Buried in Goal number 4 (Quality Education) of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, is sub target 4.7:
“By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development”
The ideas and approaches around how we get there are called “Education for Sustainable Development”, or ESD. UNESCO defines education as “the process of facilitating learning or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits”, but makes no mention of “schools” or formal learning environments in general.
The thing is, that as learning happens throughout our lives, and across our families and communities, we all need to work together to make sure that we support sustainability-based learning to ensure that all the new knowledge, skills, perspectives and behaviours that come from learning opportunities, are mindful of the need to regenerate our world and face a new future with confidence and empathy.
Yes, regeneration. Sustainability to us at Learnlife is not just damage control. We cannot pretend that our learners could be inspired by “limiting” global warming or “reducing” equity gaps alone.
A new definition of sustainability-based learning
When we talk about sustainability-based learning, we are talking about the skills to innovate solutions and meet challenges that will not only build forward from the Ikigai of our learners, but will help them to be part of a new world that is not bound by its current trajectory. They deserve better than the world we are handing to them, so the least we can do is support them to shape it anew.
Japanese researcher Yoshiuki Nagata called this the difference between “shallow ESD” and “deep ESD”. Learning to simply limit the damage we do to the world whilst failing to address the perspectives and behaviours which led us to the anthropocene is, as Nagata phrased it, “pouring new wine into old bottles”.
In the UNESCO PRELAC Journal, in an article entitled “Education as viewed from the biological matrix of human existence“, authors Maturana and Paz Davila expand on this more open definition of education, making the point that the world changes far too quickly for static institutions to realistically keep up, and a dynamic fluid form of learning is needed with the involvement of the individual, the community, parents, caregivers, experts, employers and the natural world itself. All are equally important in the transformative nature of sustainability-based learning.
Sustainability and deep ESD is relational, not transactional, because every learning experience impacts our sense of who we are and how we interact with the living world around us. With that principle in mind, we must embody our commitment to a regenerative approach in every single aspect of our learning design and approach.
Sustainability-Based learning at the Learnlife Eco Hub
An ecocentric perspective begins, for us, with place. At the Learnlife Eco Hub on the coast of Catalonia, learning experiences are shared between a Passivhaus certified learning space with grade A eco-credentials, the green spaces around them and the sea itself rolling in a few hundred metres away.
In a structure which creates low waste, low impact and low emissions, we start from a point of reference. Learners see how the physical space embodies the principles of the ecocentric mindset, and the local community are invited to learn from this too. We cannot be what we cannot see, and all the theory in the world is no substitute for being in place.
In this flexible, fluid and adaptable space, Learnlife offers opportunities to families and communities to be part of regenerative and sustainability-based learning experiences, to think anew and to connect new perspectives to a new sense of space and embodied learning. Nature-based learning is all the more powerful in such a space.
While our urban hub is surrounded by the living, breathing urban centres of innovation and circular design, the Eco-hub reinforces the dimension of the living world itself. The three pillars of sustainability, Environment, Economy and Society, woven around and through the learning spaces themselves.
This is the future of education, where we do not create boundaries between learning communities, where our values and commitment to a better world are embodied through place and the elements of learning which adapt alongside the learning journey. Nothing static, no dissonance between values and practice, no sequestering of learning into the formal spaces of another age.
Sustainability-based learning is all learning, because the world requires no less of us. If you would like to know more about how Learnlife supports learners to meet the challenges of an ascendent, compassionate and regenerative world, read our learning methodology page on sustainability-based learning.