Welcome to this evocative issue of the Journal of Sustainability Education whose focus is the very apt theme, “Learning and Leading Sustainability.” We say this is apt because we see much mention in the national political dialogue—if we dare to call it dialogue—about the importance of education to the future of the country. Of course that raises the question of what kind of education? Might this be education that nourishes our caring capacity for others of our kind and other-than-humans and all our respective habitats? Might this be a kind of education that calls learners to a higher purpose than merely making more money? That calls us to create a fecund and relational social landscape where people feel they belong to something greater than a supermarket club?
We hope that sustainability education, whatever else it may or not may not be, is very much about mentoring each other and the next generations in compassionate living ways that actually serve the greater well-being of humans and the rest of the living world for the long run, not to mention enticing opportunities for learning to touch and inform our models of leadership. This would be the kind of leadership that invites continuous conversation between leaders and those led. It would be leadership that is well informed about the many benefits of holistic, creatively dynamic, and community-based sustainability perspectives. And, it is a model of leadership which grows right up out of the grassroots and supports authentic forms of participative democracy.
One of our favorite bumper-stickers goes like this: “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.” What a wonderful echo that is of the kind of governance that the framers of the Constitution had in mind. It also harkens back to the critical importance of a well informed citizenry. So for those who would abduct education and conscript its students in armies of the left or the right, it feels as though this more benevolent style of learning can inspire pride and loyalty without having to pass some kind patriotic litmus test.
The timing seems right to embrace the more inclusive, socially just, and ecumenical (in its original sense of or from the world) form of learning that is the aspiration of many of us who are involved in the sustainability education movement. Indeed, when the people are ably educated in the way of more durably sustainable perspectives and practices, the people will feel fully ready to lead. And, we could hope, at that transformative point, the leaders will follow.
In his book, Bessed Unrest, Paul Hawken coined the phrase, “the movement with no name” to honor the planetary effort well underway by millions of organizations and citizens to usher in a new era in which we all become responsive and responsible Earthlings. We would suggest that this movement does have a curriculum, and its lessons can be found in the new and restored relationships between diverse human beings and between humans and other-than-human beings. What you find within this issue are other descriptions of the sustainability education perspective and practice helping people to learn and to lead. We hope you will be encouraged by what you read to actively engage the next phase of your own learning journey. And then to humbly lead others to their next learning moments.
Terril Shorb & Pramod Parajuli