Archive: Departments

Climate Change Vulnerability, Water, and Extreme Weather: Perspectives from Graduate Environment Students

By Kristy Franks and Travis Moore

Abstract: The experience and impacts of climate change are uneven across generations, income classes, cultural groups, and geographical locations. Efforts to document and understand such experiences and related perspectives are increasing. Particularly among student groups, there is much attention on understanding how children and teenagers perceive climate change. However, until now, such perspectives of graduate students have not been represented in the literature. We, thus, surveyed and spoke with graduate students from a Geography, Planning and Environment Program at Concordia University in Montreal / Tiohtià:ke, Quebec, Canada. As a sample of next-generation decision makers, they shared fears, concerns, and recommendations consisting of both bio-physical and socio-political scientific dimensions. They expressed interdisciplinary perspectives related to climate change vulnerability, mitigation, and adaptation as they relate to water and extreme weather. Their fears included uncertainties pertaining to climate and human behaviors, and the possibility of surpassing global carrying capacities that could result in irreversible and lethal disasters. Considerations involved recognizing the vulnerability of the climate system and of humans, with a focus on socio-political injustices. Students placed a strong focus on emerging opportunities, such as fostering community development and investing in innovative technologies. They recommended power shifts, through paradigm awareness and reformed policies, where currently vulnerable populations access more decision-making power. They suggested fostering interdisciplinary and international cooperation to integrate climate science, involving age-appropriate modelling programs, into school curricula, and learning about human positionality and from resilient populations. We consider wicked problems, psychological distancing, and climate literacy as influential concerns in shaping climate change contexts and literacy. Our methodology allowed research participants to guide the study’s questions and foci with the use of a survey, collectively-generated word collages, and a focus group. The activities prompted space for the group to practice roleplaying as decision makers. As gentle form of Participatory Action Research, the methods could guide other groups to reflect upon and document their perspectives. 

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Unthinking Oil Together: Developing a Collaborative and Transdisciplinary Course to Imagine a Post-Carbon Future

By Gabriel Fuentes, Daniela Shebitz and Julia Nevárez

Abstract: While it is widely recognized that effectively addressing climate change requires a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, we nonetheless find ourselves in an impasse, unable to imagine nor bring about a post-carbon future. This is, in part, because climate change is not only a technological problem, but also a philosophical, cultural, and aesthetic problem—an existential crisis of thinking, or perhaps unthinking. To unthink the carbon regime, higher education must forge new thought models and educational platforms that operate in solidarity across disciplinary scales and territories. This report documents a collaborative course development process for a grant-funded transdisciplinary course entitled: Unthinking Oil: Public Architecture and the Post-Carbon Imaginary. In particular, we discuss a virtual Unthinking Oil Workshop held with students and faculty from a range of disciplines. The workshop provoked broad discussions regarding the role of higher education in addressing the many entanglements between climate change, society, and the built environment.

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Listening for a Life-Sustaining Society

By Jen Mason

Abstract: After 20 plus years as a sustainability educator, the author had one of those lie-awake-at-night-staring-at-the-ceiling experiences where she faced some hard questions about the state of the world. In this article, describes her subsequent journey investigating the role of listening in shifting to a life-sustaining society and her Ph.D. research into how to support listening across differences to address complex social-ecological challenges.

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River Meditations: A Journey into Environmental Education 

By Blake C. Scott. and Merrie Koester

What if a river or a creek were to tell us its story? In this short film and interview, we offer a glimpse into the ecological philosophy guiding our efforts to create “more sustainable ways of living with water and how to appreciate its capacities to support all life.”

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The Thin Blue Line: Community-Based Climate Change Adaptation and the Case of RCE Greater Dhaka (Bangladesh)

By Paul Kolenick

Abstract: In 2008 astronauts aboard the International Space Station captured an image of sunlight as it passed through the Earth’s thin atmosphere, described as the thin blue line of “all that stands between life on Earth and the cold, dark void of space.” At the center of sustainability education is a discourse of climate change and life’s demise on the planet. In this short article, the contributing role of the United Nations University’s Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs) for sustainability education is explored with respect to community-based climate change adaptation, notably through RCE Dhaka (Bangladesh) as an example of the challenges and opportunities for climate change adaptation in one of the most heavily populated megacities of the Global South.

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Fire Lessons: Thinking Through Place and Displacement

By Jesse Moon Longhurst

This piece explores the author’s relationship with fire (domestic fire and wildfire) and the lessons inherent in a rural life that is both dependent on fire and threatened by it. It explores the curriculum of fire as one of nonattachment, of community cohesion, of the legacy of colonialism and of the connection to place.

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Fostering Student Activism About the Climate Crisis Through Digital Multimodal Narratives

By Blaine Smith, Richard Beach and Ji Shen

Abstract: A challenge with engaging students in taking action to address the climate crisis is that they may assume that they have little or no agency related to having an impact on audiences or policymakers. In this report, we describe students’ use of videos and digital storytelling as multimodal tools for communicating the need to address the climate crisis with different audiences. We discuss the importance of narratives in digital storytelling as a means to foster student engagement with issues of sustainability, as well as provide an overview of different types of digital multimodal productions students can create to promote a sense of agency. Next, we describe one program in-depth (Project IF) and explain how the similar use of digital tools promotes creative problem solving and leveraging media to explore climate issues. We conclude with a discussion of the critical media literacy practices associated with the effective use of digital tools for addressing the climate crisis.

