Professor John Holmberg

The role of Universities in the transition towards sustainability

Two key words can be distinguished in the UN Post-2015 process: transformation and integration. Transformation, because marginal changes will not be enough in scale and in speed. Integration, since we can no longer work in silos with one issue at a time. The talk will be about the role of universities in dealing with these challenges. I will talk from three perspectives: my role as an expert in the Post-2015 process at the UN HQ; my role as rapporteur for higher education in the UNESCO’s world conference on ESD in Nagoya 2014; and my role as vice president of Chalmers University of Technology.

Professor Arjen Wals

Transformative Learning in Vital Coalitions for Socio-Ecological Sustainability 

Let us first recognize that a continuous and inevitable problem for both educators and policy-makers is that although we have quite a good sense of what is ‘unsustainable’, we have little certainty about what in the end will proof to be sustainable. Perhaps a key lesson from the UN DESD that ended in 2014 is that we have come to realise that sustainability as such is not a destiny or a way of behaving that can be transferred or trained but rather represents our capacity for critical thinking, reflexivity and transformation.  Our societies, including our schools and universities, by and large fail to develop this capacity and as a result replicate systems and lifestyles that are inherently unsustainable. One way out of this trap is the creation of spaces for so-called hybrid learning. Such learning refers to hybridized environments in which people are  learning in new and more meaningful ways (involving different societal groups, perspectives, etc.) in unconventional localities (often outside of institutional boundaries) focusing on everyday local issues that have global connections. Only then can we begin to engage in the sustainability challenges of our time (e.g. climate change, malnutrition, continued inequality, loss of food security and biodiversity). This ‘hybridization’ also calls for a culture that embraces the authenticity of multiple voices and cultural and theoretical perspectives, new forms of representation, and more change-oriented and community-based approaches. This perspective connects well with emergent forms of ICT-supported Citizen Science or Civic Science which emphasise the active involvement of citizens, young and old, in the monitoring of local socio-ecological issues by collecting real data and sharing those data with others doing the same elsewhere through social media and on-line platforms. The talk will highly critical perspectives, transitional learning, sense of place, agency and value-based change using exemplary cases to illustrate the transformative power of environmental and sustainability education.

Professor John Siraj-Blatchford

Early Childhood Care and Education for Sustainable Development (ECCESD)

Examples of Early Childhood Care and Education for Sustainable Development (ECCESD) from around the world will be presented as both a celebration, and as a challenge to educators who may often underestimate the capability of their students to reflect and take action upon the world in order to transform it. The need to consider progression in pedagogy at all levels of education will be highlighted. Integrated approaches to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) are increasingly being developed in response to a growing recognition of the potential of early childhood interventions in reducing poverty and countering inequality. Research evidence, and practical examples from initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and the Caribbean will be provided to show the considerable contribution that can be made by ECCESD. We know, we have all the evidence that we need to show that we ECCESD can make a difference yet tragically, through an accident of birth, crisis, or natural disaster, many children’s lives continue to be under threat of insecurity, disease or disadvantage.   The relevance of Amartyn Sen’s ‘capability’ centered approach to sustainable development is possibly clearer in the context of ECCE than anywhere else in education, this is an approach that  aims to “integrate the idea of sustainability with the perspective of freedom, so that we see human beings not merely as creatures who have needs but primarily as people whose freedoms really matter”.  ECCE begins at birth, and the educational provisions within ECCE are mostly inter-generational, informal, and/or non-formal in nature. It will be argued that ECCESD provides important opportunities for the development of more integrated approaches to ESD across the life course.

