Harmony and Wellbeing

Social Justice & Equity

→ Watch TED Talk - Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe

What makes a great leader? Management theorist Simon Sinek suggests, it's someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws staffers into a circle of trust. But creating trust and safety - especially in an uneven economy - means taking on big responsibility.

→ Class discussion

  • What’s the difference between an authority figure and a leader?
  • Is one more effective than the other?
  • How do we respond differently to each?

→ Watch Lisa Kristine: Photos that bear witness to modern slavery

For the past two years, photographer Lisa Kristine has travelled the world, documenting the unbearably harsh realities of modern-day slavery. She shares hauntingly beautiful images -- miners in the Congo, bricklayers in Nepal -- illuminating the plight of the 27 million souls enslaved worldwide.  Lisa Kristine uses photography to expose deeply human stories

→ Class discussion

  • How did seeing Lisa Kristine’s speech make you feel? Discuss in groups and/or ask students to write a reflective piece capturing their thoughts. Consider answering simple questions such as: Were you aware that slavery still existed? What do you think can be done about this situation?
  • The video will leave many with a feeling of incredulousness. Discuss what may have been a better way to end the video or another way to get the message across. What alternative media could be used to raise awareness?

→ Watch Itay Talgam: Lead like the great conductors

An orchestra conductor faces the ultimate leadership challenge: creating perfect harmony without saying a word. In this charming talk, Itay Talgam demonstrates the unique styles of six great 20th-century conductors, illustrating crucial lessons for all leaders.

→ Class discussion

  • What did you think of Itay Talgam’s presentation?
  • Who are other leaders, famous, infamous, or perhaps only known to a few that have impacted audiences with no words?
  • What are creative ways we can lead without speaking?

→ Gamification

This exercise will help students put the aforementioned discussions into practice - applying leadership techniques through an open presentation style.

In groups, ask the students to choose a topic of social injustice (these can be suggested by the teacher or students can think of one that is of interest), ask them to choose a type of audience that they will be speaking to (are these victims, local community members, seniors, students etc.?), then ask them to brainstorm creative ways they could engage with this audience about the topic they have chosen. Students can then demonstrate or simply speak about ways they can engage with an audience to stimulate movement, shift behaviours or create social change.


→ Watch Rishi Manchanda: What makes us get sick? Look upstream

Rishi Manchanda has worked as a doctor in South Central Los Angeles for a decade, where he’s come to realize: His job isn’t just about treating a patient’s symptoms, but about getting to the root cause of what is making them ill—the “upstream" factors like a poor diet, a stressful job, a lack of fresh air. It’s a powerful call for doctors to pay attention to a patient's life outside the exam room.

→ Class discussion

  • In what ways do where we live and work effect our health?
  • What are some of the ways we can monitor our living environments and their physical and psychological effects they can have on our wellbeing?

→ Read UNESCO: The New Public Health

This module provides an overview of the holistic nature of health and the New Public Health movement. It also provides examples of the ways in which health can be taught as a cross-curricular theme through a focus on health education as a process of achieving the goals of healthy people, healthy communities and healthy natural environments.

→ Assessment quiz

Ask students to look at the image and information given about this farm. Ask students to answer the below questions:

  • Name five social and environmental problems on the farm
  • Identify how these problems might effect the health of the family
  • Recommend one action that could be taken to prevent or fix each of these health problems

Further information about this activity can be found here.

Human Rights

→ Watch Mary Robinson: Why climate change is a threat to human rights

Climate change is unfair. While rich countries can fight against rising oceans and dying farm fields, poor people around the world are already having their lives upended — and their human rights threatened — by killer storms, starvation and the loss of their own lands. Mary Robinson asks us to join the movement for worldwide climate justice.

→ Class discussion

  • Based on Mary Robinson’s presentation, Why are human rights relevant to climate change?
  • Which human rights are affected by climate change?
  • Should climate change policies incorporate human rights principles?

→ Gamification 

Based on Mary Robinson’s presentation Calculate your personal CO2 production at the website for Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

Once everyone has calculated their number, ask students to order themselves in a line from the highest to lowest number. Discuss the contrasts in lifestyle between the higher numbers and the lower numbers, what are the key differences? Are the results surprising.

Animal Rights

→ Watch   Kate Cooper: Compassion in World Farming:  The Secrets of Food Marketing

Think you aren't being fooled by advertising tricks?   Take a look at the marketing strategies outlined in this video that are used within the food industry.

→ Class discussion

  • Have students discuss the effect the video has had on them. Discuss the creation of videos of this sort as a marketing campaign, is it effective?  Why?  Why not?
  • Discuss the potential impact (both positive and negative) of the video
  • Discuss the ethical issues raised within the video, and of the video itself

→ Practical activity

Following Kate Cooper’s talk,  ask students to get into groups and have them propose alternative marketing strategies, or suggest ways to improve the current strategy.

→ Watch Chris Jordan - MIDWAY

Please be aware that the content of this video can be quite disturbing for some viewers, but also understand it is an issue that needs to be communicated and not ignored.

The MIDWAY media project is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, the film crew is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as the guide, they walk you through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy-and our own complicity-head on. And in this process, they find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understanding.

→ Class discussion

  • What effect did the video have on the students?
  • Has it prompted them to take action? Does it have the opposite effect?

→  Assessment task

Following Chris Jordan’s visual presentations, ask students to propose an action plan with ideas to address the growing sea of plastic waste. Plan must include identifying key stakeholders as well as who is responsible.

→ Watch NOVA's Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers - Being with Jane Goodall

Dr Jane Goodall opens her heart to animals and tells us why we should, too.

→ Class discussion

  • Ask the students to reflect on how the video made them feel
  • Explore the notions of ethics and morals, and how they may impact their professional and personal choices in life

→ Gamificaiton 

Ask student to participate in a role-play game. This involves students breaking into groups of 5. Each student in the group takes on a different character in the animal rights debate: for example, the activist, the agriculturalist, the scientist, the public and the animal. Students would need to research their role in order to appropriately play the character they are assigned, then as a group they present their perspective on whether animals should be better protected to the class.

→ Debate

What are the advantages/disadvantages of Dr Goodall's approach to scientific animal observations?  Issues such as empathy, objectivity, subjectivity, conservation, generating interest within the non-scientific population, ethics could all be explored.

Cultural Diversity

→ Listen to ABC Radio National Breakfast Show with Fran Kelly’s interview with Wade Davis – Loss of Language and Cultural Diversity

→ Class discussion

  • What will happen if we lose indigenous societies across the world and everything that is part of them including, languages and cultures?
  • What are some of the ways we can support waning cultures and enhance the diversity of our human race?

→ Watch Vernā Myers: How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them

Our biases can be dangerous, even deadly — as we've seen in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in Staten Island, New York. Diversity advocate Vernā Myers looks closely at some of the subconscious attitudes we hold toward out-groups. She makes a plea to all people: Acknowledge your biases. Then move toward, not away from, the groups that make you uncomfortable. In a funny, impassioned, important talk, she shows us how.

→ Class discussion

  • Do you agree we all hold cultural biases, some we are aware of and some we are not aware of?
  • In what ways can pre-determined biases affect the workplace, school, home, sport teams etc?

→ Online activity

Ask students to take the Implicit Association Test. Ask them to take down notes, results that surprised them, results they didn’t agree with, how they felt after taking the test. Students don’t have share their results but may like to discuss what they thought of the questions themselves.

→ Watch Rick Guidotti: From stigma to supermodel

Rick Guidotti is a fashion photographer with a passion project: finding and sharing the beauty of kids with albinism and other conditions that affect their physical appearance — and the way society treats them. At TEDxPhoenix, he shares some of their stories and the empowering effects of a little glamour as he redefines their beauty in a flash.

→ Class discussion

  • Breaking down barriers of what defines beauty, intelligence, creativity, strength, and many other objective concepts. Explore also the disabling prejudices including, age, race, gender, sexual orientation etc. Where have you seen this being challenged? How has this been received? Can you think of ways you’ve seen this in practice, either mainstream media or within your local community?

→ Assessment task

What are some other creative ways that we can capture diversity visually, voices, music, through taste, that can shed light on the beauty and necessity of diversity across cultures.


→ Watch Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money and love

What do you think of people in poverty? Maybe what Jessica Jackley once did: "they" need "our" help, in the form of a few coins in a jar. The co-founder of talks about how her attitude changed — and how her work with micro-loans has brought new power to people who live on a few dollars a day.

