Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Children's (and other) Statements on Climate Change

📥  New Publications

On 26 November, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families received the Children's Statement on Climate Change from children at St Luke's primary school in Newham and promised to send it to UK delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.  The Statement is available to download as a PDF and is certainly worth a read if only to glimpse some of the thoughts of some of our children (it's hard to know anything about representativeness, of course).

Commendably, little attempt seems to have been made to eliminate muddled conceptual thinking:

If we don’t reduce global warming we’ll see more floods, droughts, food shortages, and endangered animals because the hole in the ozone layer will get even bigger.

Concern about the extinction of polar bears continues (I hear this wherever I go and have to admire the animals' PR machine):

The ice caps melting and polar bears and penguins becoming extinct from it.

Meanwhile, Thomas says:

I am most worried about the severe effects of climate change, like the increase in flooding in the UK and the very hot summers which we would get; this would cause crops to fail.  The animals would not be able to adapt quickly enough to the rapid change ... so they would die.

I wonder whether Thomas would be just as worried were the summers to be cold and the winters dry.  I suppose he would be as he'd likely be told that this, also, was evidence of climate change – as it may well be (or not) – how can he know?

I read the children's piece at the same time as the article in this week's THE: Beyond Debate?  by Martin Cohen.  I think that this is something which the children's teachers might usefully read – as well as some of the comment that goes alongside it on the THE's website – if only to help them see that this debate is not settled, and therefore help them to be as open and honest as possible with the young people whom they teach.


 

The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy

📥  New Publications

A review in THE this week of the Handbook of Sustainability Literacy –  the sort of review that authors might have thought of penning themselves had they been optimistic enough about how their achievements might be received (I had one of those reviews once I seem to remember).  In focusing on the notion of ecological intelligence, the review raised a question in my mind that my own reading of the book hadn't raised.  It's this: how does ecological intelligence relate to sustainability literacy?  Is ecological intelligence something that you can acquire when you have sustainability literacy?  Or is it the other way round: do you need ecological intelligence in order to develop sustainability literacy?  Or are they much the same thing (or is one part of the other, perhaps)?  Maybe they co-evolve as you work through issues; maybe there's no necessary link.  Answers on a postcard to the usual address ...

 

And so to Norway and the kulturlandskap

📥  Talks and Presentations

To Norway to give a talk on reorienting teacher education to address sustainability at a conference of teachers and teacher educators.  A chance to think about the Unesco project that we were once part of, and to reflect on 30+ years of our PGCE environmental science programme.  No one (except me) mentioned that nature might be thought of as the home of culture, but there was much talk of the, notionally translatable, but hard to understand, idea of the 'Kulturlandskap' which is just as tricky as Bildung to get a grip on (try a google search).  The highlight for me was listening to the venerable Øystein Dahle, once of the Worldwatch Institute, who has neatly positioned himself as a one man nuscience to those in thrall to the status quo and who think that the future is the way forward.  His rediscovery of the OHP was his metaphor for a simpler life.  An example of his writing is here.

 

What the World needs now is ... yet another Declaration

📥  Comment

I know that what the world really needs is "love, sweet love", whether sung by Dionne Warwick or others, but what we've finished up is the Lucerne Declaration.  As IRGEE 18.4 reports, this is actually the Lucerne Declaration on Geographical Education for Sustainable Development [ LDGESD ].   As the declaration notes:

"The International Geographical Union Commission on Geographical Education proclaims this Declaration and recommends the principles presented in this document as a basis for a sound Geographical Education for sustainable development to all geographers and governments in the world."

I suppose what I really want to know is why this isn't just a basis for a sound, mainstream geographical education that everybody does [full stop]  If geographical education isn'tnow focused on sustainability, does it really deserve the name?

Nick Jones reminds me that John Westaway (QCA Geography officer) said in about 1998 that Sustainable Development would likely be the "saviour" of Geography. But Ofsted's gloomy 2008 report on Geography in schools seems to indicate the opposite:


"At a time when geographical issues such as floods, rising sea levels,
conflict resolution, famines and trade disputes constantly make the
headlines, there is some evidence that the provision of geography is
declining."

10 years on, and it's citizenship which seems to be some bookies new favourite in the Saviour Stakes.

Doorways, what Doorways? Oh, and what's ESD?

📥  Comment

I recently spent a very stimulating few hours with primary school headteachers from a London Borough – talking with them about sustainable schools during a couple of days devoted to this theme.   Although there were a few Heads from the Borough not there, it was a pretty good turn out.

Only 25% of those there said that they'd heard of the sustainable school doorways, and none had come across the idea of ESD – or the Unesco Decade.   What bliss, part of me thought.  I do need to say, however, that some of the work being done by those who were aware of the idea of sustainable schools was commendable.

 

A Pedagogy for ESD?

📥  News and Updates

In a recent mailing, SEEd has said that it "is wanting to explore what it can contribute to the question about pedagogy and ESD", and it asks "some very basic questions:

  • What can we say about pedagogy and ESD/global learning?
  • What theories and for what purpose have different types of pedagogy been advised or tested?
  • What types of pedagogy are in practice and with/by whom?
  • What would be useful to explore to further this area of work and enable a better narrative to influence further change/take up of ESD/global learning?"
My initial response has been to suggest starting with the twin propositions that
  • “there are no pedagogies specific to ESD”     and
  • “all pedagogies can be thought of as appropriate to ESD”
testing these ideas out.  This is because I tend to think about pedagogy only when I have taken audience, objectives and context into account.  What do you do?

