Environmental and sustainability education in the Benelux countries: research, policy and practices at the intersection of education and societal transformation

The journal Environmental Education Research recently published its third regional special issue covering trends and research in environmental and sustainability education in the BeNeLux countries. Together with Katrien van Poeck (UofGhent, Belgium) and Katrien van Poeck (UofLuxembourg, Luxembourg, I was a co-editor. Earlier regional special issues focussed on the Nordic countries (Scandinavia) and on Germany. Here you find a link to the introductory paper we wrote: BeNeLux Special Issue and here is a link to the Special Issue itself: Routledge Link to SI

Below some more information.

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Table of Contents

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Act Now for Environmental Education – A renewed global pledge for strengthening education and learning for a more sustainable world

GlobalActionThe Global Environmental Education Partnership (website) has created a pledge for reinvigorating Environmental Education world-wide in light of urgent sustainability challenges. In the pledge the global environmental education community is asked to work toward three visionary goals:

Every nation has an environmentally informed, empowered, and active populace and         
   workforce.
The leadership of every government, business, NGO, and educational institution uses
    environmental education to achieve environmentally sustainable outcomes.
Every educational institution incorporates environmental literacy into its mission, goals,
   and activities.
A tall order? Yes. But goals should be tall to keep them in sight as we advance step-by-incremental-step towards attaining them.

pledge letter  can be found here. By signing it you are endorsing these long-term goals and committing to do your part to achieve them. This website highlights 10 suggested areas for action. Hundreds of educators around the world have vetted these actions and helped outline key areas of focus for the field. Over time, GEEP will provide resources and support, including ongoing campaigns and activities, to help inspire action to move our collective agenda forward. By signing the pledge, you can stay connected to this global network.

Environmental Education in Asia – Special Issue in the Japanese Journal of EE

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This special issue edited by Shinichi Furihata and Sachi Ninomiya-Lim from Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and Tokai University respectively,  is the result of a 2-year collaborative project involving environmental education (EE) societies/ associations from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, North America, and Australia. In the editorial introduction the following is stated:

“The aim of the project was to create a platform to share ideas, practices, and theories of EE in the Asian region, with English as the common language. The discussion was organized around five core themes: 1) Development, current situation, and challenges of EE in formal education; 2) Development, current situation, and challenges of EE in non-formal education; 3) Research trends in EE; 4) Insights for EE in Asia from outside of Asia; 5) Review, comparison, and synthesis of findings to go beyond a presentation of EE in various countries and instead highlight the recurring transversal issues. We hope this special issue will contribute to furthering dialogue among EE scholars and practitioners in Asia, and to building bridges between EE in Asia and other regions.

The Japanese Journal of Environmental Education (JJEE), published by the JSOEE/JSFEE since 1991, has provided EE researchers and practitioners with an important space to share their ideas, thoughts, methods, and evaluative analyses, and to participate in theoretical discussions, etc., similar to many EE journals published in other countries and regions. However, since most of JJEE articles are written in Japanese (with summaries in English), its readership is essentially limited to Japanese language users, most of whom reside in Japan. Thus, although the JJEE has become a critical platform for communication among Japanese EE researchers and practitioners, there is a need to expand these discussions to a wider, global network, so that Japanese EE professionals may participate in international and transnational debates on issues of wider relevance in EE. Similarly, EE research in different journals published in Asian countries, including Korea and Taiwan, is mostly written in the local language and is therefore largely inaccessible to people who do not read these languages. The aim of this special issue, therefore, was to create a space where such discussions may be shared and connected. In addition, we decided to invite several prominent international researchers to provide their insights, ideas, and suggestions on developing EE in Asia, increasing Asian participation in the global EE arena, and promoting collaboration on EE with different countries and regions around the world.”

I was asked to write a reflective response paper together with Peter Blaze Corcoran and Joseph Weakland in which we look ahead to the future of EE in the region and beyond. Our paper titles “Preparing for the Ecocene: Envisioning futures for environmental and sustainability education” is based on the introduction to the recent book we edited for Wageningen Academic Publishers (see elsewhere in this blog). All papers are available as open-access and can be found here: Link to the entire Special Issue  You can find our closing paper in which we introduce the notion of the imaginary Ecocene here: Preparing for the Ecocene: Envisioning futures for environmental and sustainability education

Online Masters Course on Education in the context of Sustainable Development at Gothenburg University – starting November 1st

New Course: Education for sustainable development – an introduction

There is only one Earth. With global challenges such as climate change, mass extinction of species, rising inequity and a growing world population, the prospects for a quality life for all, forever seem rather bleak. Central in this new course is the question: What is the role and responsibility of education in not only responding to sustainability problems but also in preventing them and in creating more sustainable futures? But also what might such education look like? The course will take advantage of some of the materials and lessons learnt from the recently finished Global Environmental Education Course Gothenburg University supported – along with other universities and the US EPA- which was lead by Cornell University in association with the NAAEE’s EECapacity Program.