→ Class discussion

  • What are your thoughts on Jessica’s feeling of donating a few coins “paying your way” to get on with the rest of your day without feeling guilty? Can you relate? How can we change this mindset?
  • What is your definition of poor?
  • Why is it important to shift our perspective on what we identify as “poor”?
  • What do you think about the power of the story and its relationship with poverty?

→ Assessment task

Ask students to create another micro innovation - whether that be financial, food, clothing, shelter, based on similar principles as Jessica’s business - Kiva. Have students present their ideas to the class.

Watch → Richard Wilkinson: How economic inequality harms societies

We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.

→ Class discussion

  • What does Richard Wilkinson suggest will happen if if we widen the differences, or compress them, make the income differences bigger or smaller?
  • What is bonus income culture? Discuss the impacts of this
  • Wilkinson ends his presentation with a solution to the income gap by suggesting we assess “post-tax things and the pre-tax things.” Discuss what this means and what this might look like

→ Practical activity

Ask students to look at this map of Australia and scale of income it demonstrates. As a class, analyse the scale and discuss why people in certain areas are earning more than others. Discuss how big the differences are and why this might be the case.

Food Security

→ Read 'The price of climate change: How to temper volatile food prices' featured in RTCC, authored by John Parnell

In this article, issues concerning food security and what impacts on food security are addressed, as well as suggestions on how to improve the availability of food for all now and into the future. The video embedded in the article, 'How to feed the world in 2050', was developed by the Commission of Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change and provides an overview of current and future trends with regards to climate change.

→ Class discussion

  • Discuss in groups the take away message of the article and present their findings
  • What are some of the ways we can improve the availability of food for now and the future

→ Practical activity

Develop a communications strategy on engaging the local farmers with this initiative, and ways they can contribute.

→ Debate

Debate the place that technology and genetically modified organisms have in securing food for the world.

→ Watch How we can eat our landscapes - Pam Warhurst

What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humour, Pam Warhurst tells at the TEDSalon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community. Pam Warhurst cofounded Incredible Edible, an initiative in Todmorden, England dedicated to growing food locally by planting on unused land throughout the community.

→ Class discussion

  • Discuss how this initiative could affect local stores, their livelihood/sustainability, and how you could circumvent these issues

→ Practical activity

In groups, identify appropriate land within the area and develop an implementation plan incorporating the three 'plates'.

→ Debate

Debate how this initiative could affect local stores, their livelihood/sustainability, and how you could circumvent these issues.


→ Watch Yves Morieux: How too many rules at work keep you from getting things done

Modern work — from waiting tables to crunching numbers to designing products — is about solving brand-new problems every day, flexibly and collaboratively. But as Yves Morieux shows in this insightful talk, too often, an overload of rules, processes and metrics keeps us from doing our best work together. Meet the new frontier of productivity: cooperation.

→ Class discussion

  • What is the definition cooperation?
  • What does accountability mean for a team environment?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities associated with cooperation at any level?

→ Debate

Yves Morieux says “To cooperate is to take a risk. It is to make a super difference in the performance of others, with whom we are compared. Ask students to debate the notion that cooperation is more of a risk than working individually. The idea of this will allow students to reflect on why some don’t feel comfortable cooperating - which may allow empathy and perspective.

→ Watch Joe Gebbia: How Airbnb designs for trust

Joe Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb, bet his whole company on the belief that people can trust each other enough to stay in one another's homes. How did he overcome the stranger-danger bias? Through good design. Now, 123 million hosted nights (and counting) later, Gebbia sets out his dream for a culture of sharing in which design helps foster community and connection instead of isolation and separation.

→ Class discussion

  • How does Joe Gebbia overcome the stranger-danger bias?
  • What other businesses work in a similar way as AirBNB (Uber, Couch surfing, Gumtree, Craigslist)?
  • Discuss other times where you’ve felt a “trust challenge”
  • Gebbia discovered “reputation” can overcome social and cultural bias - what does this say about our society?

Learning from History

→ Watch David Christian: The history of our world in 18 minutes

Backed by stunning illustrations, Christian narrates a complete history of the universe, from the Big bang to the Internet in a riveting 18 minutes. This is "Big History": an enlightening, wide-angle look at complexity, life and humanity, set against our slim share of the cosmic timeline. Christian teaches an ambitious world history course that tells the tale of the entire universe - from the Big Bang 13 billion years ago to present day.

→ Class discussion

  • Discuss the theory of the Big Bang alongside alternative historical views on how human beings came to be - particularly in relation to religious views

→ Practical activity

Christian talks about the Goldilocks Conditions as being an integral part in creating the right environment for species to develop to complexity.  In groups, examine specific examples of where the Goldilocks Conditions are essential, and what changes may/may not have occurred as a result. What do you believe the next threshold looks like, and holds for the planet as we know it? Students can discuss in groups and present their ideas.

→ Watch Jared Diamond: Why societies collapse

Why do societies fail? With lessons from the Norse of Iron Age Greenland, deforested Easter Island and present-day Montana, Jared Diamond talks about the signs that collapse is near, and how -- if we see it in time -- we can prevent it. Diamond is an award-winning scholar of ecology, biology and history, and best-selling author of Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

→ Class discussion

  • What are the 5 factors that Diamond talks about that are the major contributors to societal collapse?
  • Can you think of any other factors that may have impacts on social structure and stability?
  • What is the difference between a policy and a principle in relation to social construction?

→ Practical activity

If you had a 1000 acre island with a population of 1000 people, what would your principles and policies be, in achieving a sustainable community, environment and economy? Ask students team up in groups of 4 or 5 and develop core principles and the associated policies for your island. Present the principles & policies to group.

Disaster Management

→ Watch Becci Manson: (Re)touching lives through photos

In the wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, mixed into the wreckage were lost and damaged photos of families and loved ones. Photo retoucher Becci Manson, together with local volunteers and a global group of colleagues she recruited online, helped clean and fix them, restoring those memories to their owners.

→ Class discussion

  • Discuss the concept that in a disaster, what really matters becomes clear - what does this come down to?
  • Reflect on the role of the volunteer in disaster management

→ Practical activity

Work in groups to consider the kind of actions that would take place in the wake of a disaster - how do you prioritise what to do first.

→ Assessment task

Research the probability of Japan suffering another earthquake and tsunami of equivalent size and impact to that which occurred in March 2011.

→ Watch Shigeru Ban: Emergency shelters made from paper

Long before sustainability was a buzzword, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban had begun his experiments with ecologically sound building materials such as cardboard tubes. His remarkable structures are often intended as temporary housing for disaster-struck nations such as Haiti, Rwanda, Japan. Yet often the buildings remain a beloved part of the landscape long after they have served their intended purpose.

→ Class discussion

  • Can you think of any other sustainable designs that help during disaster crisis (these can include technological designs, such as using smart phones for communication access etc.)?

→ Assessment task

In groups, design a disaster relief tool. This can be for any type of disaster including environmental, economical, food, etc.

Economics and Economic Wellbeing

Production, Consumption and Waste

→ Watch Dianna Cohen: Tough truths about plastic pollution

Artist Dianna Cohen shares some tough truths about plastic pollution in the ocean and in our lives -- and some thoughts on how to free ourselves from the plastic gyre. Cohen co-founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition, which is working to help end our cycle of plastics use.

→ Class Discussion

  • Discuss how current lifestyles promote/disincentivise production and consumption
  • What are some ways we can limit our consumption of plastic
  • Instead of plastic packaging - what else could we use? What changes could we make?
  • Discuss the notion of sustainable plastic

→ Assessment task

Students can write an essay on the life cycle of plastic or one product that uses plastic. Additionally students can suggest alternatives to using plastic.

→ Debate

Plastic is a necessary product of the 21st century. Students break into affirmative and opposing teams to present their arguments.

→ Watch Tristram Stuart: The global food waste scandal

Western countries throw out nearly half of their food, not because it’s inedible — but because it doesn’t look appealing. Tristram Stuart delves into the shocking data of wasted food, calling for a more responsible use of global resources.

→ Class Discussion

  • Tristram Stuart touches on the concept of “freeganism” - What is this?
  • Is this is a radical concept or one that we could imbed into our everyday lifestyle choices?
  • What everyday choices can we make to ensure a more cyclical process of our food system (e.g. domestic composts, bulk cook and storage)?