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Caring as Class: Resolving the Emotional Paradox of Climate Change Education

By Lyles Ward, Kelly Overstreet, Yiwen Wu and Jasmin Moore

How do we help students (and ourselves as instructors) prepare to engage in sustained action in the face of climate change and its root causes of extraction, inequity, racism and colonialism? In this article, we elaborate on the conceptual and practical challenges in preparing students for sustained action to imagine and enact a compassionate and sustainable future in the face of climate change. We discuss our integrated teaching-research-engagement approach aimed at examining the potential role of compassion as a transformative practice for reducing long-term risks from natural hazards and climate change. We provide summaries of and reflections on a pair of courses taught in 2019 and 2020 that explored, respectively the inner personal dimensions and external relational dimensions of professional work to reduce climate risks. We conclude by detailing some of the lessons we’ve learned in the processes of convening these courses and look to future opportunities for growth and sustained action as educators ourselves.

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Sustainability education in the Anthropocene: Storytelling, the environmental humanities, and the unknown Since

By Nathan Hensley

In this paper, I draw from the fields of curriculum studies and the environmental humanities to address the sustainability issues associated with the Anthropocene and to theorize what it means to reinhabit our unique bioregions. I argue that it is time to transgress the fragmented and mono-disciplinary investigations emblematic of the academy by embracing pluralistic ways of knowing and going beyond conventional epistemologies to better understand the cultural forces involved in wicked problems such as climate change. Using autoethnography, I draw from my personal experiences related to higher education for sustainable development while discussing what it means to better appreciate a problem’s intractability and to hold our assumptions open to questioning. Additionally, I make connections to Donna Harraway’s conception of staying with the trouble in the midst of these socio-ecological turbulent times. Accordingly, I theorize what it means to stay with the trouble by learning to “love the questions” inherent to studying sustainability issues while articulating the roles that reflection, storytelling and transdisciplinary scholarship play in (re)envisioning a future that sustains the (more than) human world.

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Board Games as Educational Tools

By Linda Pope

The use of board games in education is under-utilized. As we come out of this pandemic, and adjust to new directions, education can reinvent itself, and create better learning environments. Games can engage students with different learning styles and inspire individual creativity. Board games represent the missing tool in our toolboxes, and they can replace the traditional lectures with a method that reaches all students. This literature review introduces the background needed to incorporate games into curriculum and to encourage educators to embrace that possibility of engagement. Games have the potential to lead us into action in our communities and find solutions for global climate change issues.

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What I know, what I think I know, how I act, & why I don’t: Examining students’ self-assessed vs. scientific knowledge about climate change

By Kristina Howansky, Mary L. Nucci, Cara L. Cuite and Rebecca Jordan

The present study examined what undergraduate students thought they knew about climate change, what they actually knew in terms of scientific knowledge, and how these two types of knowledge predicted their pro-environmental intentions and behaviors. We tested these questions using a cross-sectional online survey and data from a subsample of undergraduate student participants who believe in anthropogenic climate change (N = 3,310). Students reported moderate levels of self-assessed knowledge yet objectively lacked an understanding of the causes of climate change. Self-assessed knowledge more strongly predicted pro-environmental intentions and action than actual knowledge. Students’ understanding of the consequences of climate change predicted intentions while understanding the causes and climate science predicted action. Students self-identified a lack of knowledge and a lack of prioritization as barriers to climate change mitigating action. Pedagogical implications are discussed.

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Supporting Eco-Character Development Through Community-Based Inquiry Learning

By Andrea Kunze

Abstract. This study investigates whether children at an urban place-based environmental education camp can develop three dimensions of eco-character development after week-long participation: Head (knowledge), Hand/Feet (action), and Heart (care/connection). Using a community-based and inquiry-driven curriculum, campers practiced the roles of an arborist, ecologist, and environmental steward. Fifty-five Campers were assessed on all three dimensions using a 10-question pre/post-survey. An overall increase in content knowledge, relationships with nature, and motivation for pro-environmental behaviors were found. Outdoor environmental education summer camps and other out of school experiences may be the new avenue for educators and instructors to consider when trying to promote positive eco-character development in future generations.

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Effect of Ecopedagogy-Based Environmental Education on In-Service Teachers’ Consumer Behaviour in Turkey: A Follow-Up Study After Seven Years 

By Emel Okur-Berberoglu

Abstract:  Ecoliteracy can be defined as an understanding of natural systems and connections between biotic and abiotic factors within sustainable future. Green consumerism is an observable side of ecoliteracy. The aim of this study is, therefore, to examine the long-term effect of environmental education programmes intended for in-service teachers in terms of behavioural change. The teachers were joined ecopedagogy-based education programmes funded by TUBITAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) in Turkey and were followed up after seven years. The methodology of the study was mixed method within a case study. Quantitative data were collected by a survey and analysed by R statistics. Qualitative data were analysed by content analysis. It was found that the green consumer behaviours of in-service teachers have improved in the long term. However, it is needed more follow up studies within different time frames and country comparison studies in the future.

