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Editorial Corner May 2nd, 2010

Spines To and From the Editor By Larry Frolich

May 10, 2010 Dear New JSE Readers, And new you must all be as we launch our inaugural edition of the Journal of Sustainability Education (JSE, as we’ve become better known). Our hope is that what you find here will provide, as guest editor Dan Garvey puts it, a guide to how we can teach and learn about sustainability. We must now go beyond information and start to take action—education is the best place to begin! As is true at the launch of any new project, right now I have the privilege of knowing the guts and heart of this journal in a unique way. From the intimate details of its digital platform to the struggles that authors revealed to us as they joined our common goal of how people learn about sustainability–almost all of it has passed over my plate. So where do I begin to orient you, the new reader, to all that I have seen? The organizing themes and grand challenges seemed to emerge from the creative tensions that we faced and resolved, or sometimes still find in play, as we brought the journal to fruition. One of these has been to balance the peer-review scholarly approach to publishing with a desire to bring timely opinions, media reviews, case studies and short reports to our readership. Fortunately, in Betsy Vardell of Ruby Studios, we found a web designer who saw this not as a shackling tension, but as our greatest strength. She helped us see that we are part of an emerging model in online publishing where academicians publish scholarly works under the same masthead that practitioners share for putting out the latest and greatest in what really works. Interestingly, our scholarly peer-reviewed pieces have come from both camps, as have our timely main-column pieces. It looks like our flexible and creative online platform, with links back and forth between scholarly pieces and topical pieces, will make it easy to harness this tension constructively. Another tension we faced was how to house the journal at an academic institution while maintaining an independent and unfettered mission and intellectual identity. Here our Guest Editor, President Dan Garvey of Prescott College, consistently brought his visionary understanding about sustainability and education to


the analysis of our submissions, while allowing his institution and its excellent staff to provide any logistics we needed. Never was there a concern that the college would usurp the journal, and at the same time we feel lucky to have the prestige of a classic, yet cutting-edge (yes, they do go together in this case!), sustainability college as a host for JSE. The final tension, for me not yet resolved, is how to wrap my own appreciation of the breadth and depth of this inaugural issue into a package that you, the New Reader, will feel find compelling and useful. In part, I know this tension comes from a lifetime of holding paper in hand and wanting the order that comes from turning pages. In our online milieu, you can use our drop-down menus to order and archive the articles as suits your own tastes. Or you can see what comes up as you roll the Search Box. Perhaps, as editor, I fear that loss of control. But I also worry that some readers, like myself, might want might want someone to say to them, via a bigger headline above the fold, that these are the important pieces. Given the quality of every contribution, I am mostly glad that you can order them as you will, and that I’m not obligated to say which is a priority. But I will do this—here are some of my favorites and if you don’t know where to start, check them out: •

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Paul Rowland and Tony Cortese with Richard Cook tell us why we need sustainability incorporated into higher education to the point where it is institutionalized in our institutions and no longer coming from outside the status quo. Check out Chris Haines on sustainability in architecture. I’ve always loved the design and building process for its multi-disciplinary nature, but Chris shows us, so eloquently and thoroughly, how many different ways architects can incorporate sustainability. Fritjof Capra and Michael Stone express, so very elegantly, how we bring sustainability into every aspect of our schools, and Eric Shawn with George Zaninovich show us a great example at Catlin Gable School. Riki Ott gets high school students involved in ultimate civics. Susan Santone shows us how ecological economics can and should be taught to school kids. If you like theory, check out Andres Edwards idea about the SPIRALs that bring sustainability to a new level, and Brian Nichols gives us an evolving and interactive model for what eco-literacy really entails. Don’t miss Thatcher Bohrman’s review of the TED website….and if you go to TED, do try to come back to JSE. And Jill Manske gives us such great examples of why sustainability has to be incorporated into a realm of education that so rarely considers it—the training of health care professionals.

I could go on…and soon every piece would soon be listed, so I’ll leave it there. I hope your experience moving through this inaugural issue of JSE is every bit as enjoyable and inspiring as my experience of assembling it. If one thing can resolve the tension about which articles are the ones with wings, it is your comments. Please add your own bit. Just like it’s time to move beyond information to action, right here we want to go beyond a static screen and form a community that will truly feel empowered and use what JSE offers. So please comment on the articles, friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Finally, thanks to the JSE Advisory Board for their vision and guidance throughout. And to our fantastic Managing Editors, Aimee deChambeau and Marieke Slovin, for pulling it all off. Here’s to a sustainable century with one JSE issue after another, About the Author – Larry Frolich is faculty in Biology at Yavapai College in Prescott Arizona. He will be a Fulbright Scholar in Ibarra-Ecuador in the Fall of 2010. MORE


May 8th, 2010

From the Guest Editor By Dan Garvey Dear Readers, We hope that this first issue of the Journal of Sustainability Education (JSE) is the beginning of something that will last for decades to come. We believe that the human systems and institutions currently operating are often at odds with long term health of our planet. The social justice and environmental movements have long recognized that change is necessary in order to improve the common good, but exactly how such change should occur, and how one might educate others regarding the necessity for change, has not been well understood. The primary strategy employed by most of us involved in helping to create opportunities for change has been to produce information and facts. The underlying rationale is that if people really understood and had adequate information about the outcomes of their decisions, then right behavior would follow. We are now at a point where this strategy can be graded a C- in terms of effectiveness. We don’t need any more information about the hazards of smoking and yet increasing numbers of young women are picking up this habit. Similarly, we know the value of diet and exercise and yet obesity increases at an alarming rate. Something more potent than information and fact-telling is needed if we are to move toward more rational behavior. This Journal is an attempt to highlight techniques that have been successful in educating people regarding the problems and opportunities associated with complex human behavior. The authors assembled here are trying to understand and comment upon how people learn about sustainability. Rather than a series of articles that offer techniques for the installation of solar panels or rain catchments JSE examines how to teach the need for these techniques. The other defining characteristic of the Journal is that we are using the terms sustainable and education in the broadest context. Although sustainability has been largely claimed by the environmental movement, one should look at a range of behaviors and institutions through the lens of sustainability. Are the assumptions underlying various institutions or cultural structures—financial, health care, family, religion, education, to name just a few—sustainable? You will find articles in our inaugural edition that seek successful approaches to teaching sustainability within the folds of many existing constructs, and beyond into informal settings that defy definition. These articles have been carefully selected for their potential to make us think and reflect upon our own underlying beliefs. We hope the Journal will encourage deep reflection and lead to action. We will be paving the road ahead just as we are driving down that very same road. As we launch this inaugural edition, we have no way of knowing the exact path the Journal will follow, but the purpose and need for JSE is certain. If we are to take full advantage of our potential to create a balanced global lifestyle and learn to teach others how to live in a sustainable fashion we need to share our best educational practices. We hope you enjoy this first edition of the Journal for Sustainability Education and we welcome your thoughtful comments and suggestions. Warmest regards, Dan Garvey, President of Prescott College Guest Editor


About the Author – Dan Garvey is Prescott College’s 13th president. Dan holds a Ph.D. in social and multi-cultural foundations from the University of Colorado, Boulder, a master’s degree in social change from Cambridge-Goddard Graduate School of Social Change, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Worcester (Mass.) State College. He has authored more than 25 books and articles dealing with the broad topic of experiential education. He is a currently serving as a Trustee of NOLS, and is on the Board of Directors of Project Adventure. Most recently he has been appointed by Arizona’s Gov. Napolitano to the Arizona State Commission on Service and Volunteerism.


Opinions October 10th, 2010

Supporting Generation “E”: Teaching and Research is Not Enough By Shirley Papuga

In November 2009 the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) released a 70-page report on “Generation E: Students Leading for a Sustainable, Clean Energy Future” highlighting the way that students are leading the charge toward a sustainable future at U.S. colleges and universities. Recently coined by New York Times environmental writer Andy Revkin, “Generation E” refers to the highly innovative youth engaged in tackling the challenges our world is facing in climate and energy. Cleverly, the “E” represents a number of inextricably linked players in sustainability, including environment, energy, economy, equity and enterprise. In the NWF report, the role for faculty was laid out: “Professors and instructors can help provide the platforms (course projects, capstone courses, independent study, graduate student research) by which students can conduct projects, plus they offer expertise and guidance and have considerable clout within their institutions.” As a faculty member, I have to admit that I found this statement slightly disconcerting…the statement seems to suggest that as faculty, we are not part of the sustainability movement. Perhaps this is warranted. In academia, campus life is so fast-paced that time is strategically managed so that these roles are able to play out as efficiently as possible. For better or for worse, coffee is often presumed to contribute to increased efficiency. I can cite numerous trips to the coffee shop with sleepdeprived colleagues who have spent the last several days round the clock perfecting a monstrous grant application. At the coffee shop, we’re behind a group of lively students who carefully remove their lids from their weathered travel mugs before offering them up to be filled. When our group finally reaches the counter we order our daily doses and are handed our selections in pristine throw away “mugs”.


Throughout the semester, meetings are woven exorbitantly between courses and other pressing obligations. We are able to convince ourselves that driving from home to campus and between meetings (and driving CO2 emissions up) is warranted by this demanding schedule. Various conversations with my colleagues have resulted in an ambivalent general consensus that alternative transportation is just not an option. The bus? Inconvenient. Not frequent enough. Biking? Dangerous. Sweaty. I would say that what this NWF report suggests is largely correct: we are not part of the campus sustainability movements. We can do better – and in fact we need to reverse our roles. What if we returned to the coffee shop, walked to the counter ready with our tattered mugs? We need to be the movement steering away from the elevator to walk the stairs. We need to be filling up the bike racks outside our buildings demanding more bike parking. We need to support Generation “E” not just by providing a platform and expertise…we need to be part of the movement. Editor’s Note: See the National Wildlife Foundation “Generation E” report on student-led sustainability initiatives. And note the AASHE Denver 2010 NWF Campus Ecology Student Summit…wait for results and a report in JSE. About the Author – Dr. Shirley Papuga is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment and a graduate of the Santa Fe Institute's 2010 Global Sustainability Summer School.


May 27th, 2010

The Many Faces of Sustainability By Paul Rowland En su sobrevisto de donde el currícula de sustentabilidad se encuentra actualmente en la educación superior, y a donde se lo puede llevar, Paul Rowland cubre todo los asuntos en referencia a las maneras diversas en que las instituciones están incorporando las ideas de sustentabilidad. El concluye que, aunque actualmente fuera de lo normal, los proponentes de sustentabilidad estan cada vez mas aceptados y deberían esperar, al final hacerse parte de lo normal. El compare este proceso de lo que ha pasado con estudios de diversidad y de tecnología.

