Education’s responsibility for the climate crisis

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports are clear: the collapse of our industrial societies is here and it’s too late for sustainable development (Dennis Meadows has been saying this for decades, anyway), but we can still reduce the intensity of the shock.

Macroeconomic data no longer hide the existence of a critical situation for the world economy (oil spikes, recession, a surge of the price of gold, massive layoffs, less and less arable lands, etc.).

Biocapacity and biodiversity are at a loss and it is more than conceivable to consider our time as a 6th massive extinction of species, only this time we have accelerated it.

We could continue the list infinitely, but we will stop there and move on.

In France, it’s been now four years since Collapsology and the studies of the collapse of civilizations have gradually risen up the stage, that their reports hit politicians’ desks.

On August 29, 2019, Jean-Marc Jancovici gave a worrisome and intensely interesting conference at Sciences Po Paris.

Regularly, author and engineer Philippe Bihouix reminds the importance of our companies to promote what they call the low tech studies.

We can believe what we want, we can believe an infinite growth in a finite environment exists, the story has changed for young people and future generations. Now we know and at different scales, we act.

So how do you limit the fall?

There are many methods that can let us live better during the likely drastic changes ahead. Structural and substantive transformations at every level and Education plays a leading role.

Observation on the world of Education in this pivotal period

Clearly, today, too few programs allow learners to understand the magnitude of the situation.

In higher education, you have to get into the niches of engineering, social science and environmental studies programs to understand the problem and try to answer it.

The answers are not lacking, we see more and more young people, researchers, entrepreneurs effectively address the problem, but these are individual businesses, almost isolated.

Exit the rest, indeed, we must create employment …

The climate issues are on the program of History Geography of the college, it is true, but it does not generally allow young people (relative to the educational ambition of a teacher) to understand why we arrived there.

In the business world, we talk about promises, commitments, beautiful puns and CSR teams in large groups, which, it must be said, either lie to themselves or produce superhuman efforts for changes often. minimal, either lie open to the face of the world.

Yet there is some positive stuff happening!

In July 2019, the CGE, CPU, CDEFI and their members decided to join forces and called for political support to focus on the climate emergency with their students in every program in order to realize the 17 Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the UN to “save the world“.

In the same vein, the think tank The Shift Project, chaired by Jean-Marc Jancovici, calls massively to train all students and professors of higher education in climatic and ecological issues.

It seems that the questioning and planning of the action is already launched in the world of French Education. This is a good thing.

What are some concrete actions?

Rethinking the campus

One of the first actions would be, in the case of some energy-consuming establishments, to review the entire organisation of the campus and give more initiatives to students to build a campus circular, social, “green” and impacting areas nearby.

Example: leave the students to organise permacultures, hive areas, renewable energy installations but also new room models.

A leader? The installation project of the EMLV illustrates this movement!

Identify the ecological axes of transformation and integrate them into the programs

Obviously, without changing the curricula, we replicate generations of labour market entrants immersed in a culture of environmental damage reproduction. To change these programs is to launch innovators and people trained in a relatively long period of crisis.

Examples: Introduce low tech civil engineering, urban planning, teach and promote agronomy without oil, architecture programs favouring local renewable resources, for “circular” constructions, business schools less focused on a culture of finance, or international logistics. a political science more focused on an idea of ​​democratic functioning in a decreasing society.

A leader? Wageningen University (The Netherlands) or the University of Nottingham (UK).

Make massive calls to student projects.

Once the programs have been modified (or even before), it is necessary to make all the learners cogitate on specific themes. Bringing brains together in a multidisciplinary set means applying the principles of collective intelligence and therefore of innovation by the greatest number. It is also a way of decentralizing the initiative and creating a fast culture of experimentation as well as an ecological and circular culture!

Example: Let’s go back to campus transformation. We can think of political actions. If not, rethink the use of renewable energies or CO2 capture, urban planning projects, short-circuit social operation, etc.

Lobby the politicians

Local or national political support can restore knowledge to a real impact on our societies. Without political action, without a massive hack of our political “pluralism”, efforts will be in vain, and budgets will remain centralized around initiatives that are not necessarily effective. We think of Germany and its nuclear shutdown to invest in solar panels that led to the reopening of coal plants.

Be a driving force in the local transformation of the surrounding areas of universities and schools

A campus is primarily an area directly linked to an urban environment. A well-thought-out campus is, therefore, a striking example for the surrounding communities, especially since these are also populated by students from universities and schools within them. This amounts to facilitating local political and social action.

Diversify pedagogies, favour horizontal pedagogies.

As we have written, diversifying pedagogies means maximizing the learners’ learning process and thus accelerating it. However, accelerating the understanding of a subject, a thematic, problematic, speeding up learning is the number one goal that will allow us to change the way we do things and put in motion a maximum of initiatives.

Example: Horizontal pedagogies such as peer learning are real drivers of learning, motors of collective intelligence. That’s an extremely effective pedagogy in cases of making and carrying out projects.

The leader? We Are Peers is the startup that reintroduces peer learning in higher education and business. it can be considered that this startup is perfectly suited to Education in a crisis or profound transformation.

Change the way we evaluate learners

As with pedagogy, tests must be adaptable. We need to change the way we think about evaluation. Putting weight on the verification of knowledge, a possibility of important feedback for the learner, and not a factor of elitism, a factor of future success in the labour market, etc.

Example: We talked about it, changing the context of presenting a test, presenting it in a benevolent way, so changing the methodology, can help to link learning and evaluation.

A leader? At TestWe, we are deeply committed to gradually changing the way we look at evaluation processes. We are adapting our solution to focus assessments on skills reports rather than ratings. Didask is another startup giving a lot of methods to