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Incorporating Public Deliberation into Sustainability Education

By Lisa Morano and Windy Lawrence

Abstract: A course in sustainability was implemented at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD).  The course was open to all students at UHD with a goal of teaching sustainability as the complex interaction of multiple fields (economics, social science and environmental science).  UHD’s Center for Public Deliberation (CPD) was interested in applying the concepts of public deliberation into courses outside of communication.  For effective public deliberation, students need to learn the skills of soliciting and incorporating diverse opinions as a pre-requisite of working together toward a solution.  Many students attracted to sustainability, including science and technology majors, do not realize that most problems of sustainability are not merely technical problems but problems that arise from conflicting ethical frameworks.  Students outside of public deliberation rarely have an opportunity to practice engaging in the tools that will be critical for them to develop solutions within the complexity of current social systems.  We review the value of public deliberation in higher education and the logistics of bringing public deliberation into a sustainability course.  We summarize the logistics of the collaboration with a focus on deliberation, planning and action in a semester-long group projects with a focus on creating healthier communities.  We report on the impacts of both the communication and science faculty and the survey data from students.  Finally, we discuss the value of such a collaboration in sustainability education.

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‘Challenge to the South’ Revisited: A Case Study Worldwide of Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

By Paul Kolenick

Abstract: Three decades ago Julius Nyerere (1990) wrote Challenge to the South. In response to the legacy of colonialism, Nyerere challenged the nations of the Global South to advance their development and to free their people. These concerns are as relevant today as they were in the 1990s. Established for the United Nations Decade of Education Sustainable Development in 2005, there are now over 175 Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs) on Education for sustainable Development (ESD). This paper offers a case study of RCEs worldwide with a particular focus on challenges, and responses, including a focus on the select Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of poverty and health. Further, an account is given of RCEs which have attended to the recognition of Indigenous and traditional ways of knowing. 

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Beyond Traditional Teacher Professional Development: Innovations in Teacher Professional Learning in Environmental and Sustainability Education

By Julie Ernst, Deanna Erickson, Eva Burgess and Ryan Feldbrugge

Continued implementation of conventional professional development strategies will likely fall short of the innovations needed to prepare teachers to fully engage in and implement environmental and sustainability education. The Rivers2Lake education program based in Superior, Wisconsin, USA illustrates a transformational approach to teacher professional development.  We examine the program as a working example of three UNESCO learning processes that have been identified as aligning with and contributing to education for sustainability (Tilbury, 2011): collaboration and dialogue; engaging the whole system; and active and participatory learning.  Through a review of these processes, the article offers considerations for innovating teacher professional learning for environmental and sustainability education.  Key recommendations include shifting from isolated professional development events to ongoing professional learning as well as further investigation of the specific mechanisms that drive each of the UNESCO learning processes.

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Wanting to Share: How Integration of Digital Media Literacy Supports Student Participatory Culture in 21st Century Sustainability Education

By Andrew Bernier

Abstract: Recognizing that most modern students have access to smartphones equipped with multi-media capture capability, this article explores how sustainability education must include digital media literacy in 21st Century learning. Through the lens of a sustainability and media teacher, the article analyzes literature from the fields of digital media literacy, 21st century skills, and sustainability education. The author ties together theoretical and practical methods of how embracing digital media when teaching sustainability can enhance student learning and sharing of sustainability knowledge. With references to emerging trends, critiques, and challenges to media technology adoption in sustainability education settings, the author outlines several techniques to empower teachers and students to incorporate technology they already use daily, and share their work with greater audiences to engage communities beyond the classroom.

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Vanessa Nakate and Perceptions of Black Student Activists

By Chelsea McFadden

Abstract: This editorial discusses the intersection of environmental and racial justice and how the movement has failed to center voices most affected by climate change.

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Students’ Participation in Tree Planting Activity: Promoting the 21st Century Environmental Education

By Christopher H. Punzalan and Ma. Lyka M. Balanac

Universally, trees have been an important part of urban landscapes for millennia since they offer adequate benefits to humanity. Studies highlighted the positive impacts of biodiversity conservation in the students’ academic performance but there is still lack of literature pertaining to its role on the promotion of environmental education in the Philippines. On this note, this study aimed to analyze the Filipino senior high school students’ perceptions and experiences on participating in a tree planting activity, identify the implications of tree planting activity in studying Earth and Life Sciences, and explore the perceived constraints and opportunities. The study design is descriptive-qualitative in nature. Based on the qualitative data analysis, five themes have emerged such as: (1) simple yet beneficial; (2) opportunities and constraints; (3) practical application of learning; (4) environmental awareness promotion; and (5) mitigating environmental degradation. In conclusion, tree planting activity as a part of the field study program in schools is one of the most effective ways to combat and slow down the effect of global warming while promoting the students’ academic interests. This study also highlighted the positive impact of tree planting by improving the Filipino students’ perceptions of life, community, and environment which is the goal of 21st century education. Lastly, the study recommends the development of extension programs to school communities in the Philippines and worldwide that will arouse the interests and participations of the students to tree planting activity, gardening and ecological tours by partnering with relevant organizations and agencies.