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of higher education in the United States is its diversity of institutions. The wide range of terminology used to describe post-secondary education – junior colleges, research universities, professional schools, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, state schools, privates, trade schools, for-profits – attests to that variety. Likewise, the struggles over Carnegie classifications illustrate the importance institutions place on being classified and identified. Consequently, when we start discussing the curriculum in American higher education, the discussion needs to note that with so many kinds of institutions with such different missions, the shape of the curriculum varies tremendously. This is why I believe that the debate over what constitutes good sustainability education has to be posited within an understanding of what I’ve come to refer to as “The Many Faces of Sustainability Education.” Much of my thinking about this has come from discussions with my colleagues on the Board of Directors of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) as we have struggled to better understand how we can help further the role of higher education in the sustainability transformation. Geoff Chase, dean of undergraduate studies at San Diego State University and chair of the AASHE Board of Directors, has laid out five aspects of the sustainability curriculum: sustainability degree programs, general education, sustainability in the disciplines, workforce (green jobs) development, and co-curricular sustainability. Understanding and examining these different kinds of sustainability curricula helps us understand why some of the debate is fundamentally a debate about the purpose of higher education itself. Another way to characterize these different kinds of sustainability curricula is as follows: • Education for becoming a citizen advocate and practitioner of sustainability (general education and co-curricular) • Education for becoming a sustainability professional (sustainability degree programs) • Education for using sustainability knowledge in one’s profession (sustainability courses in various disciplinary majors) • Education for a sustainability job (workforce/green job) Obviously, related to these different ends we have different student learning outcomes that would shape the content and the pedagogy of sustainability education. One might presume that there are some fundamental sustainability principles, skills, and dispositions that are universal. Several national conversations are trying to sort out what they are and how they can move into the curriculum – particularly through general education coursework. In addition, as the role of


sustainability in shaping our economy and our society becomes clearer, new knowledge and skills will have to be incorporated into programs that prepare students for sustainability work and for working sustainably. Another concern that continues to surface in various conversations about sustainability education is what depth and/or wholeness of knowledge should really count as sustainability education? A transformed institution that places sustainability values at the center of education will include a totally transformed curriculum that begins with sustainability and uses systems thinking and interconnectedness as themes for exploring the disciplines and the professions. On the other hand, some institutions have reserved this deeper thinking about sustainability for specific sustainability majors. The argument for these programs is that we need to train a different kind of professional who can better integrate an understanding of technology, behaviors, processes, and outcomes of our actions. Other institutions have focused on having sustainability included in general education at an introductory level to meet the challenge of providing sustainability education for all. An alternative approach has been to place sustainability in an upper level course that is specific to the major, thus providing students with direct connections between what they are learning in their major and sustainability. All of these approaches meet and serve some student learning needs, but it is apparent that although all are likely necessary, none alone is sufficient to provide the basis for a sustainable society. Part of the challenge in developing the sustainability curriculum is in the intersections of institutional culture, timing, and local curriculum change processes. Changing the general education curriculum requirements depends on fortuitous timing and having a proposal in hand when changes are welcome. Adding a new sustainability program is best driven by student demand or employer demand and depends on available funding. Revising courses in a major may require a critical mass among the faculty to organize around a sustainability theme, while adding a course may be an easier route that can be taken by a few interested faculty. Curricular changes are always contextualized and it is important to understand that changes in the curriculum are usually subject to faculty governance. Understanding and working within the faculty culture is critical to achieving sustainability education. Often in discussions of sustainability education, I’ve been asked about other large-scale changes in higher education curriculum. Two examples quickly emerge as very different ways curriculum change has unfolded in recent years on college campuses – diversity studies and technology. In the past fifty years, diversity studies (gender studies and ethnic studies) have come to have a solid place on most college campuses. Although such coursework is usually in a department or program of diversity studies, and is provided as the fundamental part of diversity degrees, it is sometimes featured in the institution’s general education requirements or required in some other majors. Nonetheless, I would argue that, at this point, diversity education tends to remain a segregated study existing outside the bulk of the curriculum as an additional (inter)-discipline. Where it has become most successful, diversity studies has attained status equal to the historical disciplines and their departments. This is not unlike what has happened with environmental science and environmental studies at many institutions. The second example, technology education, has had a different path. As difficult as it is to imagine, only two decades ago, higher education institutions were scrambling to create courses to ensure that students were technologically (or computer) literate. Some institutions established general education requirements while others asked each major to create a relevant course. Eventually the introductory courses disappeared as students were increasingly entering higher education with relatively strong technology competencies. As faculty became more competent with technology, it became integrated across the curriculum and throughout it. Many majors abandoned the specialized courses with an understanding that the battle for general technological literacy had been won – not in the classroom – but in the social (and to a lesser extent formal) learning that occurred throughout adolescence. Technology education has become a highly focused program that involves a small percentage of students who learn and work at the cutting edge of technology, while the rest of us tend to use it to work as effectively and play as enjoyably as we can. It is interesting to ask whether or not sustainability (like technology) will become so pervasive in society (as we


deal with large scale issues like global climate change) that the need for higher education to provide introductory coursework in sustainability will disappear. Finally, the ultimate sustainability curriculum may be the one that doesn’t have the term sustainability associated with it at all. Although we currently recognize sustainability education in the courses that explicitly address sustainability in their content, syllabi, assignments or assessments, if all goes well in the next couple of generations, sustainability will have become part of the “hidden curriculum.” For decades, educators such a Michael Apple have pointed at the implicit knowledge and values that undergird and permeate education as being a function of unchallenged assumptions and cultural norms. The hidden curriculum is a powerful force in sustaining the status quo. It is difficult to imagine, since most of us in the sustainability movement have spent years fighting the status quo, that sustainability could become a cultural norm and permeate all that we do, but that is our ultimate goal. As we, over the next several generations, come closer and closer to achieving that goal, and as our processes and thinking become more sustainability oriented then we should expect that sustainability will enter the “hidden curriculum.” What I think can, and should be different, is that we should be able to openly celebrate the mainstreaming of sustainability and that we should acknowledge and celebrate its implicitness. How we get to that ultimate state will not be by curricular change alone. It will require that we recognize the varied roles that higher education plays in helping shape society, while also using changing social norms to facilitate student learning. In other words, educators must be careful monitors of what their students bring into the classroom and the larger social context, so they can help students develop better skills to become leaders of the sustainability transformation. If post-secondary educators can meet that challenge, then higher education will truly lead the way to a different kind of society that builds a just and sustainable world. About the Author – Paul Rowland is the Executive Director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Previously he was a professor of environmental science and curriculum and instruction at Northern Arizona University where he was also Director of the Center for Environmental Sciences and Education and a co-founder of the Ponderosa Project. He has also served as dean of education at the University of Idaho and the University of Montana.


May 27th, 2010

Why All Colleges & Universities Should Join the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment By Anthony Cortese and Richard Cook Higher Education and Humanity at a Crossroads Higher education now has a challenge bigger than any other it has ever faced because humanity is at crossroads without historical precedent. Due to the extraordinary and exponential growth of population and technology – especially since the mid 20th century – humans have become pervasive and dominant forces in the health and well being of the earth and its inhabitants. While the earth’s population has grown from 1 billion to 6.7 billion in the last two centuries, energy consumption has risen 68-fold, and economic output has risen 80-fold. No part of the earth is unaffected by humans and the scale of our impact is growing exponentially. Unfortunately, the current education system is reinforcing the unhealthy, inequitable, and unsustainable path that society is pursuing. Most of tomorrow’s engineers, business leaders, teachers, architects, policymakers, and product designers are being trained in higher education where they are learning outdated, unsustainable ways of operating society. According to reputable national and international scientific assessments, all living systems – oceans, fisheries, forests, grasslands, soils, coral reefs, wetlands – are in long-term decline and are declining at an accelerating rate. The air, water, and land have become the repository for thousands of toxic chemicals and other pollutants. The environmental challenges are now global, inter-generational, and prone to rapid, unexpected shifts. The sum of humanity and the expansive dynamic of industrial consumerism constitute a planetary force comparable in disruptive power to the Ice Ages and the asteroid collisions that have previously reshaped the Earth’s biosphere. Moreover, more than three billion people are without basic sanitation and earn less than $2.50 each day, over a billion have no access to clean drinking water, water shortages are rampant around the world, and there have been food riots on three continents because the price of food staples has more than doubled in the last two years. And, of course, there are the worldwide economic recession, international conflicts, and wars over resources such as oil and water – as well as ideology – that are destabilizing world society. We have a civilizational and moral crisis, not merely an environmental one. Global climate disruption represents a fundamental barrier to creating a healthy, just, and economically and environmentally sustainable society. The scientific consensus is that society must stabilize global emissions of greenhouse gases in the next five years and reduce them by at least 80% by mid-century at the latest, in order to avert the worst impacts of global climate disruption. Moreover, emissions of carbon dioxide (the principal heattrapping gas) from fossil fuel combustion today will continue to disrupt the climate for the next several centuries, creating an ecological and economic debt for future generations. These are stark indicators that humanity is out of sync with its life support system. All of these impacts are happening with 25 percent of the world’s population consuming 70-80 percent of the world’s resources. By 2050, the world will have 9 billion people and this may be accompanied by a four-fold increase in gross world product by 2050.