Fairtrade: commodifying an ethical relationship

📥  Comment

Monday saw me at a GWR seminar from Exeter over its impressive "access grid" (all rather Iain M Banks).  The topic was fairtrade and the presentation illuminated a number of issues around why schools (and universities, Bath amongst them) find it so compelling to see fairtrade as something to promote, rather than to examine critically.  The idea of fairtrade as global citizenship came across strongly:  buying fairtrade coffee / tea, for example, means that you're not really consuming a product but making a protest / voting / helping / mobilizing / establishing solidarity / creating common cause, etc, whilst pretending, to yourself at any rate, that this is a small step outside the capitalist economy.  Mostly an illusion, of course, as the speaker explained.   Rather than stepping away from consumption as fetish, this was its replacement by the commodificatioon of an ethical relationship.

I was struck by the compelling nature of the argument that fairtrade allows you to see yourself as going beyond a product to making a difference to a social system, and hence to people's well-being.  And I couldn't help but compare this to the organic movement which tries to do the same thing (stressing, often rather unconvincingly, the enhancement of personal health and well-being).  What organic farming might be better advised to do, of course, is to help you see yourself as going beyond the product to making a difference to ecosystems, and hence to the earth's well-being.  If it were to do that it'd likely have less trouble from advertising standards folk.

 

Leaving fear, sin and guilt to the environmental movement

📥  News and Updates

In a recent radio programme the following exchange took place:

Jane Little's Introduction: “The Government’s former Chief Scientific Advisor, Lord May, has called on religious leaders to play a bigger role in helping to tackle climate change. The Peer said religious groups could use their influence to motivate believers on green issues and suggested that the belief in hell and a punishing God might spur them to action.  Well joining me now to discuss the role faith groups can play are Chris Goodall, Green Party candidate for Oxford and Abbingdon West at the next election, and author of “How to Live a Low Carbon Life”, and by Martin Palmer, Secretary General of ARC, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation”.

Jane Little: "Martin, this fear of eternal damnation would be a good motivator to save the planet wouldn’t it"

Martin Palmer: “No, I don’t think so and in the 25 years or so in which most of the major religions have been very active on environmental issues, something that Lord May perhaps hasn’t noticed.  What they have focused on is not fear, and sin and guilt, we have rather left that to the environmental movement.  What they have focused on is celebration, empowerment, abundance and joy.  Because if we go into an issue like this with a notion that if you can scare people into morality, you will discover what every religion has discovered, which is that that lasts for a very short period of time. Whereas if you speak to people, say in the Christian tradition or the Daoist tradition about partnership, both with the planet and with the Divine, then you’ve got something that is long lasting.  It is slightly worrying that aetheists always want the very God that they want us to reject, ie angry, domineering, stroppy God and then they get very cross with us when we say that that is not actually the God we believe in.”

Thanks to Nick Jones for this link.

 

Children, their world, their education

📥  Comment

I spent part of last weekend delving into the Cambridge Primary Review.  It's immediately obvious from even a cursory read why the government's attack dogs were let loose on it so quickly, and ministers much have congratulated themselves on having got their retaliation (well, refutation) in first through its own "independent" [Rose] review.  I hope all all those interested in primary schools and sustainability will manage to read its comments and proposals.  They may be a little uncritical in their view of the effectiveness of Eco-schools, but what they have to say about the aim of promoting interdependence and sustainability, and about their proposed domains of citizenship and ethics, and place and time, deserves close scrutiny – and not just my primary school teachers.  It was a wonderful change to read a review with such a sense of history and breadth of view.

Well done to all my colleagues whose research reports contributed to the review.  Who's for a Secondary Review ...

 

Copenhagen Convention on Climate Change and Education

📥  Comment

Rolf Jucker, of the Swiss Foundation for Environmental Education in Bern, contacted the SHED network recently saying that "a few people here in Switzerland are trying to word a paragraph for the Copenhagen Convention on Climate Change which aims to put education right at the top", and wondered whether anybody else was trying to do the same, and asking people to get in touch.

My response was:  I'm sure that there are many such paragraphs.  What follows is the one that I use when talking about the relationship between learning and sustainability.  This captures, for me, the core role for learning as a collaborative and reflective process, the inter-generational dimension, the imperatives around social justice, and the idea of environmental limits.  This may be a text that I use, but it's not, of course, really mine.  It owes much (if not everything) to the past and continuing work of John Foster, Steve Gough and Paul Vare, and to other colleagues at Bath and elsewhere.

"The process that we call sustainable development makes no sense other than as a social learning process of improving the human condition that can be continued indefinitely without undermining itself.  In this sense, sustainable development doesn’t, instrumentally, depend on learning; rather it’s inherently a learning process of making the emergent future ecologically sound and humanly habitable, as it emerges, through the continuous, responsive learning which is the human species’ most characteristic endowment."