Geologists and the SDGs

Dr Steven Rogers, Teaching Fellow in Geology at Keele University tells us all about the Geology department's SDG journey.

Do geologists have a part to play in our sustainable future? Well yes, actually, a pretty big part too… Your friendly neighbourhood geologists are responsible for the sourcing of many of the materials around you; your computer, phone, tea pot, car, walls, jewellery and a plethora of other stuff too. As the saying goes, “if it’s not grown, its mined”. But resource exploration certainly isn’t the only remit of geologists, importantly, we also strive to understand the world around us, and how it has changed and evolved through time.

Both sides of this geological coin are fundamental to the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an understanding of the Earth’s resources, processes and past behaviour is essential to understanding how any changes in our economic or societal behaviour may impact upon the environment. However, most geologists lack familiarity with sustainability concepts, this leads to a barrier between non-specialists (geological specialists, that is!) and geologists when discussing the environment. With this in mind, here at Keele University, the geology team is aiming to highlight the links between sustainability concepts and our teaching materials, and then embed these concepts into the curriculum using the SDGs as a vehicle. The desired outcome are cohorts of students that are aware of sustainability concepts and are able to disseminate their knowledge widely, to non-specialists, working together toward a greater goal. Our students need to become transdisciplinary in their approach to their knowledge.

We are just embarking on our SDG journey. Recognising that Earth Sciences and geology (nationwide) have been slow on the uptake when it comes to embedding sustainability concepts into teaching we have formulated a plan of action. We have already begun to track links between our teaching and the SDGs, using a tripartite scale (Explicit, Moderate and Vague links). The links are numerous, unsurprising when our subject involves all things Earth! We hope to consolidate the stage we are currently at, by making our findings available via an open access, institutional, publication. From here we then aim to embed the links more overtly where necessary. Current ideas of how we might do this involve: 1) the inclusion of a ‘Sustainability Statement’ within out module handbooks, 2) a sustainability ‘flagship’ module within each level of teaching (FHEQ levels 4-6), 3) exploring the possibility of a “Social Geology” route through our courses, and 4) dissemination of the process via different medias (e.g. our fledgling Twitter handle is @GeoSDGs).

 
You can follow Dr Steven Rogers on Twitter @SLRogersGeol and email him on s.l.rogers@keele@ac.uk
 
Photo credit: Lara Henley
Photo credit: Lara Henley