Sustainability Math a resource for teachers interested in sustainability curriculum for their mathematics courses. Contributors are welcome.
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The goal of this page is to be a collaborative central resource for sustainability information and curriculum materials for mathematics. In order to provide some focus we will define sustainability and sustainability education. The original U.N. commission that laid out the concepts of sustainability was tasked with developing a "global agenda for change". cite In the language of the time, the focus was on sustainable development - that is sustained change to meet the needs and aspirations of people everywhere, especially the poor. More recently the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) DESD at a glance states, "Sustainable development, a constantly evolving concept, is thus the will to improve everyone's quality of life, including that of future generations, by reconciling economic growth, social development and environmental protection." cite

We propose that it is more useful to cast sustainability into a short set of key declarative statements (an axiomatized theory) that can serve as a starting point for agreement, and as a basis for developing mutually agreed upon courses of actions and education initiatives. Recognizing that the concept of sustainability serves more as a compass showing a direction for change, rather than serving as an aspirational goal or stopping point, we start with the following four statements:

  • The current state of people is not a morally acceptable endpoint of societal development.
  • Humans have reached a state where we are negatively impacting the ability of future generations to meet their needs and aspirations.
  • The major types of problems facing humanity have to be addressed simultaneously: there is no ranking of importance.
  • The "System" requires fundamental changes.
From this we derive five educational goals for sustainability education. A course or a module within a course should have at least one of the following attributes:
  • Inclusion of sustainability-oriented content, or in other words, introduction of "global realities"
  • Inclusion of place-based, real-life examples
  • Inclusion of the tools of complexity, systems and design thinking with an emphasis on designing the future
  • Inclusion of a recognition of the ethical and affective aspects of the issues raised
  • Inclusion of specific skills to empower students to be catalysts and leaders of change
The above is credited to Jason Hamilton and Thomas J. Pfaff

Created by Thomas J. Pfaff and last updated on 8/11/14. Send questions or comments to tpfaff(at)ithaca.edu. Earth images courtesy of NASA and NSSDC.