Monday, 18 June 2012

Fwd: To be put on the HEA news

Dear Simon,

Could you add the following to the bulletin?


For centuries, universities have been at the forefront in creating and breaking paradigms, and educating the future decision-makers, entrepreneurs, and leaders. However, universities have remained traditional and have had a tendency to self-replicate, where far too much of modern education has continued to rely upon Newtonian and Cartesian mental models, which relegate learning and action to reductionist thinking and mechanistic interpretation.

In the last years there have been a number of universities engaging with Sustainable Development (SD); yet Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has not fully permeated all disciplines, scholars, and university leaders, or throughout the curricula.

At the Stockholm Conference in 1972 education was formally recognised on an international level to play an important role in fostering environmental protection and conservation. Since then many academic declarations, charters and partnerships were developed that were designed to foster environmental education (EE), SD, and ESD. Since 1987 there has been a large increase in such initiatives. The declarations, charters and partnerships were designed to provide guidelines or frameworks for HEIs to better embed sustainability into their system. The increasing importance of such declarations, charters and partnerships, for fostering transformative SD is evidenced by the more than 1,000 university leaders who ratified their commitment to work to advance SD education and research by signing the Talloires Declaration, the Kyoto Declaration, and the Copernicus University Charter by the end of 2003.

In spite of a number of initiatives and an increasing number of universities engaging with SD, universities have remained quite traditional. Many of them still lag behind in regards to contributing to making societies more sustainable. Such mental models, coupled with resistance to change, and in some cases the self-replicating system of universities have limited the diffusion of the SD 'meme' in many universities, their system, as well as among all disciplines, scholars, and university leaders.

The initiatives (such as declarations, charters, partnerships and conferences) developed to foster SD can provide a framework or guidelines on how to better embed sustainability into the university system. The different initiatives discussed emphasise that universities have a moral obligation to work towards sustainable societies, focusing on environmental degradation, threats to society, and sustainable production and consumption for this and future generations.

Although these initiatives are intended to serve as supporting, guiding, and challenging documents throughout the university system, this does not ensure that the signatory institutions implement SD within their systems. There might also be institutions that have not yet signed a declaration or belong to a charter, but which are, nonetheless, actively engaged with SD on their campuses.

Nowadays, the HEIs with foresight and leadership are beginning to adopt and weave SD into their curricula, research, and outreach and campus operations.

Researchers from Belgium, Mexico, Slovenia, the UK, and the USA are working on a project looking at how different HEIs worldwide have implemented SD, and if they have signed a declaration, or belong to a charter. As part of this project we have developed an on-line survey: .

We would really appreciate it if you were able to distribute the email below to your network. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Rodrigo Lozano, University of Leeds (

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