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In this 15 credit Master’s course you will critically and actively explore central concepts and perspectives in the field of education for sustainable development. The course content will be related to the participants’ own backgrounds, specific interests and prior experiences. Master students with different study backgrounds (e.g. environmental sciences, social sciences, economics, arts and humanities) can enrol in this course as long as you have an interest in both sustainable development and education.

The course is offered by Gothenburg University online at half time during the second half of autumn 2016 (Start: November 1 – Finish: March 22, 2017). The main course language is English. There are four blocks: 1) Understanding Sustainable Development, 2) Understanding Education in relation to SD, 3) Understanding learning environments, processes and outcomes conducive to SD and 4) Education in relation to your own SD-challenge (personal project). Each block is divided up in course weeks, each with short introductory videos, background literature, discussion questions and online discussion. Periodically there will be assignments that will be used in providing feedback and assessing the quality of your contributions. The new Global Education Monitor Report on Education for People and Planet: Creating Sustainable Futures for All will be one of the texts used in the course.

For the pilot course we are admitting a maximum of 50 students. You will need to formally register for the course through Gothenburg University via this link to the GU course web-page.

More information about course content contact me at: Arjen.wals@gu.se

More information about course logistics and registration can be found via the link to the course’s webpage (hyperlink).

Note: eligible students from European Union can participate without paying tuition to Gothenburg University. Students from outside the European Union will have to pay a tuition fee. It is assumed that participants have a bachelor degree or equivalent and have a proficient mastery of the English language (evidence of this may need to be provided).

Sustainability Citizenship in Cities: Theory and Practice – now available!

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Australian colleagues Ralphe Horne, John Fien, Beau Beza and Anitra Nelson edited a fascinating book on ‘sustainability citizenship’ to which I was priviledged to contribute a chapter together with Frans Lenglet. Urban sustainability citizenship situates citizens as social change agents with an ethical and self-interested stake in living sustainably with the rest of Earth. Such citizens not only engage in sustainable household practices but respect the importance of awareness raising, discussion and debates on sustainability policies for the common good and maintenance of Earth’s ecosystems.

The publisher’s website describes the book as follows:

Sustainability Citizenship in Cities seeks to explain how sustainability citizenship can manifest in urban built environments as both responsibilities and rights. Contributors elaborate on the concept of urban sustainability citizenship as a participatory work-in-progress with the aim of setting its practice firmly on the agenda. This collection will prompt practitioners and researchers to rethink contemporary mobilisations of urban citizens challenged by various environmental crises, such as climate change, in various socio-economic settings.

This book is a valuable resource for students, academics and professionals working in various disciplines and across a range of interdisciplinary fields, such as: urban environment and planning, citizenship as practice, environmental sociology, contemporary politics and governance, environmental philosophy, media and communications, and human geography.

The chapter Frans Lenglet and I wrote is titled: “Sustainability citizens: collaborative and disruptive social learning” and emphasizes the role of learning and cultivating diversity and generative conflict in co-determining what it means to be sustainable within the everyday realities people find themselves. It is argued that in order to brake with stubborn unstustainabel routines – that are heavily promoted and strenghtened in a market, growth and consumption-oriented society, citizens will also need to develop disruptive capacity and engage in transgressive learning (see my earlier post about transgressive learning and the work within the ICSS project on T-learning led by Prof. Heila Lotz-Sisitka from Rhodes Univerity in South Africa). If you want to have a look at our chapter you can find it here: SustainabilityCitizenshipWalsLenglet2016 (for personal use). The full reference is:

Wals, A.E.J. & F. Lenglet (2016). Sustainability citizens: collaborative and disruptive social learning. In: R. Horne, J. Fien, B.B. Beza & A. Nelson (Eds.) Sustainability Citizenship in Cities: Theory and Practice. London: Earthscan, p. 52-66.

If you want to get a hold of the entire book visit: https://www.routledge.com/Sustainability-Citizenship-in-Cities-Theory-and-practice/Horne-Fien-Beza-Nelson/p/book/9781138933637

 

 

Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all – GEM-2016 soon to be launched

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Starting in 2016 a new series of UNESCO reports, the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Reports, will monitor the state of education in the new framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The new series replaces the earlier Global Monitoring Report (GMR) series. I was brought on board the GEM 2016 Team last December to provide input on the thematic part of the report – especially to provide feedback on the relationship between education and achieving sustainability.

The report has been titled: ‘Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all’. It is a very comprehensive and well-researched report that seeks to be geographically balanced in its analysis and examples. There are two parts: a thematic part and a monitoring part. My role was mainly limited to providing feedback to the thematic part which covers 5 ‘Ps’s: Planet, Prosperity, People, Place and Partnerships. The thematic Part 1 of the Report focuses on examining the complex interrelationships and links between education and key development sectors. It determines which education strategies, policies and programmes are most effectively linked to the economic, social, environmental and political priorities of the new sustainable development agenda.  Part 2 establishes a much needed a monitoring framework for education post-2015, and examine key financing and governance challenges for the post-2015 era.