Pete Milne

Turning Waste into Treasure: A Child’s Perspective on Looking after Planet Earth

When we look at the world, we see such a huge divide between those who have practically nothing and those who have too much. In amongst all this is the issue of waste; not only the amount of waste created but the attitude that people have towards it. This presentation draws on personal experiences and case studies from very contrasting scenarios; from the dump sites in Jakarta to the rapidly expanding city of Dubai, and how waste is generated, perceived and managed. This leads onto the connections between these situations and how intrinsically linked they are to the Child’s Right to a Voice as well as the Right to a Healthy Environment, which, as of 2012, 177 of the world’s 193 UN member nations recognize through their constitution, environmental legislation, court decisions, or ratification of an international agreement. However, having a voice as a child and being listened to can only evolve through the opportunities in school and at home to learn and do something about environmental issues, such as waste impacts, as well as the ability and the motivation for adults and societies in general to teach and to listen. The integration of all these comes from a whole school community approach, from a personal to global perspective, so that children are able to understand that whatever we do has an impact on the one place we all call home: Planet Earth.

Mirian Vilela

The power of Dialogue, Visioning and Collaboration: an Earth Charter experience of Teaching and Learning

This presentation will look at the power of shared vision and dialogue to foster collaboration and sustainability, through the experience of the Earth Charter Initiative.

It will reflect on the importance of building a shared vision of common good that supersedes cultural differences and self-interest and the challenges for that. It will delve on the value of intergenerational, intercultural and multisectoral dialogue and collaboration as pedagogical instrument to move beyond the tension between diversity and unity and celebrate a sense of human family and Earth Community. The talk will reflect on how values based education programmes, informed by the Earth Charter, have helped learners to understand the systemic nature of the challenges and critical choices that humanity faces and appreciate the interconnections between them. And how it can also help the process of comprehending the meaning of sustainability and the values necessary for such awakening.


Professor Marianne Krasny

Can People and the Planet Develop Together?

For the majority of us around the world, any experiences we have with nature occur in cities. Does this mean that the richness of our life experiences is diminished? Are we victims of an “extinction of experience?” Drawing on work in civic ecology, and on my own experiences ranging from wilderness mountaineering instructor to visiting community gardens in New York, Soweto, and other cities around the world, I will attempt to answer—and to provoke a discussion—about questions related to extinction and richness of experience in today’s world. What is the “nature of our nature experiences” in an urbanizing world? Does our increasing ability to interact with individuals from a diversity of cultures in urban settings compensate for any diminished wilderness experiences? In short, in 15 minutes, I will attempt to answer in the context of today’s experiences:  How Can the People and the Planet Develop Together?

For a preview of the presentation (including me falling into a crevasse), see


Panel Discussion

The Global Action Programme on ESD – Global, Regional and National Perspectives

“Everything you’d wish to know about the GAP but were reluctant to ask!”

The Global Action Programme on ESD (GAP) – under the auspices of UNESCO – was launched at the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in Nagoya, Japan (November 2014). This plenary session will introduce the GAP’s main features. Representatives of significant international organizations (UNESCO and UNU-IAS), geographic regions (Southern Africa Development Community) and countries (Zimbabwe, Mongolia and Sweden) will give examples of how they are organizing themselves when implementing the GAP, while securing participation and involvement of a great variety of stakeholders.

Moderator: David O. Kronlid, Research leader SWEDESD, Sweden


Alexander Leicht, Chief, Section of Education for Sustainable Development, UNESCO – The GAP, what is it and where it is now?

Zinaida Fadeeva, Dr. and Senior Specialist, Strategy and Policy for the ESD Programme United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) – Global Strategies for implementing GAP – What can universities and RCEs do with and for the GAP?

Sylvia Utete, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Zimbabwe – What can countries do for implementing the GAP? The case of Southern Africa.

Ms URANCHIMEG Tserendorj, senior officer, Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism of Mongolia, – What can countries do for implementing the GAP? The case of Mongolia.

Lisa Emelia Svensson, Dr and Ambassador for Ocean and Seas, Sweden – What is Sweden doing for and with the GAP?


