This teaching resource (TR) can be used as an introduction to sustainable development using the concept of ‘planetary boundaries’ as one example to visualize the need for a more sustainable development. The concept addresses the discourse on limits of the Earth’s systems and focuses on the ecological aspects of sustainability. It visualizes the impact of humanity on various, previously defined systems and further stresses the importance of staying in the defined boundaries to keep a “safe operating space for humanity” (Rockström et al. 2009).
Students ought to gain knowledge in the field of sustainability science, develop an understanding of human pressure on the Earth’s systems, along with a broadened understanding of systems thinking in view of complex systems.
After a short introduction on sustainable development and sustainability understandings - held by the lecturer -, the TR starts by showing an excerpt of the TedTalk by Johan Rockström. The first excerpt focuses on the 'quadruple squeeze'. This concept describes the four forces - population growth, biodiversity loss, climate change and surprise – which put various pressures on ecosystems. These pressures ought to be visualized through the example of Kelp Forests. Moving on, the TR concentrates on the concept of planetary boundaries showing a second, introductory excerpt of the TedTalk. After this short input, the students work in pairs/small groups, each group preparing and presenting one individual boundary. This first part is laid out to take about 120 minutes. Here, if necessary, the TR could be split into two consecutive sessions.
After the first part of this teaching resource the result ought to be that “’business-as-usual’ is not an option anymore”. Moreover, the students should be able to reflect on current societal and individual behavior and conclude that a more sustainable development is necessary.
The second part of the TR focusses on climate change - as one major boundary - in the Balkan region combined with the idea of sustainable development. For the necessary input a stakeholder, preferably working on climate change adaptation/ mitigation in the region, could be invited (for suggestions see below). They ought to give an overview of the impacts of climate change in the region, adaptation measures and also offer ideas what could be done to prevent further climate change. The stakeholder should work with the students on ideas how gained knowledge could be transferred into their daily lives as well as their field of study.
If a stakeholder is not accessible or desired, the lecturer gives an input on climate change in the region and its consequences on the various dimensions of sustainability.
Here, in order to gain a better understanding of how individuals affect the climate, the ecological footprint or the carbon footprint could be calculated through suggested calculators. After the input and the calculation of their ecological/ carbon footprint a discussion in form of a brainstorming session or a silent reflection on paper should follow. Aiming to develop ideas on what society and students themselves can do to think and act in a more sustainable way.
After concluding the resource, students ought to understand the impact of humanity on the Earth and how this impact consequently endangers the Earth´s ecosystems. They should have gotten an overview of the pressures under which our planet and their regional environment suffers, gained an understanding of sustainability as well as the ability to reflect on their own behavior.