today there’s another urgent plea to save one of our most endangered relatives:

Earlier this year, more than a million people around the worldUrgent Campaign: Save Aceh's Forests, Wildlife and People called on the Governor of Aceh to abandon plans to carve up the irreplaceable Leuser Ecosystem with new roads, plantations and gold mines. The global outcry succeeded in delaying the province’s new spatial plan.

But it hasn’t been abandonned – yet. The decision will be made this month. The plan must be rejected. Please read about the campaign here, and sign the new petition today, there’s no time to lose.

Please share this urgent campaign far and wide – the wildlife, forests and people of Aceh need you now more than ever before.

re-posted from SOS Newsletter

The Population Problem

 

Long-time population maven Paul Ehrlich just published a post called Overpopulation and the Collapse of Civilization  on the blog for the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB).

“Food is just the most obvious area where overpopulation tends to darken the human future – virtually every other human problem from air pollution and brute overcrowding to resource shortages and declining democracy is exacerbated by further population growth.”

“A popular movement is needed to correct that failure and direct cultural evolution toward providing the “foresight intelligence” and the agricultural, environmental, and demographic planning that markets cannot supply. “

This timing is good, as I just taught my Biological Anthropology lab unit on population.  I’ve made the student and instructor materials for this module available, as part of my work on a grant for Engaged Interdisciplinary Learning for Sustainability.

I also continue to hear from the folks at Californians for Population Stabilization.  I know, it sounds like exactly the kind of sane thinking that Dr. Ehrlich was talking about.  That’s what I thought it was at first, too. Unfortunately, it turns out that they’re on an extreme anti-immigration kick.  I tend to think this is antithetical to the actual goal of GLOBAL population stabilization.  After all, as Hans Rosling shows, increasing prosperity and child survival reduces birthrates and population growth; immigrants in the US definitely follow this trend.  In fact, something like the DREAM Act is likely to lead to exactly the kind of improved education and opportunity for girls that leads to reduced fecundity and zero population growth.  So yes, a narrow, parochial approach to population stabilization in California might be served by reducing immigration, but it would probably just exacerbate the global population problem.

Let’s focus on the big picture, people!  You’ve got to think global while you act local (or global).  And remember, Dr. Pongo sez “Copulate, Don’t Populate!”