Reflections on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)


Perhaps sustainability, or sustainable development, could be considered as a balancing act. In fact, four of them:

  • Present and Future
  • People and Environment
  • Conservation and Development
  • Local and Global


Present and Future: This is the temporal dimension of sustainability, which frames sustainability with a focus on the future. Often, it gives room for excuses to put off pro-sustainability efforts. However, isn’t sustainability relevant in the present too, particularly with the extreme weather events that are increasing both in severity and frequency, knocking on the doors of the Global North as well as the Global South?


People and Environment: The environment receives priority over people when it comes to sustainability. Of course, the human world depends on the environment, as demonstrated in A game of plates at ‘Growth vs. Earth’ Café | Who depends on whom? However, what about the wellbeing of people? Should people be more central in sustainability agenda than they are today?


Conservation and Development: Closely linked to the previous balancing act between People and Environment, this is about environmental conversation and human development, which don’t co-exist very well. In sustainability discourse, conservation usually secures the centre stage, especially in the more economically developed Global North. The economically developing Global South prioritises development over conservation for obvious reasons. How to balance these two?


Local and Global: Sustainability is widely framed as a global crisis that requires global level solutions. That is could be considered as the spatial dimension of sustainability. However, isn’t the local dimension important? When local solutions tailor-made to respective local needs, aspirations and conditions are put together, could that form the basis for a one BIG global solution?


There are other balancing acts, such as Global North and Global South. Still others, such as Science and Culture, or Inner World and Outer World, are more relevant to education for sustainability (or ESD) rather than sustainability itself.


You’re most welcome to post other balancing acts as comments….




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