Sustainable cities and communities

A scenario is presented, for describing the problem in Koh Pich a small island in Cambodia, where the Government in 2004 decided to remove from the island the 134 agricultural families aiming to transform the natural island to a free trade centre, attracting multinational companies to invest on it. The discussion of the scenario is based on issues like changing the use of land and the social, economic, ecological consequences of this change; the destruction of professional groups, the uprooting of populations, the disruption of social cohesion.

When the issue is discussed in depth, using various sources of information, the group is divided in small groups taking different roles:

Each group justifies its opinion and uses various resources of information to build their arguments. Role-play is expected to reveal all the different aspects of the issue, their consequences and impacts, aiming to reach a decision that will ensure the sustainability of the island and the population.

Energy inspectors: The energy consumption at the school is too high and students undertake an energy consumption campaign for reduction of energy in the school and community. They suggest and adopt specific measures for energy reduction and examine how their life style has been energy dependent and impacted negatively on the environment.

Scenario: Local authorities decide to turn a free space in a densely populated community (suffering from urbanization and a lack of green) into a trade centre instead of a community park. A role-play is organised based on this scenario. Different roles are identified as well as conflicting interests and opinions. Students are divided into groups with each group representing one role. The groups collect information in order to build arguments supporting their position. Act out the role-play and explore the issues from different perspectives. At the end of the play, show the problems and issues through a web or concept map so as to indicate their systemic and complex character. The role-play ends with specific decisions that are reviewed and discussed according to their impact on the community.

Conduct a field trip in the community to a protected area. With the use of various techniques (interviews with locals, narratives, observation of the landscape), students capture how the natural environment impacted the culture and identity of the locals. Discuss with locals the problems they are facing and how these affect the communities’ sustainability, as well as actions for their resilience and local sustainability. Students analyse the proposed actions considering specific criteria (e.g. easy to integrate, cost, short/long term implementation, benefits in social, economic, natural dimensions, resistance for their implementation etc.).

Having done so, they come up with an action plan for addressing the specific local issue and proceed to its implementation.

Organise a visit to industries that apply innovative technologies e.g. managing waste, saving energy/ water, creating green buildings and discuss with the scientists, producers, contractors how these technologies are designed and how they help cities become more sustainable.

Develop an inquiry-based project about sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation. Students work in groups to design innovative sustainable technologies and ideas in order to find solutions for unsustainable practices in the community.

Invite older persons to discuss with students about the changes in the local community over the years. Students prepare questions to collect information about their life in the community in the past, the changes in their community, their relationship with the land and other species etc. Students use also history, arts, literature to collect information about their community and city and its changes. Students prepare a display showing key changes and the implications of these changes on the environment.

Groups research the following issue: Citizens are paying taxes for house waste management but communities still do not have an organised waste management system. Open spaces in the community are used as landfills. Why does the problem exist? How does this impact the community life-quality? What hidden interests exist behind this issue What is the role of the local population? How can they react? Share findings.

Example 1

Conduct interviews with community members in need or visit isolated or remote areas to learn in situ the problems and difficulties they have. Produce a report of findings with specific measures that can be undertaken for more sustainable living. Ask the support of NGOs and other organizations for their implementation.

Example 2

Debate: Touristic Development Vs endangered species conservation. Students are divided into two groups: one group supporting touristic development of an area and the other group supporting halting touristic development for the protection of endangered species in the same area.

Groups collect data, explore various resources for justifying their position and try to address the issue from different points of view. It is important that the ideas that will be finally adopted take into consideration the fact that our quality of life and sustainable living not only depend on economic welfare, but also depend on living in harmony with other species.

Teachers, students and parents, conduct a field study in their community. Students and parents following different directions and using a map of the community, register on the map locations of practices in their community that impact on their quality of life. Returning to school, all the groups work together to compile in a bigger map, schemes, notes and drawings of the things they spotted in their area of investigation as unsustainable, justifying why they want to change them and how (proposals for changes and actions). Then they organise a discussion in the school inviting all the interested parties and community stakeholders. They present the results of their field work and their suggestions and ideas for actions and decide jointly on a long-term course of actions that will help their community become more sustainable.

Teacher and students choose an issue about their city and community that they consider unsustainable, e.g. waste management, or lack of green space in the community, or transportation systems’ problems… and organise a debate in the school, inviting local authorities and other stakeholders for the discussion. Based on the various views and opinions that the interested parties express, decide on specific actions that can be adopted to tackle the problem and set a step by step plan for their implementation as well as the responsibilities that each group of stakeholders will take.