Can you imagine a sustainable future? What would it look like? And how do we get


To get to a sustainable world, we first need to be able to imagine it. However,

many (young) people find it difficult to imagine anything but dystopian images of the

world ravaged by climate change and ecological destruction. Not surprising perhaps,

if we follow the news, or see the latest IPCC report. However, imagination is a skill

that we can learn. Wouldn’t it be powerful if teachers teach both the scientific facts

about the climate crisis, as well as the skills to envision and create a future that we

DO want to live in? In this blog I would like to share some thoughts and practical tips.

Competencies for Sustainable Development

As part of my sabbatical journey in search for sustainability education in Europe, I

was lucky enough to teach the international group of teachers and teachers to be,

who are studying Education for Diversity and Sustainable Living at INN Hamar,

Norway. Part of the programme were the competencies needed to create a

sustainable society, and indeed future. Lazano et al. (2017) identifies a range of

these competencies, one of which is “Anticipatory thinking: Envisioning, analysis and

evaluation of possible futures including scenarios with multi-generational

timescales.” The article outlines a framework on pedagogies best suited to teach

these skills. Useful, as it is not something I am trained to do, nor do I think are most

teachers. It was exciting to explore this with a group of (trainee) teachers; it made us

realise the potential impact we can make when we use this.

Practical Tools for Teaching Imagination Skills

75% of young people experience eco-anxiety. They suffer from worries about the

future. As a teacher I want to create a space in school where these feelings can be

shared, and at the same time teach skills to envision a more hopeful scenario. Two

practical methods I learned from Wouter Buursma, coordinator of the project

Transformation through Imagination (TTI) at Stichting Technotrend, that help do this


The Polak Game: a participatory approach that facilitates the discusion of the

following questions; are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future, and

secondly, do you feel you have influence on the outcome of the future?

figure 3. Quadrats in the Polak game

A Letter from the Future: a reflective activity that helps students imagine a

possible future and personal actions that could lead there.

What I like about these strategies is that they make us realise how we think about

the future and help us imagine a future we would like to live in. Moreover they help

identify the actions we can take to get there. As for the social emotional aspect of

teaching about the climate crisis; these are ways to create a space to talk about how

it affects us.

Wieneke Maris, October 2022


Lozano. R, et. al. (2017) Connecting Competences and Pedagogical Approaches for

Sustainable Development in Higher Education: A Literature Review and Framework

Proposal. Sustainability 9(10), 1889.

Hickman. C, et. al. (2021) Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs

about government responses to climate change: A global survey

The Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 5, (12), e863 – e873.