Requiem for a golden age

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I wrote recently about when there might have been a golden age [*] for environmental education in the UK, and in that post I did not come to any conclusion.  When I spoke at the LEEF event a few days afterwards I did suggest that – taking the idea of a golden age seriously – it would have been from about 1965 to 1979.

There was a gasp (albeit a small one) when I said this.  In part I think that this was because quite a few in the room weren't alive then, and in part it was because few there knew anything about this period.  Having done quite a bit of writing on this question recently (not for the blog), I am more than ever convinced that it all went downhill after that point; slowly at first and then more speedily.  Only recently has there been something of a climb-back and the SDGs might help that recovery along.  This is a positive feature given the competition from global learning and ESD.

The second of these is clearly a busted flush, and the first is now limping around c/o the British Council.  Maybe another golden age beckons.  Maybe.


[*] I feel as if I should offer an alternative metaphor; rather than golden age perhaps high water mark is more apt, given climate change.

Happy Christmas.  Back in 2019.


Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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  • At the risk of being guilty of 'festival bias' in a multi-cultural world, may I suggest that Spaceship Earth needs for Christmas is something more fundamental than a new 'high water mark' that drowns the rivalry 'twixt EE, GL and ESD. The possible gift of 'system change' that the UN SDGs might herald seems unlikely, given, for example, the feeble outcome of the recent UN COP24 cobbled by national fossil fuel interests. The oxymoronic term 'sustainable development goals' ignores the 'double bind' in which we are snared - continuing economic development is leading towards socio- ecological system collapse but reversing ‘development as growth’ would also result in massive system destabilisation and conflict.

    Spaceship Earth, the finite blue planet with a crew humans set on a trajectory of infinite exponential growth needs a new story for Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, etc. The new story needs to be about desiring and knowing how to live within nature’s equilibrium; how to be satisfied with enough; how to share nature’s bounty more fairly; how to downsize human impact on the planet.

    ‘Sustainable development’ implies maintaining human systems dedicated to ever-increasing wealth creation. Sustainable equilibrium might be a better buzzword and for that to ‘come to pass’ would require a profound system change. Christmas celebrates a miraculous conception – the untying the ‘double bind’ and the reversing the human addiction to acquisitiveness will need such an unlikely miracle.

    In the meantime, enjoy the figgy pudding!