Blog 3 Can we imagine a Sustainable Future?
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. doi.org/10.3390/su9101889
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.