→ Cooking demonstration 

In 2011, as part of a workshops series, MasterChef contestant Jay Huxley ran free 'Low budget healthy meals' workshops on each campus for students across University of Western Sydney and UTS. This was a joint initiative between Student Support Service and the Office of Sustainability.

Offer students an opportunity to take a workshop class on sustainable cooking with a focus on food waste reduction and more edible food options for example.

→ Watch Dianna Cohen: Tough truths about plastic pollution

Artist Dianna Cohen shares some tough truths about plastic pollution in the ocean and in our lives. She provides some thoughts on how to free ourselves from the plastic gyre. Cohen co-founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition, which is working to help end our cycle of plastic use.

This website links to the previous video, providing information on how invertebrates are being affected by the ingestion and digestion of micro plastics in the ocean:

→ Class Discussion

  • Discuss the impact plastic in the ocean is having on invertebrate ecosystems and how this translates to wider environmental impacts i.e., the impact on other marine life, and humans
  • Discuss how current lifestyles promote/disincentivise production and consumption
  • What are some ways we can limit our consumption of plastic?
  • Instead of plastic packaging - what else could we use? What changes could we make?
  • Discuss the notion of sustainable plastic

→ Debate

Plastic is a necessary product of the 21st century. Students break into affirmative and opposing teams to present their arguments.

Trade and Development Systems

→ Watch Alex Tabarrok: How ideas trump crises

The "dismal science" truly shines in this optimistic talk, as economist Alex Tabarrok argues free trade and globalization are shaping our once-divided world into a community of idea-sharing more healthy, happy and prosperous than anyone's predictions.

→ Class discussion

  • Discuss the pros and threats of both niche and broad markets?
  • Why would a one world market, by globalizing the world According to Alex Tabarrok have a positive impact for the global trade market?

→ Assessment task

Ask students to respond to one of the following key sustainably economic futures:

  • keep globalizing world markets
  • keep extending cooperation across national boundaries
  • keep investing in education

Why is it important to do this? In what ways can we do this?

→ Watch Rachel Botsman: The case for collaborative consumption

In her talk, Rachel Botsman says we're "wired to share" — and shows how websites like Zipcar and Swaptree are changing the rules of human behaviour.

→ Class discussion

  • What is “share trading”?
  • What is collaborative consumption?
  • Rachel Botsman talks about technology enabling trust between strangers - can you give examples of this (airbnb, uber etc.)?
  • What are the pros and threats of the “what’s mine is yours” economy

→ Background: Honey bee impact and exploration

Bees are essential for agricultural and horticultural crop pollination on which humans rely. Due to colony collapse and the scourge of the Varroa mite in bees internationally, bee export and trade is now a highly sort after industry.

→ Watch Noah Wilson-Rich: Every city needs healthy honey bees

Noah Wilson-Rich explains why bees are so important to the agriculture industry, why they are disappearing, and what can be done about it.

→ Watch/Read: BBC News: The buzz around Australia's bee exports

The BBC reports on the role Australia is playing in live bee exports as a solution to bee declines internationally.

→ Class Discussion

Sustainable Economies

→ Read Defining a New Economic Paradigm: The Report of the High-Level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness, Bhutan

The world is desperately seeking change. People sense that important social, economic and environmental shifts are afoot. There are now over seven billion people on the planet. Technology is helping us to communicate, organise and learn on a global scale. Emerging economies are rising in all continents and the “global middle class” is larger than ever before.

→ Class Discussion

  • What is the key idea of the economics of enough?
  • Coyle says there is a failure of measurement; a failure of governance; and a failure of values in discussion on the economy. What does she mean by these aspects?
  • How significant are they for a sustainable economy?
  • What is the implication of not having a national balance sheet so that we know how much we are taking away from future generations to benefit ourselves currently?
  • What is the morality of capitalism?
  • What would be key reforms of existing institutions based on values for the common good?

→ Watch Dame Ellen MacArthur - The surprising thing I learned sailing solo around the world

What do you learn when you sail around the world on your own? When solo sailor Ellen MacArthur circled the globe - carrying everything she needed with her - she came back with new insight into the way the world works, as a place of interlocking cycles and finite resources, where the decisions we make today affect what's left for tomorrow. She proposes a bold new way to see the world's economic systems: not as linear, but as circular, where everything comes around.

→ Class Discussion

  • What does MacArthur’s solo sailing race teach us about our global finite economy?
  • MacArthur talks about shifting our economy from a linear to circular system - how could we do this?

→ Online quiz

Ask students to take this online quiz about sustainability and the economy. Discuss.

→ Read The impact of seafood consumption on endangered marine species on Hong Kong

This paper discusses the impact that the over consumption of marine species in Hong Kong has on the global marine ecosystem.

→ Class Discussion/Quiz

  • Hong Kong’s export and trade of seafood products is a lucrative industry that provides income for many countries and fisheries, however, it also poses a risk to the sustainability of these species – what are some solutions you can think of to ethically solve this dilemma?
  • Why are abalones and sea cucumbers illegally fished?
  • Why is illegal fishing so destructive?
  • What are some of the impacts of over-exploitation of seafood species?
  • What moral obligation does Hong Kong have to reduce their excessive and unsustainable consumption of invertebrates?

Note: the above paper and activity covers both Sustainable Economies and Trade and Development Systems


→ Watch Audrey Choi: How to make a profit while making a difference

Can global capital markets become catalysts for social change? According to investment expert Audrey Choi, individuals own almost half of all global capital, giving them (us!) the power to make a difference by investing in companies that champion social values and sustainability. "We have more opportunity today than ever before to make choices," she says. "So change your perspective. Invest in the change you want to see in the world."

→ Class Discussion

  • According to Audrey Choi, how will the way we invest our finances impact social change on a global scale?
  • What are the benefits in investing in companies that support a more sustainable future? What are the threats of doing this also?
  • In what ways can we do this (super, pensions, investments etc.)?

→ Watch Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature!

Every day, we use materials from the earth without thinking, for free. But what if we had to pay for their true value: would it make us more careful about what we use and what we waste? Think of Pavan Sukhdev as nature's banker — assessing the value of the Earth's assets. Eye-opening charts will make you think differently about the cost of air, water, trees.

→ Class Discussion

  • Discuss elements of nature that provide a service that could be considered to have a value worth paying for. What would they be worth? How would we charge their worth?

→ Group assessment task

Ask students to act as “City Planners” and put a value on a piece of nature that offers an “ecosystem service” (for example trees “offering a service” of clean air). Then coordinate a business plan to present to the City of Sydney. For example, Sydney’s City Planners may establish that, to address their polluted water supply, they could either spend $4 billion to build a giant water treatment plant or $90 million on planting trees and otherwise improving the aesthetic, and providing a pleasant community nature park.


→ Watch Daniel Goldstein: The battle between your present and future self

Every day, we make decisions that have good or bad consequences for our future selves. (Can I skip flossing just this one time?) Daniel Goldstein makes tools that help us imagine ourselves over time, so that we make smart choices for Future Us.

→ Class discussion

  • What does Saniel Goldstein mean when he says temptation is an unequal battle between the present self and the future self?
  • Why do we depend on “commitment devices” when it comes to our finances? What are the pros and threats of these devices?

→ Watch Laurie Santos: A monkey economy as irrational as ours

Laurie Santos looks for the roots of human irrationality by watching the way our primate relatives make decisions. A clever series of experiments in "monkeynomics" shows that some of the silly choices we make, monkeys make too.

→ Class discussion

  • According to Laurie Santos’ studies - what the differences between a win and losses mindset? What impacts does this have on our financial choices?
  • Keeping “risk taking mindset” in mind, what does the monetary system create powerful financial incentives for people to engage in ecologically unsustainable economic growth?

→ Gamification

Partake in a game of “Swy” also known as “Two Up”. Hand out  monopoly money (or tokens that are coloured by value/worth) to the each student in the class as their form of currency. Ask them to treat this type of currency as if it were real. After about 10-15 minutes of playing have the students discuss how the game made them feel. What were their emotional responses? Did they learn from past experiences or did they dismiss them? Did they take a lot of high risks or did they play it safe? What can this be said about our current global financial position? This may also be affective playing at the beginning of the lesson before the video has influenced them. Another option is to play at the beginning and the end and discuss if their behaviour and emotions had changed.

