Monday, September 28, 2015

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development

On Saturday, September 25 the UN General Assembly voted to pass the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. We had touched on this earlier in the year, but now that they are in place these goals are expected to pave the way to an entirely new future. The Global Goals take effect on January 1, 2016 and will extend to 2030. By that time our littlest ones will be in their final year of college and looking at a world of opportunity with the requisite excitement and worry that entails. 

Our class of 2026 will have gone through a whole new approach to development, been taught in a completely different manner than you or I. They will have been exposed to the world in ways that are interconnected, systemic and solution-oriented, and they will have tools to make them 21st century practitioners. 

The goals highlight the need for a diverse approach to sustainability. They focus on issues of the human condition - from education, to poverty to hunger - as much as on the condition of the planet - from biodiversity on land and in the oceans. They focus on the manner by which we function as societies - as consumers, as city dwellers, and on industries and innovations. But perhaps more than anything else, they focus on the fact that everyone - literally everyone - is needed. From the youngest members to the oldest the goals offer an invitation to partner, locally and globally to move forward. Both personal citizenship and collaboration are essential.

How hopeful a situation to be in, despite school closures due to the haze. At ISKL's Sustainability & Service Learning Office we envision a beautiful and harmonious future made so by the combined efforts of our community, where care not only follows closely behind but walks along side. 

For further information on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development please feel free to visit, watch the promotional video, "We the People for the Global Goals" below or go in depth into the goals themselves by visiting the US Sustainable Development website (here). 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Guiding Questions, Enduring Understandings.

It's the 1/3 mark of trimester one in the Middle School. Two classes of sixth graders work diligently in their service learning classes to piece together global and regional issues and how they might help address them at the local level. One class, we are told, is working hard on perfecting their "elevator pitch" while the other one is busily finding resources to develop their plan to address waste, pollution and sea life. 

Connections are often a matter of perspective. When many of the adults in this community were young(er) we might be taught about how one thing leads to another. Often that was it. Cause and effect. In service learning classes, and a good number of other classes at ISKL, students are consistently asked to go even further. What are the connections between our sorting of waste and the marine ecosystem?  How does what we do affect the haze and vice versa?  Where can we find leverage to improve the system? 

These are powerful questions, and ones that can lead to a myriad of answers. Direction is defined by the interests, skills and experiences of our students and therein lies the beauty of it. No matter which way one goes, it doesn't take long to recognize that it's all interconnected. 

These systems, interconnections and solutions are a huge part in generating 'enduring understandings' that are essential to becoming a global citizen. In grade 6 our students are working hard connecting the dots and creating action plans. Because everyone knows that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. :-)

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Hazy Days of Summer (errr... Dry Seasons)

Have you looked up an enjoyed that crystal clear blue sky lately?  If so, you were probably nowhere near SE Asia during the past week or two. As you know by now the haze we're all dealing with is an unhealthy side-effect of behaviors in Indonesia. Between health concerns and production methods, what gives?

A quick online search will indicate that Sumatra, where most of this haze originates, is in the tail end of a dry season. It's a season that allows for fires, often from slashing and burning, to rage increasingly out of control until the October rains appear, though there is concern that this could be delayed due to this year's expected El Nino effect. The Air Quality Index website (here) on Monday, September 14, 2015 indicated air quality levels teetering on the fence of "dangerous" (150) for the Klang Valley. We are, of course, understandably concerned for the wellbeing of our families and children.  

But for some it's harder still. One look at the bottom left corner of the image above (taken from the AQICN website  on Sep 14, 2015) will indicate an air quality reading of 796 in Pekanbaru (Riau), Indonesia!!  Is that a misprint? Perhaps, but this is also the epicenter of the at least some fires raging. At this level the numbers don't indicate a mere inconvenience, but a physical threat to life. Schools have closed, the airport shut down and people told to stay indoors. This, of course, has an obvious impact on health, but also on the economy (missed work opportunities, less tourist arrivals, etc.), and environment and social life too. 

From a sustainability standpoint this brings together numerous dimensions.  When we look at global issues like this it is helpful to view them through a "systems" perspective. How do economic, political, ecological and social dimensions interplay in the fires in Indonesia and around the region?  How can affecting one of these dimensions have a knock on effect to the others?  How can our personal and collective behaviors add to, or detract from, such large scale health risks? In what ways can we leverage change to create a better win-win situation for the future? These are necessary conversations in an increasingly interconnected world. They are conversations we're having at school. Hopefully they are also conversations you're having at home.  The conversations (and solutions) at ISKL continue long after the rains have put out the fires for this round. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Transforming Our World Through ESD

ISKL is one of few international schools promoting Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as a formal curricular platform. But this year, arguably more than ever, ESD is taking on a particular importance. 2015 brings with it far-reaching changes that will affect the way we, and our children, will carry out our daily lives. On September 25-27 the United Nations is expected to adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals which will pave the way for the world through 2030. It is quite appropriate that the UN names this initiative Transforming Our World

2015 is also the year for the COP 21 UN Climate Change talks taking place in Paris in November/December. Regardless of where we sit on the humanity-is-at-fault-for-climate-change debate, there seems to be a growing recognition at the political level that humanity needs to move decisively in unprecedented ways to ensure the health and wellbeing of the planet and all its people.  

To put this year in context, and our ESD platform with it, here are some major highlights from the past 8 months or so:
  • Last November the IPCC announced that the world needs to shift almost all its energy sources by 2100 to keep temperatures at plus 2 degrees (this, of course, has huge ramifications for all the world's communities, including our own)
  • Many countries have formalized their intent to cut carbon emissions in preparation for COP21
  • A growing number of cities are taking steps toward sustainability
  • Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla Energy) introduced a home battery. This technology is described by many as a "game changer"
  • On a windy day last June Denmark became the first country to generate a surplus of wind energy, generating 140% of it's national needs. 
  • Over the summer a number of Holland's citizens sued their own government for not looking after their wellbeing by not supporting sustainable practices... and won.  This is considered to be a landmark ruling that might define the way forward in many countries.
It is in this context, and with a decidedly positive outlook, that ISKL ensures that our students are becoming "socially responsible global citizens" through Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).  Be it leadership training programs, Global Issues classes, activities that develop critical thinking, constructive collaboration or any host of related skills, ISKL is working to ensure that our students are solution-oriented and forward thinking. This year's events could define a "new" direction for our shared future, but flexibility, creativity and problem solving will be necessary way after this year becomes history.