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Discourses of Hope in Sustainability Education: A Critical Analysis of Sustainability Advocacy

By Gerri McNenny and Jan Osborn

Abstract: If we are to educate the coming generation about the threats to the environment and the consequences of the excesses of human actions on our planet, educators need to consider critical pedagogy as a means of engaging students in thought and action. This article examines texts from prominent sustainability advocates and researchers, analyzing how they frame sustainability on a spectrum of hope that will then enable educators to address sustainability education with a realistic sense of agency while preparing students to meet the challenges for a sustainable future. Suggestions for pedagogical applications are included for each category across the spectra of hope.

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November 2015: Hope and Agency in Sustainability Education

By Clare Hintz

  Editor’s Corner Hope and Agency as Ontological Imperatives for Sustainability Education Tina Lynn Evans, Colorado Mountain College   Editorials Hope … in a Hopeless World? Randall Amster, Georgetown University Sustainability Programming is an Ethical Obligation for Higher Education in the Environmental Century Stephen Mulkey, Unity College On the Future of Hope Douglas Dupler, University […]

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Fostering Hope in Calamitous Times: A Review Essay on Randall Amster’s Peace Ecology (2015)

By Adrian Fielder

Abstract: This essay examines Randall Amster’s book Peace Ecology as a critical intervention articulating vital connections among discourses from peace and justice studies (on one hand) and the most vexing problems addressed by sustainability studies (on the other): from violent conflict and social inequity to environmental injustice and global ecocide. Reading this dialogue through the lens of hope, the author argues that Amster’s synthesis of this research provides effective tools for helping educators, students and practitioners of sustainability to generate new thought – and direct action – around these issues. By cataloguing and analyzing the many successes of ecological peacebuilding without absolving the paradigms of thought that continue to propagate war against people and planet, Amster empowers us to avoid both the trap of despair and the delusion of complacent optimism in order to foster the conditions that promote human beings’ mutually-beneficial peace and coexistence with each other and with the Earth.

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Looking for Sustainable Systems on Campus

By Andrea Frank and Aaron D. Knochel

Abstract: Higher education campuses play an important role in developing visionary models of sustainability that integrate campus facilities, student learning, and research. We reflect on a series of visits to campuses within New York state utilizing systems thinking analysis of sustainable initiatives finding interconnections between buildings, pedagogy, and campus life. Campus infrastructure-systems, curriculum, and campus actors present agentic interconnections that contribute to teaching the campus community about sustainable systems. Our journey presents three big ideas for conceptualizing our encounters: wayfinding, defining occupancy, and implementing a vision that articulate how campus spaces and green infrastructures exert agency in teaching us about sustainable living. These big ideas are explored to conceptualize and reflect on our role as art and design faculty to use our workplace and hence campus life as a context within which to speculate on sustainable living.

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Socially Engaged Art and Agriculture: Experimenting with Extension

By Lucas Ihlein, Laura Fisher, Kim Williams and Simon Mattsson

Abstract: Solutions to environmentally damaging human practices require cooperation between many different communities. This article explores sustainability-focused education through the lens of a current work-in-progress, Sugar vs the Reef?, which involves collaboration between sugarcane farmers and artists in the arable catchment of the Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland. This is a socially engaged art project that is addressing the fraught relationship between the region’s agriculture and the fragile ecology of the Reef. We introduce some of the specific aspects of socially engaged art (SEA) which commend it as a cross-disciplinary method for bridging diverse individuals and organisations – in particular, the notion of a “holding environment” for complex socio-ecological situations. We consider how this approach might broaden the agricultural practice of “extension” which aims to transform farming through educational outreach. Ideas emerging from contemporary socially engaged art practice may contribute to a toolkit for researchers and practitioners within and beyond the academy who are searching for ways to overcome the limitations of current methodologies and movements for social change.

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Embodying education: performing environmental meanings, knowledges, and transformations

By José Castro-Sotomayor, Jeff Hoffmann, Melissa Parks, Maggie Siebert, Mariko Thomas and Tema Milstein

This essay presents an exploration of a wide spectrum of current ecocultural relations through the creative methodology and expression of performance. We present a script of a performance inspired by a seemingly simple prompt for a pedagogical free write exercise “When I say ‘nature,’ I mean…” The goal of the free write exercise is to illuminate and open up for questioning and transforming our cultural assumptions, embodied meanings, and social constructions associated with the idea of “nature.” The authors/performers reflect about the process of creation and their intimate struggles with environmental ideologies often hidden behind the veil of common sense, political posturings, or disciplined concealments. As an art form, performance allows engagement with imaginations that emerged as radical, thus insinuating the need for a more nuanced and free scholarship, as well as for embracing performance as liberating pedagogic activism.

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Bridging the boundaries of science and art for business students: Integrating botany and artistic perspectives to teach environmental literacy

By Vikki L. Rodgers and Danielle Krcmar

Engaging students not majoring in science, sustainability or environmental studies in learning environmental literacy and shifting their attitudes and behavior toward nature often requires a multi-perspective approach and presents unique challenges. We sought to: (1) pair artistic perspectives with botanical concepts to educate and interest our students in learning environmental literacy, (2) engage our students in careful observation and visualization of nature, and (3) increase the environmental sensitivity of our students by connecting botany with nature based art. To do this we designed a pre-class assignment, an in-class botanical art workshop, and a written reflection assignment that asked students to view, conceptualize, and create works of botanical art as a multi-perspectival process of engaging with relevant scientific processes and environmental concerns connected to botany. Here we provide a justification for the value of bridging science with art, detail our approach, describe student survey responses and thoughtful written reflections, and illustrate lessons learned and future plans.