Natural Resources


→ Watch Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature!

Every day, we use materials from the earth without thinking, for free. But what if we had to pay for their true value: would it make us more careful about what we use and what we waste? Think of Pavan Sukhdev as nature's banker — assessing the value of the Earth's assets. Eye-opening charts will make you think differently about the cost of air, water, trees …

→ Class Discussion

  • Who owns the air? Who is responsible for looking after the air?
  • What are the major pollutants in the atmosphere?
  • Is there any way of dealing with transboundary pollution?

→ Gamification

Ask students to calculate their carbon footprint here: Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Consider the issues of scale and sustainability. Discuss the following — does your personal carbon footprint even matter at the scale of a city, country or globally? Where can we make big impacts? Is your city measuring its atmospheric pollution? If so, how?

→ Watch Antonio Donato Nobre: The magic of the Amazon: A river that flows invisibly all around us

The Amazon River is like a heart, pumping water from the seas through it, and up into the atmosphere through 600 billion trees, which act like lungs. Clouds form, rain falls and the forest thrives. In a lyrical talk, Antonio Donato Nobre talks us through the interconnected systems of this region, and how they provide environmental services to the entire world. A parable for the extraordinary symphony that is nature.

→ Class Discussion

  • This could be as part of an in class exam or a hand-in paper. Each year we're globally increasing carbon emissions and increasing energy use. The population is growing, consumption of goods and services is higher and the climate is changing. If we assume that people want to be happy, healthy and safe and that they want the same for others, then why does it seem that people go against their own best interests?
  • Why are we wasting energy when this costs money and creates environmental damage?


→ Watch George Monbiot: How Wolves Change Rivers

Wolves were once native to the US' Yellowstone National Park — until hunting wiped them out. But when, in 1995, the wolves began to come back (thanks to an aggressive management program), something interesting happened: the rest of the park began to find a new, more healthful balance. In a bold thought experiment, George Monbiot imagines a wilder world in which humans work to restore the complex, lost natural food chains that once surrounded us.

→ Class discussion 

  • What is biodiversity?
  • What's happening to Australia's biodiversity?
  • How can you help Australia's biodiversity?

→ Watch Asha de Vos: Why you should care about whale poo

Whales have a surprising and important job, says marine biologist Asha de Vos: these massive creatures are ecosystem engineers, keeping the oceans healthy and stable by ... well, by pooping, for a start. Learn from de Vos, a TED Fellow, about the undervalued work that whales do to help maintain the stability and health of our seas — and our planet.

→ Class discussion 

  • Why is biodiversity important for sustainable ecosystems?
  • What happens if something alters the biodiversity of an ecosystem?
  • Can you think of local, everyday examples of changes in biodiversity that is affecting an ecosystem?

→ Gamification

Ask students to get into groups and think of other animals that are Ecosystem Engineers? Allow the students to think & discuss other ecosystem engineers.

Oceans, Seas and Coasts

→ Watch Jeremy Jackson: How we wrecked the oceans

In this bracing talk, coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson lays out the shocking state of the ocean today: overfished, overheated, polluted, with indicators that things will get much worse. Astonishing photos and stats make the case. A leader in the study of the ecology and evolution of marine organisms, Jeremy Jackson is known for his deep understanding of geological time.

→ Class discussion

  • Reflect on how the class feels about the Jeremy Jackson's talk
  • Jackson ends his talk by suggesting the way we can provide positive impacts on our oceans is to fix is ourselves, that is, our greed and our need for growth and our inability to imagine a better, more sustainable world. After watching and reflecting on Jackson’s talk, in what ways can we “fix ourselves”?

→ Watch Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish

Chef Dan Barber squares off with a dilemma facing many chefs today: how to keep fish on the menu. With impeccable research and deadpan humour, he chronicles his pursuit of a sustainable fish he could love, and the foodie's honeymoon he's enjoyed since discovering an outrageously delicious fish raised using a revolutionary farming method in Spain.

→ Class discussion

  • What were the contributing factors that made the Veta La Palma fish farm so sustainably successful?
  • What prevented the ecological destruction at this particular fish farm? What other ecosystems could these factors (such as fostering a healthy environment for the predators of the animal being farmed) be applied to?

→ Assessment Task

In groups ask students to design another ecosystem (such as a domestic, self sustaining, aquaponic garden) where similar systems that Barber referred to are applied.


→ Read Water footprint

A resource by WWF, with information about how people produce, consume and waste fresh water.

→ Online activity

Ask students to calculate the Water Footprint here:

→ Class discussion

  • After reading about the Water Footprint and calculating their personal Water Footprint, discuss the results, share lifestyle choices and analyse contrasts where the numbers differ greatly. Were students surprised by their calculation? Will this prompt them to change certain behaviours?

→ Gamifaction

Ask trivia questions based on the WWF stats provided in the link above. Students can be put into groups or as individuals dependant on class size.

→ Watch Rob Harmon - How the market can keep streams flowing

With streams and rivers drying up because of over-usage, Rob Harmon has implemented an ingenious market mechanism to bring back the water. Farmers and beer companies find their fates intertwined in the intriguing century old tale of Prickly Pear Creek. Rob Harmon is an expert on energy and natural resources policy - looking at smart ways to manage carbon, water and the energy we use every day.

→ Class discussion

  • Discuss the idea proposed by Harmon. Would it work in Australia? Elsewhere? What are the barriers? Challenges? Opportunities? This can be undertaken as group work or individual assignment.
  • Discuss where the over consumption of rivers and/or streams occur in Australia. Are there areas where the integrity of the system is completely jeopardised by inefficient controls and governance? This could be completed as group work, including a presentation, or individual assignment.

→ Research task

Ask students to choose a product and research the water required to produce that product. Write up the findings, and include suggestions on how to reduce the water footprint.


→ Watch Deforestation

'Deforestation', developed and produced by the Jane Goodall Institute. In this video, the basics of deforestation in Africa, and its impact on the chimpanzee habitat, are discussed. Some reference is also made to how deforestation contributes to climate change.

→ Class Discussion

  • Discuss the information in the clip and its impact on them.
  • Discuss other areas across the globe being affected by deforestation - what impact is it having?

→ Debate

Ask students to debate whether protecting the forests comes at the expense of allowing population growth and sufficiency.

→  Practical activity

In groups, take on different roles to present different perspectives. For example, some students could represent the local people; some could represent the chimpanzees; some could represent logging companies; others could represent environmentalists. Students become the role they are assigned or choose and present that perspective in the deforestation debate.

→ Watch Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change

“Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And it's happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes — and his work so far shows — that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert.

→ Class Discussion

  • What is desertification?
  • What are some of the causes for desertification?
  • What are some of the solutions in managing desertification?

→  Assessment task

Write a report on what the contributing factors to land degradation are. What are the alternatives? Present this in class.

Land Use and Tenure

→ Watch Robert Hammond: Building a park in the sky

New York was planning to tear down the High Line, an abandoned elevated railroad in Manhattan, when Robert Hammond and a few friends suggested: Why not make it a park? He shares how it happened in this tale of local cultural activism.

→ Class discussion

  • Are we ready to relinquish our car keys and support transit-oriented, walkable cities and suburbs?
  • Whilst Robert Hammond talks about walkable parks in the skies that may appeal to a youthful generation, in what ways can we promote healthy urban lifestyles for our ageing and urbanising populations?

→ Watch  Alex Steffen: The shareable future of cities

How can cities help save the future? Alex Steffen shows some cool neighbourhood green projects that expand our access to things we want and need — while reducing the time we spend in cars.

→ Class Discussion

  • How can we design sustainable buildings that contribute positively to the city's metabolism and that improve the quality of life of users?
  • Can we make big environmental changes without stronger leadership from the public sector?

→ Gamification

Alex Steffen touches on eco-districts and sustainable neighbourhoods - based on this idea, ask the class to get into groups of 4 and create their own sustainable neighbourhood. What would it look like (retrofitting, biomimicry designs etc.)? Where would its energy sources come from? How big would the population be? How would it be economically and ecologically sustainable?

This task could be a writing task, or it could be more creative, using visuals (taking images from old architecture, design, home magazines) or physically constructing this using Lego.