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The Impact of Environmental Biology Courses on the Human-Nature Relationship and Pro-Environmental Behavior of College Students

By Kelly Cartwright

The relationship with nature and pro-environmental behaviors of community college students in introductory environmental biology courses were assessed using psychometric instruments and environmentally-themed Likert-based statements. Post-class, students demonstrated an increase in level of concern for non-human species and viewed themselves as closer to nature. Students’ motivation for environmental concern for other people or themselves was not affected by completion of the course. As a result of the class, students demonstrated increased levels of pro-environmental behavior, such as thinking about the environment, recycling, and energy and water conservation. Changes in relationship with nature and pro-environmental behavior were moderated by professor, suggesting that the professor’s teaching style and attitude may influence students’ views and attitudes. Neither gender, age, student status (full- or part-time), nor type of class (with lab or without lab) influenced students’ relationship with nature or pro-environmental behaviors. Substantially increasing the personal responsibility and degree of interaction with course content, as reflected by the comparison of an honors section to regular sections, did not result in significant changes in either relationship with nature or pro-environmental behavior. Applications to course instruction and environmental education at large are discussed.

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Linking sustainability education with the Sustainable Development Goals in K-12 schools

By Emily Hurd and Alison A. Ormsby

Sustainability education has changed identities a number of times over the last decades. How might whole-school sustainability (WSS) prepare students to address current global issues?  A focus on teaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) creates opportunities for students to develop systems thinking and to learn to take civic action.  We visited four schools in the United States to observe and document replicable models of K-12 WSS.  In our research, we used a mixed methods approach to code data from interviews, classroom observations, and school campus tours.  Results from a case study analysis of four K-12 schools map out pathways toward implementing and refining WSS education programs to include the SDGs, systems thinking, and civic action.

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From children’s literature to sustainability science, and young scientists for a more sustainable Earth

By Quan-Hoang Vuong

As the future of human development increasingly hinges on the need for sustainable education, this essay re-examines the imminent threats to humankind and the relevance of achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the engagement with sustainability science among today’s young scientists. It also discusses some socio-political and economic challenges to achieving sustainability and argues that developing sustainability science is difficult but not impossible. The hope lies in our current efforts to build productive and creative scientific communities through nurturing youth engagement with science via multiple channels such as children’s literature and science communication.

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Creative tools and design principles for sustainable classrooms

By Neda Movahed and David Manuel-Navarrete

Standardized, assembly-line models of education have created significant momentum for unsustainable classroom situations. Classes are sustained throughout the term using ranking systems and proof of outcomes such as grading and reporting on content knowledge acquired. There is a clear ending in sight. Both students and instructors are often bound to this ending, often feeling a deep sense of relief at the end of each class session. As sustainability educators, we have become conscious that industrialized methods of education no longer serve societies re-envisioning ways of sustaining themselves. Sustainability Education necessitates sustainable classrooms – spaces that are alive, adaptive, and open to innovation. We explore design principles that can support sustainable classrooms, focusing on creativity, humanity, horizontality, and compassionate facilitation. We share examples of creative learning tools used in a 300-level Sustainability classroom in Arizona State University. Data collected through student interviews and journaling are woven throughout the article to ground our viewpoints with practical insight.

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Farm-to-Table: How One Teacher Fostered Passionate, Project-Based, Place-Based Learning

By Jacquelynne Anne Boivin

Abstract: While passionate, project-based, and place-based education may sound like a stream of buzz-phrases or fads in education at face-value, this article uncovers their impact on student engagement and academic proficiency. While they are not textbook, traditional, pedagogical approaches, they are esteemed in the field of Education as undeniably effective and worth teachers’ consideration. This article discusses the impactful aspects of a.) passionate teaching, b.) project-based learning (PBL), and c.) place-based education (PBE). A former fifth-grade teacher’s experience in creating and implementing a curriculum titled, “Farm-to-Table,” contextualizes the power of passionate teaching, PBL, and PBE when used simultaneously. The article concludes with special considerations for other teachers that warrant attention before they start planning their own passionate, PBL, and PBE curriculum.

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The Power Game: Developing Influence and Negotiation Skills for Sustainable Development

By Elizabeth Hurley, Michael Mortimer, Jerry Abrams and David Robertson

Abstract: This paper describes the outcomes of a game designed to teach advanced leadership skills, specifically influence and negotiation strategies, to current and aspiring sustainability professionals at Virginia Tech’s Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability. In the game, students assume the role of a key stakeholder and practice principle-based negotiation, conflict management, consensus building, and related influence skills needed by professionals working on complex sustainable development challenges such as the transboundary resource issues
regarding hydropower and watershed management. We collected pre- and post- survey data to assess the effectiveness of the simulation in developing students’ negotiation and influence skills. Results suggest that the training helps students develop confidence in using influence and negotiation skills and feel more competent and better prepared to serve as leaders in the field.

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Campus Forest Carbon Sequestration: An Undergraduate Project Experience

By Mark Bremer, Emily Frisa, Rachelle Maccarone and Daniel Seif

Abstract: Predicted changes in climate have generated interest in strategies to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases and increase education on the topic. Our study involved an instructor-led team of 19 biology undergraduate students that aimed to quantify tree carbon sequestered on 67 hectares of a university campus forest near Utica, New York, and estimate its monetary value as a carbon offset. We identified individual hardwood and conifer trees and measured diameter at breast height (DBH) of 343 trees within fifteen 0.04-hectare sample plots during a 3-week period. We estimated total campus forest carbon to be 7,678 Mg and annual sequestration to be 82 Mg C/year. We also found additional educational value of this voluntary field research project beyond traditional ecology field exercises. Campus managers could choose to count sequestered carbon as an offset to annual CO2 emissions from campus operations. Although our campus is not eligible to sell the accumulated carbon, we calculated a one-time offset to be worth $143,397 on the voluntary carbon trading market. Future studies could benefit from the efficient sampling methodology we used to quantify carbon contained in large forest areas and increased student learning from project-based field exercises.

