Teaching Sustainability In An Unsustainable World
It's a professorial paradox to be sure. Naturally, there's a lot of ground to cover. To be "sustainable" is to possess the capacity to endure. Sort of broad-sounding, no? For clarity, if we look to the secondary definition of the term, Wiktionary lists the meaning as "able to be sustained for an indefinite period without damaging the environment, or without depleting a resource; renewable."
This modern definition of the term certainly narrows things down for us, yet 'sustainability' remains a dense subject matter. And a sticky one. When talking about issues related to the topics of energy, environment and economy, there are many differing viewpoints out there. For the topic of energy in particular, unraveling the knot of policy roadblocks, technological limitations, and environmental issues only complicates things further. In today's hyper-polarized media climate, sorting out the issues– and deciding where you stand– is a challenge for most people.
And if sustainability is hard to learn about, just imagine what it's like to teach people– young people, at that– how to better understand and develop a sustainable economic infrastructure in world with so many highly unsustainable systems in place. How do you tell them what they need to know when so much of the information that contextualizes each issue is either inaccessibly technical or under-informed and biased?
One man is offering solutions, and Beyond the Light Switch is helping to animate his commendable efforts in public education. Professor Greg Möller, Ph.D. teaches a course called Principals of Sustainability at the University of Idaho, and he's using footage from Beyond the Light Switch to help disseminate information on sustainable energy use. Dr. Möller's using what he calls "an experimental pedagogy" and incorporating new technologies in order to teach his students about what it's going to take in order to turn our current energy economy into something that's sustainable on a global scale.
To that end, Dr. Möller has created a 10-chapter, multi-part series of 'doculectures' on all things related to sustainability– everything from waste management to electric generation. Anything that can and should be made sustainable, really. The series is still a work in progress, with the doculecture chapters falling under the umbrella of Dr. Möller's online course. Each doculecture is available for viewing on Vimeo now.
For Chapter 6 in his series, titled Energy Sustainability, Dr. Möller drew upon footage from BTLS to help put our current use of fossil fuels, alternative energies, and the power grid into perspective for his students. BTLS and the Braintrust are incredibly pleased to be part of a growing curriculum committed to energy education. Here are some additional doculectures from the series that Dr. Möller picked out as especially interesting to fans and followers of Beyond the Light Switch:
Fossil Fuels: Coal (19-min)– As the first in the fossil fuels segment of Sustainable Energy, this film contains a short overview of fossil fuels. Some dramatic footage especially the nighttime time-lapse of coal plant exhaust. Focus is on balance in socioeconomic impact and energy transitions.
Fossil Fuels: Natural Gas (20-min)– Less dramatic than coal and a little more upbeat (like the industry). The Center for Liquefied Natural Gas and Seimens AG have been very helpful in providing access to their corporate media vaults. Will deal with the growing concerns about Marcellus shale drilling in a related case study.
E-Waste (23-min)– Intense footage coupled with e-trade facts that document mortality and morbidity statistics, and global dynamics. Of particular note are the two historical archive photos that document the inception of the Environmental Justice Movement in Warren County, NC, where the photographer donated the publication rights for $1.
The Urbanization of Poverty and Slums: Challenges for Sustainability (22-min)– The world’s future is an urban future. The socioeconomic imbalances created by rural to urban migration are growing worldwide. Some eye opening facts and sad images in this production. Several collaborating international filmmakers helped with this segment.
Once the first part of the series is completed, Dr. Möller also plans to release the doculectures for web and mobile download. For more information and to watch the completed doculecture videos, click here. Many thanks to Professor Möller for including BTLS in his forward-thinking classroom (nay, any room) experience. The Vimeo group for BTLS can be found here.