VOC Theme 14 – Sustainable Development

Sorry for the delays. It’s been almost a year since my last previous post regarding VOC-modules but this is the final one 🙂

So long story short. In the beginning of last year I started finding suitable educational institute for doing my teaching practice, which I luckily did. But this last module was left behind unintentionally, and I tried to return doing it but I just didn’t find the time and resources. But here it comes.

I watched the introductory videos last year when the course went online, some of the taught topics are also introduced here in Finnish and of course United Nations website in English. As this module has its emphasis on sustainable development we will concentrate fully on that topic.

Ecological (this blog draft was almost 11 months old, so let’s keep it that way)

Why do we need ecological sustainable development? Why do we talk about it so much today? What makes environment sustainable? Which keywords are the most important for you? Will your keywords keep the chair stable and comfortable? What does ecological sustainable development mean for you, your school, your town and your community?

In terms of ecology, the sustainability can be described to be a balance between resources and consumption. As when renewable resources are being used, the time for regeneration has to be in balance with the consumption. The economic and resource-consumption is relevant also with work resources in a company, it also has to be regenerated hence the well-being of the employees is important.

The economic sustainability in my community means to be prepared. Try not to live too heavily in debt, or use too much resources that it affects negatively your future if something unexpected happens. In the ecological domain, it also can be seen somewhat similar. If the economical sustainability hasn’t been carried out, it is possible to consume ecological resources in a way, that it makes it hard to regenerate or it has a negative impact on unexpected events, such as greenhouse effect or deforestation.


For this topic, we had to choose two subtopics (out of six) to concentrate on, and I chose 2 (technology and Infrastructure) and 6 (wealth and distribution). I noticed that Eeva also chose subtopic two for her blog posting about VOC 14.

Technology and Infrastructure

For this subtopic the preliminary task was to read an article “The Role of Technology in Environmentally Sustainable Development” by the Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences.The article was written in 1995, and is heavily relevant for current technological and economical atmosphere as well.

I can personally agree and support the relevance and hypotheses of that article such as technological advances offer multiple paths to environmentally sound sustainable development, and achieving sustainable economic growth will require changes in industrial processes, in the type and amount of resources used, and in the products which are manufactured. I believe that if currently there are no industrial processes which can’t be streamlined or improved by aid of technological advances. Technology is everywhere and understanding it’s abilities improves the sustainable development.

For the sustainable development -related game I chose the BBC Climate Challenge and by character was President Nerdson. The meaning of the game by Citeco is to fight against climate change while maintaining economic activity and remaining popular with voters. Unforeseen natural events punctuate the game.

The top-six topics I chose for the first turn (199o) were:

  • Send foreign aid,
  • Plant small forests,
  • Promote industrial energy efficiency,
  • Build affordable housing,
  • Promote recycling, and
  • Promote cooperative windfarms


It seems that the press wanted to pick my house building plan for the headline of the local news…


The game went forward quite similarly decade after decade, but after a while it became obvious that my environmental friendly choices (such as investing on wind energy, hybrid cars and energy transport etc…) had very, very negative impact on my popularity :):


And I also made some critically bad decision, which caused food shortage throughout Europe and eventually I lost the election and voted out of office:


The game was surprisingly difficult, and as I thought to make good decisions in terms of technology and environment, they had really bad impact on population’s opinions and their welfare. Overall the game and the end-results were somewhat close what I thought it to be, as when you concentrate on one direction you simultaneously turn your back on another, so maybe I should’ve made more popular decisions but on the other hand it may have caused some environmental or economical issues. It isn’t easy to run the Europe 🙂

BTW, TOP-10 of this year’s technological breakthroughs by MIT can be seen here. Interesting picks.

Wealth and distribution

The second subtopic of the economics-domain was Wealth and Distribution. The first task was to read an article about economic equality, but the article was not available. However I did the second task which was to assess how much inequalities in consumption were being divided by their estimated annual expenditures:


It wasn’t a surprise that the military spending was most significant single item of expenditure but understanding the amount of money used in narcotic drugs in the world was really big surprise. I really thought it be lower in that scale, and it turned out to be second biggest single item of expenditure on that list.

Political (The game-perspective)

The political side of the VOC14 was to play the Town game. I began playing the game by watching the tutorial video first, and then began playing the energy activity. Eventually I chose to support the green energy, which caused my sustainability meter to drop by 10 per cent, so negative impact. Strange. The second task was to decide where to build houses for 1000 new residents. I chose the Auchenline Commons to be the area of the future houses because it was close to centrum and the forest was also nearby. I didn’t choose the farmland to be the place of new houses, because of farming and agriculture. The house-density I chose to be “medium” with some public transport and also small parks. But I have to build more houses for 1000 people.

Second town area that I chose to be built was to be low-density European style on the Orchards. It improved the sustainability, but was only for 500 people. So I still had to build more houses. Third area I chose to be built was the Balloch Farm. The farm is currently a dairy farm, but close to the centrum which makes it perfect place for public transport. The medium density housing also has recycle theme with bicycle routes and working public transport. In overall the area is built for population and the sustainability meter was bit improved after the plummet caused by choosing the green energy over nuclear energy.