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An Audio Journey Through Solutions to Global Warming in Pennsylvania

By Anna Nguyen and Laura Guertin

Abstract: Podcasts are increasing in popularity as an educational tool in recent years, but there remains a lack of podcasts that focus on climate change. The goal of this project was to create a series of audio files that address global warming solutions in the state of Pennsylvania, with each episode based upon a drawdown solution. Project Drawdown is a nonprofit organization that models how to reach “drawdown”— the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. This audio collection contains new and original podcasts addressing each Project Drawdown sector of global warming solutions, such as materials and waste, electricity generation, and land use. To highlight efforts in Pennsylvania, thirteen interviews were conducted with scientists, journalists, and professionals from organizations across the state, such as Feeding Pennsylvania, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Philadelphia Green Roofs, StateImpact Pennsylvania, and Land Air Water Legal Solutions. Named Drawing Down in Pennsylvania, the podcast collection starts with an introductory episode, then eight episodes each corresponding with one of the Project Drawdown sectors, and wraps up with two additional episodes – one titled “Hope” with messages of optimism towards achieving warming solutions from the interviewees, and a special episode that focuses on The Pennsylvania State University and its efforts toward to drawdown. The audio collection is published online, together with corresponding transcripts and supplemental materials. It is hoped that these podcasts will help inform Pennsylvania residents to make choices and to take action for a sustainable future. For residents outside of Pennsylvania, these drawdown efforts can be applied to different populations and regions. The entire podcast series can be accessed at: https://sites.psu.edu/drawingdownpa/ and is suitable for middle school through college classrooms as well as general audiences.

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How An Arboretum Outreach Activity Changed Students’ Attitudes Towards Sustainable Development

By Laura Guertin, Karen Theveny and Ivan Esparragoza

Abstract: In Fall 2017, Penn State Brandywine kicked off an initiative titled Sustainovation, emphasizing programming and community collaborations through sustainability and innovation. The campus identified Tyler Arboretum as a community partner to work with to assist in advancing their education and outreach goals. Students from across the campus came together at the beginning of the semester for an initial meeting to be introduced to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to meet the community partner and to hear about the semester project of adding sustainability education to the arboretum’s fall festival Pumpkin Days. In addition, a validated survey from Biasutti & Frate (2017) was given to the students to define their attitudes towards sustainable development before working with this partner and the project. The survey addresses four sustainability constructs of Environment, Economy, Society, and Education. At the end of the semester, the same survey was given to student participants in this Sustainovation project for Tyler Arboretum. Aggregate data show that there is a statistically significant difference in student attitudes at a minimum 90% confidence level (t-test) for eight of the twenty survey statements in the constructs of Environment, Economy, and Society.

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Inspiring Action, Efficacy, and Connection: Weaving Sustainability into Environmental Science Curriculum through a Connected Learning Model

By Teresa Bertossi and Philip Halliwell

This comparative case study of teaching and learning experience explores connected learning design principles to improve engagement in higher education and weave sustainability practice into introductory environmental science curriculum through the integration of community, place, peer support, networking, and technology.  For this study teaching and learning took place in multiple settings, online and in a brick-and-mortar classroom, and in students’ communities. We set out to ask: In what ways might the implementation of connected learning principles be used to improve engagement and weave sustainability into environmental science curriculum, broaden interest in science literacy, and encourage community action in introductory higher education courses? Comparative analysis and collaborative autoethnography methodologies were utilized to compare professor experiences for analysis and synthesis of patterns.  Findings suggest that connected learning curriculum can broaden access to science, improve engagement, and help weave sustainability into a variety of courses by presenting students with relevant applied opportunities, connections and critical thinking about place and community, peer support and intergenerational connections, networking, and technology. Students can also gain a sense of agency and career relevance especially important to students who might otherwise feel they cannot “do science” or make a difference in a changing world.  Lastly, this approach can improve instructors’ teaching experiences by relieving time and content constraints to incorporating sustainability into other course subjects as students submit more interesting passion-driven work, and are encouraged to network with and learn from individuals (family, community, and scientists) outside the classroom they may not have otherwise sought out.

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Thinking Like a Trout Stream

By Julie Dunlap

Abstract: Aldo Leopold’s classic essay, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” has been a touchstone of environmental ethics and sustainability education for over seventy years and continues to challenge and inspire wildlife ecology undergraduate students, and many more. But has it lost some power in the face of mounting evidence of accelerating damage and growing threats to the natural world, threatening biodiversity and human society on a global scale? Students and others now need another Leopold story, one that encapsulates an environmental ethic with a call for urgent action, a metaphor that urges not just change, but rapid transformation.

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Media Education and Ecological Modernism: Embodiment, Technology and Citizenship

By Carl Bybee and Shelby Stanovsek

Abstract: The field of media education, emerging within the instrumental vision of modernity, has largely ignored its unspoken modernist assumptions. In this article, we argue the time has come to fully engage an embodied view of media from an evolutionary, ecological perspective—what we might call ecological modernism. This is a perspective that views media as evolving mediations through various material/technical practices, where body knowledge, rather than some idea of objective reality, is understood as the empirical ground for how we come to make sense of ourselves and the world. The focus is then shifted from the problem of subject versus object relationships to how subjects and objects are mutually constitutive. By extension, the juxtaposition of the concept of citizen with the body clarifies yet another crucial dimension of the embodied perspective. Two examples of “citizen”-based media education projects are briefly reviewed from this ecological modernist perspective in order to consider the implications of resituating grounded citizen-oriented media education.