The cultural operating philosophy of modern society currently is that if we just work a little harder and smarter and let the market forces run society, all these challenges will work themselves out. However, we need a transformative shift in the way we think and act. As Einstein said, “We can’t solve today’s problems at the same level of thinking at which they were created.” We presently view the array of health, economic, energy, political, security, social justice and environmental issues as separate, competing and hierarchical when they are really systemic and interdependent. We do not have environmental problems, per se. We have negative environmental consequences of the way we have designed our social, economic, and political systems. We have a de facto systems design failure. Hope and Possibility in Higher Education What if higher education were to take a leadership role, as it did in the space race and the war on cancer, in preparing students and providing the information and knowledge to achieve a just and sustainable society? What would higher education look like? The content of learning would include a focus on sustainability in all disciplines and majors so that all students, not just environmental specialists, are prepared to address climate change upon graduation. Many faculty would pursue research that will advance sustainability. The process of education would emphasize active, experiential, inquiry-based learning and real-world problem solving on the campus and in the larger community. Higher education would practice sustainability in operations, planning, facility design, purchasing, and investments. Schools would form partnerships with local and regional communities to help make them sustainable as an integral part of higher education’s mission and the student experience. Exciting environmental studies programs are abundant and growing. Progress on modeling sustainability has grown at an even faster rate. Many in higher education have embraced programs for energy and water conservation, renewable energy, waste minimization and recycling, green buildings, alternative transportation, local and organic food production, and ‘sustainable’ purchasing – both helping the environment and saving money. The rate of increase of such approaches is unmatched by any other sector of society. The student environmental movement is the most well organized, largest, and most sophisticated student movement since the anti-war movement of the 1960’s. Even with all of these efforts, however, the overwhelming majority of graduates know little about the importance of sustainability or how to lead their personal and professional lives aligned with sustainability principles. This must rapidly change. In the last three years there have been some large and encouraging shifts in higher education that lead our colleagues and us to believe that we may be approaching a tipping point in the orientation of higher education at some point in the near future. One of the most significant of these shifts is the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment In early 2007, 12 college and university presidents working with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), ecoAmerica, and Second Nature, launched The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The ACUPCC is a high-visibility initiative to address global climate disruption through actions to reduce and eventually neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to develop the capability of students to help all of society to do the same. The participating schools have committed their institutions to create a comprehensive institutional action plan to move towards climate neutrality by: conducting an institutional greenhouse gas inventory; developing a climate action plan to reach climate neutrality; taking immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; making sustainability an integral part of the curriculum and educational experience of all students; and making the action plan, inventory, and progress reports publicly available. More than 680 colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have made this unprecedented commitment. The schools represent millions of students – about 33% of the college student


population and include every type of institution from community colleges to the biggest research universities. Courageous Leadership The ACUPCC is an example of courageous leadership by college and university leaders. It is the first effort by any major sector of society to set a long-term goal of climate neutrality. ACUPCC signatories believe that leading society to a low carbon and less auto-dependent, consumer economy fits squarely into the educational, research, and public service missions of higher education. Today’s and tomorrow’s workers will need new knowledge and skills that only higher education can provide on a broad scale. The ACUPCC has fundamentally shifted higher education’s attention on sustainability from a series of excellent, distinct programs to a strategic imperative of presidents, academic officers, business officers, faculty, and trustees – becoming a key driver for developing widespread action and for measuring success. Moreover, given the failure of the international community to agree on climate action and the slowness of the US Congress to act, the ACUPCC should be viewed as a model for international cooperation. The Experience of Allegheny College Allegheny College (Meadville, PA) was among the early signatories of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. By joining, we and other colleges and universities made a powerful statement that climate disruption is one of the defining issues of our time, and that immediate, substantial changes in how society operates have to be adopted and further developed. While some participating schools are new to sustainability efforts and are quickly learning from their peers, Allegheny College had already completed an extensive technical energy audit when we joined. Completion of a greenhouse gas inventory (GHG) was a logical extension of that activity. Since then, a plan for attaining carbon neutrality has been developed and submitted, and a full-time sustainability coordinator position has been created. Allegheny satisfies 20% of its electrical energy with wind, composts all food and other organic waste into mulches and soil adjuncts, recycles, employs geothermal heating and cooling, and has eliminated most chemical fertilizers and pesticides with its green landscaping program. Other efficiency measures are being taken regularly. The economics of these measures have proven favorable through savings in energy and water–sometimes the payback is a matter of weeks or months, while others are investments with favorable longer-term returns. Wasting energy, water, and other materials is very costly and often goes unnoticed until a thorough analysis is conducted–then the usual reaction is “What were we thinking by throwing away budget dollars through unproductive waste?” Deadlines have not been a problem for Allegheny College; in fact, targets keep the commitment in focus and the eyes on the prize. Each campus designs and conducts its own plan and carbon-neutrality target date, yet public accountability help keeps this a priority for everyone at each signatory college or university. Institutions can request adjustments in their schedules as unexpected circumstances may dictate and as more information is obtained and technologies are developed (both on campus and by suppliers). The process and results of Allegheny’s participation have been nothing but positive. Teaching and learning have been enhanced, short- and long-term financial savings are evident, and Allegheny is an active and proud member of the initiative. The current Allegheny President, Jim Mullen, and the Allegheny board, faculty, staff, and students have continued to grow the scope of the Commitment, including setting an aggressive target date of 2020 to attain carbon neutrality. Every college and university should be conducting energy and materials audits as a matter of sound business practice and stewardship of institutional resources—period. Any college that doesn’t take the time to know how its energy and material dollars can be used more efficiently is not being fiscally responsible, apart from any environmental sustainability considerations.


By joining forces as the first major sector to act collectively, we have created advantages that no individual institution—no matter how committed—could accomplish individually. The Commitment is both an internal and public declaration that carbon neutrality and sustainability are absolutely essential to humanity’s survival and to the complex ecosystem and climate dynamic. Even those colleges that are doing splendid things independently along these lines (and there are many) should be part of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Their voices and expertise are needed to collectively lead the way for a society and an economy that desperately need their leadership along with that of the current signatories. Through economies of scale, joint partnerships, and demand for nationwide products, services, and policies, the collective voices and actions will be amplified when working together. Some have reasoned that achieving climate neutrality and sustainability and fulfilling the measures within the ACUPCC are not practical or possible. The earth does not recognize how difficult it is for humans to change. It doesn’t have the cognitive ability to decide to wait for us to figure out how we can change to preserve our way of life and ourselves. What we must do is make the impossible inevitable. We cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. All schools need to openly commit to serious reductions in net carbon emissions and not get hung up on how we achieve the final, currently elusive percentages. ACUPCC schools’ current and planned emissions reductions represent a reduction of more than 33 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. What if three times the number of schools made similar commitments and plans? Our students and their children will be grateful we acted courageously and with foresight, especially in view of the size of the challenge and the unknowns that remain. This is not a time to be timid. We must exhibit real leadership and act as if the future depends upon us – because it does. When President John F. Kennedy set a goal for man to reach the moon within a decade, our country had no way of knowing how or if it could be done. But because it was a goal we shared and to which we put our minds, hearts, and our backs, we achieved the goal in nine years and unleashed the scientific and technical revolution that led to so much innovation – from the internet to materials science to breakthroughs in medicine – that are the basis of life today. We need that kind of bold leadership today, especially in higher education, where we are willing to step out, to push the limits of knowledge, and to go beyond what is possible at the moment to create a thriving and sustainable society for the future. About the Authors – Anthony D. Cortese is the founder and president of Second Nature, a national nonprofit organization working to create a healthy, just, and sustainable society through education. Second Nature is the lead supporting organization of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and of the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium. Dr. Cortese has spent the past four decades working for sustainability and environmental protection, including his time as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection as a Dean at Tufts University. For more information, see www.secondnature.org and www.acupcc.org. Richard J. Cook is President Emeritus of Allegheny College and Senior Fellow with Second Nature. Under his leadership, Allegheny College became a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment; Allegheny has since become a leader in developing a campus culture of innovation and action directed toward achieving climate neutrality and sustainability. While a chemistry professor and provost at Kalamazoo College, Dr. Cook held appointments under two governors on the Michigan Toxic Substance Control Commission and the Governor’s Environmental Science Board. His work in connection with the Love Canal hazardous waste site near Niagara Falls and in association with hazardous waste incineration and landfill use has won him recognition in several states and countries. For more information, see www.allegheny.edu.


May 25th, 2010

Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability By Fritjof Capra and Michael Stone En su escrito conmovedor, Capra y Stone nos lleva más allá del uso cotidiano de la palabra “sustentabilidad” a una manera operacional para aplicar la palabra en el ambiente educacional. Ellos describen cuatro principios universales que guíe educación sustentable, cada uno con unas implicaciones profundas en referencia a la manera en que el aprendizaje ocurra. Después nos indica como los principios se aplican a través de “un currícula que se usa a donde sea que ocurra el aprendizaje” tanto en el almuerzo en la cafetería o el diseño del campus de la escuela. Su libro Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability expone de los principios y la idea que aprendizaje ocurra a donde sea. Since its introduction in the early 1980s, the concept of sustainability has often been distorted, co-opted, and even trivialized by being used without the ecological context that gives it its proper meaning. A friend returned a while ago from consulting with a major Midwest food processor to report that, to that company, “sustainability” meant “shelf life.” As Michael Pollan wrote in late 2007, “The word ‘sustainability’ has gotten such a workout lately that the whole concept is in danger of floating away on a sea of inoffensiveness. Everybody, it seems, is for it — whatever ‘it’ means.” So it is worthwhile to reflect on what “sustainability” means, and to seek an operational definition to guide us in our endeavors in sustainability education. Dr. Capra is a cofounder and board president and Dr. Stone serves as senior editor of the Center for Ecoliteracy, a Berkeley-based public foundation. Since its founding nearly two decades ago, the Center has had education for sustainable living as its mission. Out of our work with hundreds of K–12 educators, we have developed an approach to sustainability education grounded in ecological principles. We celebrate sustainability as a far richer concept than simply meeting material needs, continuing to exist, or trying to keep conditions on a degraded planet from getting worse. What is sustained in a sustainable community is not economic growth or competitive advantage, but the entire web of life, natural and social, on which our long-term survival depends. A truly sustainable community is alive — fresh, vital, evolving, diverse, dynamic. It supports the health and quality of life of present and future generations while living within the limits of its social and natural systems. It recognizes the need for justice, as well as for physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual sustenance. We do not need to invent sustainable human communities from scratch. We can learn from societies that have sustained themselves for centuries. We can also model human societies after nature’s ecosystems, which are sustainable communities of plants, animals, and organisms. Since the outstanding characteristic of the biosphere is its inherent ability to sustain life, a sustainable community may be defined as one that is designed so that its ways of life, businesses, economy, physical structures, and technologies respect, honor, and cooperate with nature‘s inherent ability to sustain life. In the coming decades, the survival of humanity will depend on our ecological literacy — our ability to understand the basic principles of ecology, coupled with the values, ability, and fortitude to act on that understanding. This means that ecoliteracy must become a critical capacity for politicians, business leaders, and professionals in all spheres and should be the most important part of education at all levels — from primary and secondary schools to colleges, universities, continuing education, and the training of professionals.


