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

April_Front_Full

(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.

Advertisements

Global Environmental Education and Wicked Problems – free Online Course

GlobalEE

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

BeyondUnreasonableDoubtInvite

 

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

InauguralInvitationcomplete

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).

sustainabilityfutures

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

protest-global-warming-climate-change

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