A New Year’s Resolution: Education for the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Professor John Sandars

Everyone is aware of the local, national and global challenges that face our lives and our planet.  These challenges do not only include the ravages of climate and environmental change but also the need for social justice and universal health coverage.  

The recent COP 26 summit highlighted that we may have only the next 10 years to make a long-lasting difference to climate change; and the other challenges have a similar urgency. However, it will also be essential to have a continuing future commitment that ensures that any changes that are made cannot be reversed. 

Responding to these challenges requires educating our citizens of the future about not only the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) but also how these goals can be achieved. This requires all educators to also increase their own awareness of the 17 UNSDGs and to develop their approaches for supporting how our future citizens can be equipped with the knowledge and skills to make positive change to all of our lives and our planet.

An important first step in making any journey of change is to have more information about what needs to change and how the change can be implemented. The SustainNET website provides some recently published resources of interest to all educators at Edge Hill University.

There is also a link to the Advance HE site which has its own links on how to practically embed teaching and learning about the 17 UNSDGs across a programme and module curricula at any university.

It is now the time for setting New Year resolutions and what better than to make a commitment to make a change to teaching and learning across Edge Hill University so that all programmes and modules integrate education about the 17 SDGs. Our academic community’s challenge is to ensure that our future citizens are educated as if our lives and our planet matter. We all know it makes sense!

Professor John Sandars is Professor of Medical Education at Edge Hill University, and Co-Leader of SustainNET.

COP26, Local Climate Action and TV: What can be done in Liverpool?

Dr Elke Weissmann

Many people concerned about climate change will say that COP26 ended up being a bit of a disappointment.

We do want to do something. The problem is that we do not always know what we need to do, or perhaps how simple it is to do something, not just as individuals, but as communities.

Edge Hill University’s Television Studies Research Group is currently working with Love Wavertree to examine what the community can do to tackle climate change through the medium of television (through a local, community-led channel). The aim is to follow the local community as they undertake climate change projects and to record this for community-led television programmes, made available as online videos.

In so doing, we draw on the experiences of German local television which is community-led, but often struggles to find content. German ‘Offene Kanäle’ (open channels) are run by small teams or even individuals on very limited budgets and with a remit for locally produced content by community groups or individuals.

Fortunately, in Liverpool we can draw on the talent of local students, studying on film, television and journalism degrees, who can support the development of more regular programming in this area. This programming is also inspired by the British history of public service broadcasting which is not only meant to educate, inform and entertain, but also to bring the community together.

On Sunday, 7 November, we screened The People v Climate Change at Wavertree Town Hall. This was then followed by presentations from the Heseltine Institute at the University of Liverpool and a Q&A. Three of Edge Hill’s students, Cara Gaskell, Bobbie Scanlon and Chloe Clover, filmed and edited the event.

We are now making this film available to the larger community, including you, so you can find out about the specific climate change challenges and opportunities in Liverpool and surrounding region.

The People v Climate change can be watched on the iPlayer, while the recording of the post-screening talks and Q&A can be watched here.

Watch and be inspired!

Dr Elke Weissmann is Reader in Television and Film in the Department of Creative Arts at Edge Hill University. Her research is focused on television, transnational relations, and gender and the media.

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Can Poetry Help us Articulate the Universal as Personal?

Victoria Inyang-Talbot

As the spotlight lands firmly on the upcoming COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, I have reached into my poetry collection and dwelt a little on the poems that tell stories of my relationship with the world around me. John Clare’s All Nature Has A Feeling could not resonate more. We are grappling with the day-to-day questions of living – reaching that potential, negotiating relationships, dreams, disappointments, hope. We are, even as we react to issues of environmental crisis, going about our lives, striving, failing, succeeding, defining who we are, as if the fight is out there, apart from our identities.

But who are we?

Lucille Clifton’s Earth Is A Living Thing speaks to the interconnected that is never denied but when asked to define ourselves, we do so in terms of our characteristics – gender, race, age, occupation etc. We name our origins, proclivities, we create boundaries, extend them (binary, non-binary) and some of us are comfortable enough to say that we are not yet sure. Are we everything but the world around us? We tell the stories of our lives around events that are personal to us – a birth, divorce, leaving home, falling in love, bereavement. That these stories have parallels in our non-human world, we often forget to illustrate – new home = another housing estate, another child = more cabbages etc.

