(List #62) Moving Too Fast

Ecosystems as a required course, questioning assumptions, missed opportunities, alternative classrooms and how schools are financing the SDGs.

(List #62) Moving Too Fast

Last week I returned from a short trip to far north Queensland in Australia. The trip was both for work and pleasure. It is the only place on earth where two UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites meet: the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.  We even found an amazing campsite on a beach in the national park (in case you are interested it is called Noah’s Beach, but you can’t go in the water: if the giant crocodiles don’t get you, the deadly jellyfish will, not to mention the 3-metre-long venomous sea snake we saw…and the spiders…yes lovely place to bring young children). This is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

As I usually do when I come back from trips, here is my holiday list with sustainability focused topics inspired from my trip.


1.     THE CONSEQUENCES OF MOVING TOO FAST

Bats are incredible. I really had no idea until I visited the Tolga Bat Hospital. They play a crucial role in our ecosystem, yet there is very little awareness of the role they play, and we do little to protect them. The guide told us about how wind turbines are killing more and more bats, but that a small reduction in the speed of the turbine blades could change that. However, that was not considered when the turbines were being developed. This had me thinking about how students can consider these impacts in the design of new products and make small changes that could have a significant impact. As we were told on our visit “everyone is putting up wind turbines so quickly because of climate change, but no one is taking the time needed to think through and minimise the harm these are doing”.

2. KEYSTONE SPECIES

Business students should have a required course on ecosystems, considering the impact their decisions have on them. For example, a keystone species, according to national geographics, is an organism (animal, plant or microorganism) that helps define an entire ecosystem. Basically, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or even cease to exist without these keystone species. For example, in the Daintree the cassowary (a large and dangerous bird that frankly looks like a dinosaur that only lives in this part of the world) is a keystone species, as many species rely on them   for seed dispersal and germination.

3. DARK EMU

The book I read on this trip was Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. I highly recommend that all business students in Australia read this book…and even abroad. It is an important tool to change the perception and assumptions that too many people have of Indigenous populations as being somehow inferior or backwards. The book discusses how Australian Aboriginal culture and economy has been grossly undervalued. “Behaving as if the First Peoples were mere wanderers across the soil and knew nothing about how to grow and care for food resources is a piece of managerial pig-headedness. Smart businesspeople rule nothing out, especially if the seeds of success are obvious”.

4. KEEP SMILING

During our time up North, we chose the most “eco” tour we could find to visit the Great Barrier Reef. During our day on the boat not once was anything said about the challenges faced by the reef, its importance or how to protect it.  Not once. This theme played out on every tour we took while there, from night-time walks in the rainforest, crocodile tours even coastal tours with Indigenous leaders. Is it that they don’t realise what the issues are or that they don’t think tourists want to hear these things? We got the impression it was a bit of both, but either way it was a huge missed opportunity to engage people in the SDGs by experiencing the impacts firsthand.

5. CLASSROOM ON THE REEF

James Cook University has a strong presence across the whole area. They have a Bachelor of Business and Environmental Science that takes advantage of its unique location near the rainforest and reef. During the programme, students work with different groups in the community. James Cook University also runs Classroom on the Great Barrier Reef; an opportunity to introduce secondary students to issues such as climate change and environmental protection through direct contact with the reef to prepare students for academic futures.

6. THE FUTURE OF FOOD

What we see and buy from the shops is only a tiny selection of the vast number of fruits and vegetables that we could be eating. I was most interested in the breadfruit being grown in Queensland which I learnt are productive and extremely nutritious. Although a fruit, breadfruits are a bit like a giant potato that grows on a tree and can be prepared in many different ways. We had breadfruit roasted in the over and served as chips (and yes, they do taste a bit like bread). Based on climate models, breadfruits will continue to thrive as temperatures rise, providing a potential replacement for crops such as rice. Our guide told us that a single breadfruit tree can feed a family of four for over 50 years.

7. FUNDING THE SDGs

My latest article for AACSB was published while I was on holidays. It outlines several ways that schools are securing the funds they need to increase their societal impact. It also includes examples of how schools are linking their funding priorities to the SDGs.  A few examples have been featured her on List in the past, but many others are new. To read the article click here.


YOUR TURN

I’m writing an article on how art (visual, music, theatre etc.) can be used as a tool to teach social impact/sustainability in the business curriculum. If you have any examples you would like to share, please email me asap.