You can read the concept note that underpins the report here. 

The GEM 2016 report will appear in multiple languages.

Sign up to receive the report in your inbox as soon as it’s released.

 

The relevance of Jane Jacobs and Elinor Ostrom to urban socio-ecology

jane+in+news+slideshowJane Jacobs and Elinor Ostrom were both giants in their impact on how we think about communities, cities, and common resources such as space and nature. But we don’t often put them together to recognize the common threads in their ideas.

Jacobs is rightly famous for her books, including The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and for her belief that people, vibrant spaces and small-scale interactions make great cities—that cities are “living beings” and function like ecosystems.

Ostrom won a Nobel Prize for her work in economic governance, especially as it relates to the Commons. She was an early developer of a social-ecological framework for the governance of natural resources and ecosystems.ostrombook

These streams of ideas clearly resonate together in how they bind people, economies, places and nature into a single ecosystem-driven framework of thought and planning, themes that deeply motivate The Nature of Cities. In this roundtable we ask sixteen people to talk about some key ideas that motivate their work, and how these ideas have roots in the ideas of either Jacobs or Ostrom, or both.

The natureofcities.com is a wonderful resource and platform for people interested in re-designing urban spaces to make them more liveable and sustainable. Every two months the site organises a Global Round Table that starts with input from scholars and practitioners from around the world. I was asked to provide an short input piece as well which can be found in the online discussion forum. In the past these roundtables  have been getting about 12,000+ readers, from 1000+ cities and 70+ countries and I encourage anyone to have go to visit and contribute at this roundtable by clicking on the link below.

Common threads: connections among the ideas of Jane Jacobs and Elinor Ostrom, and their relevance to urban socio-ecology

For more of their ideas, directly from them, good places to start are:

Jacobs, J. 1961. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Random House, New York, USA.

Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the commons: The evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA, USA

Moving from Citizen Science to Civic Science in Tackling Wicked Conservation Issues

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(note the cover page above is not the one of the current issue).

Together with good friends and colleagues, Justin Dillon and Bob Stevenson I was given the opportunity to edit a Special Section for one of the key journals in the field of Biology and Nature Conservation – ‘Conservation Biology’ – on Citizen Science.

We were invited to do so shortly after our paper on using sustainability and citizen science as a bridge between science education and environmental education that was published in Science (see: ScienceWalsetall2014) well over a year ago. In the paper we use a heuristic that Bob Jickling and myself developed a while ago to position different strands of citizen science – from more science-driven ones to more policy-driven ones to more transition-driven ones. The later strands we refer to as CIVIC Science, rather than Citizen Science. The Special Section included 11 interesting papers from authors and places from around the world. What is clear is that the Civic Science, transition-driven strands are rare but represent a very important niche that is likely to grow in the years to come. Here’s the link:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12689/abstract

Some of the papers are open-access for all to down-load – but some you may need to pay for or get through your library. Our introductory paper presently is not listed as open-access but we trust that the publisher Wiley will make this open-access shortly. UPDATE: WILEY HAS DONE SO NOW! YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE PDF FOR FREE NOW FOR PERSONAL USE.

Feel free to share with interested colleagues – also those working in conservation.

Global Environmental Education and Wicked Problems – free Online Course

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What a global response!

There is still one week to go to: http://www.globalee.net to register for this fascinating course that has already attracted more than 2500 students and professionals from over 130 countries. Just reading the short introductions of the participants on the Course’s Facebook site is educational and inspiring:

  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GlobalEE/

The registration closes on February 15th – have a look at the website to see how we are running the course – module one focuses on the meaning of wicked sustainability problems. Participants are sharing their own interpretations and examples of such problems.

Students who wish to take the course for credit can do so via the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point – check out the website to find out how.

Course overview

The goal of this course is to create an environmental education “trading zone”—an online space where scholars and students gather to learn about multiple disciplines that shed light on how to improve environmental quality and change environmental behaviors. Each of the lectures, readings, discussions, and case studies will focus on the implications of a particular discipline for environmental education, as well as what environmental education has to contribute to related disciplines and sectors. Learn about how environmental education, environmental governance, environmental psychology, environmental sociology and other disciplines can work together to address ‘wicked problems,’ not readily addressed by working in disciplinary silos.

Some of the ideas I will be sharing can be found here in a nutshell: Sustainability & Education in Two Minutes

But if you have more time… then you can read a recent open-access publication based on an inaugural address I gave in December of 2015 titled: “Beyond Unreasonable Doubt: Education and learning for socio-ecological sustainability  in the anthropocene” which can now be downloaded here: 8412100972_RvB_Inauguratie Wals_Oratieboekje_v02Complete Text Beyond Unreasonable Doubt Complete Text Beyond Unreasonable Doubt

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“Beyond unreasonable doubt – learning for socio-ecological sustainability…”

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As my ‘special professorship’ has been converted into a ‘personal professorship,’ (I know this is confusing to academics from around the world but I don’t want to use up valuable blog-space to explain it) I was invited to give a second inaugural address titled: Beyond unreasonable doubt –  education and learning for socio-ecological sustainability in the anthropocene in the Aula of the Wageningen University on December 17th 

The special day happened to be the warmest December 17th on record… quite fitting for the talk and the cover of the accompanying booklet (with people sitting on an terrace a cold Fall evening in Gothenburg under so-called ‘space heaters’).