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The Tree of Life (2011), Eco-theology & Film: A Conversation with Prof. George Handley

By Benjamin Thevenin and George Handley

Movies as Mirrors is a conversation podcast in which guests discuss films that reflect a social issue that interests or affects them. On this episode, Professor of Humanities George Handley discusses the 2011 film “The Tree of Life” with podcast creator Benjamin Thevenin and guest-host Camlyn Giddins. The conversation explores the film’s representations of our relationship with the natural world, and in particular its use of eco-theology to introduce its audiences to ecological issues. We discuss the value of film as environmental education for the public and the need for more nuanced cinematic representations of issues like climate change.

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Connecting Youth, Eco-Media and Resilience in Appalachia

By Derek Douglas, Emmanuel Garcia and Mary Grueser

Abstract: In the summer of 2019, the We are All Connected urban-rural youth media program launched Something in Our Water, an eco-media documentary project that investigates the shared problem of water sustainability, public health, and climate change in their communities. This article discusses the transformative experience that the youth from New York City and the Clearfork Valley in the East Tennessee Appalachian mountains had as they learned about the history of multinational coal mine companies’ economic and environmental exploitation of the community, and the fierce and unequal power relations that continue to challenge environmental advocates today. With a focus on the perspectives of one of the Tennessee youth producers, the article reflects on the impact intergenerational learning and multicultural collaboration can have in nurturing future youth and community eco-media activists in Appalachia in the face of deeply rooted local and structural constraints. Through the process of documenting struggles in urban and rural communities, the youth team developed a deeper understanding of how the environmental justice movement cuts across differences to show how everyone is connected and can be empowered to take action.

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Training community-based journalists for climate change reporting: lessons from South Africa

By Brett Cohen and Leonie Joubert

Abstract: Reporting to the public on climate change impacts, adaptation, and mitigation requires journalists to be equipped to engage with a wide range of technical content in order to communicate it in an accessible and engaging way. Recognizing the need for journalists from a wide range of backgrounds, including those from community newspapers and radio stations in South Africa, to be able to undertake this task, the South African Department of Environment Affairs in partnership with GIZ commissioned the authors to develop and deliver a four-day climate change reporting training programme. This paper presents an overview of the structure and content of the course, and details the reflections after undertaking such an endeavor.
Based on the lessons learned, and an awareness that this kind of training may take place in the context where working community-level journalists may have a low knowledge base (of both the journalistic craft, as well as the content of climate science) the following recommendations emerge: scientific training may need to be combined with basic journalistic training (depending on the participants); learning-by-doing is central to journalists building their capacity in climate reporting training; and mother-tongue delivery of material is critical to the success of such technical training courses.

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Snacking on Media Literacy: Young Children, Sustainability, and Design in Media Literacy Education

By Chelsea Attwell

Abstract: This case study illustrates a cross-curricular learning experience, anchored in standards, where teachers and students actively engaged in co-constructed, inquiry-based learning and design thinking. The particular question this case study addressed was “How might students connect with environmental citizenship in authentic ways through media literacy experiences?” Specifically, the case study invited primary level learners to engage in a multimodal experience that was anchored in media literacy concepts and process. A pedagogical approach rooted in media literacy theory subsequently empowered students to make positive environmental changes in their communities and develop citizenship skills for the future. The project sought to develop awareness of sustainability through analysis, re-design, and production of snack food packaging. Educator reflections offer ideas for project improvement, such as producing for a wider audience, offering more choice, and making broader subject connections. This case study has implications for practice by demonstrating that, through various stages of scaffolding and integrated lesson design, young children are capable of applying sophisticated media literacy theory, inquiry, and design thinking to meet multiple curriculum standards.

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Moving from STEM to MESH

By Tim Wise

America is falling behind the rest of the world in science and math. There is therefore, a renewed emphasis on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). But while mastery of STEM subjects is essential to the functioning of society, we’ve neglected some other areas that are at least as important, if not more so. But without an equal commitment to comprehensive civics education — an examination of subjects that touch on the relationships between people, government, the economy, and media — all the technical know-how in the world will be for naught. The author suggests a renewed focus on MESH education, which stands for Media Literacy, Ethics, Sociology, and History. Because if these are not given equal attention, we could end up with incredibly bright and technically proficient people who lack all capacity for democratic citizenship.

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Coal’s Last Gasp, Its Resuscitation by Media, and the Habitus of NIMBY

By Carolyn Fortuna

Abstract: The shift away from coal to renewable energy for electricity generation is producing environmental benefits during the climate crisis but also poses uncertainty for coal producers and others along the coal supply chain. Media representations of the coal debate shape how citizens understand and respond to it. This commentary exposes how audiences – even of pro-environmental media – reproduce dominant discourses promoted by fossil fuel corporations and reconceptualize those discourses into a Not in my Backyard (NIMBY) worldview. Critical discourse analysis helps to reveal how tensions between coal companies and renewable energy proponents are exacerbated by controlled coal messaging. Coal propaganda evokes images of a noble and reasonable energy source and places coal within a positive framework that enhances local knowledge, protection, and economic security. Conclusions point to the importance of media literacy instruction as a means for consumers to gain critical distancing strategies and broader perspectives about the climate crisis.

