Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Topic: New Publications

Sustainable development goal analysis

📥  Comment, New Publications

I wrote the other day about the Cambridge report about business and the sustainable development goals, and I referred in particular to Figure 2.1: Six outcomes and 10 interconnected tasks which has finance, business and governtment at the core of the model.

In this analysis, Economy is seen as having three components:

  • Basic needs
  • Wellbeing
  • Decent work

... with these underpinned by:

  • Climate stability
  • Healthy ecosystems
  • Resource security

There are inevitable parallels (and non-parallels) to be drawn with the Daly-Meadows way of thinking about all this, but that's for another day.

The 17 goals are then mapped onto these components like this:

  • Basic needs – 1  2  3           6  7          10
  • Wellbeing –             3  4  5                   10  11                         16
  • Decent work –                             8  9  10
  • Climate stability –                           9                    13
  • Healthy ecosystems –                                                   14  15
  • Resource security –                                           12

This is a pretty minimalist mapping with a tendency to attach one goal to one component.  The stand-out exception to this (which might be a surprise to many) is Goal 10: reduced inequalities, which extends across all components of the economy, whereas Goal 8: decent work and economic growth only features the once.

Educators will surely wonder at how little Goal 4: quality education features.  Perhaps this just illustrates how little the authors of this analysis know or think about curriculum.  Or, perhaps again, how much educators tend to inflate the significance of what they do.


ERIC and the CEE

📥  Comment, New Publications

I wrote the other day about NAEE's Annual review which led me to search for those reviews carried out by the Council for Environmental Education (CEE) in times past.  It's easy to find one c/o the ERIC archive: ED412076: The Annual Review of Environmental Education 1995, No. 7.

Here's the ERIC synopsis:

The Council for Environmental Education (CEE) publishes this annual review that reflects the changes that have brought environmental education in from the fringes and now attracts considerable political and educational attention.  This edition brings together a selection of important statements by leading public figures and other papers and articles which reflect key developments of the period.  Six articles related to the boom time in environmental education, the transition to education of sustainability, and strategies used by Scotland in instituting change in environmental education policies are included.

Articles include:

"Boom Time for Environmental Education?" (John Baines);

"Education for the Sustainability Transition" (Timothy O'Riordan);

"Facilitating an Environmental Approach To Education" (Baroness David);

"Education for Sustainability" (Crispin Tickell);

"Call to Action" (Peter Smith); and

"Education or Catastrophe? Scottish Strategy Throws Down the Challenge" (Mark Wells).

Happy days ...


Beyond stewardship – a troubled text

📥  Comment, New Publications

I've been reading (with some difficulty) Beyond stewardship: common world pedagogies for the Anthropocene by Affrica Taylor (Faculty of Education, Science, Technology and Mathematics, University of Canberra) who "infuses her geographies of childhood, common world pedagogies, and multispecies ethnographic research with feminist, queer and decolonising environmental humanities perspectives". (sic)

Here's the Abstract:

Interdisciplinary Anthropocene debates are prompting calls for a paradigm shift in thinking about what it means to be human and about our place and agency in the world. Within environmental education, sustainability remains centre stage and oddly disconnected from these Anthropocene debates. Framed by humanist principles, most sustainability education promotes humans as the primary change agents and environmental stewards. Although well-meaning, stewardship pedagogies do not provide the paradigm shift that is needed to respond to the implications of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene-attuned ‘common worlds’ pedagogies move beyond the limits of humanist stewardship framings. Based upon a more-than-human relational ontology, common world pedagogies reposition childhood and learning within inextricably entangled life-worlds, and seek to learn from what is already going on in these worlds. This article illustrates how a common worlds approach to learning ‘with’ nonhuman others rather than ‘about’ them and ‘on their behalf’ offers an alternative to stewardship pedagogies.

And here's the last paragraph:

Instead of seeking to become better humans by continuing to believe that we are destined to act (alone) on behalf of the world, the common worlds response to the Anthropocene is quite simply to keep working at ways of become more worldly through focusing upon our entangled relations with the more-than-human world. This is a much more modest response than the ultimately human-centric impulse to break away and ‘save’ the world. It is a collective or commoning response that refuses human exceptionalism. It is a low-key, ordinary, everyday kind of response that values and trusts the generative and recuperative powers of small and seemingly insignificant wordly relations infinitely more than it does the heroic tropes of human rescue and salvation narratives. These are the kinds of non-divisive relations that many young children already have with the world. They are full of small achievements.  We can learn with them.

