A good life for all ….

… within planetary boundaries.

This is the title of a new website set up by Leeds University that attempts to “quantify the national resource use associated with achieving a good life for over 150 countries. It shows that meeting the basic needs of all people on the planet would result in humanity transgressing multiple environmental limits, based on current relationships between resource use and human well-being.”

So why am I blogging about it?

This is a great example of how you can take lots of data, put it into a computer and create a model. The country comparisons tab is particularly interesting as you can compare the social performance of countries (life satisfaction, education, life expectancy, etc) with the environmental sustainability (whether the country exceeds a sustainable threshold). The comparisons can be a bit overwhelming and take a bit of effort to analyse but if you take just one or two criteria it can be quite eye opening. For example, if we compare the UK with Tanzania we can see that the UK exceeds it’s biophysical boundary on most of the indicators measured. Tanzania only exceeds on Land-Use Change. How does this reflect on social performance? Tanzania achieves good results in Social Support and in Employment with a reasonably high score in Equality. The country comparisons could be used to compare the UK with the countries of origin of pupils (and teachers!), pupils can learn to interpret the data, think about what it means in real terms and what their priorities would be.

The World Map shows a pattern that pupils can try to interpret. Which areas of the world are achieving social thresholds and which are transgressing the biophysical boundaries.

The Explore Scenarios allows you to do a bit of modelling with the data but I’m not sure how useful this is and could be quite difficult to interpret but with older children (and maybe in the staff room) you could try to understand how the model works and whether it truly represents real life for example, if you increase secondary enrollment in education it leads to more boundaries being transgressed so the model must be programmed in a way that says that education is going to have a negative effect on resources. Increasing sanitation also has a negative effect. This could lead into a discussion about how improved education or sanitation could be achieved without costing the planet!

So, probably not for Year 1! But I would be interested to hear if you use this or other similar tools on the Internet as examples of modelling and what sorts of conversations you have.

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