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Paul Padgett, John H. Environmental Impact Assessment Review.
Classroom Uses of Footprints The teaching moments afforded by footprint calculators are many and may be found in courses across the disciplines: Making the invisible visible. Much of our consumption and its many environmental impacts are not immediately obvious since they are obscured by our limited knowledge of any number of complex extraction and production processes.
Ecological footprints encourage investigation and discussion of these processes and thus afford many opportunities to consider more fully human impacts on the natural world.
Footprint calculations can give us a window into the ecological processes on which our ways of life depend, and thus provide occasions to discuss natural resource and waste management, particularly resource depletion, renewal, and toxification.
Examining any ecological footprint will inevitably lead to investigations of the development of social systems — political, economic, and cultural — that shape human consumption and production. This will give students chances to achieve greater social literacy by learning such things as population demographics, consumption trends, economic development writing a report on sustainability conference, and policy priorities, just to name a few.
Ecological footprint calculators provide a unique feedback mechanism to students about the impacts of their consumption and the lifestyle associated with it.
These highly personal choices — from diet to energy use — can be emotionally loaded and thus difficult to discuss. But when done tactfully, discussion of personal consumption can yield profound learning moments and new intellectual inquiry for the future.
Among the most interesting questions is to what extent individual or household consumption can help solve problems such as climate change, something Vanderbilt researchers, Amanda Carrico, Mike Vandenbergh, and Jonathan Gilligan have researched with Paul Stern, Gerald Gardner and Thomas Dietz.
Key Lessons for Implementing the Behavioral Wedge. As footprint calculations are conducted over time, we may have more accurate assessments of cumulative impacts and thus have a clearer sense of how human society has shaped the natural world, and vice versa.
Footprint calculations compared over individuals, groups, or entire nations can provide a basis for wide-ranging discussions of inequality in resource use and waste, as well as the cultural, political, and economic systems that structure them.
More precise ecological accounting inevitably leads to discussions of different regimes of resource management, and thus offers opportunities to debate environmental policy at the local, national, or global level.
Further, because ecological footprints can suggest multiple and highly different models of achieving sustainability, they may foster discussion about a wide range of environmental policies. Ecological footprint discussions often lead to broad yet urgent student questions about how to define and construct a sustainable society.
These are among the most difficult questions to answer because they are weighted with many complexities, uncertainties, and moral quandaries. Yet, such questions can provide openings for fruitful discussions of ways students may engage in new areas of research, policy, and leadership.
Limitations of Footprints Footprint calculators are not without their limitations, however. Even so, the limitations of footprint calculators below afford their own teaching moments. Carbon Calculators involve many data points and complex calculations.
To make them accessible to a wide audience, they often simplify the results and fail to disclose some of the methods or data sources involved.
This can limit the educational potential of the calculators. Therefore, it is important to understand the methods behind the calculations and make this part of the teaching process. Some calculators are better than others. Some use too few or unreliable sources of data, while others do not.
Therefore it is important to know the sources and methods of footprint calculations and to encourage students to think critically about them. Carbon footprint calculations can provide useful measures of carbon emissions, but their relevance is always dependent upon the teaching context.
Thus it is important for educators to use them well and to contextualize their use within specific learning goals of the course and broader disciplinary orientations towards questions of sustainability.
Many students may regard footprint calculations skeptically for a variety of reasons: However, a critical, comprehensive, and not selective skepticism is something to be encouraged in students, and these reactions present teaching moments about the challenges of critical thinking and of the difficult choices posed by global environmental problems.
Ecological Footprints Resources The Global Footprint Network supports the shift towards a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a measurement and management tool that makes the reality of global limits central to decision-making. Ecological footprint projects can be an effective way to get students thinking about how sustainability intersects with their lives.
This is represented in the pie chart below: A broad and multifaceted program, SERC is home to various resources and links that may be of use, including the Climate Literacy Networkthe Pedagogy in Action websiteand Teaching the Earthamong other valuable sites.Sustainability is the process of maintaining change in a balanced fashion, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, Brundtland Report for the World Commission on Environment and Development () introduced the term of sustainable development.
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