Planetary Boundaries

→ Hand out below image of Planetary Boundaries (according to Rockström et al. 2009 and Steffen et al. 2015)

→ Watch Johan Rockstrom:  Let the environment guide our development

Human growth has strained the Earth's resources, but as Johan Rockstrom reminds us, our advances also give us the science to recognise this and change behaviour. His research has found nine "planetary boundaries" that can guide us in protecting our planet's many overlapping ecosystems.

→ Class Discussion

  • Have students discuss their thoughts on the concept of planetary boundaries. Is it sound?
  • Discuss the four pressures Rockstrom claims are pressuring the planet. Is he correct?
  • Is there something missing that should be considered?
  • Is this theory exaggerated?

→ Assessment task

Have students discuss in groups or write individual papers, about Rockstrom’s notion of anthropocene. What are the other phases in history and how have they differed from now?

→ Watch Hans Rosling: Global population growth, box by box

The world's population will grow to 9 billion over the next 50 years -- and only by raising the living standards of the poorest can we check population growth. This is the paradoxical answer that Hans Rosling, a professor of global health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, unveils at TED@Cannes using colourful data display technology. In Rosling's hands, data sings. Global trends in health and economics come to vivid life. And the big picture of global development-with some surprisingly good news-snaps into sharp focus.

→ Class Discussion

  • Discuss the theory that Rosling presents. Is it sound? Too hypothetical? Useful?

→ Debate

Should there be imposed limits to population growth? Students can divide into teams to research and present their arguments.

→ Assessment task

Submit a paper about the numerous impacts of population growth. Students could address this task from one perspective such as social impacts, economic impacts, environmental impacts.

Climate Change

Science of Climate Change

→ Watch Climate change: Earth's giant game of Tetris - Joss Fong

There's a game of Tetris happening on a global scale: The playing space is planet Earth, and all those pesky, stacking blocks represent carbon dioxide -- a greenhouse gas that is piling up ever more rapidly as we burn the fossil fuels that run our cars, factories and power plants. Joss Fong outlines how this overload of CO2 leads to climate change and reminds us that, unlike Tetris, we won't get an opportunity to start over and try again.

→ Class discussion

  • Discuss the difference between climate and weather - students can discuss what they hear about climate change in the media
  • Scientists have known for decades that humans were changing the global climate, but CO2 levels continue to rise every year. Why is it so difficult to reduce CO2 emissions? And what are the most promising solutions?

→ Online activity

After students have watched the short video above, ask them to do the online quiz - once completed, discuss the questions and the different answers students chose in further detail.

→ Watch Al Gore: The case for optimism on climate change

Why is Al Gore optimistic about climate change? In this spirited talk, Gore asks three powerful questions about the man-made forces threatening to destroy our planet — and the solutions we're designing to combat them. (Featuring Q&A with TED Curator Chris Anderson)

→ Class discussion

  • Climate change has occurred previously in history. When did it occur, what were the effects, and what is the key differentiating factor this time round?
  • What are the primary bodies gathering facts and figures associated with climate change?
  • How valid is the science behind climate change?
  • What are the science based solutions to climate change?

Social, Environmental and Economic Impacts

→ Look at Polish artist, Paul Kuczynski's work here.

Art isn’t just meant to look pretty – it can also be used to transfer ideas and messages. Polish illustrator Pawel Kuczynski’s grim and sharply satirical works, ask us to see the world from a different perspective, covering topics on social responsibility, environmental degradation and the “growing economy”

→ Then read The poster is political: how artists are challenging climate change

→ Class discussion

  • What are the interactions and connections between social, environmental and economic impacts of climate change?

→ Watch Michael Metcalfe: A provocative way to finance the fight against climate change

Will we do whatever it takes to fight climate change? Back in 2008, following the global financial crisis, governments across the world adopted a "whatever it takes" commitment to monetary recovery, issuing $250 billion worth of international currency to stem the collapse of the economy. In this delightfully wonky talk, financial expert Michael Metcalfe suggests we can use that very same unconventional monetary tool to fund a global commitment to a green future.

→ Class discussion

  • Is any area, i.e. environmental, social or economic, more important to address as a priority?
  • How can developed and developing countries consider the long term impacts of dealing with climate change?

Adaptation and Resilience

→ Watch Vicki Arroyo: Let's prepare for our new climate

As Vicki Arroyo says, it's time to prepare our homes and cities for our changing climate, with its increased risk of flooding, drought and uncertainty. She illustrates this inspiring talk with bold projects from cities all over the world — local examples of thinking ahead.

→ Class discussion

  • How have societies adapted to climate change in the past?
  • What do we need to consider in the future to adapt to climate change?
  • What are the externalities in relation to adaptation using such resources and air conditioners?

→ Watch David Keith: A critical look at geoengineering against climate change

Environmental scientist David Keith proposes a cheap, effective, shocking means to address climate change: What if we injected a huge cloud of ash into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight and heat?

→ Class discussion

  • What are the pros and cons of “adapting to” or “addressing” climate change through new technologies or experiments? Is it worth the risk?
  • Does adapting or becoming resilient mean we are settling? Should we be adapting?

→ Watch Harvey Fineberg: Are we ready for neo-evolution?

Medical ethicist Harvey Fineberg shows us three paths forward for the ever-evolving human species: to stop evolving completely, to evolve naturally — or to control the next steps of human evolution, using genetic modification, to make ourselves smarter, faster, better. Neo-evolution is within our grasp. What will we do with it?

→ Class discussion

  • Harvey Fineberg proposes an interesting concept - is adaption, our evolution and or resilience about the past, or is it about the future? Or is it both?
  • Discuss the following quote by Fineberg, do you agree? And what does this mean about our future?  “Evolution does not necessarily favour the longest-lived. It doesn't necessarily favour the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, and not even the smartest. Evolution favours those creatures best adapted to their environment.”


→ Listen to David Keith: Unusual climate change idea

Environmental scientist David Keith proposes a cheap, effective, shocking means to address climate change: What if we injected a huge cloud of ash into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight and heat? Keith studies our climate, and the many ideas we've come up with to fix it. A wildly original thinker, he challenges us to look at climate solutions that may seem daring, sometimes even shocking.

→ Class discussion

  • How did you react to Keith's proposal to control climate change. Is the theory sound?
  • Discuss in groups the precautionary principle and its place in Keith's theory

→ Presentation

Ask students to present ideas that have been introduced to solve a problem only to realise that unintended consequences create other problems, and don't necessarily solve the original issue.

→ Watch Cowspiracy (this is available on the library website)


→ Look at the Cowspiracy infographic

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organisations are too afraid to talk about it.

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.

→ Class discussion

  • Did you know your diet had such a huge impact on global warming?
  • What percentage of your diet is currently made up of animal products? Could you decrease your intake of animal products?
  • How could you design a campaign to decrease animal product consumption?

→ Activity

Keep a food diary for the week and discuss the percentage of animal products in your diet.

Risk Assessment

→ Watch Laura Lane: When you shouldn’t follow the rules

As a foreign affairs officer in Rwanda in 1994, 26-year-old Laura Lane rescued more than 250 Americans at the beginning of the genocide, but was forced to desert all of her local allies – whose work alongside her nearly guaranteed their death. Every day, she carries the heavy weight of this perceived abandonment, convinced she could have done more. Today, one lesson remains above the rest: sometimes, when the risk of regret is too great, following the rules isn’t worth it – and you need to write your own.

→ Class discussion

  • How do we assess the risks associated “in order to fight for the change you want to see in the world” as asked by Laura Lane?
  • How does regret play in risk taking?

→ Watch Naomi Klein: Addicted to risk

Days before this talk, journalist Naomi Klein was on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, looking at the catastrophic results of BP's risky pursuit of oil. Our societies have become addicted to extreme risk in finding new energy, new financial instruments and more ... and too often, we're left to clean up a mess afterward. Klein's question: What's the backup plan?

→ Class discussion

  • How can we assess the risks associated with climate change?
  • What risk do extreme weather events pose to developing and developed countries?

→ Watch Didier Sornette: How we can predict the next financial crisis

The 2007-2008 financial crisis, you might think, was an unpredictable one-time crash. But Didier Sornette and his Financial Crisis Observatory have plotted a set of early warning signs for unstable, growing systems, tracking the moment when any bubble is about to pop. (And he's seeing it happen again, right now.)

