The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development: business as usual in the end? – OPEN ACCESS!

Cartoon by Betsie Streeter

Cartoon by Betsie Streeter

Environmental Education Research has just published a special issue on environmental education in the age of neo-liberalism. It is a fascinating collection of papers! Here’s what SI editors Joe Henderson, David Hursh and David Greenwood write in their opening paper: This introduction to a special issue of Environmental Education Research explores how environmental education is shaped by the political, cultural, and economic logic of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, we suggest, has become the dominant social imaginary, making particular ways of thinking and acting possible while simultaneously discouraging the possibility and pursuit of others. Consequently, neoliberal ideals promoting economic growth and using markets to solve environmental and economic problems constrain how we conceptualize and implement environmental education. However, while neoliberalism is a dominant social imaginary, there is not one form of neoliberalism, but patterns of neoliberalization that differ by place and time. In addition, while neoliberal policies and discourses are often portrayed as inevitable, the collection shows how these exist as an outcome of ongoing political projects in which particular neoliberalized social and economic structures are put in place. Together, the editorial and contributions to the special issue problematize and contest neoliberalism and neoliberalization, while also promoting alternative social imaginaries that privilege the environment and community over neoliberal conceptions of economic growth and hyper-individualism. I had the good fortune to work together on a paper, reviewing the UN DESD from this perspective, with John Huckle. Here’s the abstract to our paper: HuckleWalsAbstract2

The paper is one of three papers (out of 13) that Taylor & Frances has made open-access! The paper’s citation is: Huckle, J., Wals, A.E.J. (2015)  The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development: business as usual in the end. Environmental Education Research, 21(3), p. 491-505. DOI:10.1080/13504622.2015.1011084  It can be downloaded here HuckleWalsESDNeoliberalismEER2015

‘Science as community — Sustainability-oriented trans-disciplinary research’

Recently I contributed to the 5th Living Knowledge Conference which was held in Bonn, Germany last May with a talk on “Science as community: Sustainability- oriented trans-disciplinary research”. The entire talk has now been uploaded on youtube as have been several of the other talks held at this energizing event. The talk can be found here. Since the slides I used are not always (clearly) visible you can find the slides I used here: WalsBonnLivingKnowledge.

The conference covered the following teams: 

A. Setting shared research agendas by CSOs and Research Institutes 

B. The role of Higher Education in creating knowledge with communities
C. Communities and students learning together
D. Evaluation and quality improvement: New lessons learned on measuring   the value of community engagement and  collaborative research
E. Developing  partnership working for research – civil society engagement
F. Policies to support collaborative research relationships

My talk related mostly to theme B which is described on the conference website as follows: Research and education are going to play a central role during the transformation process towards a knowledge society, as the realisation of the necessity for restructuring the world economy has been triggered mainly by scientific knowledge. Society should therefore decide on actions that are not a direct response to recently experienced events, but motivated by foresight and precaution. For this purpose, the debate between science, politics and society should be far more structured, more obligatory, and livelier, to ensure a constructive discourse about the best ways to achieve sustainability.

Key questions:

  • How can problem-based approaches and transdisciplinarity be encouraged?
  • How can a relation of mutual trust between researchers and CSOs be developed?
  • How can career opportunities for young researchers engaging with communities be improved?
  • How can universities and research institutions give researchers and students more opportunities to reflect about the societal consequences of their work?