State of the Planet 2021: Humans, Nature, and the History of Modernity
Adaptable for Grades 6-10
This course explores a broad historical context for why and how the climate and sustainability crisis has developed in our modern times. The course begins with a summary of the condition of the natural systems of our planet, how they are changing, and examples of practices and technologies in modern civilization that are being redesigned to ensure a viable future. A summarized history of the past 2000 years is viewed to learn the meaning of “Modernity” and how it evolved, marking the birth of scientific method, the age of reason, Cartesian thinking, reductionism in the process. The “dignities and disasters” of Modernity are examined and students connect these insights to the current sustainability problems that vex civilization. Students discover that the era they are growing into is a “post-modern” time characterized by a new type of thinking based in holistic perception, systems thinking and interdisciplinary problem solving. This helps students see the world and their relationship to it in a new way and to realize that such a mindset is foundational for humanity to meet the challenges of sustainability into the future. The “big idea” takeaway: In addition to redesigning our technologies, we need to redesign our mental models, world view and consciousness itself to meet the sustainability crisis. The course concludes with an “action” component for students to make original plans for what they can do to be part of the solution to climate and sustainability. References and follow-up activities are provided.