→ Class discussion

  • Should we always err on the side of safety when assessing climate change?
  • Who is responsible for risk assessment?

Coastal Management

→ Watch Chasing Ice ( available on the library website)

Acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog was once a sceptic about climate change and a cynic about the nature of academic research. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In Chasing Ice, Balog deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Travelling with a team of young adventurers across the brutal Arctic, Balog risks his career and his wellbeing in pursuit of the biggest story facing humanity. As the debate polarizes America, and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Chasing Ice depicts a heroic photojournalist on a mission to deliver fragile hope to our carbon- powered planet.

→ Class discussion

  • How will extreme weather events impact on coastal management and sea level rise?
  • Is there anything that can be done to mitigate or adapt to predicted coastal changes?
  • Are there any building and planning restrictions in place in Australia to protect communities?

→ Watch Future Sea Level Rise: Top 10 Countries In Danger

These are the top 10 countries threatened by the 6 meter sea level rise we are almost guaranteed to see in the not-too-distant future, according to the projected pace of global warming and ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica.

→ Class discussion

  • Who are the most likely to be affected by predicted coastal changes?
  • Who needs to make changes to stop the coastlines from rising?
  • What plans need to be implemented to make positive impacts to ameliorate the rise in water?


→ Watch Bill Ford: A future beyond traffic gridlock

Bill Ford is a car guy — his great-grandfather was Henry Ford, and he grew up inside the massive Ford Motor Co. So when he worries about cars' impact on the environment, and about our growing global gridlock problem, it's worth a listen. His vision for the future of mobility includes "smart roads," even smarter public transport and going green like never before.

→ Class discussion

  • To what degree does the transportation industry contribute to climate change?
  • What are the means and modes of transportation that contribute most intensely to climate change?

→ Watch Elon Musk: The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity

Entrepreneur Elon Musk is a man with many plans. The founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX sits down with TED curator Chris Anderson to share details about his visionary projects, which include a mass-marketed electric car, a solar energy leasing company and a fully reusable rocket.

→ And/or read Elon Musk: 'We need a revolt against the fossil fuel industry'

→ Class discussion

  • What are the ongoing impacts and implications of transport and particularly the energy requirements to sustain fossil fuel dependent transportation?
  • What feasible alternatives exist to transportation that rely less on fossil fuels as a means of transportation?

→ Group presentations

Students investigate new and emerging car and transport technologies and analyse pros and cons of these new technologies. Include discussion on the environmental impact, health, efficiency etc.

Implementation and Governance

Participation of Stakeholders

→ Watch Keith Weed: Sustainability - the logic and power of transformative collaboration

Climate change is a global issue, and action must come from every aspect of society to yield the needed change. How can corporations make a difference without losing income? Keith Weed argues that sustainability and economic growth can go hand-in-hand, after implementing a few key approaches.

→ Class discussion

  • Define the role of a 'stakeholder'
  • Discuss examples of different types of stakeholders (consumer, government, community, KOL or key social influencer etc.)
  • Is engagement with stakeholders necessary?
  • What level of participation of all type of stakeholders is required to achieve sustainable development?
  • How can you most effectively participate with your stakeholders? What are the challenges with accomplishing public participation?

→ Practical activity/ presentation

Ask students to look at the 'Spectrum' document. This one page document, assists with the selection of the level of participation that defines the public's role. The Spectrum shows that differing level of participation are legitimate depending on the goals, time frames, resources and levels of concern in the decision to be made. However, and most importantly, the Spectrum sets out the promise being made to the public at each participation level. Discuss this document and ask students to refer to this for the following activity.

Stakeholder mapping is an important exercise that is too often overlooked. It is a process of clearly defining your areas of interest (customers, competitors, industry associations, NGOs, employees, etc) and then, within each category specifically identifying who falls into them as well as how relevant that stakeholder is to your company.

In groups, ask student to identify their stakeholders, giving the following information: Choosing one of the below Australian brands, outline the stakeholders you would choose to engage with that will result in reducing our environmental footprint and improve social impact without impacting  annual revenue. Explain why you have chosen to engage in these stakeholders and why they would achieve these results.

  • National Australia Bank (NAB)
  • Jurlique
  • Aerogard
  • Telstra


→ Watch Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

→ Class Discussion

  • Ask the students to write down the definition of “communication”. Ask students to share what they define “communication” as. Discuss.
  • Take a look around and notice some of the less obvious non-verbals. Look at people’s body language what do you see?
  • Do you agree that we demonstrate the opposite body language to those who we are engaged with (e.g. if someone is standing with a “dominant” position, the other will make themselves smaller)? Or have you noticed times when you’ve seen people “compete” and overpower each other

→ Practical Activity

  • Have students hold  dominant and non-dominant body language positions for two minutes each. Discuss how this made each student feel..

→ Gamification

  • Hand out the below image for students to analyse. Have each student write down a word that describes what they think they are seeing, e.g. is the person in image one, angry, disappointed, nervous etc. once everyone has completed, go around and have each student say what they message they were getting from the body language of the image. Discuss one image at a time and discuss how and why we may receive body language messages differently and what impact this can have on both the sender and receiver of the message.

Promoting Education, Public Awareness and Training for Sustainable Development

→ Watch Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms

In this talk from RSA Animate, Sir Ken Robinson lays out the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools' dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD. An important, timely talk for parents and teachers.

→ Class Discussion

  • What is the role of the teacher?
  • What is the role of formal educational institutions?
  • How does informal learning fit into the scope of awareness raising?

Ken Robinsons says that our current education system is modelled on the interest and image of industrialisation - what examples does he gives, and do you agree that these should be changed? What alternative systems could be more effective (e.g. not educating children via age groups, but via interests, or learning level/capacity or via group size preference etc)

→ Debate

Ask students to debate where there needs to be a new education system implemented, to either replace or at least offer an alternative from which to choose.

→ Watch Seth Godin: How to get your ideas to spread

In a world of too many options and too little time, our obvious choice is to just ignore the ordinary stuff. Marketing guru Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones.

→ Class Discussion

  • Why is understanding your target audience important when building awareness about sustainability issues?
  • What does Seth Godin mean by the “otaku”? Why is it important?

Access to Information and Sharing of Technology

→ Watch Christopher Soghoian: Government surveillance — this is just the beginning

Privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian sees the landscape of government surveillance shifting beneath our feet, as an industry grows to support monitoring programs. Through private companies, he says, governments are buying technology with the capacity to break into computers, steal documents and monitor activity — without detection. This TED Fellow gives an unsettling look at what's to come.

→ Class Discussion

  • How did Christopher Soghoian's speech make you feel?
  • Discuss the idea of the government “shutting down” Internet communications in the country. How does it make you feel?
  • What would it mean to you? What impacts would this mean nationally and globally?

→ Watch Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks

The controversial website WikiLeaks collects and posts highly classified documents and video. Founder Julian Assange, who's reportedly being sought for questioning by US authorities, talks to TED's Chris Anderson about how the site operates, what it has accomplished — and what drives him. The interview includes graphic footage of a recent US airstrike in Baghdad.

→ Class Discussion

  • Do you believe we should have free access to this type of information that has been leaked?
  • Do you believe that the governments and their counterparts should have free access to your personal information also?

→ Debate

The aforementioned class discussion points could be orchestrated into a class debate.

International, National and Local Governance

→ Watch Paddy Ashdown: The global power shift

Paddy Ashdown believes we are living in a moment in history where power is changing in ways it never has before. In a spellbinding talk he outlines the three major global shifts that he sees coming.

→ Class discussion

  • What are the differences between latitudinal and vertical power shifts that Paddy Ashdown refers to?
  • Ashdown talks about bringing governance to the global space, what are the pros and cons of this concept?
  • What makes for good governance?
  • Who or what should govern?

→ Watch Eric Liu: Why ordinary people need to understand power

Far too many Americans are illiterate in power — what it is, how it operates and why some people have it. As a result, those few who do understand power wield disproportionate influence over everyone else. “We need to make civics sexy again,” says civics educator Eric Liu. “As sexy as it was during the American Revolution or the Civil Rights Movement.”

→ Class discussion

  • What is civics and the three characteristics that Eric Liu identifies?
  • Why does power make people feel uncomfortable?
  • How do we teach power to citizens?
  • How should citizens be involved in governance?