These two extracts give you a reasonably clear flavour of what's of concern here, and there is undoubtedly something in this sort of stuff, given how troubled our relations are with other species.  However, it’s a pity that the main body of the jargon-riddled paper has been written in such a way as to obscure meaning.  It’s written in this way, of course, to ensure that fellow writers see Taylor as part of the enlightened 'post-' crowd.  It’s really just early 21st century capitalism at work in academia: creating new products; establishing new markets; advertising; seeking investment; overthrowing old products; creating wealth.

As a recovering academic, I can't afford to spend much time on this sort of stuff, but I'll give one example of the problem with what's in the paper.  Take this extract about children encountering kangaroos on campus (my emphasis):

"Clearly stimulated by their increasing familiarity and affection for the kangaroos and their close-up observations of these wild animals’ embodied modes of being, the children were increasingly curious about what it would be like to live in a kangaroo’s body, to listen attentively with large swiveling ears, to be tucked up like a joey in a furry pouch, to rest upright upon an enormous tail. They frequently expressed a sense of kinship with the joeys. On a regular basis the children spontaneously became kangaroos, simulating the kangaroo mannerisms and movements that they had observed so many times in their up-close, face-to-face meetings (Taylor & Pacini-Ketchabaw 2016a). They were, in effect, performing the kind of learning with that proceeds from the unfolding of real-life, inter-subjective, inter-species ontological relations, and which is all about actively seeking the kinds of cross-species identifications and inter-subjective ‘becomings with’ that the divisive humanist learning project, with its structuring subject-object knowledge relations, cannot envision ..."

Well, they didn’t become kangaroos (spontaneously or otherwise).  They might have pretended to, but that’s another matter.  Incidentally, why does this sense of kinship never seems to extend to rats, cobras, lice, the ebola virus, or TB bacillus?

It's a tiresome piece, and if you want to read about such ideas, I'd say start with Being a Beast by Charles Foster (Profile Books).  Better still, perhaps, watch the first episode of Brass Eye, from 1979.  Then there are these recent books:

  • The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief and Compassion — Surprising Observations of a Hidden World  Peter Wohlleben
    Bodley Head, pp.281, £16.99
  • The Animals Among Us: The New Science of Anthropology  John Bradshaw
    Allen Lane, pp.352, £20
  • Being Salmon, Being Human: Encountering the Wild in Us and Us in the Wild  Martin Lee Mueller
    Chelsea Green, pp.384, £18.99

... which were recently reviewed by Mark Cocker in The Spectator.

We're really spoilt for choice; all the more reason not to bother with Affrica Taylor (2017): Beyond stewardship: common world pedagogies for the Anthropocene, Environmental Education Research, DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2017.1325452


NAEE's Annual Review

📥  Comment, New Publications

NAEE has published its Annual Review for 2016 / 17.  You will find it here.  I should declare an interest immediately as I had a hand in creating it.  NAEE says that the review:

"sets out key developments in the year, reflections on the context in which our work is carried out, and commentaries on the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Tbilisi conference when so much was promised."

It also contains contributions from Mya-Rose Craig, David Fellows, Melissa Glackin, Zach Hayes and Alan Kinder, most of which were published during the year either in the journal, Environmental Education, or on the website as blogs.

It was good to see this review published and it will be interesting to see how the idea develops over time; there is certainly scope for development.  It seems a long time since the UK had such a process and output.  I think you have to be almost elderly to remember the Council for Environmental Education's (annual) Review of Environmental EDucation which was edited by Stephen Sterling.  NAEE's current review falls a long way short of what (I remember) REED was like in its glory days, but that offers something to try to emulate.

I wonder if I have a copy somewhere.  If don't, I'm sure ERIC will ...


Scotland did it yesterday

📥  Comment, New Publications

I've been reading, rather belatedly, the concluding report (March 2016) of Scotland's  Learning for Sustainability National Implementation Group.  This is packed with flag-waving claims.  Given Scotland's reputation for claiming that it does things differently, better and yesterday, I was not surprised to find this:

Leading the world to a more sustainable future

Scotland is a renowned nation of innovation, science and great thinkers.  We take pride in listing the many Scottish discoveries and inventions such as the television, telephone, pneumatic tyres and even the overdraft!  Less well-known perhaps is Scotland’s contribution to the creation of a more sustainable world.

