Exploring sustainability and the environment challenges us to acknowledge our values.

The growth of human numbers and the huge expansion of industry and technology since the Industrial Revolution mean that for the first time in history we now have the power to fundamentally alter the balance of life on Earth.

How we respond to this challenge is a moral question. If we continue to use resources and go on polluting our surroundings as at present the impact is likely to be severe. Sustainability thus raises questions about our responsibility to future generations as well as about our relationship with nature (Figure 1).

The sustainability debate also draws attention to global equity and justice. There are massive inequalities of wealth both between and within nations. Some groups of people tread very heavily on the planet and are profligate with its resources whilst others live their lives trapped in poverty and deprivation.

Learning about the violence and contradictions which characterise life in the twenty first century can be extremely distressing. Such topics need to be approached with care and sensitivity in order not to provoke denial or unnecessary guilt on the part of students. However, they can also liberate energy and powerful creative responses.



Figure 1 - Sustainability is one of a number of inclusive values which underpins the curriculum

After Booth, T. and Ainscow, M. (2011) Index for Inclusion, Bristol:Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education 

1) 1) Watch this light-hearted video. Do you agree that values cannot be traded?


2) Do you think it is really possible to combine making profits with social welfare as Harish Manwani suggests in this TED talk?

"We need to consider difficult questions and seek solutions that are socially and morally just. The greater good considers links between past, present and future."

Tutor in Media, Art and Design

"We talk about values but in this course we have met people in whom the values reside. I am leaving feeling hopeful and inspired by you all."

Tutor in Initial Teacher Education

a) Is it possible for educators to explore values without preaching or indoctrination?

b) Do you think sustainability is a hopelessly idealistic notion?

Jordan, K. and Kristjánsson, K. (2017) ‘Sustainability, virtue ethics, and the virtue of harmony with nature’, Environmental Education Research, 23:9, 1205-1229, DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2016.1157681

Moltman, J. (2012) Ethics of Hope, Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press (see especially Chapter 9 Ecology)

Schwartz, S. H. (2012) ‘An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values’ Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, available at

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Find out more about sustainability in practice at Canterbury Christ Church

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Last edited: 20/11/2019 08:32:00