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The Sustainable practitioner A workshop for STEM subjects on Sustainable Development The Higher Education Academy Session 3: STEM and ESD
Introduction • Having set the context of Sustainable Development generally, we now consider the specific relevance to STEM • As already seen, many of the topics and issues that Sustainable Development encompasses are applicable to – or are examples of applications of – STEM disciplines
STEM disciplines • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics encompass a wide range of pure and applied sciences and technology • When considering Sustainable Development these can have a number of applications and implications • STEM disciplines such as Agriculture; Biological Sciences; Built Environment; Computing; Engineering; Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences; Materials; Maths, Stats and OR; Physical Sciences and Psychology
The main categorisations can be considered as the following 3 ways • Identifying Problems • Causing Problems • Solving Problems • Whilst an activity/discipline may cause some problems, it may alleviate others. Computer Science is a good example – whilst Information Technology is estimated to be responsible for 2% of carbon emissions (currently), it also offers the potential to reduce the other 98% through the improvements it can bring to other aspects of human activity.
Identifying and measuring potential problems • How could and what problems may your disciplines identify that are relevant to Sustainable Development? • This is particularly the case for sciences such as agriculture, biological sciences and the geography, earth and environmental sciences where environmental concerns related to sustainable development may be apparent
Identifying and measuring potential problems • Sustainable Development raises issues around the strength of evidence alongside questions of interpreting data • These topics relate to some of the controversy around the case for – and against – global warming and climate change for example • It could also include other sciences and subjects that identify potential problems through modelling – for example financial forecasts from mathematical models, or environmental changes caused by changes in the Sun that could come from physics models
Causing problems and issues • What problems could your disciplines create that are related to Sustainable Development? • With the need to instil in students an appreciation of the wider impact of their subjects, it can be appropriate to discuss STEM disciplines as causes of problems
Causing problems and issues • Large scale chemical processes, nuclear power or the waste created from engineering and computing are all good sources for contentious and challenging discussions around the costs (financial and environmental) of science and engineering • There are also implications for society in terms of social structures and equality of access • STEM disciplines also provide good case studies for students to explore and discuss these ethical dilemmas and issues
Solving problems • Having considered examples where STEM can identify issues, or indeed may cause them, the final categorisation is where STEM disciplines can help to ameliorate or solve problems, or offer new sustainable opportunities • What solutions to your disciplines offer to Sustainable Development related problems?
Solving problems • There are numerous examples with • New crops to aid food shortages (agriculture, biology and geography) • New technologies to deal with modern life (physics, chemistry, Computer Science, built environment, engineering) • New approaches and models (mathematics, psychology)
Relevance of STEM subjects to SD Identify where your discipline would fit on this diagram – it could be in several places
Relevance to SD • Try scoring your own discipline in terms of the relevance to Sustainable Development on the following criteria. • Score in the range 0-4, where 0 is no relevance and 4 is highly relevant. • Your discipline helps in identifying and measuring potential problems • Your discipline could be responsible for causing problems and negative issues • Your discipline can offer solutions to problems of concern to sustainability
Topics that are relevant to STEM and SD • Scientific: using science responsibly • Environmental • Climate Change: evidence of, issues around, man-made versus natural; • Carbon management: engineering, chemistry; physics • Energy usage: reducing or increasing consumption (e.g. engineering, computing) • Consumption: materials (engineering, computer science, chemistry, materials) and food (biology, agriculture)
Topics that are relevant to STEM and SD • Social • fair societies; digital divide; technology barriers (CS, psychology) • New urban communities: (built environment, geography, psychology) • Governance • E-government (CS, engineering) • Economic • Sustainable financial models (mathematics) • New technologies (engineering, CS)
Sustainable Cities • Of growing interest and importance • Of relevance to all STEM disciplines – potential application of each discipline in providing solutions to the problems envisaged in new urban environments • Of direct relevance to the built environment subject. Other examples are the needs for new agricultural models (urban plots); dealing with the psychology of urban living; developing IT and other infrastructure to support urban life (Computer Science, Engineering) • The needs to deal with waste (chemistry and biology adaptions)
UN topics for ESD • The following topics from the United Nations fit into many aspects of the STEM subjects: • Biodiversity; • climate change; • cultural diversity; • disaster risk reduction; • poverty reduction; • health promotion; • peace and human security; • water; • sustainable urbanisation
Accreditation • Most STEM subjects have professional or industrial accrediting bodies, perhaps a Royal Society, a industrial skills council or another professional society or institute • Regardless of whether your particular programmes are accredited, for graduates being able to work towards recognition is likely to require some evidence of professional awareness and consideration of the LSEP categories and issues, namely • Legal • Social • Ethical • Professional • Whilst these topics are considered in more detail in another session, this can be an opportunity and a motivation to include Sustainable Development topics within the curriculum
Ethics and morality • STEM disciplines will be expected to address ethical issues within their teaching, and for students to establish an understanding of ethical, moral and professional behaviours • The examples considered in this session demonstrate a number of opportunities to use case studies and examples to explore ethical and moral dimensions around the different disciplines.
Session Summary • From the discussions and examples above we have seen how STEM fits with many of the topics and concerns of Sustainable Development