A short introduction to the new Chair has been placed on youtube:

Transformative Learning for Socio-ecological Sustainability in less than 3 minutes

Here’s the back flap text of the booklet is now available:

‘For the first time in history one single species has succeeded in living in a way on planet Earth that disrupts major natural systems and forces in such a way that our survival is at stake. A transition is needed to break with resilient unsustainable systems and practices. Such a transition requires active civic engagement in sustainability. New forms of education and learning, including ‘disruptive capacity building’ and ‘transgressive’ pedagogies are urgently needed to foster such engagement.’

 

If you want to receive the booklet containing the accompanying text to the lecture then send an email to office.ecs@wur.nl with unreasonable doubt in the ‘subject’ and put your name and address in the body of the message and we will post you one.
 If you wish you can still attend, sort of,  the event by going to:
Here you can see the entire ceremony which starts at minute 9 with an introduction by our Vice-Chancellor (Rector Magnificus) Arthur Mol and with me starting the speech (battling the flu but hanging in there – I think/hope) at minute 15. Sometimes the animations I used do not fly-in on WURTV for some reason but fortunately they did in the auditorium). But it’s of good quality and you can advance the timer if you wish to.

 

Focus of the new Chair in transformative learning for socio-ecological sustainability

In short the new Chair in transformative learning for socio-ecological sustainability explores three important questions: 1) What sustain’abilities’ and responsibilities we need to develop in learners? 2) What learning spaces or ecologies of learning are most suitable in developing those abilities? and 3) How can the cultivation of these abilities, responsibilities and spaces be designed and supported? In other words, the main focus of the chair lies on understanding, designing and supporting learning processes that can help citizens understand complex socio-ecological issues through meaningful engagement and interactions with and within the social, physical and virtual realities of which people are part and the development of the capacities they need to contribute to their resolution.

The addition of ‘socio-ecological’ to sustainability is intentional, as much work done on sustainability nowadays tends to focus on economic sustainability, often without people and planet in mind. In a way sustainability has lost its transformative edge ‘sustainability’ during the last decade as the much of the private sector embraced it as a marketing opportunity. Adrian Parr (2009) even suggests that sustainability has been hijacked and neutered. While economics inevitably is part of the sustainability puzzle, the need to (re)turn to the ecological boundaries in which we have to learn to live together, as well as to the well-being and meaning of life issues for all, has prompted me to make the social-ecological more prominent in the description of this Chair. Therefore, I am particularly interested in understanding and supporting forms of learning that can lead to the engagement of seemingly unrelated actors and organizations in making new knowledge and in taking the actions necessary to address socio-ecological challenges.
Note 1: The booklet containing the inaugural address will be posted to you for free (as long as supplies last) when you email office.ecs@wur.nl with “Unreasonable doubt” in the subject area and your name and postal address in the body of the text).
Note 2: The inaugural address can be followed live via WURTV where it will also be archived: https://wurtv.wur.nl/P2G/cataloguepage.aspx

 

Envisioning Futures for Environmental and Sustainability Education – Call for Chapters!

** NEW SUBMISSION DEADLINE: DECEMBER 1ST, 2015 **

Together with my good friend Peter Blaze Corcoran and with support of the Dutch government I have been involved in a Series of books on Education and Learning in for Sustainability published by Wageningen Academic Publishers in The Netherlands. This year we are starting to collect contributions from around the world for the fifth book in this Series ‘Envisioning Futures for Environmental and Sustainability Education’. Earlier books included: Social Learning towards a Sustainable World (2007) – available for free via http://www.wageningenacademic.nl), Young People, Education and Sustainable Development (2009), Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change (2012) and Intergenerational Learning and Transformative Leadership for Sustainable Futures (2014).

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In ‘Envisioning Futures for Environmental and Sustainability Education’ the editors (Peter Blaze Corcoran, Joe Weakland and myself – with support of Heila Lotz-Sisitka) invite educational practitioners and theorists to speculate on – and craft visions for – the future of environmental and sustainability education. We wish to explore what educational methods and practices might exist on the horizon, waiting for discovery and implementation. How might the collective project of imagining alternative futures help us rethink environmental and sustainability education institutionally, intellectually, and pedagogically? How might we use emerging modes of critical speculation as a means to map and (re)design the future of environmental and sustainability education today?