  • 1827 – Scottish essayist and writer Thomas Carlyle introduces the word ‘environment’ to the world.
  • 1890 – The conservation work of Scottish-born John Muir in Yosemite in California leads him to be known as the ‘Father of National Parks’.
  • 1915 – Prominent Scottish thinker, town planner and environmentalist, Patrick Geddes, introduces the concepts of ‘environmental sustainability’ and ‘thinking global, acting local’.
  • 1992 – Professor John Smyth co-writes the education chapter of the United Nations Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (Rio Earth Summit).
  • 1999 – Opening of new Scottish Parliament. Emergence of a policy agenda building on the work of many of the great thinkers above leading to Land Reform and Naional Parks Acts, etc.
  • 2005 – The Governments of Scotland and Malawi sign a Cooperation Agreement, leading to a decade of reciprocal exchange and partnership working on education, health, agriculture and renewable energy.
  • 2009 – Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 becomes the most ambitious legislation of its kind in the world setting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
  • 2013 – Scotland becomes the first nation to join the Circular Economy 100 Group. It also becomes one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations – second only to Wales.
  • 2014 – Scotland becomes the first nation to embed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and learning for sustainability in its professional standards for education practitioners.
  • 2014 – Voting is extended to sixteen year-olds to allow them to participate in the Referendum on Scottish Independence.
  • 2015 – Scotland is the first nation to commit to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • 2016 – The Foundation for Environmental Education recognises the success of the Eco-Schools Scotland programme by awarding Scotland the status of the best country in the world for sustainable development education and environmental education.

This is, of course, a record to shout about, but you cannot help but note the shift over time from the achievements of Scots (as individuals) to those of the Scottish government (as an institution).  Are there no great (in a sustainability sense) individual Scots any more?  Or are the sort of people who draw up such lists just likely to promote what government does?


More on those SDG learning objectives

📥  Comment, New Publications

I wrote back in January about the zillions (actually 255) of learning objectives that UNESCO has dreamed up to go with the SDGs, and so it's good to see Ben Ballin commenting on them on an NAEE blog the other day: A catechism for sustainability? The UNESCO Learning Objectives.

Ben comments:

 "It is no doubt a laudable achievement to create fifteen learning objectives for each of the seventeen goals: that’s a very productive 255 learning objectives in total.  ... On top of the learning objectives for each goal, there are extensive lists of suggested topics, learning approaches and methods.  At this point, I start to lose count (and quite possibly the will to live).  Categorising all those objectives in such a tidy manner must have taken a vast amount of work, involving many embattled hours around the international conference table, a forest of post-its and many carefully-considered words in many languages. The process probably had great value for those involved and such a learning processes is not to be sniffed at.   But what about the rest of us?  How useful is it to us?"

What indeed.  Ben's post ends on a qualified positive note:

"...  this is a flawed report that overlays the existing demands on teachers and schools with many further demands.  It is perhaps symptomatic of what happens when committees and conferences decide what is best for the rest of us.  It is not, however, without its uses: not least of these is to serve as a reminder of where our time and energy might more productively spent if we are to really build on the excellent work that already exists."

It seems clear, however, that whatever innovation actually takes place on the ground with real children will be as a result of teacher enterprise and not this dirigiste stuff that UNESCO so likes which is an admission that it doesn't much trust teachers to think for themselves.


More on the World We'll Leave Behind

📥  New Publications

As you know, The World We'll Leave Behind is the new book that Paul Vare and I have written for Routledge / Greenleaf which they will publish in February.

There are 55 self-contained chapters, typically around 1000 words.  Each one focuses on a key idea setting out its essence and showing its connections to other ideas.  These are presented in three sections: issues concepts, and strategies.  Inevitably, however, the distinction between these is not always clear-cut because one thing is inevitably connected to another; usually to many others.

[i] Issues – These are the real challenges we now face because of our own past and present activities. 

Many of these are problems we have created in the biosphere by how we have acted.  These include: warming the atmosphere and ocean, depleting the ozone in the stratosphere, making the seas more acidic, polluting the air and sources of fresh water, destroying habitats and eco-systems, reducing biodiversity and driving species to near extinction, and, of course, rapid climate change.  They also include the consequences of these actions, such as food scarcity and famine, and the plight of refugees.  But some of the challenges are different.  These are the problems that we have created by how we think about other people, for example, inequality, gender disparity, discrimination, and the lack of environmental justice which are, in turn, related to issues of economic growth and the global human population.

[ii] Concepts – These are the ideas and mental frameworks that we use us to think about and understand these challenges. 

Some of these are about understanding nature and the biosphere, ideas such as biodiversity and phenomena such as the greenhouse effect, and the idea of the Earth as a living organism: Gaia.  Some are concerned with how we think about the relationships between humanity and the biosphere, for example, the Anthropocene, systems thinking, harmony, complexity and resilience.  Others are about the ideas we have developed to explain what has gone wrong, and what we might do to improve matters, such as sustainable development and its 17 global goals, and how such ideas are framed.  Some are about notions such as globalisation and neoliberalism that concern the politics of global commerce.

[iii] Strategies – These are the means through which such challenges might be addressed and possibly resolved or overcome.

