Tomorrow, Wednesday 11th March 2015 it’s time: release party for my book!
Time: from 4 p.m.
Place: ”Salongen”, the KTH library (KTH Campus Valhallavägen, Stockholm)
It is really really great to now at last get to celebrate the publishing of my book – a text book in sustainable development: “Hållbar utveckling – en introduktion för ingenjörer” (Eng. “Sustainable Development – an Introduction for Engineers”). And yes, I agree… It took a lot more time to write it than I had anticipated.
It all started about two years ago. I had already been involved in the teaching for sustainable development in several degree-level Engineering programmes at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm (Sweden), and I where in the middle of developing a completely new course module aimed at the introduction of sustainable development for mechanical engineers.
I tried to find good literature to use in the course module, literature that was actually written for engineering students – who have a good understanding of mathematics, problem solving and technology, among other things. So I wanted to use literature that used equations and models that we could work with in the module, and problems that we could introduce and that I know students will see again in subsequent courses – sometimes from another perspective. I wanted to use literature that used examples from technology to show how engineering can play a positive role for sustainability. Examples from technology that presented how great technology can be. I wanted to sow the feeling among students that as engineers, they can help solving the sustainability dilemmas – as engineers they can save the world!
And I wanted to use literature that did not preach, that did not proclaim that we have a moral obligation, but that emphasised that sustainability is full of contradicting values and perspectives. Right and wrong solutions are not objective, but part of what different stake holders chose to claim. Truly understanding other people’s perspectives and a humble attitude to the reality of how people and society work are key elements to achieving anything at all.
In my opinion, teaching sustainable development involves four phases:
- Background: basic facts about the concept of sustainability, the challenges we face, and various strategies and ideas to how to meet those.
- Reflection: critical thinking and the understanding of sustainability as a subject of values.
- Discussion: the ability to formulate an opinion, to listen to other peoples arguments, to debate, negotiate and compromise with others to reach a decision – and to live with the decision even when it isn’t perfect.
- Integration into subject specific conditions.
The four phases do not have to come in order, but may preferably be trained in parallel.
In my teaching, and in my book as well, the goal is not to make the students think in a certain way but to help them find their way to think. Therefore it is absolutely essential to discuss the roles of various perspectives and how different values and opinions influence how you look on the subject of sustainability.
Since I couldn’t find all this in a book already written, I had to write this book. If you are a teacher, my hope is that you will also find it useful in your teaching. And if you are a student, I hope that you’ll find it interesting and rewarding to read.