Smart by Nature Over the last 20 years, the Center for Ecoliteracy has worked with educators from all types of K–12 schools — public and independent; tiny and very large; primary, middle, and secondary; rural, suburban, and urban; well-to-do and struggling to make ends meet. We know that no single blueprint is appropriate for all schools. Increasingly, though, we find ourselves drawn to a set of principles that we have distilled into an approach that we call “Smart by Nature.” We describe this formulation in more detail on our website (www.ecoliteracy.org) and in our recent book, Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability (2009: Watershed Media/University of California Press). In that book, we profile schools across the United States that are putting Smart by Nature schooling into practice. Four primary principles guide us: • Nature is our teacher • Sustainability is a community practice • The real world is the optimal learning environment • Sustainable living is rooted in a deep knowledge of place Nature is our teacher. Ecological literacy fosters a perspective essential to sustainable living: human needs and achievements are both supported and limited by the natural world. Organizing teaching around core ecological concepts such as nested systems, cycles, interdependence, and diversity, and returning to these concepts in increasingly complex investigations, helps to integrate teaching across disciplines and between grade levels. Some teachers have expressed a fear that teaching about sustainability will add more content to overburdened workloads. In fact, identifying recurring concepts and sustainability-related “essential questions” is proving to be an antidote to fragmentation of subject matter, helping to tie subjects together in ways that make more sense to students. Accepting nature as our teacher also implies learning to observe and think systemically. Individual “things” in nature (organs, plants, people, watersheds) can’t be fully understood apart from the larger systems in which they exist. So Smart by Nature schooling includes learning to think in terms of relationships, connectedness, and context. Emphases shift from the parts to the whole, from objects to relationships, from contents to patterns. “Instead of a unit on living organisms,” one third-grade teacher told us, “you’re looking at a unit on systems and how those systems interact and how you can address other systems in a more global fashion.” Sustainability is a community practice. Our second guiding principle follows from “Nature is our teacher.” Many of the core ecological principles that we emphasize are different aspects of a single fundamental pattern of organization: Nature sustains life by creating and nurturing communities. No individual organism can exist for long in isolation. Animals depend on the photosynthesis of plants for their energy needs; plants depend on the carbon dioxide produced by animals, as well as on the nitrogen fixed by bacteria at their roots; and plants, animals, and microorganisms together regulate the entire biosphere and maintain the conditions conducive to life.


A profound lesson to be learned from nature is that sustainability is not an individual property, but a property of an entire web of relationships. It involves a whole community. We can also extrapolate these lessons from nature to the world of social relations. Qualities that characterize healthy natural ecosystems, such as diversity and interdependence, support healthy human communities as well. The preservation of endangered human cultures is analogous to the maintenance of biodiversity. Social and economic equity and justice are important to sustainable societies in the same way that maintaining a dynamic balance among the members of a natural ecosystem is important to its sustainability. Many of the most pressing environmental problems facing us require actions by citizens who are willing and able to collaborate effectively in organizations and communities. In schooling that is Smart by Nature, teachers and administrators model, and students learn and practice, the skills required for cooperative decision-making and action. The real world is the optimal learning environment. Children can more fully understand nature’s basic patterns through immersions in which they encounter nature in the rich, messy ways in which it actually exists. They step back from their fast-paced, media-saturated world and experience the rhythms and timescales at which natural events occur when they sow seeds in a school garden in the spring for harvest in the fall or watch a restored creek side come back to life over months or even years. Children’s sense of wonder at the natural world — the emotional connections that may determine how deeply they will care about the fate of nature — can be awakened by finding the life teeming in a handful of soil or nurturing a seed into a healthy plant. Whether repairing the habitat of an endangered species, tending a school garden, or designing a neighborhood recycling program, students learn more when their actions matter and have meaning. In Smart by Nature schooling, students connect with the natural world and human communities through project-based learning that inspires them to acquire knowledge needed to accomplish something they care about or that someone in their community wants or needs. They also learn that they can make a difference, laying a foundation for responsible, active citizenship. Sustainable living is rooted in a deep knowledge of place. When people get to know a particular place well, they begin to care about what happens to the landscape, creatures, and people in it. When they understand its ecology and diversity, the web of relations it supports, and the rhythm of its cycles, they develop an appreciation for and a sense of kinship with their surroundings. Well-known, well-loved places have the best chance to be protected and preserved so that they may be cherished and cared for by future generations of students. Students can understand a community better by seeing it through the eyes of people who live and work there and will continue to care about it after the students have graduated and moved away. Civic engagement becomes an important component of sustainability education. Many schools require service learning. Civic engagement as we understand it goes further, attending to community-wide needs and addressing concerns identified and defined by citizens. Curriculum Is Anywhere Learning Occurs People inquire about our sustainability curriculum. They often envision a binder of lessons, but we believe that “curriculum” deserves a broader, more holistic definition. A team of educators from the South Pacific atoll of Yap once visited the Center. Recognizing their own insights about education in our work brought tears to their eyes. As a parting gift, they left a poster proclaiming, “Curriculum Is Anywhere Learning Occurs.” We concur. Schooling is everything the school does that leads to students’ learning — whether that learning is intended or not (the unintended learning is often the most powerful, especially when it contradicts the designed curriculum). Students learn from what the school serves for lunch, how it uses


resources and manages waste, who is included in its decisions, how it relates to the surrounding community. In Smart by Nature, we explore four domains — food, campus, community, and teaching & learning — that offer multiple avenues for the transformative work of schooling for sustainability. Food. Some people have expressed surprise that a major portion of a book on schooling for sustainability is devoted to school food. Eating is about as basic as sustainable living gets. How we grow, process, transport, market, prepare, and dispose of food is critical to central sustainability issues, including resource use, energy, pollution, water quality, and soil conservation. Food serves as an ideal entry point for understanding the interrelations of such issues as hunger, trade policy, energy use, and climate change. We have identified four food-focused learning environments: school gardens, instructional kitchens, lunchrooms, and classrooms. Gardens create opportunities to experience basic ecological literacy concepts firsthand — the flow of energy from the sun to plants and animals, planetary cycles of water and weather, the web of relations embodied in every bite. They help students learn where the food they eat comes from and what is necessary to get it to them. An “instructional kitchen” can be as simple as a hot plate in the garden or a portable cart that carries cooking equipment into a classroom. Children will almost always try food they have prepared (particularly if they have grown it in the school garden). Teachers regularly report the amazed reactions of parents, convinced that their sons and daughters are addicted to junk food, when the children come home from school and begin asking for more fresh fruits and vegetables for dinner. In the lunchroom, the school directly affects student health and, ultimately, public health and long-term community sustainability. Meanwhile, the potential of redirecting the billions of dollars spent annually on school food toward support of local farming and sustainable agriculture is increasingly being recognized as an important public policy opportunity. Any classroom subject can be integrated through food. The Center for Ecoliteracy has made food the focus of two of our most recent books. Big Ideas: Linking Food, Culture, Health, and the Environment (2008: Learning in the Real World) uses food as the entry point for teaching key concepts from the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Benchmarks for Science Literacy. The Center’s discussion guide to the provocative documentary Food, Inc. (available for download on our website) helps high school students participate in meaningful dialogue about issues explored in the film, including health, sustainability, animal welfare, and workers’ rights. Campus. In their institutional practices, schools make the natural and social environments in which they are embedded either more or less sustainable. By the materials they use; the suppliers and other organizations they support; and the pollution, waste, and greenhouse emissions they generate or eliminate; schools directly affect environmental sustainability. They require resources and energy to heat, cool, and light buildings and to transport students and staff to and from the campus; they occupy open space; they make demands on community infrastructure. Campus practices allow a school to demonstrate whether it means what it says about sustainable living. Schools teach about sustainability by making their practices more transparent and including students in discussions and decisions about them. One of the most dramatic actions a school or district can take, of course, is to build or renovate buildings to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools) standards. Some schools leave conduits, ducts, and other structural elements exposed so that students can understand how sustainable buildings work. Some offer real-time measurements of energy, water, or resource use, accessed through centrally located monitors or from students’ computers. Even schools not engaged in major construction buy office and school supplies, cleaners, pesticides, fertilizers, food, playground equipment, and vehicles. They can practice environmentally preferable


purchasing. Their collective purchasing power can help create markets for products that benefit the environment, create jobs, and raise the quality of life of communities. A sustainability audit by students and staff can be a powerful tool for planning, goal setting, and measuring progress, as well as a valuable teaching opportunity. It’s a way to discover how sustainability issues arise in day-to-day decisions. Audits can cover almost anything: energy and water use, “food miles” in the cafeteria, chemicals in science labs and art studios, the school’s contribution to its community’s waste stream, how well sustainability is incorporated throughout the curriculum. Community. Schools are far more than buildings, classrooms, and lesson plans. They are also relationship networks in which students spend much of their time. Within these networks, students develop the values and attitudes they will carry into adulthood. Communities support sustainable living when they offer meaning and value that does not depend on material acquisitions or the expenditure of natural resources. They foster sustainability by helping their members realize their full physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual potential. “To create better health in a living system,” writes systems theorist Margaret Wheatley, “connect it to more of itself.” When educators, parents, trustees, and students make decisions or act collaboratively, they demonstrate sustainability as a community practice. By example and design, students learn through shared experience about cooperation, tolerance, empathy, caretaking, and support for others. Teaching & Learning. There is no one right teaching style for sustainability education. The Center for Ecoliteracy promotes a variety of strategies for developing the knowledge, skills, and values essential to sustainable living. We believe that students learn best when teaching strategies are varied to include handson activities, time for reflection and thoughtful discussion, a mix of indoor and outdoor environments, and opportunities to participate in interdisciplinary projects. Educators define “environmental project-based learning” in different ways. In our experience, the best examples include learning structured around acquiring the knowledge and skills to complete a “real-world” project, often in service to the local social or environmental community. When it’s working well, the process involves a high degree of student initiative, leadership, and participation in selecting projects; results are not predetermined or fully predictable; teachers serve as resources or fellow learners rather than as primarily dispensers of knowledge; and attention is paid to skills such as setting goals and priorities, managing time, and working with others. The more of these diverse practices schools adopt, the more they become “apprentice communities” for learning the arts of living in an interdependent world. Pollan (2007). Our Decrepit Food Factories, New York Times Magazine (December 16, 2007). http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/magazine/16wwln-lede-t.html. Margaret J. Wheatley and Myron Ke llner-Rogers, “Bringing Life to Organizational Change,” Journal for Strategic Performance Measurement (April/May, 1998), http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/life.html. About the Authors – Fritjof Capra is cofounder and chair of the board of the Center for Ecoliteracy. His books include The Tao of Physics, The Turning Point, The Web of Life, The Hidden Connections, and The Science of Leonardo. He lectures frequently to lay and professional audiences around the world. Michael K. Stone, senior editor at the Center for Ecoliteracy, is primary author of the Center's book, Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability and coeditor of Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World. He was managing editor of Whole Earth magazine and the Millennium Whole Earth Catalog, and a founding faculty member and academic vice president of World College West.


