Learning about sustainable cities and lifestyles helps youth become positive global citizens

Goals 11 and 12 of the Sustainable Development Goals can help inform youth about sustainable cities and lifestyles and help them become active global citizens.

Photo: globalgoals.org
Photo: globalgoals.org

Do you think every person on the planet should have access to adequate, safe and affordable housing and transportation? Should everyone have access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces? Should we protect people’s lives and livelihoods from the effects of disasters? Should we encourage all people to live in ways that reduce our impact on our planet’s natural resources?

If you do, you are in agreement with leaders from 193 countries around the world who support Goal 11 and Goal 12 of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 interconnected goals that seek to transform our world by ending all forms of poverty, eliminating inequalities and improving the state of the world’s natural and human-made environments through sustained international cooperation and efforts between today and the year 2030.

Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals is to “make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” Goal 12 of the Sustainable Development Goals is to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.”

By learning about, taking action and teaching others about sustainable cities and communities, young people can play a valuable leadership role in helping to accomplish Goals 11 and 12, as well as the other Sustainable Development Goals.

Here are some important facts and figures provide by the UN, and some related educational ideas related to Goals 11 and 12 of the Sustainable Development Goals that can help youth learn and be engaged as global citizens.

  • “Should the global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles,” says the UN.
  • Over the past decades, the number of people living in cities around the world has grown faster than the number of people living in rural areas. Half of the world’s human population lives in cities today, and that percentage is expected to continue growing in the coming years.
  • According to the UN, “95 percent of urban expansion in the next decades will take place in developing world.” The term “developing world” refers to countries that are low- and lower-middle-income countries. See which countries are considered developed and developing with the UN Statistics Division website.
  • About one out of every 10 people on the planet live in a slum.
  • “The world’s cities occupy just 3 percent of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80 percent of energy consumption and 75 percent of carbon emissions,” according the UN.
  • Globally, approximately one-third of the food that is produced annually is wasted.

Goal 11 includes a variety of target goals related to increasing the sustainability of cities and improving the lives of people who live in cities and urban environments. The targets include upgrading slums, ensuring access to housing and basic services for all people, improving road safety and public transportation systems, strengthening efforts to safeguard cultural and natural heritage, reducing the environmental impacts of cities, and providing access to “safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces.”

To learn more about why these goals to make cities more sustainable matter, download this overview of Goal 11 developed by the UN.

Goal 12 includes targets that aim to significantly reduce the amount of food wasted, increase the care taken of air, water and soil, reduce the generation of waste, improve the production practices of companies, and encourage people to live sustainable lifestyles.

The UN also provides a downloadable overview of Goal 12 that explains why responsible consumption and production are important.

Adult and youth leaders can help other youth and children learn about topics related to Sustainable Development Goals 11 and 12 in order to be informed and active global citizens. Here are some resources and lesson plans that can be used to help learn, and teach others, about these issues.

Explore a slum. For many young people, imagining what life would be like living in a slum may be difficult to do. The BBC makes it possible to explore Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, through the experience of a variety of residents on its website Life in a Slum.

See what happens to the clothes we throw away. Unravel is a documentary that shows the world of garment recyclers in the Kutch District of western India. The video could be used to explore consumption and waste in the Western World, ways to recycle products and can offer youth a glimpse into the perspectives and experiences of people who live in a different part of the world.

Gain an understanding of sustainable living. The World’s Largest Lesson offers a few different lesson plans youth leaders and adults could use to teach young people about sustainable living, sustainable consumption and production, and sustainable cities. A good one to start with is Understanding Sustainable Living, a 1-hour educational activity appropriate for youth ages 11-14 that explains the concept of sustainability, allows youth to measure their ecological footprint and provides ways youth can improve their own lifestyle.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders”. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016 can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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