The future of environmental education is an urgent question in the larger context of the Anthropocene, the geological epoch in which human activities have become the dominant driver in the ongoing evolution of Earth’s biosphere. Our contemporary ecological moment is characterized by complexity, uncertainty, and “accelerating change” (Wals and Corcoran 2012). While the global impact of anthropogenic climate change is undeniable, the pace of temperature and sea-level rise depends on ecological feedback loops that are not fully understood – and which may be increasing the rate of biosphere destabilization (Hansen et al. 2015). From a social perspective, the Anthropocene is an age of what humanities scholar Rob Nixon (2011) terms “slow violence,” or ecological violence and environmental injustice that occurs on spatial and temporal scales that are hard to understand or represent, most often against the world’s poorest peoples. In light of such developments, educators need strategies for anticipatory engagement with changing socio-ecological realities – both in the present and future – in order to be effective within their various embodied contexts. This volume explores how environmental educators can engage in imaginative mapping concerning large scale, global processes, as well as create useful, situated knowledge for dissemination within their respective socio-ecological contexts.

The full Call can be found here: envisioning futures book CFP 11-14-15!

Specific topics of interest might include but are not limited to the following: the role of academic centers in education for sustainability; education and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; environmental education, climate change education; global citizenship; environmental education past, present, and future; learning about the future through critical analysis of the past; post-UNDESD 2015 era; forecasting, backcasting, future studies; critical speculation, science fiction prototyping; big data, data mining, data analytics, predictive algorithms; indigenous futurism, afrofuturism; the Earth Charter; epistemological uncertainty, “wicked problems,” feedback loops, accelerating change; religion, eschatology; virtual environments, gaming, digital spaces; transhumanism, posthumanism, animality; extinction, Anthropocene, geoengineering; social implications of demographic shifts, population increase and decline; social innovation for a green economy; the economy of aging; slow violence, intergenerational justice; transformative leaders.

Contributors and chapters

Contributions to the book will be solicited through open call and invitation. Please feel free to suggest authors you’d like us to invite. Because we seek to research the role that centers play in universities in transition to sustainability, we will invite partners in the International Intergenerational Network of Centers to contribute to this volume. We strive to include a diversity of genders, geographical locations, and generations.

“Book +”

We plan that this will be “more than a book.” We see this book as an initiative of a new network of university centers researching the role of charting speculative futures in education for sustainable development. We hope the book and network will be connected to additional resources on a companion website. These might include blogging the editorial process, social networking around the theme of (re)imagining futures, collaboration between centers, augmented reality/QR codes, and open source/downloadable chapters.

Abstract submission instructions

In order for your chapter to be considered, please submit an abstract to futuresbook2015@gmail.com no later than November 13 2015. Abstracts should be approximately 300 words. Please include 2-5 key references in your abstract; these will not count towards your word limit. Please identify the part of the book in which you’d like your chapter to be considered. Also include a short professional biography for all co-authors.

Transformative, transgressive social learning: rethinking higher education pedagogy in times of systemic global dysfunction

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This weekend (September 12-13, 2015) an new publication appeared that I was privileged to co-author with Heila Lotz-Sisitka (Rhodes University), David Kronlid (University of Uppsala) and Gothenburg), Dylan McGarry (Durban University of Technology)  for Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (Vol 16:7380). It is one of the first papers that I know of that begins to question the emphasis on adaptation and the development of   ‘adaptive capacity’ and instead introduces the need for transgression and disruptive capacity if we are to transition towards a new world based on alternative (including ancient ones) values and principles than current dominant ones. Here’s the abstract follow by some highlights in bullet form. The paper itself can be found here for personal use (not for distribution). Transgressive Social Learning The work was supported by a grant by the ISSC.

Abstract

The nature of the sustainability challenges currently at hand is such that dominant pedagogies and forms of learning that characterize higher education need to be reconsidered to enable students and staff to deal with accelerating change, increasing complexity, contested knowledge claims and inevitable uncertainty. In this contribution we identified four streams of emerging transformative, transgressive learning research and praxis in the sustainability sciences that appear generative of a higher education pedagogy that appears more responsive to the key challenges of our time: 1) reflexive social learning and capabilities theory, 2) critical phenomenology, 3) socio-cultural and cultural historical activity theory, and 4) new social movement, postcolonial and decolonisation theory. The paper critiques the current tendency in sustainability science and learning to rely on resilience and adaptive capacity building and argues that in order to break with maladaptive resilience of unsustainable systems it is essential to strengthen transgressive learning and disruptive capacity-building.

Highlights

  • The ‘learning modes’ needed for responding to and engaging the wicked problems of sustainability, require pedagogies that are not constrained by current use of limited concepts (e.g. the resilience concept), or by disciplinary decadence.
  • Concepts such as resilience can be problematic when they keeps hegemonic unsustainable systems, patterns and routines from changing.
  • Disruptive capacity building and transgressive pedagogies are needed to create a world that is more sustainable than the one in prospect.
  • Transformative, transgressive forms of learning require engaged forms of pedagogy that involve multi-voiced engagement with multiple actors as well an emphasis on co-learning, cognitive justice, and the formation and development of individual and collective agency.
  • Higher education institutions should provide space for transgressing taken-for-granted norms, existing ethical and epistemological imperialism in society and higher education itself, and in doing so provide possibilities for engaged, lived experience of transformative praxis for students as a necessary part of their education.