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Engaging with Things: Speculative Realism and Ecomedia Literacy Education

By Benjamin Thevenin

Abstract: In recent years, media scholars and educators have made an effort to address ecological issues in their work. Ecomedia literacy adapts the principles and practices of the media literacy movement in order to prepare the public to critically engage with the relationship between media and the environment. However, this article argues that the philosophical frameworks, on which existing approaches to media literacy education are founded, are limited. The field’s reliance on traditions of constructivism and cultural studies allows learners to engage with ideas, but not things. The article argues that an ecomedia literacy that draws from speculative realism—in particular, in recognizing the reality of non-human things, emphasizing materiality, and challenging the nature/culture divide—will more effectively prepare the public to critically engage and practically respond to pressing ecological issues such as climate change.

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Ecomedia: The metaphor that makes a difference

By Antonio Lopez

  Link to the JSE April 2020 Ecomedia Literacy Issue Table of Contents Lopez Ecomedia JSE April 2020 Ecomedia Literacy PDF   Abstract: Media is an ambiguous metaphor that changes meaning depending on how it’s used by educators. Typically media are only characterized by how they represent reality and communicate ideas. Consequently, the metaphor assumes a […]

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“Solarpunk” & the Pedagogical Value of Utopia

By Isaijah Johnson

Abstract: This paper examines the ecologically oriented speculative fiction genre known as “solarpunk” and its value for the cause of environmental justice. This article argues that the status quo is characterized by relative inaction on the issue of fighting climate change and that this inaction is the result of an inability to imagine a “green” future. As a form of speculative fiction which explicitly depicts such green futures, solarpunk may be a valuable tool in promoting action by overcoming widespread cynicism about the future. Solarpunk fiction is thus a useful tool for sustainability educators because it encourages critical examination of one’s environmental impact. This article details the ways in which solarpunk stories function as counter-hegemonic media by intertwining issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, and colonialism with an ecological ethic.

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Green Guerrillas Youth Media Tech Collective: Sustainable Storytellers Challenging The Status Quo

By Jason Corwin

Abstract: The Green Guerrillas Youth Media Tech Collective, a community organization based in Ithaca, New York, set out to define sustainability in their own terms by giving a diverse group of local adolescents the opportunity to engage subjects of environmental and social justice through digital media production within the auspices of a unique afterschool job-training program. Interviews with youth participants and adult mentors illustrate key concepts for environmental and sustainability educators desiring to facilitate engaging learning environments utilizing multimedia. Excerpts of their interviews provide a lens into the workings of a non-formal educational environment that explicitly embraced media literacy, media arts production, and community engagement to advocate for issues of justice and sustainability while facilitating opportunities for ecological learning. This case study highlights the potential of digital storytelling to foster students’ knowledge retention, connection to nature, sense of empowerment, and ability to create positive change in their communities.

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Fake Climate News: How Denying Climate Change is the Ultimate in Fake News

By Antonio Lopez and Jeff Share

After the 2016 US-presidential election and Brexit referendum, fake news emerged as a quintessential democratic problem that media literacy was tasked to solve. The broad social concern about fake news acknowledges that the public sphere is a kind of commons that requires tending, and reminds us of the human (and civic) need for authenticity, honesty, clarity, and fairness in our shared discourses. In light of the perceived danger to democracy that fake news embodies, increasingly media literacy is seen as fundamentally about cultivating civic engagement skills. In addition to improving the news and information ecosystem of social media, media literacy promotes critical thinking skills and fundamental research techniques to distinguish legitimate and authentic information from propaganda, disinformation, hoaxes, lies, and blatant manipulation.

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Bella Gaia and the Pedagogical Power of the Overview Effect: An Interview with Kenji Williams

By Antonio Lopez

Bella Gaia (Beautiful Earth) is a performance that combines a world-music inspired soundtrack with projected graphics, animations and video to educate about climate change. A hybrid of art and science, the nonlinear performance is an example of an emerging form of ecomedia in which remote sensing media are used to transform audiences to experience Earth as an organic, living organism. Bella Gaia’s creative director and creator, Kenji Williams, discusses this new form of educational experience. The violinist, composer and filmmaker incorporates a neuro-science driven methodology to create “immersive live theater, mixed reality, and interactive data visualization.”

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Teaching for Environmental Justice at the Educational Video Center

By Steve Goodman

While teaching about climate change in K-12 schools often focuses on the catastrophic crises it is causing on a global scale, for students from poor and historically marginalized communities a pedagogy of environmental justice centers their own local neighborhoods, schools, and homes as sites for investigation and action. The Educational Video Center (EVC) in New York City has practiced this critical pedagogy for over 30 years developing students’ media literacy and civic engagement as they learn to question and bear witness to the toxic environmental conditions in their communities. Links to EVC student produced documentaries spanning three decades chronicle the impact of garbage landfills in the ground, sanitation truck fumes in the air, lead dust and black mold in the walls of their public housing apartments. Through these inquiries, students learn how such environmental pollution is linked to disproportionately high rates of lead poisoning and chronic asthma among low income communities of color. As a form of participatory action research, they not only learn to use the power of media to educate the public about the inequitable policies that produce these environmental and public health crises. They also use their videos to make a call to action for greater accountability and sustainable environmental justice.

