“The 100th Earth2Class Workshop for Teachers at LDEO” “Sustainable Development and the Role of Science” with John Mutter (Dec 2009)

by | Jul 28, 2023 | Sustainable Future, Uncategorized

Originally presented 12 Dec 2009

This is the 100th (!) Earth2Class Workshop. Permission to develop these Saturday morning programs bringing classroom teachers and research scientists together was first granted in 1998 by Dr. John Mutter, then the Acting Director of LDEO. So it is fitting that John present this month’s discussion of cutting-edge investigations.
John Mutter currently serves three interrelated roles at Columbia University.  He is a Professor in both the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the School of International and Public Affairs. His current research focuses on vexing issue of the role of Earth systems in sustainable development. He examines the behavior of these systems, and the inherent limits to their predictability as the basis for studying science-based issues of sustainable development. He is seeking to understand how scientific advances made in developed countries can be used to elevate the condition of people in developing countries. Finally, he serves a variety of roles in the Earth Institute, of which he was the Deputy Director until 2007.
For more information about the topic of Dr. Mutter’s presentation, click on Cutting-Edge Research.                            

Cutting-Edge Research

“Sustainable development and the role of science”
with John Mutter

Dr. Mutter’s slide show (pdf)

The challenges of sustainable development — equitably improving global human welfare while ensuring that the environment is preserved for future generations – demand research at the nexus of the social and natural sciences. Massive and inevitable changes in climate, ecosystem functions, and human interaction with the environment will perturb societies throughout the world in different ways over the coming century. The changes faced by poor societies and their ability to cope differs markedly from those that face the richest.

Yet in all regions the dynamic interaction of social and natural drivers will govern the prospects for human welfare and its improvement. Developing an understanding of these phenomena will require field research together with analytical and modeling capabilities that couple physical and social phenomena, allowing feedback between the two to manifest and permit forecasting over long time scales. Heterogeneous income and population growth further complicate this need through their consequences for food security, migration, resource allocation, and conflict.

In this contribution, we identify some key concepts of sustainable development, open research questions and outline how scientific research might engage this emerging discipline. Using recent examples of interaction, we discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the further development of this dialogue.

[Note: Dr. Mutter in his slide show utilized interesting images created from Worldminder and Gapminder. For more about these programs, please look at the “Technology Integration”section of this Workshop.]

Classroom Resources

Classroom Activities in Sustainable Development

Ecologic Online Interviews http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/education/ecologic/games.htm
These online games are designed to help students understand the concept of ecologically sustainable development. The games include “Bigfoot”, an interactive program that estimates the size of students’ ecological footprint from a 15-question survey. “Ecotown” is a game that demonstrates the use of sustainability indicators at a community level. A sustainable indicator provides information on how far …

Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit
Links to many educational activities from a variety of sources.

Other Resources for This Topic

The Columbia Earth Institute

The Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development
CGSD manages the social sciences activities of the Earth Institute. Our mission is to augment the intellectual community using social sciences approaches to address the most pressing international development problems of our time. This mission overlaps with those of social science departments across the university, with whose faculty we collaborate. The hallmark of CGSD is interdisciplinary research and policy application. We operate on the underlying principle that because development problems cross disciplines – from the environment to disaster preparedness to public health to economic planning – so must the solutions.

Achieving Sustainable Development

Global pandemics, climate change, natural disasters, poor soil conditions, deforestation — these issues are at the heart of sustainable development. Sustainable development is defined as….Mission: Solutions for Sustainable Development http://www.earth.columbia.edu/articles/view/1791

Earth is at a critical crossroads. While revolutionary advances in science and technology have lifted humanity to new heights of prosperity and longevity in many parts of the world….

Other Resources

“Sustainable Development”

“Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy”
Lawrence Berkeley Lab

“International Institute for Sustainable Development” (IISD)

“UN Division for Economic and Social Affairs Division of Sustainable Development”

Integrating Educational Technologies

Dr. John Mutter shared two web sites that provide attention-grabbing images which enhance comparisons.

One is Worldmapper http://www.worldmapper.org/.
   Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest. There are now nearly 700 maps. Maps 1-366 are also available as PDF posters. Due to high demand they have created some new carbon emission maps using more recent figures.

The other is Gapminder http://www.gapminder.org/
Gapminder is a non-profit venture promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by increased use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels.

General suggestions: Integrating Educational Technologies into Your Classrooms

Your assignment:

1) What characteristics make Worldmapper and Gapminder  effective as a classroom teaching tools?

2) When should Worldmapper and Gapminder  be used for full-class instruction, and when should they be used for small groups or individual projects?

3) Describe strategies to locate suitable Worldmapper andGapminder images for your classes.


4) Design a lesson plan that incorporates at least one Worldmapper and one Gapminder image in an activity .

E2C Follow-up:

You may send your model lesson and other responses to this “assignment” to michael@earth2class.org. If suitable, we will post your work in the E2C lesson plans and/or add them to this section of the Workshop website.