Civic Ecology for creating environmental stewardship and socio-ecological well-being – podcast now available!

Story notes: Marianne Krasny and Keith Tidball of Cornell’s Civic Ecology Lab convened a workshop in Annapolis Maryland, at the offices of The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, or SESYNC facilitated by David Maddox. The workshop was a gathering of 25 scholars and practitioners, come to talk about civic ecology.

But what is civic ecology? I asked each of the participants to give their short definition. This episode reveals their answers, and there is lots of nuance around some common themes. The work was supported in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and SESNYC. Special thanks to Jennifer Klein for directing the recordings.

You can also see a video version on youtube:

In order of appearance, the participants were:

Keith Tidball
Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University
http://dnr.cals.cornell.edu/people/keith-tidball
Keith Tidball wants you to get a land ethic fit for the 21st century. He studies how people and nature interact to make communities more resilient.

Zahra Golshani
Nature Cleaners, Iran
https://www.facebook.com/Nature.Cleaners.IR
Nature Cleaners strives to build community and a sense of environmentalism through voluntary trash collection in Iran. 

Traci Sooter
Drury University, Springfield, Missouri
http://www.drury.edu/architecture/Traci-D-Sooter/
Traci Sooter uses her expertise as a green architecture to complete community-focused design projects with a focus on sustainability. 

Rebecca Salminen Witt
The Greening of Detroit
http://www.greeningofdetroit.com
The Greening of Detroit is invested in providing a greener future for Detroit by “inspiring sustainable growth of a healthy urban community”

Erika Svendsen
U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station, New York
http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us
The Northern Research Station of the USFS works to understand forests in a human-disturbed landscape that includes NYC.

Jill Wrigley
Collins Avenue Streamside Community
Baltimore, Maryland
http://collinsavenuestreamside.org
The Collins Avenue Streamside Community is a collective of households attempting social & ecological reconciliation in their neighborhood.

Veronica Kyle
Faith in Place
http://www.faithinplace.org
Working with over 1,000 congregations of all faiths on issues of environmental stewardship. Based in Chicago.

Anniruddha Abhyankar
The Ugly Indian, Bangalore
http://www.theuglyindian.com
The Ugly Indian is a community movement generating voluntary cleanup drives across India in hopes of changing civic standards. 

Marianne Krasny
Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University
http://dnr.cals.cornell.edu/people/marianne-krasny
Marianne Krasny wants to know how civic ecology practices affect individuals, communities, and the environment. 

Dustin Alger
Higher Ground Sun Valley
http://www.highergroundsv.org
Higher Ground Sun Valley gives individuals with disabilities, especially veterans, the chance to experience the outdoors through recreation and therapy.

Anandi Premlall
Sustainable Queens, The Queensway
http://www.about.me/aapremlall
Sustainable Queens cultivates sustainable living, wellness, creativity, & empowerment through community gardens in underserved communities.

Laurel Kearns
Drew Theological School, Madison, New Jersey
http://users.drew.edu/lkearns/
Laurel Kearns trains religious leaders to understand the changing relationships between people and the environment.

Robert Hughes
Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation
http://epcamr.org/home/
EPCAMR is a coalition of individuals & organizations that supports abandoned mine reclamation for community use.

Rosalba Lopez Ramirez
Kelly Street Garden, New York
http://www.kellystgreen.com
A community garden in the South Bronx. Their mission? To grow food, grow community, grow wellness, and grow leaders.

Carrie Samis
Maryland Coastal Bays Program
http://www.mdcoastalbays.org/
MCBP’s goal is to protect and conserve the watershed of Maryland’s five coastal bays through research, education, outreach, and restoration.

Lance Gunderson
Department of Environmental Sciences, Emory University
http://envs.emory.edu/home/people/faculty/gunderson_lance.html
Lance Gunderson is an ecologist interested in how scientific understanding influences resource policy and management.

Kellen Marshall
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, University of Illinois at Chicago
https://sites.google.com/site/kellenmarshallgillespie/
Kellen Marshall is a graduate student with interdisciplinary interests related to stresses on urban ecosystems.

Arjen Wals
Waginengen University, University of Gothenburg

https://www.wageningenur.nl/en/Persons/Arjen-Wals.htm

Arjen Wals studies how to better engage the public in academic research in order to strengthen society.

Carmen Sirianni
Brandeis University; Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
http://www.brandeis.edu/facultyguide/person.html?emplid=6941dccea4920650a59484c9c213bef2598aa6b1
Carmen Sirianni focuses on democratic renewal in the contemporary U.S., especially as it pertains to the environment.

Caroline Lewis
The CLEO Institute
http://www.cleoinstitute.org/
The CLEO Institute is a non-profit dedicated to improving environmental education of the public as a means to support climate resilience.

