Deputy Director General Dr Zoltán Pompor participated at the UNESCO national committees’ meeting in Warsaw, on 12th September 2015, together with Zita Gergely and MP Lajos Kethy. Besides reports from this meeting, our colleagues from the Swiss project, Réka Könczey, Éva Neumayer and Ágnes Halácsy presented about their study visit to Switzerland.
The Warsaw meeting centred on the topics of sustainable development and science policy, and the question of how sustainability is present in academic research. It was generally concluded that at the moment, this almost entirely depends on the researcher and his/her personal convictions. Sustainability is not part of the academic system, and we cannot really decide to what extent it is integrated into sciences. This is a problematic question because sustainability is a value, whereas science is not supposed to be influenced by values, but be objective, and only measured in impact factors. The objective of the World Science Forum was precisely to convince participants that science also must be measured up to values, and thus sustainability should permeate science. The question is whether this should be a compulsory and separate discipline in higher education, or be considered an interdisciplinary area, and thus be part of all scientific research.
In Hungary, sustainability is part of the required learning outcomes in higher education, and also all higher education institutes must draft their own sustainability mission statements. We also have strategic directions, however, resources to back these up are scarce. Most countries also reported financial problems, some suggesting that tenders should not be targeting strictly disciplinary areas, and that science would benefit from a new system of financing, which would encourage interdisciplinary research. There is a visible need for regional research and sharing of good practices. Making science more open towards business and politics was also a highlighted topic, as well as the reform of the institutional systems so that they support sustainability (for example networks at universities instead of traditional faculties) and of the accreditation system so that it allows for interdisciplinary knowledge and research. The creation of a system of indicators (of sustainability) was also discussed in details in Warsaw.
In the second part of the afternoon, colleagues of the Swiss project reported on their study visit to Switzerland. Réka Könczey presented a board game modelling negotiations on climate change: players represent countries, who are delegated to gain as much as possible from the negotiations, however, the common iceberg sinks if countries overburden common resources, and then everybody loses. The trick is that it cannot be known where is the exact point when the iceberg would sink, therefore it is advisable (and the only responsible option) to reach an agreement quickly and reduce environmental harm, however, this common interest is contrary to the individual players’ (countries’) own interests… The game is used in teacher education in Zurich, and it shows in a very tangible way that we must make our choices acting in a globally responsible way. This is also a very good example of experiential learning, which can encourage teachers to use this method in their teaching, similarly to how they have been taught.
Éva Neumayer reported on the Swiss visit. As Switzerland is not part of Natura 2000, what they have instead is the Emerald Network, an ecological network made up of areas of special conservation interest. Its goal is to help to guarantee the survival of protected species and habitats. For example, in an area where yellow-bellied toads live, farmers were convinced to dig some small waterholes, where this species could live. They do not reap near these waterholes, and clean them on a regular basis. These places are in turn also suitable for environmental education projects. The Emerald Network also consists of nature-conserving farming, the recultivation of species characteristic of the specific area or leaving some areas uncultivated/pesticide-free. Farmers learnt about sustainable farming through sensitization and negotiations, and they receive monetary compensation for their cooperation. The production of local products (juices, chocolate, cheese and sweets) and the use of renewable energy for this (mostly solar) is also promoted.
Ágnes Halácsy presented about sustainability in a built environment. This means keeping things on the human scale, protecting what has been already there, emphasising little and beautiful parts, keeping the city clean and transport punctual. Developments are supposed to be organic, that is, both renovating the old and building new. Diversity, the presence of green areas and the protection of animals are also characteristics of sustainable cities. Ms. Halácsy analysed Zurich from this aspect, and the balance seemed to be quite positive: wells all have drinking water, energy efficiency investments are realised, public transport is environmentally friendly, biogas is used and education for sustainability is also present in schools. The group has visited the Wildnis Park (where local wildlife is presented), the Sihlwald Learning Centre (which has a museum with an interactive exhibition, a playground, a forest trail and holds various experiment-centred learning programs). Outdoor kindergartens exist, where children are outside for the whole day. There is no formal ecoschool network, but sustainability is part of the curriculum of all schools, and it is also an elective subject in teacher education. Study programs held in forests are financed so that pupils can participate in them for free. Seemingly, sustainability is a part of social norms in Switzerland.