It is in fact a part of the function of education to help us escape, not from our own time -- for we are bound by that -- but from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our time.
How does one reprogram an entire global population? How do you undo the mindsets and pre-disposed views of diverse cultures conditioned by countless generations of reinforced behavior and repetition? What will it take such that people realize the necessity for collaboratively managing their resources and protecting their environment? This is no simple challenge. Much of what we do and how we manage our basic requirements for survival and living is core to our belief systems and a central part of our cultures. This is particularly true in less developed countries where these norms and behavioral patterns are deeply ingrained into lifestyles that have remained virtually unchanged for centuries.
The reality however is that conditions are becoming increasing difficult and expensive in regards to acquiring basic necessities and managing our daily existence throughout the world. These pressures will continue to increase regionally as consumption increases and resources diminish until those impacts reach a critical mass. As situations become desperate and the truth sinks in that the systems we depend on to manage our resource are changing on an unprecedented scale people will either look for a solution or someone to blame. It is at that point that proper guidance and knowledge empowerment will play a defining role in determining our future.
To accomplish this efficiently and directly there is an absolute need to tie global education and training efforts directly to the specific sustainable infrastructure and system build outs required for long term economic development. This involves rebalancing resource management and universal improvements in the standard of living. Additionally, this process must be about empowerment and not exploitation for it to be effective. That is the key to its development to ensure wide spread cultural participation. This approach lays the ground work for the collaborative environment that will be the defining element as to its eventual success.
There is an extreme need for a common platform through which sustainability education and training takes place. This becomes necessary as a means to speed up the efficiency and establish the focus that will counter the time element we are collectively up against. Much as the U.S. was able to develop a nuclear weapon in a relatively short period of time with the Manhattan Project in the 1940’s, we must now consolidate our efforts to be successful with global resource management. Through standardizing and coordinating our energies we can limit time wasted competing against ourselves when it is imperative we act together. To ignore this truth is to insure our failure.
When one starts out to design and develop a universal education/training platform that process needs to be driven by specific purpose and goals. This is necessary to define a methodology for implementation and bring clarity to that effort which can be reflected in the design and structure of that platform. It is therefore critical that we must first identify the challenges and essential goals of that mission to define that path. I imagined the following criteria as being the basis for that process.
So starting with this basic criteria let’s look at the challenges that will have to be overcome and the strategies employed to meet these demands.
Simply said, if your solution requires everyone’s participation in order to reach its intended goals then that empowerment needs to be universally accessible. This means it must be available locally, offered in a language common to that population, and within the financial means of all who wish to participate. Education on this scale has never been attempted in human history. The reason it is now even somewhat plausible is the recent development of the internet.
The use of the internet as a tool to deliver the education and skills-training required to sustainably manage our resources may ultimately be the single most significant contribution of this evolutionary medium. No other means has proved to be as efficient in providing access to knowledge from a cost/deliverables basis. This is particularly relevant to poorer/more isolated populations where cost and local availability are the defining factors in acquiring a quality learning experience. That being said the majority of these online education efforts currently available are for-profit and tend to focus on traditional curriculum that is supportive of conventional approaches to economic and social development. What is needed now is specific knowledge and training that directly addresses our need to re-establish a sustainable balance back to our environment.
A core curriculum focused on the universal challenges we all face and the new methods for addressing those issues is central to this process. These courses should be aimed at providing the knowledge and skills that relate to the new technologies, applications, and protocols for managing resources sustainably while increasing production.
These specific areas of focus are:
Programs and courses should be designed to introduce students to the transformational concepts and correct implementation steps required to counter our current non-sustainable trends. Each effort must be tailored to the age and perceptive limitations and education level they are meant to address (i.e.-children first learning to read, primary school students, college level students, existing work force).
There is no shortage of expertise and vision when it comes to addressing what needs to be done for humanity to mount an effective response to our current challenges. What is needed is a structure for that knowledge and those capabilities to reach people who currently lack access to that information and mentoring guidance.
Before you can walk you must first crawl. Many areas of the world lack the most basic education opportunities, or options are in such short supply that much of the population does not share in those benefits. This makes potential students and workers incapable of handling more complex concepts or instruction in advanced skills training. Even in nations and regions where there is adequate modern education available students are rarely taught the very basics of sustainable resource management or sustainable economics. So what we encounter are basically two similar but separate issues that relate to preparing our population for the task at hand. You must establish a strong base of general understanding before you introduce a student to more demanding instruction if they are going to be productive contributors.