Dennis Chestnut
Groundwork Anacostia River, Washington, D.C.
http://groundworkdc.org
GARDC’s uses environmental restoration goals as a vehicle for community development in communities around the Anacostia River.

Louise Chawla
Environmental Design Program, University of Colorado, Boulder
http://www.colorado.edu/envd/people/faculty/louise-chawla
Louise Chawla is interested in integrating nature into our every day, particularly through the engagement of children and youth.

Rebecca Jordan
Departments of Human Ecology and Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
http://www.rebeccajordan.org
A one-time evolutionary biologist of Lake Malawi’s cichlid fish, Rebecca Jordan’s current focus is on science education and citizen science.

Philip Silva
Treekit; Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University
http://treekit.org
Philip Silva studies how citizen science helps monitor urban forests. TreeKit makes tools for measuring, mapping, & managing street trees.

Karim-Aly Kassam
Environmental and Indigenous Studies, Cornell University
http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/kassam/
Dr. Kassam’s research interests are broad, but generally include ways of knowing as they relate to ecology.

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

Sustainability Tipping points, Meaning and Transformation in 2015: one more week to submit to WEEC!

Perhaps 2015 will be the year that education, learning and action for socio-ecological sustainability will accelerate. Public unrest about climate change, micro-plastics in oceans and bodies, awareness of the hijacking of identity and colonalisation of the mind for business interests (don’t accept those cookies, or check that ‘I agree’ box too quickly), the increased yearning for meaning over consumption, can be considered early beginnings of a transition towards a healthier, more equitable, ecologically viable, morally defensible and peaceful world.

2015 will be the year where the UN Global Action Program for Education for Sustainable Development will be approved as one mechanism seeking to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Closer to home, in my own backyard, 2015 will be the year where the Dutch government will need to respond to a demand by the parliament that all Dutch education seriously addresses sustainability. This demand was initiated by 36 Dutch youth organisations last fall and somewhat surprisingly received a majority.

2015 will be the year where the city of Gothenburg in Sweden will host the 8th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC2015) in June. The conference identifies 11 key themes to be explored during the conference and beyond, and all represent potential tipping points in a transition towards sustainability. I have listed them below but please go the conference website (http://weec2015.org/) for more information or have a look at a short ‘pitch’ for the conference that was taped last year to promote the conference.

  1. Taking Children seriously in addressing global challenges

We only have one planet, it’s simple, it’s the only we one we have, and we have got to look after it. But when we explore ’People and Planet and how they can develop together’, what people are we talking about? In this strand we focus on the young both as victims, heirs and catalyst and agents of change: not only the children growing up in affluence but also those growing up in poverty. How can we create spaces for them to become fully self-actualized members of society who can ably and meaningfully contribute to a transition towards a more sustainable world in which People and Planet develop together?

  1. Reclaiming sense of place in the digital age

Place-based approaches emphasizing the importance of place and place-based identity in determining our relations with the planet are on the rise across the globe. The focus on place and identity is timely as the complexity and uncertainty brought on by globalization and the rapid pace of technological and social change resulting in enormous cultural shifts which include a search for meaning and affiliation in locally defined identities. Although there are some who are worried about the ‘disconnect’ between people and place that results from a pre-occupation with and dependency on information and communication technologies, there are also those who see the use of ICTs as a way to reconnect people and places. There are numerous examples of citizens monitoring changes in the environment (e.g. changing bird migration patterns, changing quality of water, soil and air, changes in biodiversity) using GIS, cell phones, and specially designed monitoring apps. This strand explores the opportunities for reconnecting people and planet locally in a rapidly changing world.

  1. Environmental education and poverty reduction

As the millennium development goals are being replaced by sustainable development goals and there appears to be a shift from ‘education for all’ to ‘quality education for all‘, an important question is: what is the role of EE in reducing poverty? Already in 1975 (Belgrade Charter on EE) and 1977 (Tbilisi Declaration) EE was assigned a role in overcoming inequality and questioning unsustainable economic models to help alleviate poverty. But what has EE done concretely since? And why has reducing inequity and poverty been under-emphasized in the DESD? As poor people around the world are disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change, mining, resource depletion, loss of food and nutrition security, and so on, environmental and sustainability educators need to look for ways to engage multiple stakeholders (schools, communities, governments, private sector and civil society organizations) in strategies to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods. In this strand we look for researched practices from around the world that seek to do so.

  1. Learning in vital coalitions for green cities

Transition towns, eco-villages, urban agriculture, green schools with edible school gardens, are becoming more and more mainstream and widespread. These initiatives all require forms of joint learning with sometimes unlikely partners. Organizing such learning, also referred to as multi-stakeholder social learning, requires a new role for environmental and sustainability educators and policy-makers. A new task might be: brokering and supporting vital coalitions that are both energizing and generative in engaging citizens, including children and youth, meaningfully in greening urban areas in order to contribute to local food security, health and ecological stewardship. This thematic strand explores these emerging and expanding initiatives from a learning perspective: What kind of learning is taking place? Who is learning? How can such learning be supported? What is the impact of these coalitions on the learners themselves, the organisations they represent and the community they seek to improve?