Poetry imagines these liminal spaces and the interdependence therein. In Robert Hayden’s A Plague of Starlings, the plight of the culled starlings is juxtaposed with our own ambitions for ourselves:

Their scissoring
terror like glass
coins spilling breaking

And if not careful
I shall tread
upon carcasses
carcasses when I
go mornings now
to lecture …

Carl Phillips’ White Dog calls us to let go, to resist the urge to own more and more of what belongs to the non-human world. To share the earth, as if we too belong here. To see it as a partnership, not a competition, in owning it or caring for it. W. S. Merwin’s To Ashes is a poem that checks our attitude to our environment as the other – to be pitied, fought for. For after all, we are the same, human and non-human, in origin and in end.

In poetry, we can articulate these imaginings – of our lives and that of our non-human world as one ecology. In acknowledgement I write of a flower:

Keep time with me
You blue haven.
Cupped in yourself,
Unencumbered today, I remember
When the May sun unfurled your petals, and you peak through a smile
And the rest of the pot beheld your evocative entrance
And I clapped in glee.
Keep time with me
And when it’s autumn and the wind howls
I’ll remember for you, your tropical home.

The next time you witness a crocus in May, might you write a haiku?

Victoria is a PhD student and a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the dept of Education at Edge Hill University. To hear more of her poems, join us on Wednesday 3rd November at 5pm for the Sustainatiliby Festival event, “How can poetry support our articulation of our relationship with our non-human world?”

The Sustainability Festival is coming… be prepared to connect, engage and be inspired.

Prof Christopher Dent

The University’s Sustainability Festival – taking place Monday 1 to Friday 5 November – is a chance for everyone at Edge Hill and beyond to come together to feel part of a collective of people that want to make our world a better, more sustainable place.

It coincides with the first week of the COP26 Climate Summit the UK is hosting in Glasgow, and the Sustainability Festival is organised over five Day Themes, such as ‘Move it Monday’ (special focus on transport and mobility).

Across all five Festival days there are six ‘Activity Themes’:

  • Community – local organisations showcasing their sustainability focused work, mainly in The Hub building
  • Tours – various tours organised around Edge Hill’s beautiful green campus. Bike rides, get to know our campus’ wildlife and eco-buildings and systems, and an opportunity to plant flowers and shrubs in Edge Hill’s wonderful garden spots!
  • Performances – artistic inspiration on sustainability. We have various performance events planned – films, poetry, dance, drama and an art exhibition
  • Talks– something for everyone, covering different everyday sustainability issues such as recycling and energy. We also have fast rising media personality and former EHU student Joshua Styles giving a talk on plants on ‘Footprint Friday’ (5 Nov)
  • Food-Drink-Shopping – we have a number of food, drink and other sustainable product organisations coming onto campus to show how we can become more sustainable consumers
  • Competitions– these will be running all week on sustainability-related themes. Look out for updates on the Festival website. There are prizes to be won!

SustainNET has been the main driving force behind the Festival. Established in February 2020 under the Institute for Social Responsibility (ISR) umbrella, it is a network community of Edge Hill University staff seeking to advance the sustainability agenda on four main fronts: research, teaching and learning, student engagement and our local community with 30 local organisation partners.

As part of the Festival organisation, I was asked how I would define sustainability… I responded “Very carefully, as there are dozens of definitions out there”! The definition I prefer is the capacity for human civilisation and planet Earth’s biosphere to co-exist into the foreseeable future.

While this definition has an explicit environmental dimension, it also concerns how humans get on with each other, inferring a societal dimension. If there is peace, harmony and justice within human society, human civilisation is more likely to attain environmental peace, harmony and justice. Developing healthier and more sustainable food systems for example, will help us mitigate climate change and address local environmental issues.

We hope the Festival will help people see and understand various kinds of inter-connections that exist regarding sustainability, as well as connecting with each other. Come along to the Festival – engage and be inspired to look at our world and society in different ways. It will be great to see you there.

Christopher Dent is a Professor of International Business and Economics in the Business School and Director: SustainNET. Please get in contact with him if you wish to be part of the Festival or become a SustainNET Member – details on becoming a Member this can be found here.