Topic 2: Embracing complexity in sustainability

2 . Embracing complexity in sustainability

The competence area ‘Embracing complexity in sustainability’ is about:

 – empowering learners with systemic and critical thinking, and encouraging them to reflect on how to better assess information and challenge unsustainability; 

– scanning systems by identifying interconnections and feedback; and 

– framing challenges as sustainability problems which helps us learn about the scale of a situation. 

2.1 Systems thinking: To approach a sustainability problem from all sides; to consider time, space and context in order to understand how elements interact within and between systems 

Examples of knowledge (K), skills (S) and attitudes (A): 

K: knows that every human action has environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts; 

S: can describe sustainability as a holistic concept that includes environmental, economic, social, and cultural issues; 

A: is concerned about the short- and longterm impacts of personal actions on others and the planet.


2.2 Critical thinking: To assess information and arguments, identify assumptions, challenge the status quo, and reflect on how personal, social and cultural backgrounds influence thinking and conclusions.

 Examples of knowledge (K), skills (S) and attitudes (A): 

K: knows sustainability claims without robust evidence are often mere communication strategies, also known as greenwashing; 

S: Can analyse and assess arguments, ideas, actions and scenarios to determine whether they are in line with evidence and values in terms of sustainability; 

A: Trusts science even when lacking some of the knowledge required to fully understand scientific claims. 

2.3 Problem framing: To formulate current or potential challenges as a sustainability problem in terms of difficulty, people involved, time and geographical scope, in order to identify suitable approaches to anticipating and preventing problems, and to mitigating and adapting to already existing problems

 Examples of knowledge (K), skills (S) and attitudes (A): 

K: knows that to identify fair and inclusive actions, it is necessary to look at sustainability problems from different stakeholder perspectives; 

S: Can establish a transdisciplinary approach to framing current and potential sustainability challenges; 

A: Listens actively and shows empathy when collaborating with others to frame current and potential sustainability challenges.