  1. (Re) emerging concepts for environmental stewardship and sustainability

Since the birth of environmental education in the sixties of the last century emphasis has been placed on systems thinking and a more holistic approach to problem solving or situation improvement. Over the years many learning activities and curricula have been developed by environmental educators but still the challenge of enabling people to see connections, relationships and interdependencies, is as big as back then but the urgency to so is greater than ever. In meeting this challenge there are calls for re-discovering and utilizing indigenous ways of knowing but at the same time there are new concepts such as bio-mimicry, cradle to cradle and life cycle analysis that show promise in strengthening integral thinking and design. In this strands the educational potential of old, new and blended ways of ‘thinking the earth whole’ is explored.

  1. Mind the gap! Moving from awareness to action

Early EE was informed by insights from behaviourist social psychology suggesting that an increase in environmental awareness would lead to more responsible environmental behaviour. This assumed linearity between increasing knowledge-growing-awareness and changing-behaviour has shown to be weak. Attitude-behaviour models have since then been revised to include a number of additional factors and feedback loops. Just providing information, raising awareness and changing attitudes apparently is not enough to change people’s behaviour. But still policy-makers and donors want ‘evidence’ that education leads to a change in behaviour and improved environmental quality. In this thematic strand we re-visit the ‘gap’ by exploring new behavioural models and new forms of ‘evidence’ taking a critical look at projects and approaches that successfully influence and/or change behaviour.

  1. Assessing environmental and sustainability education in times of accountability

In this thematic strand the focus is on assessment of learners in school settings (K-12 and vocational education). In many countries there is a call for climbing the rankings and excelling in math, science and languages (cfr. the Pisa rankings). This often leads to a focus on the testing of ‘universal’ knowledge. At the same time schools – in their own context – need to pay attention to sustainability, health, citizenship, arts and humanities while preparing learners for a rapidly changing world and workplace. These claims seem to be competing with one another. How can environmental and sustainability education navigate this force field? Are there alternative ways of assessing learners that provide more space for meaningful learning around real/authentic issues?

  1. Beyond the green economy: educating and learning for green jobs in a green society

Driven perhaps by mostly economic interests and technological innovations, companies and governments are beginning to re-orient themselves to what is commonly referred to as the ‘green economy’ and its related ‘green skills’ and ‘green jobs’. The demand for a workforce that is capable to work in such an economy is on the rise and (vocational) schools are responding by re-orienting their curricula. From an environmental and sustainability perspective it is important to critically follow this trend in order to make sure that the P for People and the P for Planet receive at least as much attention as the P for Profit or Prosperity. In this thematic strand we invite participants to discuss the role of environmental and sustainability education at the interface between school and community and the world of work.

  1. New perspectives on research in environmental and sustainability education

The increased attention to ‘engagement’ in environmental learning has resulted in a greater focus on the agency of citizens, young and old, and their active participation in all phases of learning and inquiry. Positioning citizens in such roles is consistent with calls for treating all people as responsible agents capable of participating in changing and improving their circumstances. Doing so is considered crucial as the complexity and seemingly overwhelming nature of sustainability issues can easily lead to negativity and action paralysis. This is why some environmental education researchers emphasize not only the intellectual engagement of people in socio-ecological issues, but also their emotional engagement. For environmental education research to contribute to citizen engagement in socio-ecological-environmental issues, forms of civically engaged scholarship with appropriate research methodologies and methods are needed urgently. In this thematic strand participants are encouraged to share, reflect on and discuss emergent perspectives on research in environmental and sustainability education.

  1. Educational policy development for environment & sustainability

Communities, schools and universities are affected by a number of educational policies that are not always consistent with one another and offer varying opportunities for addressing environment and sustainability in a meaningful way. This strand investigates existing and new policies and innovations that offer the most promise for enabling educational change for a more sustainable future, including in relation to educational institutions’ approaches to curriculum, research, facilities operations, governance, and broader engagement with community and place.

  1. Education and learning for climate change adaptation and resilience

Communities, both urban and rural, are experiencing the impacts of climate change in sometimes subtle (e.g. the shifting of seasons, change of bird migration patterns) and not so subtle (e.g. flooding, droughts) ways. How can education and learning help communities adapt to these impacts and become more resilient in their response? How do communities strengthen their capacities for social resilience, reduced vulnerability and an integral risk management? Or should the focus be on ’adaptation’ and ’resilience’ reflecting the inevitability of climate change while de-emphasising climate change mitigation or prevention?

IF ANY OF THESE THEMES SPEAK TO YOU AND YOU FEEL YOU CAN MAKE A CONTRIBUTION GO TO http://weec2015.org/ AND SUBMIT YOUR ABSTRACT BY JANUARY 14TH!