I wrote a while back about the best conference I have ever attended as far as keynote addresses were concerned. There were 3 stunning ones. I won't repeat any of the detail – but it's here. Most of the rest have been forgettable. There was a spectacular prelude to keynotes at the Durban WEEC in 2007. The bigwig – the Deputy State President, indeed – who'd been rolled in to say a word of welcome from the authorities, began the conference by saying that she'd found environmental education "boring" at school. This, whilst honest, was not the endorsement the organisers had hoped for. She did not hang around to have her mind changed, and so missed my own keynote which was a shame.
But back to those 69 keynotes at next WEEC's conference in Göteborg. I thought I should read the blurbs to see what I'd be missing. Here they are:
1. Early Childhood Care and Education for Sustainable Development (ECCESD)
Examples of Early Childhood Care and Education for Sustainable Development (ECCESD) from around the world will be presented as both a celebration, and as a challenge to educators who may often underestimate the capability of their students to reflect and take action upon the world in order to transform it. The need to consider progression in pedagogy at all levels of education will be highlighted. Integrated approaches to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) are increasingly being developed in response to a growing recognition of the potential of early childhood interventions in reducing poverty and countering inequality. Research evidence, and practical examples from initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and the Caribbean will be provided to show the considerable contribution that can be made by ECCESD. We know, we have all the evidence that we need to show that we ECCESD can make a difference yet tragically, through an accident of birth, crisis, or natural disaster, many children’s lives continue to be under threat of insecurity, disease or disadvantage. The relevance of Amartyn Sen’s ‘capability’ centered approach to sustainable development is possibly clearer in the context of ECCE than anywhere else in education, this is an approach that aims to “integrate the idea of sustainability with the perspective of freedom, so that we see human beings not merely as creatures who have needs but primarily as people whose freedoms really matter”. ECCE begins at birth, and the educational provisions within ECCE are mostly inter-generational, informal, and/or non-formal in nature. It will be argued that ECCESD provides important opportunities for the development of more integrated approaches to ESD across the life course.
2. The role of Universities in the transition towards sustainability
Two key words can be distinguished in the UN Post-2015 process: transformation and integration. Transformation, because marginal changes will not be enough in scale and in speed. Integration, since we can no longer work in silos with one issue at a time. The talk will be about the role of universities in dealing with these challenges. I will talk from three perspectives: my role as an expert in the Post-2015 process at the UN HQ; my role as rapporteur for higher education in the UNESCO’s world conference on ESD in Nagoya 2014; and my role as vice president of Chalmers University of Technology.
3. Turning Waste into Treasure: A Child’s Perspective on Looking after Planet Earth
When we look at the world, we see such a huge divide between those who have practically nothing and those who have too much. In amongst all this is the issue of waste; not only the amount of waste created but the attitude that people have towards it. This presentation draws on personal experiences and case studies from very contrasting scenarios; from the dump sites in Jakarta to the rapidly expanding city of Dubai, and how waste is generated, perceived and managed. This leads onto the connections between these situations and how intrinsically linked they are to the Child’s Right to a Voice as well as the Right to a Healthy Environment, which, as of 2012, 177 of the world’s 193 UN member nations recognize through their constitution, environmental legislation, court decisions, or ratification of an international agreement. However, having a voice as a child and being listened to can only evolve through the opportunities in school and at home to learn and do something about environmental issues, such as waste impacts, as well as the ability and the motivation for adults and societies in general to teach and to listen. The integration of all these comes from a whole school community approach, from a personal to global perspective, so that children are able to understand that whatever we do has an impact on the one place we all call home: Planet Earth.
4. Transformative Learning in Vital Coalitions for Socio-Ecological Sustainability
Let us first recognize that a continuous and inevitable problem for both educators and policy-makers is that although we have quite a good sense of what is ‘unsustainable’, we have little certainty about what in the end will proof to be sustainable. Perhaps a key lesson from the UN DESD that ended in 2014 is that we have come to realise that sustainability as such is not a destiny or a way of behaving that can be transferred or trained but rather represents our capacity for critical thinking, reflexivity and transformation. Our societies, including our schools and universities, by and large fail to develop this capacity and as a result replicate systems and lifestyles that are inherently unsustainable. One way out of this trap is the creation of spaces for so-called hybrid learning. Such learning refers to hybridized environments in which people are learning in new and more meaningful ways (involving different societal groups, perspectives, etc.) in unconventional localities (often outside of institutional boundaries) focusing on everyday local issues that have global connections. Only then can we begin to engage in the sustainability challenges of our time (e.g. climate change, malnutrition, continued inequality, loss of food security and biodiversity). This ‘hybridization’ also calls for a culture that embraces the authenticity of multiple voices and cultural and theoretical perspectives, new forms of representation, and more change-oriented and community-based approaches. This perspective connects well with emergent forms of ICT-supported Citizen Science or Civic Science which emphasise the active involvement of citizens, young and old, in the monitoring of local socio-ecological issues by collecting real data and sharing those data with others doing the same elsewhere through social media and on-line platforms. The talk will highly critical perspectives, transitional learning, sense of place, agency and value-based change using exemplary cases to illustrate the transformative power of environmental and sustainability education.
5. Can People and the Planet Develop Together?
For the majority of us around the world, any experiences we have with nature occur in cities. Does this mean that the richness of our life experiences is diminished? Are we victims of an “extinction of experience?” Drawing on work in civic ecology, and on my own experiences ranging from wilderness mountaineering instructor to visiting community gardens in New York, Soweto, and other cities around the world, I will attempt to answer—and to provoke a discussion—about questions related to extinction and richness of experience in today’s world. What is the “nature of our nature experiences” in an urbanizing world? Does our increasing ability to interact with individuals from a diversity of cultures in urban settings compensate for any diminished wilderness experiences? In short, in 15 minutes, I will attempt to answer in the context of today’s experiences: How Can the People and the Planet Develop Together?
6. The power of Dialogue, Visioning and Collaboration: an Earth Charter experience of Teaching and Learning
This presentation will look at the power of shared vision and dialogue to foster collaboration and sustainability, through the experience of the Earth Charter Initiative. It will reflect on the importance of building a shared vision of common good that supersedes cultural differences and self-interest and the challenges for that. It will delve on the value of intergenerational, intercultural and multisectoral dialogue and collaboration as pedagogical instrument to move beyond the tension between diversity and unity and celebrate a sense of human family and Earth Community. The talk will reflect on how values based education programmes, informed by the Earth Charter, have helped learners to understand the systemic nature of the challenges and critical choices that humanity faces and appreciate the interconnections between them. And how it can also help the process of comprehending the meaning of sustainability and the values necessary for such awakening.
What a lot of words! The speakers are: Mirian Vilela – Marianne Krasny – John Holmberg – Arjen Wals – Pete Milne – John Siraj-Blatchford, though not necessarily in that oder. However, if it's a really top notch keynote you should be able to work out who's talking about what.
See if you can. There are no prizes ...