I picked up a fascinating book today – “The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy” edited by Arran Stibbe. It’s a set of short essays on each of a long list of skills needed for thinking about and achieving sustainability. The contents listing makes worthwhile reading on it’s own, covering many of the things I’ve been reading up on for the last few months. I wonder if it’s possible to design an education program that fosters all these skills:

  • ECOCRITICISM – the ability to investigate cultural artefacts from an ecological perspective.
  • OPTIMISATION – the art of personal sufficiency.
  • GROUNDED ECONOMIC AWARENESS – economic awareness grounded in ecological and ethical values.
  • ADVERTISING AWARENESS – the ability to expose advertising discourses that undermine sustainability, and resist them.
  • TRANSITION SKILLS – skills for transition to a post fossil-fuel age.
  • COMMONS THINKING – the ability to envisage and enable a viable future through connected action.
  • EFFORTLESS ACTION – the ability to fulfil human needs effortlessly through working with nature.
  • PERMACULTURE DESIGN – designing our lives with nature as the model.
  • COMMUNITY GARDENING – skills for building community and working within environmental limits.
  • ECOLOGICAL INTELLIGENCE – viewing the world relationally.
  • SYSTEMS THINKING – the ability to recognize and analyse the inter-connections within and between systems.
  • GAIA AWARENESS – awareness of the animate qualities of the Earth.
  • FUTURES THINKING – the ability to envision scenarios for the future and work towards bringing desirable ones into being.
  • VALUES REFLECTION AND THE EARTH CHARTER – the ability to critique the values of an unsustainable society and consider alternatives.
  • SOCIAL CONSCIENCE – the ability to reflect on deeply-held opinions about social justice and sustainability.
  • NEW MEDIA LITERACY – communication skills for sustainability.
  • CULTURAL LITERACY – understanding and skills for culturally appropriate communication.
  • CARBON CAPABILITY – understanding, ability and motivation for reducing carbon emissions.
  • GREENING BUSINESS – the ability to drive environmental and sustainability improvements in the workplace.
  • MATERIALS AWARENESS – the ability to expose the hidden impact of materials on sustainability.
  • APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY AND APPROPRIATE DESIGN – the ability to design systems, technologies and equipment in an appropriate way.
  • TECHNOLOGY APPRAISAL – the ability to evaluate technological innovations.
  • COMPLEXITY, SYSTEMS THINKING AND PRACTICE – skills for managing complexity.
  • COPING WITH COMPLEXITY – the ability to manage complex sustainability problems.
  • EMOTIONAL WELLBEING – the ability to research and reflect on the roots of emotional wellbeing.
  • FINDING MEANING WITHOUT CONSUMING – the ability to experience meaning, purpose and satisfaction through non-material wealth.
  • BEING-IN-THE-WORLD – the ability to think about the self in interconnection and interdependence with the surrounding world.
  • BEAUTY AS A WAY OF KNOWING – the redemption of knowing through the experience of beauty.

There’s a few things I’m might add (social networking and social justice spring to mind), and I see they’ve added some additional chapters on the website. But phew, this looks like an extremely valuable book.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Have you, or the contributors to this book, begun to apply these concepts? I just attended my city’s budget planning workshop where I tried to interject some sustainability, which is a lot easier said than done. The survival of the city hinges on growth. And growth includes much of what we consider unsustainable: fuel, cement, goods to be imported and sold. This workshop gave me a view of what is sustaining the community via means that I see as unsustainable.
    What’s one to do?
    Upon reading this list, I wondered if these essays are like me: saying but not doing. How does one upset the growth paradigm without doing damage to another’s income? to another’s ability to put their children through college? or to my own?
    This list seems easy to apply to myself, but not to the next level of community.
    I realize it is unfair to criticize without reading the book, but I won’t have time for that, and there’s value in getting your summary.


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