May 25th, 2010

Protecting What We Love: Ideas for Systemic Problem-Solving By Riki Ott Riki Ott utiliza “la cívica ultima” para inspirar a estudiantes que tomen acción y efectúe un cambio. Aquí, ella expone la fundación de su currícula que lleva a los estudiantes fuera del aula y hacia el arena política, con la meta de eliminar nuestra adicción al petróleo. “No coal! No oil! No compromise!” The voices of 500 Powershift students filled the university hall in Eugene, Oregon, as they chanted in sync to a video from their March 2009 protest outside Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Power Plant. Their demonstration, which called for the plant’s conversion to natural gas, was the nation’s largest act of civil disobedience against coal power. And it succeeded. By the Eugene rally seven months later, the Capitol Power Plant had converted to natural gas and the students figured it was one coal plant down, 600 more to go in the United States. They had high hopes for a similar success in shifting policy at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Powershift is a consortium of students from more than1,500 universities in all fifty states and they are a sharp bunch. The students know, for example, that the coal and oil industries are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year in advertising and lobbying to prevent passage of meaningful energy policy— policy that will transition America to a clean energy economy in the timeframe dictated by climate science, not corporate profits. They know that to reach their demands of 25–40 percent carbon dioxide reduction in the United States by 2020, they must cut through the influence of special interests and politics-as-usual. And they certainly know their generation has the most at stake in the climate crisis. This is the eleventh hour—closing rapidly on the twelfth—and yet our political system seems incapable of delivering the real systemic change demanded at this time. I opened my talk in Eugene with their chant, then asked, “Have you thought about how we’re going to get ‘no compromise’?” There was a stunned silence. This is a teachable moment. Powershift students asked Riki Ott to be a “Constitutional bearer” in their march. Ott teaches Ultimate Civics, an interdisciplinary, interactive course that offers practical skills for systemic problem-solving. “The best part,” says Ott, “is that it inspires and encourages students to step up, take action, and help make a difference in these critical issues that will shape their lives.” Credit: Evan Erickson. 2009. What can educators do to seize this clarion opportunity? Thanks to educators, after all, our students are mostly well versed on the problems. But so far the solutions are falling short of the mark. We teach about green buildings, green chemistry, green jobs, clean green energy, recycling, growing vegetable gardens, the economics of full cost accounting, and more—all good and necessary, but still U.S. and global greenhouse gas emissions continue to spiral dangerously higher. My purpose in writing this article is to share with other educators how I have approached this opportunity with students from fourth grade through university and law schools across the country. I believe the


missing link to drive the sustainable future movement into systemic change is civics, the basic operating instructions for our country. Not old-fashioned civics, but Ultimate Civics! Civics has always connected personal values to the protection of our communities, environment, and local economies. But Ultimate Civics—driven by the unprecedented threats to our communities, environment, and local economies—ties climate science and the urgent need to transition off fossil fuels with practical fixes for our broken political system and polarized nation. Ultimate Civics is interactive, interdisciplinary, and offers practical skills for systemic problem-solving. Best of all, it inspires and encourages students to step up, take action, and help make a difference in these critical issues that will shape their lives. Ultimate Civics has three parts: Energy and the Environment, Economics, and Political Science. The Energy and Environment section discusses the risks of our oil and coal dependency to human health and the environment. It starts with the example of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the most intensely and comprehensively studied spill in the world, and follows the evolution of a paradigm shift: oil is more toxic to life than thought in the 1970s when the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were passed. It discusses the impact on human health from these same oil toxins—toxins that the U.S. EPA added to its list of persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic pollutants (along with lead, dioxin, mercury, PCBs, and DDT) in 1999 – over ten years ago! Environmental medicine doctors know that breathing low levels of ultrafine oil particles found in soot, diesel exhaust (in school buses, for example), urban rush hour traffic, and oil refinery smokestacks has been linked with asthma, hardened arteries, DNA damage, cancer, and premature deaths. But this new science is largely unknown among the general public and our future leaders – the youth. It is rarely discussed among policy-makers who profess to use science and risk/benefit analyses in decisions regarding our energy future ––but don’t. Being blind to the risks or full costs of fossil fuels leads policy-makers to unwise choices that prolong America’s oil dependency instead of growing new green industries. The world has reached “peak oil”––the cheap, easy-to-access black gold. Now the oil industry wants to literally scrape the bottom of the barrel: to find and develop the harder-to-get offshore oil, Arctic oil, oil shale, and tar sands. The risks of these deadend choices are discussed in light of potentially astronomical health and environmental costs from climate destabilization and ocean acidification. The feedback loop in this section is to have students write letters to the President, the Secretary of Interior, and their congressional delegates explaining why they think we should or shouldn’t get off oil. Letterwriting engages youth in our democratic process and empowers them as problem-solvers. The week of Obama’s inauguration I visited Inupiat (Eskimo) villages along the Arctic coast. Three months later in Anchorage during the federal outer continental shelf oil and gas hearings, the Mayor of Barrow testified against oil development and read a passage from a letter that eloquently described a subsistence hunt in the Arctic sea ice. The author, a young hunter and Barrow high school student from a class I had visited, stood bashfully at the mayor’s side. Students could also work together on a class project to make a presentation urging their city council to sign on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement as more than 1,000 cities have done. Absent meaningful federal action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, city leaders should be encouraged to step into the void and take action. The youth voice makes a difference, especially on this issue as they have the most at stake in making a safe energy transition to a sustainable future. Youth leaders like Alec Loorz started a nonprofit organization, Kids vs. Global Warming, at age twelve. Now fifteen,


Alec educates thousands of his peers about the science of climate change and empowers them to take action. Powershift students are mostly well versed on problems associated with the climate crisis. But so far the solutions are falling short of the mark. U.S. and global greenhouse gas emissions continue to spiral dangerously higher. Credit: Evan Erickson. 2009. Shifting off fossil fuels will entail growing new industries and using different measures of economic wealth. The second section of the Ultimate Civics curriculum focuses on Economics and explores how we can grow our businesses into an economy that matches our values. This is my favorite section to teach, in part because the lesson came at an extremely high personal price. In the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the fishing-based economy in Cordova, Alaska, my hometown, collapsed. Years of debt and financial uncertainty spiraled our community downward into social chaos. Who knew drinking, domestic violence, divorces, and worse were linked with financial stress? Cordova became a case study for sociologists as we struggled to rebuild our community. That lesson is now relevant for the rest of America as many people and communities are still reeling from the economic meltdown. The opportunity lies in the rebuilding. When there is nothing to lose, one is free to imagine what is possible. We created a simple exercise in Cordova to identify shared values, build a common vision, and take collective action. It can be taught from grade nine through university. I’ve shared our “Community Unity” exercise across North America over the last five years—in rural and urban areas, Native villages, inner cities, and private and public schools—with amazing results. The point of the exercise is to articulate what we love, then identify ways to protect our core values. By learning to work together towards a common goal, participants reweave the bonds of trust and relationship that frame healthy, empowered communities. The exercise is simple. There are three questions: “What do you like about your community?” (value); “What do you want to see different in twenty years?” (vision); and “What steps would you take to make the change?” (action). Each student has three pieces of paper and a pen. Students work in circles of eight to ten and are given three minutes in silence to write their answers to the first question. Then each group picks a scribe and the scribe compiles the answers as students share one idea at a time from their list as they go around the circle. Similar ideas are checked. Usually within ten minutes, each group will have a prioritized set of values. The exercise is repeated for the remaining questions. Students then work in three groups with each group compiling one set of data. Results can be used in different ways. For example, when I taught to high school seniors at the Thacher School in Ojai, California, we targeted the exercise to collect information about the school’s carbon footprint—what students liked, what could be done differently, and how. For their final, the students facilitated a school-wide exercise, compiled the data, and presented it at a school forum. The information provided a basis for collective action by students, faculty, and staff to begin the shift to “Sustainable Thacher.” University students can facilitate public meetings in their community, particularly if their community is polarized over some development issue (as many are). For grades four through eight, I use a different approach. Groups of four to six students gather around a piece of butcher paper spread over pushed-together desks. Armed with crayons, marker pens, or such, students are given three minutes to write down what they love—what makes them happy—in silence if possible! Younger students often ask, “Do we have to write in full sentences?” No. “Do we have to spell correctly?” No. Heads bend to the task at hand. After the allotted time, groups share their values with the class. For example, fifth grade classes at the Open Alternative School in Santa Barbara, California, listed: best friends, mom and dad, my home, my cat or dog, my surfboard, mountains, ocean, peace, trees, hugs, and candy, among other things.