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The Pedagogy of Sustainable Web Design

By Denis F. Doyon

As education increasingly emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), many media educators may choose to promote skills-based technology curricula as a substitute for critical forms of media literacy. This poses a challenge for media educators who are trying to incorporate environmental issues into their pedagogical practice. As a website designer, I have wondered how my work contributes to the climate crisis, and more important, if there’s anything I can do to reduce the carbon footprint of the websites I create.  What I’ve learned not only shows me how I can create more eco-friendly websites, it also suggests how educators can encourage students to investigate the environmental impact of new media technology while they learn technological skills. Since media production is an important component of teaching media, media educators often create their own web-based projects or assign them to their students.  These can become ecomedia literacy projects by 1) investigating the environmental impact of websites, 2) using critical media literacy skills to verify environmental claims made by tech companies, and 3) learning and implementing best practices of sustainable web design to minimize the carbon emissions associated with student and faculty websites. At the very least, students can be challenged to evaluate the environmental footprint of their web-based projects.

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Book Review by Jeff Share

By Jeff Share

In her latest book, Why Trust Science?, history of science professor Naomi Oreskes does a wonderful job discussing the complexity of this question. She takes a difficult task and rather than simplify it, she dives deep into an exploration of the historical and philosophical roots and traditions of Western science, taking the reader along an analysis of case studies where science got it wrong. This is a fascinating and accessible read that considers numerous domains and issues to bring the reader to Oreskes’ ultimate point, that trustworthy science depends on consensus, diversity, and methodological openness and flexibility (p. 249). For media literacy educators, this book provides insightful examples of media representations of science with a powerful critique of the myth of objectivity and the value of trustworthy science.

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Sustainability Education, Responsible Truthfulness and Hypnotic Phenomena  

By Four Arrows, aka Don Trent Jacobs

I propose in this essay that a key to rebalancing life systems now being harmed by human activity requires a return to the priority of “truthfulness” as practiced by traditional Indigenous cultures for whom words are sacred vibrations of energy, requiring close attention to how one describes reality as truthfully and holistically as possible. This contrasts with the use of deceptive language common today. Furthermore, because words have the power to hypnotize self and others, awareness of trance-based learning is vital for helping assure one’s beliefs are not based on untruthful sources. I assert that there is no better way to explain how intelligent people can destroy or allow for the destruction of ecosystems without referring to unconscious acceptance of misguided hypnotic directives. Uncritical hypersuggestibility relates to the rise of fear-based living, authoritarianism and deceptive hypntoic language that has been cultivated under the dominant worldview. A solution is to return to awareness and intentional use of trance-based learning for maintaining or re-establishing healthy, reality-based ways of being in the world such as humans did well for most of human history.

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Deconstructing Free Enterprise and Reconstructing for Sustainability: Cultural-Ecological Propaganda Analysis for Educators

By Rachelle F. Marshall

In the spring of 2017, a conservative think tank mailed 300,000 copies of a book to US teachers and college faculty to encourage widespread uncertainty about climate change and promote neoliberal, free enterprise discourse in US schools. Teachers have been targets of free enterprise propaganda campaigns throughout the last century. This most recent event stresses the need for critical media literacy in teacher preparation programs and throughout the US education system. From an EcoJustice Education perspective, this paper demonstrates how to perform a cultural-ecological propaganda analysis to assess the power-knowledge relations that circulate within a text’s discourse. A Foucauldian approach to discourse analysis allows readers to draw conclusions about texts without requiring background information about the texts’ authors. Even when information about an author is available, as it was in this case, grounding evidence of intent and effect within the discourse itself strengthens conclusions by challenging the author’s arguments rather than the author’s self. Along with an overview of common propaganda techniques, a thematic analysis identifies the main messages of the text and a rhetorical analysis explains how the messages are delivered and to what effect. Rhetorical devices, fallacies, contradictions, formatting, and hierarchized thinking are deconstructed to highlight flaws in the logic and reasoning of arguments. Educators must find opportunities to disrupt dominant discourses that perpetuate the unsustainable model of free enterprise and reconstruct community from an ecologically sustainable perspective. Humanity can no longer afford to prioritize fiscal economy over ecology. This paper concludes by sharing an alternative resource that educators can use in preparation for teaching about global warming and climate change. The two guides offer opposite lenses for understanding global warming and could be used in classroom activities with students as sample texts for critical analysis.

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Briefing: Project Look Sharp’s Decoding Media Constructions and Substantiality

By Sox Sperry

This article explores how teachers can integrate the theory and practice of media literacy education into the teaching of sustainability content. It highlights two lessons, one for elementary students on bottled water choices and one for high school students on climate change and agriculture, detailing lesson construction and execution. The article explains how praxis, the intersection of reflection and action, can be brought to life in classroom settings using contemporary media documents as codes to deepen understanding and to initiate involvement for change.

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Strategies and Tactics for Interdisciplinary Experiential Environmental Education and Digital Media Production

By Andy Opel

This essay describes a series of interdisciplinary projects addressing environmental issues in Florida where faculty and students from different departments collaborate on complex problems and produce multimedia work aimed at reaching a public audience. Through a series of brief case studies, a model of interdisciplinary experiential education emerges, providing a pathway forward for other faculty to create community engaged projects that have real world impacts.

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