→ Watch Ngurra-kurlu (the way yapa life is governed) included in the Indigenous Governance Tool Kit

This toolkit addresses the ways in which governance and culture can interact.

→ Class discussion

What are some of the ways your local or national community can be culturally legitimate and accountable to its diverse members?

Discuss the diagram below - what are the similarities of this governance paradigm   and the current Australian Government paradigm?

Indigenous governance principles in Australia

Indigenous people across Australia often use similar culturally-based principles to design their governing arrangements.

Political Dimensions 

→ Watch Benjamin Barber: Why mayors should rule the world

It often seems like federal-level politicians care more about creating gridlock than solving the world's problems. So who's actually getting bold things done? City mayors. So, political theorist Benjamin Barber suggests: Let's give them more control over global policy. Barber shows how these "urban homeboys" are solving pressing problems on their own turf — and maybe in the world.

→ Class discussions

  • What kind of politics has guided development in the past?
  • What kind of politics is needed to guide development in the future?
  • What kind of development choices need to be made?
  • Who should make development choices?

→ Watch Simon Anholt: Which country does the most good for the world?

It's an unexpected side effect of globalization: problems that once would have stayed local—say, a bank lending out too much money—now have consequences worldwide. But still, countries operate independently, as if alone on the planet. Policy advisor Simon Anholt has dreamed up an unusual scale to get governments thinking outwardly: The Good Country Index. In a riveting and funny talk, he answers the question, "Which country does the most good?" The answer may surprise you (especially if you live in the US or China).

→ Class discussions

  • What does globalization of policies mean? What does it mean for our future?
  • What does it mean to you live in a “good country” as defined by Simon Anholt?

Corporate Social Responsibility

→ Watch Chade-Meng Tan: Everyday compassion at Google

Google's "Jolly Good Fellow," Chade-Meng Tan, talks about how the company practices compassion in its everyday business — and its bold side projects.

→ Class discussion

  • What is  the relationship between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability?
  • What is the link between CSR and compassion according to Chade-Meng Tan?
  • Should organisations be involved in CSR?

→ Watch David Puttnam: Does the media have a "duty of care"?

In this thoughtful talk, David Puttnam asks a big question about the media: Does it have a moral imperative to create informed citizens, to support democracy? His solution for ensuring media responsibility is bold, and you might not agree. But it's certainly a question worth asking ... (Filmed at TEDx Houses of Parliament.)

→ Class discussion

  • How can organisations implement CSR?
  • What are the most important aspects of CSR for the contemporary organisation?

→ Practical activity

The outcome of CSR is usually a corporate Sustainability Report. Most corporate websites have a link to the company's CSR reports.  Ask your students to find and compare the CSR reports from several companies to find out what CSR initiatives the company has in place.  Set some pre-task questions to guide students' thinking such as:

  1. How does the company address their CSR initiatives in these reports?
  2. What can we learn about the company from its CSR reporting?
  3. Which topics dominate the reports?
  4. How can we improve CSR initiatives?
  5. Do the reports support genuine engagement in CSR or are they just promotional?

→ Debate

Divide the class into two sides and debate the questions “Does the media have a duty of care?” - consider who is included as “media” and how modern technologies have affected this once traditional concept.

→ Reflection task

CSR is controversial and the debates about whether Corporations should be socially responsible continue. The argument against CSR is usually credited to Nobel Prize Winning Economist Milton Friedman's who suggests that "few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their shareholders as possible". -  (Milton Friedman, 1962, Capitalism and Freedom Chicago University Press p, 133)

What do you think?

CSR remains a voluntary practice; there are still relatively few rules and regulations governing exactly what it consists of and how it should be done. Some organisations are only just realizing that because of consumer demands and trends towards more ethical consumer practices that it is necessary to take a practical rather than a theoretical stance on CSR.  Thinking about your own workplace or one with which you are very familiar, list ways in which you think the organisation is striving to be more environmentally and socially responsible.

  1. If your organisation is not supporting CSR what initiatives do you think it could introduce to promote CSR across the organisation?
  2. Set up a debate with your students on the following topic:  Do you think CSR should be a mandatory? What are the advantages and risks in making CSR mandatory?

Integration of Environment and Social Considerations in Decision-Making

→ Read Humans have changed the planet. Here’s how we design for that now

For most of us, the job of taking care of the planet is very definitely the responsibility of Someone Else. We might have thoughts, we might have standards, we might even have a composting habit, but we more than likely hope and expect that the trained professionals have got this under control. One problem, of course, is that those who are trained to look after the world often come from many different disciplines; they might be working on the same problem simultaneously from two very different points of view that clash. That has to change, says landscape architect and TED Fellow Bradley Cantrell in this epic conversation with ecologist Erle Ellis.

→ Class discussion

  • Ellis says No one group should get to decide over anyone else when it comes to sustainability and decision making - Do you agree? And how can integration of the three pillars of sustainable development (i.e. economic, social and environmental) be achieved?
  • How are current systems reinforcing the separation of economy, social and environmental issues in decision making?
  • What instruments and incentives exist to include environment and social considerations in decision making processes?

Instruments and Mechanisms for Sustainable Development

Visions, goals and targets are in and of themselves of no consequence without the instruments and mechanisms for delivering on them to reach sustainable development. There are various forms that these instruments and mechanisms can take, though they will predominantly fall into one or more of the following categories:


→ Watch Christiana Figueres: The inside story of the Paris climate agreement

What would you do if your job was to save the planet? When Christiana Figueres was tapped by the UN to lead the Paris climate conference (COP 21) in December 2015, she reacted the way many people would: she thought it would be impossible to bring the leaders of 195 countries into agreement on how to slow climate change. Find out how she turned her scepticism into optimism — and helped the world achieve the most important climate agreement in history.

→ Class discussion

  • Should sustainable development be regulated/unregulated? If it should be regulated should this occur at the local or global level?
  • What legal mechanisms and instruments currently exist to assist with achieving sustainable development?
  • What legal mechanisms should be in place to ensure sustainable development?


→ Watch Audrey Choi: How to make a profit while making a difference

Can global capital markets become catalysts for social change? According to investment expert Audrey Choi, individuals own almost half of all global capital, giving them (us!) the power to make a difference by investing in companies that champion social values and sustainability. "We have more opportunity today than ever before to make choices," she says. "So change your perspective. Invest in the change you want to see in the world."

→ Class discussion

  • How can we balance people and planet with profit?
  • Where should money be spent on sustainability?
  • Who should finance sustainable development?
  • What innovative approaches to finance might support a sustainable planet in the future?


→ Watch Roger Stein: A bold new way to fund drug research

Believe it or not, about 20 years' worth of potentially life-saving drugs are sitting in labs right now, untested. Why? Because they can't get the funding to go to trials; the financial risk is too high. Roger Stein is a finance guy, and he thinks deeply about mitigating risk. He and some colleagues at MIT came up with a promising new financial model that could move hundreds of drugs into the testing pipeline.

→ Class discussion

  • What role does science research and technology currently play in sustainable development?
  • How does biotechnology fit into sustainable development goals and objectives?
  • What issues could arise with scientific research funded by business and industry?
  • Should results of scientific research be implemented without concern for consequences?


→ Watch Hugh Evans: What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?

Hugh Evans started a movement that mobilizes "global citizens," people who self-identify first and foremost not as members of a state, nation or tribe but as members of the human race. In this uplifting and personal talk, learn more about how this new understanding of our place in the world is galvanizing people to take action in the fights against extreme poverty, climate change, gender inequality and more. "These are ultimately global issues," Evans says, "and they can only be solved by global citizens demanding global solutions from their leaders."

→ Class discussion

  • What defines a “global citizen”?
  • What different types of social roles exist in your immediate community (authority figures, teachers, HCPs, seniors, etc.)? How does each social role impact the way they approach sustainability?
  • What tools, instruments and/or mechanisms do these different roles have access to assist in their social responsibility when it comes to sustainability?
  • What are our social responsibilities in relations to our impact on sustainability, as citizens of our community, our city, our country and our world?
  • Is it possible to reach sustainability without the participation of citizens?


→ Watch Shai Reshef: An ultra-low-cost college degree

At the online University of the People, anyone with a high school diploma can take classes toward a degree in business administration or computer science — without standard tuition fees (though exams cost money). Founder Shai Reshef hopes that higher education is changing "from being a privilege for the few to a basic right, affordable and accessible for all."