Organizers: Ministry of the Environment and Energy, Sida, Swedish National Commission for UNESCO, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, SWEDESD, WWF Sweden, UHR/The Global School


Professor Victoria Wyszynski Thoresen

Moving into higher gear - Expanding Environment and Sustainability in Education using a Lifestyle Approach

This year new roadmaps, plans and targets for mainstreaming and upscaling environmental and sustainability education have been adopted by the international community in an effort to hasten the emergence of a new lifestyle paradigm. This paradigm is based on the principles of connectivity, adaptation and moderation. It redefines the concepts of “development, growth and prosperity” in the context of mutual interdependences and a clearer realization of the finiteness of natural resources. How we understand this new paradigm is fundamental to the next stages in the evolution of ESD and to the urgent processes of protecting people and planet from further heartache and destruction. It is also central to the manner in which we implement international commitments on climate change education (cfr: Ministerial Declaration on Education and Awareness-raising), on education for sustainable development (UNESCO’s Global Action Programme on ESD; the Global 10-Year Framework of Programs on Sustainable Consumption and Production) and the Post-2015 Agenda (Sustainable Development Goals and quality education for all).

“We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it.“ (Shoghi Effendi)



Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka

‘With people and planet in mind’ - Expanding human activity for sustainability and equity through transgressive learning and social change

Reviewing possibilities for expanding human activity and knowledge for sustainability and equity, there is a need to upscale our criticality and our thinking and research focusing on learning and learning praxis, and to pursue a form of transgressive learning that substantively challenges the status quo. Such learning must actively seek out individual and collective forms of agency for social change and sustainability on a shared Planet Earth. Drawing on experience and cases from the Global South, shows that this is not only a desire, but also a natural necessity for the world’s majority people, those who have been structurally marginalized and oppressed for centuries through a variety of persistent mechanisms. The call for transgressive learning is also a call for agency from below and more robust forms of social change thinking and theorizing. This call infuses contemporary forms of environmental education - oftentimes also named ESD (but not without persistent contestation) - in the Global South and elsewhere as global capitalist systems continue to fail the poor and marginalised, and begin to fail even the traditional middle classes of the past century.


Panel Discussion

A Decade has ended. What was planted? What still needs planting and cultivating? And what may need uprooting?

The end of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014) marks the beginning of the Global Action Programme on ESD, endorsed by UNESCO Member States and acknowledged by the UN General Assembly as follow up to the DESD. In this WEEC2015 closing plenary panel five key figures in ESD and EE discuss the achievements, shortcomings and next steps for ESD and its older cousin EE. Alexander Leicht (Chief of UNESCO’s ESD section), Mahesh Pradhan (Chief of UNEP’s EE and Training Unit) Judy Braus (President of NAAEE), Kartikeya Sarabhai (Director of CEE, India), Oluwafunmilayo Oyatogun (from Bailiff Africa, Nigeria) and Ingrid Moum Rieser (Swedish Youth Representative at the DESD conference in Nagoya) will each provide a short commentary after which a discussion will be moderated by Frans Lenglet (Former Director of SWEDESD) who will also bring in the audience. What will be needed to create a genuine transformation of education, governance and economy towards healthier, more equitable, ecologically mindful, meaningful and just lifestyles? Where do the panel members see the niches that signify such a transformation and how can they be strengthened through education, teaching, learning and new forms of inquiry and research that bridge theory and practice? The discussion will be informed by the key outcomes of the 11 thematic areas of the conference.

Moderator: Frans Lenglet, Former Director of SWEDESD


Alexander Leicht, Chief, Section of Education for Sustainable Development, UNESCO

Mahesh Pradhan, Chief of UNEP’s Environmental Education and Training Unit (EETU)

Judy Braus, President of NAAEE

Kartikeya Sarabhai, Director of CEE, India

Oluwafunmilayo Oyatogun, from Bailiff Africa, Nigeria

Ingrid Moum Rieser, Swedish Youth Representative at the DESD conference in Nagoya