The retail debate was interesting, whether to choose on promoting out-of-town retail development or local businesses in town. Out-of-town development takes the traffic pressure out of the centrum of the town and creates new jobs for economic viewpoint, but on the other hand increases pollution and also it’s being built on top of farmland. Hence I chose investing town centrum over supermarkets on outskirts of the town. It increased my sustainability meter, which was a big plus.

Next task was to answer the transport quiz, which comprised 10 questions regarding public transport and cars. I managed to score 7 out of 10, which improved my sustainability meter by 78 points. After the transport quiz, I took the school quiz which also had its emphasis on environment and emissions. That went equally well, 7 out of 10 and 78 points to the sustainability meter.


Overall I did quite well. I managed to get 522 points and my sustainability meter was pretty good. Nice game and it made you think how city area planning is being done and what are the reasons behind some choices they make in the city council. My overall scores can also be found here.


The political subdomain required two actual tasks to tackle. First topic I chose was Communication and Critique: I began playing the 2020energy-game by choosing an environmental-friendly way of traveling for Benjamin.  I chose that Benjamin goes around Europe by bus and hiking in the destination, which was environmentally sustainable way of traveling. Second task was to help an architect named Oliver to rebuild an old town. There were five different options for rebuilding the town, but I chose to renovate the buildings with new environmental standards:


And it also turned out to be sustainable decision:


Last mission was to help a researcher named Carl to find new energy sources. I chose to promote biogas which produces natural gas from natural waste, which turned out to be livable solution rather than sustainable. But in overall I made some good decisions which made the world more sustainable:


So in overall, I guess it went quite well. Other task of this subtopic was to write a critical reflective post about this way of communication (game) so here it goes: the communication in sense of sustainable development and politics is hard task to tackle in sense of communicating it towards general population. The games (browser-based) are quite powerful way of transferring information to people, however in this domain it has its limitations, such as

  1. people have to find these games somehow
  2. they have to find motivation playing the games, and
  3. the connection between the context and the games were quite far-fetched

Also the platform of these online games (web-browser) makes them too serious for younger people, and also english language and specific terminology can be bit too difficult sometimes. So if the games were bit less serious and without videos the result might be better. The target audience of the games were also bit unclear, but I think these were made people between 20-30 years.

One thing that I liked, were the quizzes. If the games were being developed by using the quiz-forms only (and maybe with some material on the side to look while answering) the end-result might be better. Quizzes can be fun but they shouldn’t be too serious, or too easy so there is a fine line between good and bad quiz. The town game was most interesting as a whole (pre-task), and perhaps it should’ve been in the actual assignment.

Second subtopic I chose was Dialogue and reconciliation 

The game began with a News video about the Megarock-project. The video comprises newsflash about the mine-project and the city it’s affecting. The game itself consists of eight viewpoints of different stakeholders of the project: the Chief of the local Cree (native Canadians), environmental activist, the citizen, a biologist, a geochemist, the mayor, Megarock representative and the researcher.


Throughout the game it became clear that this kind of citywide, huge project creates different kinds of concerns to different people based on their viewpoints, but it also makes possibilities to solve these problems by taking their viewpoints into consideration.

After hearing the stakeholder’s opinion, the player has to choose into which category the viewpoint belongs, ecologic, economic, scientific or social category. If the chosen category isn’t right, the game gives player another try. After choosing the category, game takes the player to “library” where he/she can learn more about the opinion and choose an argument to verify (bolster) it at the library. If the wrong argument has been chosen, then the player doesn’t get the debate points.

After hearing and investigating all the stakeholder’s opinions and evaluating them, the player has to choose that is he/she in favour or not in favour of the Megarock project:


The outcome of the game was that I was in favour of the Megarock project, I had 270 points so I had some arguments to support my opinions. Although the result of the game went away very fast and I didn’t take the screenshot out of it, but it was still interesting experience. The videos were quite short although well-produced, hence it feels that the use-case of this game is actual one. I am also from small municipality which used to have Outokumpu ore mine (Vihanti) when I was a kid, therefore I have some connection to mining industry in terms of community. Interesting game and well produced.


The task of the fourth subtopic was to read through a short article of Culture being a fourth pillar of Sustainable Development. The article was written by “United Cities and Local Governments” and for me it’s unclear whether it was done by UN or UNESCO. After reading the article, there was a small quiz regarding the article.


Next task was to go through and familiarise UNESCO’s material about Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future and to make a mind map about why it is important for students to learn about culture as a part of sustainable development. It seems that the UNESCO’s material is made for whole online course, because it consists of learning diary-templates and huge amount of material, but I quickly went through some of that ( I already spent around 10 hours this far) 🙂

The mind map is here:


The third task was to familiarise UNESCO’s report of Investigating in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue. I personally think that was bit too much, since the report is 400-page long book so the amount of work for one-credit course was not aligned with the workload.

Fourth task was to contemplate “why should an employer understand cultural diversity and culture as the 4th pillar for sustainable development”. It seems that there are number of studies and articles regarding cultural diversity in organisations, and most of the articles are about positive sides of it, such as from multiculturaladvantage.com:

  • Increased adaptability
  • Broader service range
  • Variety of viewpoints

and from Talent Tampere website:

  • improved creativity
  • improved problem-solving
  • promotion and personal growth

But in overall I guess most important think about cultural diversity is to improve and add communication which improves the atmosphere and creativity as well as having many viewpoints makes it easier to find solutions to mutual problems.


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