Then comes the teachable moment. I point out: If we go into a grocery store, we find items priced with their value in dollars. Then I ask, “Does your best friend have a sticker on their head with a value?” The question is met with giggles. “Does your mom or dad have a sticker price?” More giggles. Then I warn, “Careful—trick question! Does your home have a price?” Y-e-e-e-s-s-s! “Does your surfboard?” Y-e-e-e-ss-s! “Does surfing—going out and having fun with your friends?” N-o-o-o-o! Children value more than money. We all do. The answers for students of all ages are strikingly similar. Gradually values are grouped into economic wealth (things with price stickers like education, homes, jobs, surfboards), social wealth (trust and relationships—things like best friends, mom and dad, peace, surfing, health), and environmental wealth (ocean, mountains, trees). The three types of wealth weave together to create a quality of life. In Cordova, once we realized we shared core values, we agreed to encourage businesses that increased one or more types of wealth without decreasing the other(s). We decided against clear-cut logging, coal-mining, and more oil development because they flunked our test: these industries decreased environmental and social capital while increasing economic capital. We opted instead for niche marketing Copper River wild salmon to get more value from what we already had (our only fishery untouched by Exxon’s spill) and building an eco-tourism industry. Encouraging businesses and lifestyles that increase one or two forms of wealth without decreasing the other(s) leads to full cost accounting, the basis for a living economy and a sustainable future. Credit: Riki Ott. Linking values to the economy creates a path to a living economy and a sustainable future. In a university, this is called full cost accounting, but in the younger grades, it just makes sense. This is contrasted with the way America currently measures economic health—through the Gross National Product, which is simply a measure of money exchanging hands with no value attached. By this measure, things like war profiteering, disaster capitalism, high incarceration rates in private prisons, sick people, and oil spills are all good for our economy because each results in money exchanging hands. A suicide economy grows economic wealth by cannibalizing social and environmental wealth—until there is nothing left of the planet. To return to the Community Unity exercise, the vision shared by participants across America is to pass a livable planet on to our children, to have self-reliant communities, and to have clean safe energy. The key action steps are to create regional banking, regional food, regional energy, and green jobs. At this point, university students often ask, “That all looks good, but how come we can’t get there?” The answer is found in the third segment of Ultimate Civics: Political Science. This teaching also has its origins in Cordova. Exxon promised initially to make us whole from its tragic spill, but we ended up in court, fighting to defend even our most basic claims. Ultimately, we recovered an estimated seven to ten percent of our losses. As the lawsuit dragged on over two decades, townspeople began to ask, “How did corporations get so big that they can manipulate our legal system, our political system, and our government?” None of us knew, so I decided to find an answer. After two years of research, I learned an astonishing thing: our democracy has, in fact, been hijacked by Corporate America. In teaching at universities, we dive right into what I call the “democracy crisis”—the merger of democracy and capitalism. But the concepts translate down to fifth grade, at least. When I asked that class of fifth graders in Santa Barbara if they knew the first three words of the U.S. Constitution, they chorused, “We the People!” When I asked who were the “people,” there was a stunned silence. Finally, one boy jabbed his thumb into his chest and said in an exasperated tone, “WE!”


Surely our Founders had only this WE in mind when they drafted our Constitution and Bill of Rights. After all, WE had just rebelled against the monarchy and moneyed corporations of the time. For the first 100 years of our Republic, corporations had limited privileges and no rights. They were carefully controlled creatures of state legislatures. But no more. Powerful corporations burst their legal shackles using a backdoor approach through the courts to amend the Constitution by judicial fiat. Thomas Jefferson saw this coming in 1821 when he warned, “Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, then by corruption, its necessary consequence. The engine of consolidation will be the federal judiciary; the other two branches the corrupting and corrupted instruments.” Jefferson knew our law recognizes two types of persons: real people—humans—and fake persons or “artificial persons,” including chartered entities like corporations. In 1886, a Ninth Circuit Court conferred the Fourteenth Amendment right of “equal protection of the laws” to an artificial person, a railroad corporation in this case. Since then, the Supreme Court has handed out other human rights to corporations, including a battery of First Amendment rights such as commercial and political speech. And this is why we have a suicide economy that reflects the corporate value of profit instead of a living economy that reflects the human values of social, environmental, and economic wealth in balance—or sustainability. Our democracy has been hijacked by corporations through illegitimate usurpation of rights intended for human persons. It makes no sense to fifth graders that fake persons have the same rights as real people—and it shouldn’t make sense to the rest of us either. The United States is no longer a government of, for, and by the real people. As I tell students of all ages, we no longer have a democracy. It’s like Oz where the curtain professes “Democracy!” But behind the curtain other hands pull the levers of our governance. Students want solutions that fit the scale of the problem. We can’t achieve a sustainable future without a real democracy. The values, vision, and voices of real people need to take precedence over that of artificial persons (like corporations). Credit: Evan Erickson. 2009. For too long, teachers have taught the Three Rs but left out civics, the basic operating instructions of our country. And when civics is taught, it’s about the illusion of democracy, not what’s behind the curtain. We as teachers do a disservice to our future leaders by not disclosing the story of the evolution of corporate personhood (fake persons with real people’s rights), the demise of our democracy, and, most importantly, what WE can do about it. The latter is what lights the imagination of students. Our Founders knew that the ultimate defenders of the U.S. Constitution were not the government or the court. The ultimate defenders are WE, the real people. It’s time to change the rules. WE need to amend the Constitution to affirm that only human beings have constitutional rights, not artificial persons. Corporate personhood is a fundamental threat to our democracy and our planet. A sustainable world is only possible in a real democracy. Imagine starting this movement in schools and on campuses across the United States! Our students can. I get mobbed after speaking by youth of all ages who ask, “What can I do to help?”


The Powershift students’ take was: “This solution fits the scale of the problem!” They got it. We have to do more than shut down one coal plant after another. WE have to get rid of corporate personhood. That’s how WE get to “No Compromise.” Imagine what health care reform could have looked like absent Big Pharma and Big Health Insurers using their First Amendment “rights” to lobby. Imagine what could have happened in Copenhagen without the big moneyed voices of Big Oil and Big Coal drowning out the people’s voice. Imagine what could happen if schools started teaching Ultimate Civics. I can. About the Author – Riki Ott, PhD, a marine toxicologist and former fisherma’am, is currently director of Ultimate Civics, a project with Earth Island Institute (www.ultimatecivics.org). She is a national spokesperson with MoveToAmend.org, a grassroots coalition to end corporate rule and legalize democracy.


May 11th, 2010

Using SPIRALS as a Lens to Envision the Next Economy By Andres Edwards Illustrating a vision for the new economy is one of the greatest challenges and opportunities for leaders in the sustainability movement. The notion of a “green economy” has mainstreamed quite rapidly; however “green” much like “sustainability” remains an amorphous term with many interpretations that are difficult to envision in daily life. The green economy is often juxtaposed with the fossil fuel-based economy to emphasize environmentally friendly energy alternatives and green business practices. In their book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart allude to the notion of the “next industrial revolution” which has roots dating back to the birth of the industrial revolution more than two centuries ago. This characterization is familiar, yet stems from old economic models that are at the root of the environmental, social and economic crises we currently face. Perhaps a more useful approach for describing the next economy focuses on daily practices rather than conceptual models. Instead of characterizing the type of economy—whether it’s a “new,” “green,” “conservation,” or “next industrial” economy, we need to characterize our vision for living in this evolving economy and ask questions that highlight the way new economic systems will work. For example, where does our food come from? What kind of a bank or financial institution do we do business with? What are its values? And where does it invest its capital? What are the educational goals and objectives of our schools and universities? These questions begin to address what author Bill McKibben describes in his book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. The notion of a “Durable“ and a “Livable” future speaks to the intergenerational aspects of a lasting new economy. These terms support the idea of a resilient economic system that is able to stand the test of time and adapt to change. But questions remain: what are the characteristics of this “livable future?” How does it manifest itself? Author Jean Jacobs addressed this issue when she coined the term “reliable prosperity.” Jacobs tied the viability of our economic system to natural systems. As she wrote in her last book, The Nature of Economies, “human beings exist wholly within nature as part of the natural order in every respect.” Jacobs emphasized how the foundation of reliable prosperity stems from the resilience of natural systems. Our desire for reliability and prosperity is interdependent with nature and our economic system depends upon nature’s life-support systems. The Portland, Oregon based environmental nonprofit, Ecotrust has adopted “reliable prosperity” as a guiding principle and catalyst to inspire its members into action. The notion of reliable prosperity also points to the importance of identifying some of the essential attributes that we envision in the new economy. These attributes help to ground the character of the new economy with enduring values based on practical aspirations. In researching effective initiatives and, to a broader extent, economic structures that support a durable future with reliable prosperity, I have identified the SPIRALS framework—namely, initiatives that are: Scalable, Place-based, Intergenerational, Resilient, Accessible, Life-affirming, and involving Self-care. These key attributes are applicable to initiatives that foster the new economy and also serve as a compass for envisioning the future that we choose to create. The SPIRALS framework is a useful tool for going beyond the “shades of green” of the new economy and understanding how we can design a thriving economy that works for all species. About the Author – Andrés R. Edwards is the author of Thriving Beyond Sustainability and The Sustainability Revolution. He is an educator, media designer, LEED-accredited green building and sustainability consultant and the founder and principal of EduTracks.


May 9th, 2010

The Value of Indigenous Ways of Knowing to Western Science and Environmental Sustainability By Dennis Martinez Sustainability has been defined and redefined for decades, yet remains an elusive concept to most. In many ways it has lost its power to stir our imaginations because of overuse. When linked to economics, sustainability comes across as an oxymoron. Perhaps the simplest definition can be found in The New Oxford American Dictionary: “conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources”. Ecological balance? There is the rub: What exactly is “ecological balance”? An easy answer could be: science can tell us what ecological balance is. But has it? Can it? I would argue that, while Western science can tell us a lot about the natural world, what it has to say about nature is not up to the task of explaining, by itself, ecological balance. This is particularly important now for knowing how to build in resilience to rapid environmental changes like climate disruption and how to adapt to these changes (human resilience). Western science has the necessary technology and quantitative methodology, but lacks sufficient longterm experience on the ground in particular places. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) average global precipitation and temperature data have been useful for convincing many that climate change is real, averages tell us little about specific regions or local places. Western science is good at generalizing from experimental research, but lacks long-term data from most local places—for example, leading local ecological indicators of climate change, including local knowledge of changing weather patterns—by which to assess climate impacts. Extreme (unique) weather and environmental events are what count. Western scientists are beginning to appreciate the complementary role of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) in climate change assessments. It is practically a truism that computer simulation modeling is only as good as the data that the modeler puts in. Local people, directly dependent on their environment for subsistence livelihoods and possessing longterm environmental knowledge—in other words, local environmental baselines with which to track change—know their places far better than the scientist whose research schedule is set by the academic calendar and bound by the vagaries of shortterm boom-and-bust foundation and institutional funding. Western techno-science is similarly limited. There are significant differences between Geographic Information Systems (GIS) vegetation mapping or simulation modeling and the real world. GIS assessments of suitable animal habitat without ground-truthing—especially by Indigenous practitioners who know the habits of the animals that they have hunted or observed since childhood—could create a very different reality for the animals under assessment. They may see things altogether differently with respect to suitable habitat. GIS has a subjective aspect that could lead to the imposition of anthropomorphic projections onto habitat seen from the air. Indigenous people are in a privileged position to ground-truth Western science. It is important, when talking about the complementary nature of Western science and TEK, to realize that the two knowledge systems often reflect different perspectives and emphases. Sea ice is a good example. While passive microwave imagery discovered a decreasing trend in Arctic summer seaice extent and thickness in 1979, and while this generally agrees with local assessments (made as early as the 1960s by the Inuit and Inupiat), there are still significant regional differences that can have important


