It is no news to us that the world we live in is in a state of constant change. While it is undeniable that human intelligence has given rise to a social system like no other, we must also accept that our rapid growth in urbanisation, industrialisation & globalisation has taken a massive toll on the Earth’s resources; with the climate crisis being our most pressing challenge. The availability of cheap labour, resources, and the push to produce more, continues to drive humanity into a state of turmoil.
Research has shown that education is a major contributor to behavioural change (ERIC, 2015, n.d.). This could mean that widespread science-backed, evidence-based knowledge on sustainability could be the key to a long-term solution for a carbon-neutral economy & society. Being sustainably literate will help inculcate habits on a micro level & enable policies on a macro level to help the present and future generations.
But what is Sustainability Literacy?
The word ‘literacy’ in sustainability literacy is beyond the meaning of ‘reading’ and ‘writing’.
“Sustainability literacy is defined as the knowledge, skills, and mindsets that help compel an individual to become deeply committed to building a sustainable future and allow them to make informed and effective decisions to this end. Thus, sustainability literacy is perfectly aligned with target 4.7” (Decamps, n.d.)
According to The Natural Step, a global network of nonprofits, sustainability literacy is the “knowledge and mindset that help compel an individual to become deeply committed to building a sustainable future, and that allows him or her to make informed and effective decisions to this end.”
In simple words, Sustainability Literacy involves displaying – through action – one’s awareness of issues that hamper the interdependent relationship between the Environment, Society & Governance (ESG). It also entails having the information & working knowledge to make accountable & responsible decisions that lead to a cleaner world & a greener future. Being sustainably literate holds the possibility to unlock socio-behavioural changes that have the power to transform the world we live in today.
Now that we have cemented what Sustainability Literacy means, let us understand its significance and why it is important to gain knowledge of the same.
Consider the importance of understanding basic technology in order to use complex devices such as an Xbox or a PlayStation. If one isn’t aware of the function & scope of items such as a cursor, console, remote, etc., it will be difficult for them to use the device. Similarly, knowing what sustainability entails, and understanding our role to play in it will help chart the steps we need to take to reach a greener future. Grasping the fundamentals of sustainability and the intrinsic correlation between the Environment, Society & Government could help nations deal with the complexity of the 17 United Nations SDGs and accelerate global development. A lack of such could cause governments, society & business leaders to misunderstand how their actions affect the Earth.
Agreed, that it may not be possible for the world to be 100% sustainably literate as the vast topic of sustainability is a growing realm and consists of many subtopics within it. However, in our efforts to become thinkers who drive change & transform the world, a certain degree of Sustainability Literacy is required from all.
Tools such as Recykal’s Evolv help individuals & organisations on their path to sustainability by providing a platform to assess their current knowledge & build on the same through education & action-driven initiatives.
(n.d.). The Natural Step – Accelerating the transition to a truly sustainable society. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://thenaturalstep.org/
Decamps, A. (n.d.). Analysis of determinants of a measure of sustainability literacy. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000259581
ERIC – EJ1081842 – Environmental Education and Behavioral Change: An Identity-Based Environmental Education Model, International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 2015. (n.d.). ERIC. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1081842