For the developing world or in poorer regions where quality educational opportunities are sparse at best, you must provide access to basic education. This can be as rudimentary as offering classes and instruction in reading skills, math, and basic science. Thankfully much of that curriculum already exists online and it is just a matter of adding those courses/capabilities to your platform, translating those materials into local languages, and then developing a content delivery platform.
In more developed societies it is a matter of introducing the student to those concepts and ideas at an earlier stage of their education such that their transition to more complex concepts and materials follows a natural trajectory. For children learning to read, a series of children’s books with relatable characters teaching them the basic concepts of recycling, resource preservation, sustainable farming, how renewable energy is made and so forth would be appropriate. The characters in the books would have adventures and overcome challenges that relate to the issues of resource management and environmental stewardship introducing the child to these new ideas.
Primary school children could be taught the basic principles of sustainable growth and economic development through games designed to teach them all the basics of managing our planet as it relates to our large population. This process could be part of an academic competition. These “fun” competitions would introduce the student to new and emerging technologies, methodologies, protocols, and environmental/ infrastructure challenges, while tasking them with building virtual communities that foster expansion and economic growth without diminishing or damaging natural resources.
Although human beings all have the same essential needs, how we provide for those necessary goods and services vary radically depending on several factors. Pre-existing local infrastructure which provides electricity and fuel, delivers water, produces food, and manages sewage and waste can vary greatly from modern state-of-the-art engineering to non-existent depending on where you are. Environmental conditions impact rain and water availability, solar radiance, wind and seasonal weather patterns. Some environments are in the desert, others by the sea. Still others may be located near tropical rainforests while still more may be in the cold barren tundra. There are large sprawling metro-plexes, and remote rural villages. Certain areas are rich with natural wealth while others are barren and struggle with basic supportive resources. As a project developer you may be tasked with modifying that which is already in place, or planning, designing, and building from scratch. Each of these variances has a profound impact on the technologies, applications, and strategies you employ to establish a sustainable balance within that locality.
Any effective education and training platform must be flexible enough to allow for a customizable curriculum in order to adjust to these differences. As I like to say “You can’t use solar modules in a mine.” It is therefore a requirement that the lessons, courses, and materials offered match the needs and respond to the challenges defined by the region and locality to which those support services are offered.
Regional customs and societal norms can also vary greatly depending on where you are. This can impact every aspect as to how large infrastructure projects evolve. Financing, government involvement, and political influence all impact project viability. Additionally project structure, oversight, and development issues based on the maturity or limitations of the local supportive infrastructure all come into play. To this you can add the availability and variance of human resources. These can range from a well-educated and prepared workforce to a completely untrained and under-educated populace. Further refinement of the course materials needs to evolve to reflect these challenges and provide appropriate information and guidance. This way students are then properly prepared for the specific challenges they will face.
It is not enough to have a well-educated and skilled work force and soon-to-be graduating student population if there is no local or regional public support. Stakeholders within the community need to be educated such that they can actively engage with this process. Business must invest in and develop the right projects. Governments must enact the correct laws and legal guidelines. Social/religious/ community groups must encourage the necessary changes, while the general population needs to support those efforts. Any local or regional attempt to provide education and training must actively engage these stakeholders in the localities where these efforts are taking place in a strategy of continuous, extended out-reach. This is an essential element such that this transformational process is universally understood, the benefits clearly defined, and those efforts fully supported on a societal level.
I have always postulated that economic expansion must be directly linked to mitigating our global resource management challenges if we are ultimately going to re-establish a sustainable balance. The same is true for the education and skills training portion of that process. So a question I often hear is “How do you plan to pay for this enormous and expensive undertaking without the need for constant subsidy?” My answer is by directly linking the process of empowerment to the rebuilding and modernizing of our global infrastructure.