Some of these are things that governments can do, through policies, legislation, and formal education programmes.  Some are social, such as the transition movement, and are led by ordinary people, and some arise from international agencies and global charities, for example, the sustainable development goals and the Earth Charter, the protection of endangered species, and the identification of protected areas for wildlife.  Some are what business can initiate, for example, the circular economy and carbon capture and storage.  Alongside these practical strategies, there are also particular ways of thinking and approaching problems, for example, through biomimicry and rewilding.

We have written the book for anyone who has an interest in the environmental and social challenges facing humanity today.  For anyone who would like to have a brief introduction to these challenges, the ideas that help explain them and some of the possible strategies for addressing them.  We don't set out to provide an in-depth account of the problems facing us, or a deep historical perspective on their development.  Neither is this a toolkit, self-help book or a set of instructions for good living.  Books about environmental and social sustainability with these purposes already exist.  Rather, we set out to summarise ideas in a way that will help people join in the public and political debate, and think about the state of the world that we shall all leave behind.


The World We'll Leave Behind

📥  New Publications

The World We'll Leave Behind: Grasping the Sustainability Challenge is a new book that Paul Vare and I have written for Routledge / Greenleaf.

Here's the synopsis:

It is now clear that human activity has influenced how the biosphere supports life on Earth, and given rise to a set of connected environmental and social problems. In response to the challenge that these problems present, a series of international conferences and summits led to discussions of sustainable development and the core dilemma of our time: How can we all live well, now and in the future, without compromising the ability of the planet to enable us all to live well?

This book identifies the main issues and challenges we now face; it explains the ideas that underpin them and their inter-connection, and discusses a range of strategies through which they might be addressed and possibly resolved. These cover things that governments might do, what businesses and large organizations can contribute, and the scope for individuals, families and communities to get involved. This book is for everyone who cares about such challenges, and wants to know more about them.

Publication is in February 2018, but you can pre-order now!



📥  Comment, New Publications

This is what UNESCO had to say about its WEEC in Vancouver – in case you missed it.

“To craft a more inclusive and sustainable future for all, we need greener economies, greener legislations, and most of all, we need greener societies,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on her video message at the opening ceremony of the ninth World Environmental Congress (WEEC) held in Vancouver, Canada on 9-15 September. “This calls for new ways of seeing the world, new ways of thinking and behaving as global citizens. This is why sustainability must start on the benches of schools.”

The WEEC is the largest international congress addressing education for environment and sustainable development, taking place biannually. The title of the 9th congress was “Culturenvironment: Weaving new connections”. The organizing committee proposed broad and inclusive topics on environmental and sustainability education with particular interest of the interplay among cultural and environmental factors this year.

The opening ceremony was inaugurated by the traditional welcome and acknowledgement with Elder Shane Pointe, together with the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Canada; Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa, Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, Morocco ; David Zandvliet from the Institute for Environmental Learning, Canada and Mario Salomone from the WEEC Network.

This congress also marked 40 years from the world's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education, organized in Tblisi, Georgia in 1977 by UNESCO in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The panel session, moderated by Milt McClaren, Royal Roads University, Canada, reflected the achievements made since Tblisi and upcoming challenges around environment and sustainability. It included Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability, York University, Canada; Ekaterine Grigalava, Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia; Tamar Aladashvili, Department of Environmental Policy and International Relations, Georgia; Julia Heiss, UNESCO Team Leader of Education for Sustainable Development; Elliott Harris, UNEP.

UNESCO also introduced the publication “Education for Sustainable Development Goals” in a workshop organized by UNEP, and the work for monitoring and evaluation of SDG Target 4.7 in a paper session organized by the Sustainability and Education Policy Network.

What, I wonder, are we to make of "the benches of schools".


Al's new movie

📥  Comment, New Publications

I hope Al G's new film, An Inconvenient Sequel: truth to power is better than the original.  I certainly trust that it doesn't contain as many errors as the first – errors that led a UK judge to force the DfE to issue guidance to schools which was very inconvenient for all concerned.  You'll recall (maybe – it was a long time ago in 2007) that the various UK governments had sent the film to all secondary schools in the country so that students could see it.

There seems little danger of that happening this time around, so maybe the high court won't be troubled.  I see, however, that reviews are beginning to circulate with some of Al's interpretation of data being challenged yet again.

I saw the first film and was underwhelmed, but it was before the Blog and I can't find what I wrote, although I remember finding it hectoring and too apocalyptic for my delicate tastes.  I've watched the new film's trailer and it does look like more of the same – with Al still jetting round the planet, giving stirring speeches and doling out moral instruction.  Where have all the flowers gone? came to mind.