→ Class discussion

  • What could be the unintended consequences of current accreditation and certification schemes?
  • Who regulates the accreditation and certification schemes?
  • How do companies/organisations/associations/individuals impact the way we can achieve accreditation or certification?
  • Are accreditation and certification schemes a reliable mechanism for achieving sustainable development, economically, socially and environmentally?

Capacity Building

→ Watch Dan Pallotta: The dream we haven't dared to dream

What are your dreams? Better yet, what are your broken dreams? Dan Pallotta dreams of a time when we are as excited, curious and scientific about the development of our humanity as we are about the development of our technology. "What we fear most is that we will be denied the opportunity to fulfil our true potential," Pallotta says. "Imagine living in a world where we simply recognize that deep, existential fear in one another — and love one another boldly because we know that to be human is to live with that fear."

→ Class discussion

  • Dan Pallotta mentions Jonas Salk’s notion of Epoch B, a new epoch in which we become as excited about and curious about and scientific about the development of our humanity as we are about the development of our technology - what do you think this means? Do you think we are more excited about technology than humanity?
  • Pallotta talks about the the power of Deadlines and commitments? Why are these powerful? What could we achieve if we couple these with our dreams?

→ Watch Making a World of Difference: Capacity Building in Occupational & Environmental Global Health

A talk by Tom Robins, M.D., who is the Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and director of Global Public Health at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

→ Class discussion

  • What is the difference between community and organisational capacity building, particularly in relation to sustainable development?
  • Which groups might benefit the most from capacity building?
  • What is the best approach to capacity building at a community level?

Sustainable Design - Sustainable Cities

→ Watch Michael Pawlyn:  Using nature's genius in architecture

How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty? By learning from nature. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn describes three habits of nature that could transform architecture and society: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun. Michael Pawlyn takes cues from nature to make new, sustainable architectural environments.

→ Class Discussion

  • What is biomimicry?
  • Ask the class to discuss and describe an example of biomimicry they’ve seen within architecture

→ Assessment task

Observing how natural systems work, plant structures and animal forms, and by examining biodegradable materials and natural polymer - ask students to choose a building within Australia and suggest design variables using biomimicry to create a more sustainable and environmentally conscious design.

→ Watch William McDonough: Cradle to Cradle design

Green-minded architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account "all children, all species, for all time." McDonough believes green design can prevent environmental disaster and drive economic growth. He champions "cradle to cradle" design, which considers a product's full life cycle -- from creation with sustainable materials to a recycled afterlife.

→ Class Discussion

  • What is cradle to cradle design?
  • What are some other self-sustaining design concepts that could be utilised to create environmentally conscious, sustainable architectural designs? (e.g. Linear and closed loop systems, Technological and biological nutrient cycles etc.)
  • Where have you seen any of these being practiced within Australian cities?

→ Assessment task

Ask students to choose a building within Australia and suggest design variables using cradle-to-cradle concepts to create a more sustainable and environmentally conscious building.

Pedagogical approach

Critical Thinking

TED Talk - Susan Etlinger: What do we do with all this big data?

Does a set of data make you feel more comfortable?  More successful? then your interpretation of it is likely wrong.  In a surprisingly moving talk, Susan Etlinger explains why, as we receive more and more data, we need to deepen our critical thinking skills.  Because it's hard to move beyond counting things to really understanding them.

IFL Science:  How to teach all students to think critically

Most tertiary institutions have listed among their graduate attributes the ability to think critically. This seems a desirable outcome, but what exactly does it mean to think critically and how do you get students to do it?


Harvard Business School - Who is the Chief Sustainability Officer?
"Regulators and investors are asking for it, customers are demanding it, and employees are expecting it," George Serafeim, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

Chief Sustainability Officers: Who are they and what do they do? - Kathleen Perkins Miller and George Serafeim
Chapter 8 in Leading Sustainable Change, Oxford University Press, 2014

Miscellaneous resources and links

Agenda 21

Chapter 1 - Preamble

Section I - Social and Economic Dimensions

Chapter 2 - International Cooperation To Accelerate Sustainable Development In Developing Countries And Related Domestic Policies

Chapter 3 - Combating Poverty

Chapter 4 - Changing Consumption Patterns

Chapter 5 - Demographic Dynamics and Sustainability

Chapter 6 - Protecting and Promoting Human Health

Chapter 7 - Promoting Sustainable Human Settlement Development

Chapter 8 - Integrating Environment and Development in Decision-Making

Section II - Conservation and Management of Resources for Development

Chapter 9 - Protection of the Atmosphere

Chapter 10 - Integrated Approach to the Planning and Management of Land Resources

Chapter 11 - Combating Deforestation

Chapter 12 - Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Combating Desertification and Drought

Chapter 13 - Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development

Chapter 14 - Promoting Sustainable Agriculture And Rural Development

Chapter 15 - Conservation of Biological Diversity

Chapter 16 - Environmentally Sound Management of Biotechnology

Chapter 17 - Protection of the Oceans, all Kinds of Seas, including Enclosed and Semi-enclosed Seas, and Coastal Areas and the Protection, Rational Use and Development of their Living Resources

Chapter 18 - Protection of the Quality and Supply of Freshwater Resources: Application of Integrated Approaches to the Development, Management and Use of Water Resources

Chapter 19 - Environmentally Sound Management of Toxic Chemicals, including Prevention of Illegal International Traffic in Toxic and Dangerous Products

Chapter 20 - Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous Wastes, including Prevention of Illegal International Traffic in Hazardous Wastes

Chapter 21 - Environmentally Sound Management of Solid Wastes and Sewage-related Issues

Chapter 22 - Safe and Environmentally Sound Management of Radioactive Wastes

Section III - Strengthening the Role of Major Groups

Chapter 23 - Preamble

Chapter 24 - Global Action for Women Towards Sustainable and Equitable Development

Chapter 25 - Children and Youth in Sustainable Development

Chapter 26 - Recognizing and Strengthening the Role of Indigenous People and their Communities

Chapter 27 - Strengthening the Role of Non-governmental Organizations: Partners for Sustainable Development

Chapter 28 - Local Authorities' Initiatives in Support of Agenda 21

Chapter 29 - Strengthening the Role of Workers and their Trade Unions

Chapter 30 - Strengthening the Role of Business and Industry

Chapter 31 - Scientific and Technological Community

Chapter 32 - Strengthening the Role of Farmers

Section IV - Means of Implementation

Chapter 33 - Financial Resources and Mechanisms

Chapter 34 - Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology, Cooperation and Capacity-building

Chapter 35 - Science for Sustainable Development

Chapter 36 - Promoting Education, Public Awareness and Training

Chapter 37 - National Mechanisms and International Cooperation for Capacity-building in Developing Countries

Chapter 38 - International Institutional Arrangements

Chapter 39 - International Legal Instruments and Mechanisms

Chapter 40 - Information for Decision-making

Energy Efficiency Education Resources for Engineering

QUT Project Background: Energy Efficiency Education 

Evaluation of Project

Education Resources

Quick Access
Flat Packs for Engineering Disciplines and introductory resource:

Flat pack 1- Introduction to undertaking energy efficiency assessments

Flat pack 2- Energy efficiency opportunities in biomedical engineering

Flat pack 3- Energy efficiency opportunities in chemical engineering

Flat pack 4- Energy efficiency opportunities in civil engineering

Flat pack 5- Energy efficiency opportunities in electrical engineering

Flat pack 6- Energy efficiency opportunities in environmental engineering

Flat pack 7- Energy efficiency opportunities in information, telecommunications and electronics engineering

Flat pack 8- Energy efficiency opportunities in mining and metallurgy engineering

Flat pack 9- Energy efficiency opportunities in mechanical engineering

Flat pack 10- Energy efficiency opportunities in structural engineering

Getting Engineering Students to Understand their Role in Sustainability:

→ Read

Sarah Harari: Dear engineers: Your decisions shape our energy future

Many engineering students do not fully understand how their role as an engineer can contribute to creating a sustainable future for the world. However, their unique position allows them to develop, design, and create infrastructure, technology, and machinery that provides affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy for all.

→ Assessment

After reading the above article, get students to contribute to a blog answering the following question: Select one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and explain how engineering can contribute to achieving that goal.

Content owner: Office of the Vice Chancellor Last updated: 31 Oct 2019 4:14pm

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