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Critical sustainability studies: A holistic and visionary conception of socio-ecological conscientization

By Felipe Ferreira

Abstract: Sustainability has the potential to provide a holistic framework that can bridge the gap that is often found between socio-economic justice and environmental discourses. However, sustainability and sustainability education have typically accepted the prevailing socio-economic and cultural paradigm. It is my aim in this paper to demonstrate that a truly holistic and visionary sustainability (education) framework ought to demand radical and critical theories and solutions- based approaches to politicize and interrogate the premises, assumptions, and biases linked to the dominant notion of sustainability. If we are to envision and construe actual sustainable futures, we must first understand what brought us here, where the roots of the problems lie, and how the sustainability discourse and framework tackle—or fail to tackle—them. To do this is to politicize sustainability, to build a critical perspective of and about sustainability. It is an act of conscientização (or conscientization), to borrow Paulo Freire’s seminal term, of cultivating critical consciousness and conscience. In lieu of the standard articulation of politics as centralized state administration, ‘critical sustainability studies’ is based on a framing that gives prominence to a more organic, decentralized engagement of conscientious subjects in the creation of just, regenerative eco-social relations. It illuminates the ideological and material links between society, culture, and ecology by devoting particular attention to how knowledge and discourse around and across those realms are generated and articulated. I believe that future scholarship and activism in sustainability and sustainability- related fields would benefit immensely from dialoguing with this framework.

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Experience and Place-Making in Contested Forests

By Jodie Asselin

This piece examines narratives of place from diverse actors who engage with forests in the Yukon Territory, Canada. In examining personal stories of forest experience, I show how a single locality can be multiple places. In addition, this work focuses on the ways in which stories of experience are also expressions of legitimacy and belonging. What is shown are the varied mechanisms of engagement, the diverse places created, and the voices which are at once individual and influenced by a broader social context. As educators I argue we need to examine overlapping narratives of place. Through focusing on experience the intersecting nature of different localities becomes clear. As does the necessity to situate such narratives within their broader context, one within which experience is a key aspect of determining the legitimacy of land-use voices.

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Privilege as Practice:  A Framework for Engaging with Sustainability, Diversity, Privilege, and Power

By Matthew Kolan and Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees

This paper explores the intrinsic but often weakly developed links between sustainability and issues of diversity, power, and privilege. It offers a systems-oriented conceptual framework for exploring and understanding how issues of diversity, power and privilege operate in social-ecological systems. This framework can be used as a learning tool with a wide array of audiences (higher education, organizational development, adult learners) and educational contexts (including but not limited to sustainability education programming).

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A Community of Learners, Educators, and Leaders Create Wider Spheres of Influence at Prescott College PhD Program in Sustainability Education

By Pramod Parajuli

PDF:PramodSpring2014 Key Words:  Sustainability Education, State of the Field, Prescott College, Ph.D. Program in Sustainability Education   The problems we are facing are linked. It is not a set of problems. It is a system of problems. Now it is time to look at the system of solutions. – Janine Benyus, Nobel Laureate Symposium, 2011. […]

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Cities and Regions: The Urban Sustainability, Planning, Pedagogy, and Technology Nexus

By Reza Banai

Two developing strands of a multidisciplinary literature provided an impetus for this paper: 1) the emergence of new regionalism, new urbanism, and smart codes that inform urban planning and design principles and practices for environmental sustainability, and 2) the diffusion of telecommunication and multi-media technologies that facilitate implementation of pedagogic principles in the “classroom.” The emerging urban planning and design paradigms anchor environmental sustainability issues firmly in place and space with an emphasis on the physical form of cities and regions, which, due to induced vehicular travel, is linked to greenhouse gases with consequences for climate change. Innovations that enhance learning in the classroom or the community increasingly embed and diffuse telecommunication and multimedia technologies. The intersections of urban sustainability, planning, pedagogy, and technology are briefly reviewed in this paper. It turns out that urban planning and design paradigms—particularly those with an emphasis on systemic knowledge, holistic views of both the natural and built environments, collaboration, communication, and reflective practice—synergize with environmental sustainability goals. Furthermore, these very features are ingredients for effective education for urban sustainability, particularly in conjunction with advanced telecommunication and multimedia technologies.

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Critical Sustainability: Promoting Pedagogies of Placefulness in Outdoor Education

By Jeff Rose and Adrienne Cachelin

The socioecological challenges we face have never been so complex, so intractable, and so urgent. And while both justice-oriented education and education for sustainability are growing in colleges and universities across the United States, normative perspectives of outdoor experiential education have fallen embarrassingly behind. In this paper, we offer critical sustainability as a conceptual basis for engaging students in the beauty, perversity, and complexity of our world. Critical sustainability, integrating sociopolitical systems of privilege and oppression with the socioecological imperatives of global health and justice, provides an exciting and promising pedagogical direction. With this conceptual framework, we explore perspectives of “nature,” placefulness, and our multiple, overlapping subjectivities as students, educators, and engaged citizens. Our task as outdoor educators is to bring the faraway nearby and inspire students to engage in the myriad challenges we face as individuals, citizens, and as members of a global ecological community. We conclude by offering place mapping as a pedagogical technique to support elements of critical sustainability in outdoor education settings and beyond.

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Higher Education for Sustainable Consumption: Concept and Results of a Transdisciplinary Project Course

By Daniel Fischer and Marco Rieckmann

In their action project seminar course, Daniel Fischer and Marco Rieckmann show how students applied the principles of sustainable consumption while initiating several impressive on-campus programs to help the community obtain food, clothing and transport in a sustainable fashion. Using a solid theoretical foundation, the course shows how to integrate the formal and non-formal aspects of sustainability education.

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