In order to supplant current non-sustainable systems we must create new platforms and models that allow for adaptation and expansion of advanced sustainable technologies and protocols. This cannot be accomplished if we continually rely on subsidy to fund those efforts. Failure to create this independent relationship will inevitably lead to a collapse of this change-over as our current global economic model is overtaxed. Financial resources would diminish as a consequence of the increased costs of basic necessities (food, water, energy) thus reducing (relatively) the money available for new projects and education efforts. This re-shifting of expenditures will ultimately undermine any chance we might have to finance the massive infrastructure changes and expanding empowerment efforts required to insure a healthy and vibrant future for our population.
Additionally, rebalancing resource management with consumption is not just a matter of knowing what needs to be done in a general sense. It is necessary to understand the tiered steps that build this process so it can be economically self-sustained and will grow of its own momentum without the need for constant injections of subsidy.
These are extremely complex concepts/equations that must be taught over time providing the correct building blocks in the proper order for this consciousness to become an accepted standard behavior for the general population. Our failure to accomplish this will mean we destroy the biodiversity of our planet, our core food and water support systems, and eventually and ourselves. This is the guaranteed, predictable, and unavoidable result of habitat destruction and resource depletion due to overpopulation, over consumption, and resource mismanagement.
To counter these trends we would need to establish a new system for providing education and training that reduces the need for public/government subsidized funding. Learning annexes and hands-on training sites would need to be an integral part of every profitable new sustainable infrastructure project you initiate. As the great majority of these core infrastructure projects are initiated, directed, or awarded by local and regional governments to private entities, governments could easily make education and training empowerment a necessary cost of doing business.
This is not a new concept. Corporations have always trained and mentored their workers or provided internships to potential employees. The only difference is this effort would make a wider range of subject materials and training options available on-site. Opportunities would not just be limited to workers and employees, but rather extended into the general community. This way, as you re-establish a sustainable balance within a community, town, city, or region through sustainable economic development and specific projects, you are at the same time training and educating that population to be a part of that support effort. This allows them to adjust and understand how they live in balance with their environment and resources, while providing the means by which they acquire the skills they need to man the jobs that will provide these solutions.
The key to corporate participation is that there are huge profits involved in these contracts and projects. In fact, this transition to a “more sustainable” infrastructure will be the largest redistribution and investment of wealth in human history. The days of governments handing out virtually unlimited opportunity and wealth to private corporations without the requirement of reciprocal responsibility must forever come to an end. These “responsibilities” must not be limited to just managing a resource or eliminating an environmental impact, but extended to the overall solution portion of the equation.
Additionally let’s not assume that there is no incentive here for corporations. This process of increasing the skill set, general knowledge, and productivity of their workforce and regional community will greatly increase their profitability. Efficiency, innovation, increased productivity and opportunity are the corner stones of healthy economic development. Smart, well trained people take advantage of opportunity and are more productive. Productive people have more wealth. Wealthy people spend more money.
By its very nature our education and training effort will need to expand to match the increases in our population and require constant reassessment and improvement to keep up with the advances and changes that will be guiding this process. The long term viability and health of that effort ultimately comes down to a philosophy and methodology as to how you pay for it.
All our efforts will fail unless we directly address the human element that inhibits our ability to collaborate. Nothing we teach or instill on a technical level will amount to anything unless we recognize the root causes of our current issues. Any global education effort must instill through persistent reminders and re-education why human frailties and our common competitive and antagonistic history have stood in the way of our ability to work together. This is a critical component for success and to bring necessary clarity and understanding to the participant as to why these aspects of human nature can ultimately destroy all our best intentions.
The key to all these education and training efforts being successful is a guiding methodology, coordination, and focus. It is in everyone’s common interest that we rebalance our resource management and become better stewards of our small planet. The quality and vibrancy of our lives, and surely that of our children will depend on our success. It is not enough for there to be effort and good will. This challenge requires common purpose and a collaborative mindset. We need universal involvement and well trained and skilled partners if we are to be successful.
– William Sosinsky
“There is an extreme need for a common platform through which sustainability education and training takes place. This becomes necessary as a means to speed up the efficiency and establish the focus that will counter the time element we are collectively up against.”
“There is no shortage of expertise and vision when it comes to addressing what needs to be done for humanity to mount an effective response to our current challenges. What is needed is a structure for that knowledge and those capabilities to reach people who currently lack access to that information and mentoring guidance.”
“You must establish a strong base of general understanding before you introduce a student to more demanding instruction if they are going to be productive contributors.”