ramifications for wildlife and Indigenous communities living in the affected regions. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the many different qualities of sea-ice that Indigenous practitioners know in their own languages. This is an issue of acute importance to fishers and hunters who trust their safety and lives to their knowledge of sea-ice. Compared to other regions of the world, the Arctic probably has the greatest uncertainty concerning the rate and extent of climate change; so collaborative research that includes firsthand Indigenous experience is critical to assessing climate change. An exclusive focus on remote sensing may limit our understanding of climate change and its impact on Arctic communities and wildlife. In every case I know of, estimates of animal population viability and population size by local experts have been more accurate than estimates by Western scientists in Alaska and Canada. For example, according to the Nunatsiaq News (March 14, 2008), in a news brief entitled ‘New bowhead numbers show Inuit are right”, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had to admit that their eastern arctic bowhead population estimates were wrong by an order of 15. Inuit estimates were 15 times greater than DFO had thought only 8 years before. Scientists had estimated a population of only 245 bowhead whales, allowing a harvest quota in Nunavut of one every two years. Now, DFO admits that the bowhead numbers could be as high as 73,105, supporting an annual hunt of between 18 and 90. DFO also conceded that there are not two bowhead populations in the eastern Arctic, but only one, as the Inuit claimed. A survey of the Kivalliq’s Beverly and Quamanirjuaq caribou herd by DFO calculated that its population had plummeted to 105,000 animals. Hunting quotas were imposed on the Inuit who claimed that the herd was increasing, with some of the original herd migrating to a different range. It took 10 years for DFO to prove the Inuit correct when they finally found 276,000 caribou. Western scientists can be unbelievably ignorant of animal behavior. Some years ago the Canadian government allowed the sport hunting of Arctic muskox who had passed reproductive age. Inuit hunters objected. They knew that herd elders were critical to the survival of the herd when it was under stress, e.g., keeping the younger muskox calm during sieges by wolves. They also knew that the larger, heavier older muskox, like bison, are able to break through thick ice-encrusted snow, allowing smaller, younger animals to access the browse beneath the snow. It wasn’t until the herds began to crash some years later that scientists recommended stopping the shooting of “over the hill” muskox. This mechanistic approach of scientists to animal management prevented them from recognizing the social ecology of animals. Western scientists have only very recently conceded that animals even have emotions. And that was pioneered by women, especially at the leading Western institution of animal behavior, Cambridge’s male-dominated Department of Ethology. The world is changing rapidly. Climate disruption is happening faster than animals, plants, and human communities will be able to adapt to without taking extraordinary action. In vulnerable ecosystems like the subarctic and arctic, low-lying coastal areas and small islands, semi-arid and arid regions, tropical and subtropical forests and savannas, dry and sub-humid grasslands, and high mountains, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that up to 30% of animals and plants face extinction if global temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in coming decades. There was a time when human communities and animals were not restricted in their mobility and could move to other places when necessary. Today there are significant obstacles, like the built environment of roads, cities, etc. to animal mobility. Landscapes are badly fragmented with few natural migration corridors remaining. Possible migration corridors are in the planning stages but are very far from being implemented. Indigenous communities are locked into place in reserves, reservations, rancherias, and ejidos and cannot move with displaced species. But climate disruption alone cannot be blamed for this in much of the world. Climate disruption is exacerbating already degraded landscapes, impacting the structure, composition, and function of the world’s ecosystems. E.g., warming temperatures are extending the length of the fire seasons (by 70 days in the past three decades in the US Pacific Northwest) because of shorter winters (by two months in my region in northern California, Oregon, and Washington), allowing more regeneration cycles for bark beetles that are devastating conifer forests from Alaska to Mexico. Government fire suppression polices of the past


century, coupled with rampant industrial logging and replanted monoculture plantations, have allowed fuels to build up to levels that are totally outside the natural or historical range of variability. In the mixed evergreen-conifer forests of my region, where there used to be 40 to 60 large trees per hectare, there are now 4,000 to 6,000 small trees. Important cultural plants are being shaded out or burned out in high severity fires. Where Indians in my region used to burn regularly, their frequent low intensity fires rejuvenated forests and permitted the culturally rich herbaceous understory to flourish. Now, our forests are so choked with dense doghair conifer stands and brush that even animals are finding it difficult to travel except on logging roads. During plant surveys, I often find rare and endangered plants on compacted (but sunny) log landings, roadcuts, skid roads, and toxic serpentine rocky outcrops—because they are unable to successfully compete with shade tolerant species in the forest understory. We hear a lot now about “bridging” or “integrating” Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Western science. Do examples of collaborative research suggest that we are “bridging” these two knowledge systems that are based on very different cosmovisions and descriptions of the natural world—let alone “integrating” them? To answer this question, we have to first explain the differences. There are no shortages of definitions of TK in the literature. A 2004 report by the International Council for Science—the ICSU—includes most of the attributes of traditional knowledge commonly used in its definition: (1) TK is a cumulative body of locally contextualized knowledge, know-how, practices and beliefs maintained by oral transmission from generation to generation; and (2) TK is part and parcel of a cultural complex and cosmology that encompasses language, naming, classification systems, and spiritual ceremonies and protocols. From where I stand however, spirituality is the primary organizing principle in TK—not just a component. This is because spirit and matter are not separated in Indigenous thinking, in the same way that energy cannot be separated from matter in Western science. But I would add two more attributes: TK is dynamic and adaptable to changing circumstance, it is never static; and above all, TK is about relationships: How to be a human and live in harmony with all our relations—a relationship that includes reciprocal obligations between humans and the natural world. I coined a word, now common in the literature, that distinguishes the Indigenous principle of kinship from the Western dichotomy of biocentricity vs. homocentricity: It is “Kincentricity”. It is relationship centered. It is process-centered. How is TK different from Western science? Just as Traditional Knowledge and culture is the context for TEK, so Western culture is the context for Western science. Western science developed historically within an increasingly secular and materialistic culture without spiritual reciprocal obligations to the natural world. As a result, Western Science views nature as without spirit. It is reductionist—not holistic. It is linear—not circular. It is product more than process. Explanation is more important than meaning. Nature is divided into its component parts in order to gain a large measure of control for technological innovations and development as well as for the verification or falsification of hypotheses through replicable localized empirical experiments for generalized predictions of natural phenomena in short intervals of time and space. As the philosophical father of Western science, Francis Bacon noted four centuries ago: “To understand nature is to control nature”. Western science methodology is a powerful quantitative tool, but the kinds of questions Western science asks—or doesn’t ask—of nature are culturally determined to a large degree—and is a tool that is spiritually and historically decontextualized. Tools can be used for the benefit or the detriment of the world. It has done both. The same toolkit can be used to benefit Indigenous peoples as well. But it has also led to the poisoning of our waters and lands and has had, more often than not, a devastating effect on our health and the health of other peoples as well. Clearly, the core beliefs of the two epistemologies can be neither bridged nor integrated. What about Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), a sub-set” of TK that Western scientists and government agencies value because of its direct ecological relevance? Is collaborative research an example of bridging? Is it cross-validation? I would say that it is more a case of balancing—balancing local with global or regional knowledge. The geographic scales are incommensurate. The respective methods are different— remote sensing vs. direct observation., local vs. generalized, long-term vs. short-term, qualitative vs. quantitative. But even if a scientific field researcher and an Indigenous expert both make the same direct observations, the observations of the Indigenous expert is considered “anecdotal” and “subjective” from the point of view of Western science—despite a peer-review process by community knowledge holders. That


is, there currently is an unbalanced relationship on the scales of knowledge weighted toward Western science. Collaboration is about balancing knowledge that is locally contextualized with generalized scientific knowledge—not in the abstract or in the literature—but sitting down together in integrated discussion scenarios and hashing things out. This is not unlike what two or more local Native practitioners and Western researchers often do in the field. Are we bridging quantitative vs. qualitative observations? I think we are balancing them because they are not directly translatable. Is “bridging” even desirable from the point of view of Native peoples? And who is doing the “bridging” and for what purpose? Listen to the Indigenous delegation to a meeting of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) in Alexandria, Egypt, in 2004: “A bridge between epistemologies is not possible or not desirable, because it produces invasion and domination. We can only sit down at a table of negotiation and dialogue in a world where many worlds [or epistemologies] are welcome, where we can talk between us, and also talk with modern science.” Equality or parity, and mutual trust are the preconditions for negotiation. Indigenous people do not want the cultural baggage associated with Western science. It is about a partnership with Western scientists. And they always have the right to say “NO!” A competent Indigenous hunter, fisher, farmer, or pastoralist—like a competent Western field researcher— uses the same human powers of observation, inductive and deductive logic, pattern recognition, skepticism of 2nd and 3rd hand information, nuanced judgment, imagination, open-mindedness, inference and prediction, inquisitiveness, creativity, intuition, and honesty, as well as a willingness to experiment and a sense of wonder. All humans adapt to their world by remembering and learning. Indigenous peoples have the advantage of a much longer collective memory and a longer time frame for learning. There is still another connection between Western science and TK as well as local non-Indigenous knowledge that is not generally known except by historians of science. As the International Council for Science (the ICSU) has noted: “This can be seen in the development of hypotheses, research designs, methods, and interpretations employed by scientists, as shown by contemporary historical science. It is evident in Linneaus’ use of [Saami] folk taxonomies in his development of biological classification systems [the binomial system, since modified, is still in use today], and the physics of Galileo, who used knowledge of ballistics developed by craftsmen at the arsenal in Venice.” I would add Charles Darwin who was probably predisposed to discovering evolution by natural selection from his study of artificial selection by plant and animal breeders. The ICSU goes on: “Western science is built on Greek, Roman, and Islamic foundations. Traditional knowledge has informed modern science. As many as 80% of the world’s people depend on traditional medicine for their primary health care. Twenty-five per cent of all [modern] prescriptions contain plant material shown to science by traditional people.” Witness the use of TEK in bioprospecting for new pharmaceuticals on Indigenous territories—usually without full, prior, and informed consent or compensation. This recently recognized role of TEK in the history of Western science can also be traced to the growth of Western ethnoscience. Beginning with the work of Harold Conklin with the Philippine Hananu people in the 1950s, “Scientists came to appreciate the coherence of Indigenous Knowledge systems, according to the International Council for Science, their empirical precision, and their attunement to environmental contexts. Ethnobotanists discovered cases in which the number of plant species was greater than the number of species recognized by western science.” It was around then that modern scientists recognized that traditional peoples were a potential source of knowledge of biodiversity. That realization was soon extended to pharmaceuticals and agriculture in the 1980s and 1990s. Then, “During the 1980s, researchers in multilateral and bilateral development agencies began to recognize the significance of Indigenous knowledge, both for the conservation of biodiversity and technologies for agricultural productivity…scientists began to work closely with Indigenous communities to promote their mutual interest in sustainable agriculture and resource management. This trend will only intensify in the 21st century both because of the recognition that many environmental problems are local in nature and the need for the cooperation of traditional peoples in addressing global issues…TK is providing scientific insight into crop domestication, breeding, and management…[traditional fallow] swidden agriculture, agroecology, crop rotations, pest and soil management, and other areas of agricultural sciences…”


