Background and Context


Sustainability is a concept, a goal and a strategy. The concept speaks to the reconciliation of social justice, ecological integrity, and the well being of all living systems on the planet. The goal is to create an ecologically and socially just world within the means of nature without compromising future generations. Sustainability also refers to the process or strategy of moving towards a sustainable future. What we teach, what we don't teach, and how we teach are all considered when creating sustainability education. Sustainability education is a process of creating a space for inquiry, dialogue, reflection, and action about the concept and goals of sustainable development. *(Moore, 2005)

There are a number of committed individuals at institutions across British Columbia working toward creating education for sustainability and many others are struggling to implement sustainability into curriculum, programming and campus practices. There is a need to create a network of interaction between these individuals and the many other organizations, networks, and governmental levels that are working towards this goal.

Sustainability Education
Education for sustainable development is fundamentally about values, with respect at the centre: respect for others, including those of present and future generations, for difference and diversity, for the environment, and for the resources of the planet we inhabit.

Education enables us to understand ourselves and others and our links with the wider natural and social environment, and this understanding serves as a durable basis for building respect. Along with a sense of justice, responsibility, exploration and dialogue, education for sustainable development aims to move us to adopting behaviours and practices which enable all to live a full life without being deprived of basics.

Education for sustainable development mirrors the concern for education of high quality, demonstrating characteristics such as:

  • Interdisciplinary and holistic: learning for sustainable development embedded in the whole curriculum, not as a separate subject;
  • Values-driven: sharing the values and principles underpinning sustainable development;
  • Critical thinking and problem solving: leading to confidence in addressing the dilemmas and challenges of sustainable development;
  • Multi-method: word, art, drama, debate, experience, different pedagogies which model the processes;
  • Participatory decision-making: learners participate in decisions on how they are to learn;
  • Locally relevant: addressing local as well as global issues, and using the language(s) which learners most commonly use.


UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

The BC Working Group on Sustainability Education and the walkingthetalk network were formed in early 2006 within the context of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development through an opportunity created by Learning for a Sustainable Future, with additional funding provided by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education.

The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2015) presented an opportunity for Canada to play a leadership role in educating students to understand, think critically about, and enact sustainable lifestyles both locally and globally. *Moore, J. (2005). Is Higher Education Ready for Transformative Learning? A Question Explored in the Study of Sustainability. Journal of Transformative Education. Vol. 3: 76-91.