SCC Webinar

The UN Global Action Programme and Other Gaps: Why Sustainable Well-being Societies Are Not Ubiquitous Today

Monday, June 4
2:00 pm (Eastern US)

Harold M. Glasser
Professor, Environmental and Sustainability Studies
Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
Western Michigan University


We live in a time of extraordinary opportunity, which is also laden with turbulence and peril. While several recent and highly popular accounts of human progress present confident, optimistic pictures of the future, there are also contrary accounts that view reductions in poverty, malnutrition, and violence and improvements in life expectancy, sanitation, and standard of living as coming at great cost — and risk — to the planet’s biophysical and sociocultural support systems. In this webinar, I explore UNESCO’s follow on strategy to the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2004 – 2014), the Global Action Programme. I consider if it is both up to the task of recent calls by the UN and UNESCO for “transformative change” and radical enough to meet the educational responsibilities associated with implementing the ambitious UN SDGs. By asking big questions, such as “Why sustainable well-being societies are not ubiquitous today?” and by taking an exploratory approach to learning how to change by learning about learning — one that considers both the metaphors that guide economically advantaged societies and the possibility of re-imagining formal education — I outline three fundamental learning failures and strategies to address them.

Harold Glasser is professor of Environmental and Sustainability Studies and founding Executive Director of Western Michigan University’s (WMU) nationally recognized Office for Sustainability (2010-2018). He currently co-leads an international project on Core Competencies in Learning for Sustainability and recently completed work on the Finnish Innovation Fund’s (Sitra) project on the learning foundations of sustainable well-being societies. He was instrumental in creating and directing the first United Nations University Regional Center of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development in the US (Grand Rapids), served as a Resource Person for United Nations University’s Institute of Advanced Study’s Education for Sustainable Development Program, and is a Senior Fellow at the University Leaders for a Sustainable Future. Glasser has been an editorial board member of several leading sustainability journals and is currently on the editorial board of Sustainability: The Journal of Record. He has lectured in Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan, the U.K., and throughout the U.S.

Glasser’s research focuses on improving well-being for all equitably, while reducing the draw on natural, human, and social capital (one-planet living). He takes a transdisciplinary and experimental, “strategic muddling” approach to address this ill-defined, interconnected challenge with no endpoint—what is often referred to as a “wicked” problem. He centers on identifying root causes, critical intersections and tradeoffs, safe boundaries, and key leverage points to design broad heuristics for guiding transformational change. Three big goals guide his research: (1) to understand the deep-rooted and interrelated evolutionary, behavioral economic, neurobiological, technological, educational, and cultural origins, drivers, and consequences of global unsustainability; (2) to reimagine prosperity by using insights from (1) to design high-leverage, replicable interventions that can assist schools, communities, businesses, NGOs, and governments in their efforts to create transformational change and build sustainable well-being equitably through “doing well by doing good,” “doing more with less,” and “doing better with less;” and (3) to rapidly prototype, field-test, evaluate, and—if appropriate—help scale-up these interventions (curriculum, accounting and evaluation systems, social innovations, games, products, policies, and demonstration projects).

Video recording available at: <https://youtu.be/EIgltgeQ7pM>

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