Here is where TEK has direct relevance to the applied environmental sciences, providing an alternative model of sustainability at a time when world hunger is increasing due to reliance on modern crop monocultures and oil-derived energy inputs promoted by economic globalization and benefitting a privileged few with the means to purchase the requisite manufactured inputs at the expense of local smallholders. TEK—especially traditional landcare practices—can also assist Western conservation biologists and restoration ecologists conserve biodiversity. Eighty per cent of the world’s biological diversity, according to the World Conservation Union (the IUCN), occurs on Indigenous ancestral lands. Sadly, big environmental NGOs—BINGOS—give credence to the evictions of Indigenous peoples from protected areas by claiming that they either have no beneficial impacts on the environment or actually diminish it. BINGOs rely on Western scientists who themselves too often have a poor grasp of local Indigenous environments and are unaware of the keystone ecological role that Indigenous peoples play in their home environments—a role, that once it ceases, leads to unanticipated negative cascading ecological effects that begin a process of ecosystem unraveling. Are Western scientists open to the importance of Indigenous landcare practices in protected areas? The answer to that question has a major bearing on cultural survival. And the loss of Indigenous protection to the genetic diversity of plant and animal species reduces species’ ability to adapt to climate change. In spite of the ample documentation attesting to the sustainable landcare practices and the value of TEK to Western science, most educated Westerners consider traditional Indigenous cultures to be backward, unprogressive, and anachronistic in the modern world. At best, TEK is considered a pseudo-science. The ICSU thinks differently: “Pseudo-science is an enterprise in competition with science [e.g. creationism]; it poses as science by mimicking it” TK is as Native science Pueblo educator Greg Cajete terms it—a knowledge system that needs no external validation. It stands on its own, just like Western science. I think that we need to recognize non-Western knowledge systems as alternative modernities. This kind of affirmative paradigm or framework blurs the conventional Western/modern dichotomy, and calls for the reformulation of knowledge relationships in a multicultural world. Swain, an Australian anthropologist, considers “the traditional Aboriginal” to be an academic fiction—in the sense that “tradition” evolves and changes with time, adapting to an ever-changing world. Academia denies that adaptability and resilience by freezing and reifying TK. This reification has been used by neo-colonial government administrators and courts to deny Native land claims because Indigenous peoples are not perceived to be the same as the “real” Natives at the time of contact. E.g., The Australian MABU Land Claims Act of 1993 requires that Aboriginal people prove that they can trace their lineage back to 1838—despite clear evidence that they are Aboriginal; the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA) of 1971 set up village and regional Native corporations in such a way that Native Alaskans would eventually lose their ancestral territories and subsistence culture and become assimilated into the American economic mainstream. Traditional knowledge is a fragile living library of oral knowledge passed down from generation to generation. It is and always has been adaptable and resilient. Because of its adaptive nature, it cannot be preserved in libraries. Its survival depends on the survival of Indigenous cultures. TK may have no more than two generations left—some say just one generation—unless the holders of TK—Indigenous peoples— are able to withstand the impacts of loss of languages, secure land tenure, access to resources on ceded or stolen lands, political and economic marginalization accelerated by globalization, loss of locally adapted heirloom seeds and land races to multinational corporate homogenization, patenting, genetic modification, loss of sacred sites, and climate change. If TK is lost, Western science loses too. A time-tested model for sustainability is lost. Hundreds to thousands of years of knowledge of how to care for the land is lost. And when Indigenous languages no longer exist, the world will have lost the detailed, long-accumulated ecological knowledge of local places that is encoded in language. Even to speak to educated Western people with words that convey Indigenous spirituality and thought will be impossible. As one Cree elder said, “The Spirit is in our words”.


At exactly the time that some Western scientists have finally recognized the value of TK, the holders of that knowledge are struggling to survive. The promise of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and other integrated scientific assessments may not be realized. Climate change has already severely disrupted Indigenous cultures in the Arctic and Sub-arctic—the melting of the polar ice cap, mountain glaciers and snowpacks, loss of seven villages to coastal erosion, melting of permafrost and the release of methane gas, invasive species and diseases, raging fires that burn up lichens (the food of caribou), all of this causing a decline in animal populations, animal behavior and migration patterns, inability to grow summer gardens or store perishable food in melting permafrost—impacting Indigenous and non-Indigenous subsistence livelihoods alike. And the loss, as Sheila Watt-Coultier of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) said, of the right to be cold. Never has there been such a pressing need, to quote the MA Alexandria conference Indigenous representatives, “to sit-down at a table of negotiation and dialogue”, but on Indigenous terms and in a local context. The world can no longer afford the questionable luxury of working solely within the Western tradition if we are to learn to live sustainably. Conserving our options means, in part, conserving the diversity of ways of thinking about problems—including climate change—for the generations coming after us. About the Author – Dennis Martinez, of O’odham/Chicano/Swedish heritage, is Founder and Co-Chair of the Indigenous Peoples’ Restoration Network of the Society for Ecological Restoration International, is CoDirector of the Takelma Intertribal Project, and serves on the Steering Committee for the global Indigenous People’s Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative (IPCCA). He has worked internationally with community-based Indigenous peoples on cultural rights, resource access and protection, climate change, forest restoration, and bridging Western Science with Traditional Ecological Knowledge for 40 years. He is a well-known speaker and writer, has received awards in restoration and social justice, and was an awardee in the Ecotrust-Buffet Award for Indigenous Conservation Leadership in NW North America.


May 9th, 2010

First, Do No Harm: The Role of Sustainability in the Education of Health Professionals By Jill Manske Whoever would study medicine aright must learn of the following subjects. First he must consider the effect of the seasons of the year and the differences between them. Secondly he must study the warm and the cold winds, both those which are in common to every country and those peculiar to a particular locality. Lastly, the effect of water on health must not be forgotten. -On Air Water and Places, by Hippocrates. Every year thousands of students enter college and graduate programs in medicine, nursing, allied health and public health. As we move into the 21st century, it is imperative that health program curricula incorporate education on issues of sustainability as an integrated part of training for future health care providers. We live in a world with enormous environmental challenges, including unsustainable population growth, global climate change, and shortages of food, water, and fuel. How do such challenges impact the work of health providers? The World Health Organization (WHO, 2006) estimates that 13 million deaths annually are attributed to preventable environmental causes, representing 23% of all premature mortality. In addition, the environmental burden of disease falls disproportionately on the poor (WHO, 2006). Environmental sustainability is inherently linked and inseparable from global health and human rights. More than twenty years ago, King (1990) stated that health, itself, is by definition, a sustainable state. The corollary is also true: unacceptable use of the earth’s finite resources is detrimental to overall quality of health (Griffiths, 2006). Quality health can be sustained only in the context of a sustainable society, in which human health is promoted through safe, clean, pleasant environments, and ready access to food, water, housing and fuel (Warrington borough council, 2007), which are considered basic tenets of a traditional public health definition of healthy societies. A major goal, then for public health is the reduction of health disparities in regard to these basic resources, and such disparities cannot be addressed in the absence of a commitment to environmental justice. The concept of environmental justice includes access to a healthy environment, which includes access to water, food, and fuel as well as protection from pollution and environmental toxins. As such, environmental justice is inseparable from public health. Therefore, education on sustainability must be mainstreamed into our health-related curricula at all levels; not merely “added on.” As educators, it is our responsibility to help our students understand these connections. If not, they will lack the tools necessary to address the major health issues of the 21st century, many of which are likely occur in the context – and as the result of – global climate change, population growth, food, water, and fuel shortages. If the next generation of health professionals does not fully understand these connections they will be ill equipped to prevent or respond to these challenges. Examples of these challenges include the global burden of HIV/AIDS, the role of climate change in emerging disease, and the growing crisis of environmental refugees. Currently, HIV/AIDS affects an estimated 33 million people. Most HIV infections are in developing countries, with over 67% of the


infections occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. In spite of progress that has been made over the past several years in delivering anti-retroviral (ARV) medications to these populations, HIV infections continue to rise, with an estimated 2.7 million new infections and 2 million deaths last year (UNAIDS, 2009). An example of the connection between the environment and health is the role of water in prevention and treatment of HIV. Indeed, if we had a single dollar to spend on HIV prevention, the best place to spend that dollar would be on access to clean water. In the words of Kofi Annan, “we shall not finally defeat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, or any other infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have won the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation, and basic health needs.” (Global Health Council, 2001). How is access to safe water, a goal of sustainable societies, linked to HIV? The most obvious link is between unsanitary water and the opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. It is well documented that diarrhea, skin diseases, and other infections negatively impact the life of people living with HIV and can speed the progression of HIV to AIDS (Bery and Rosenbaum, 2009). In addition, even if ARVs are available, diarrheal diseases caused by unsanitary water impede the absorption of the medications, limiting their effectiveness (Bushen, 2004). Hence, it is futile to supply ARVs to people without also addressing the requirements for clean water in order to gain maximum benefits from the drugs. Access to clean water not only impacts the progression of HIV in infected people; it plays an important role in prevention and transmission of infection. In many developing countries, limited access to water means that people, mostly women and children, must travel great distances to fetch water. Girls often spend up to three hours every day fetching water (Bery and Rosenbaum, 2009). Male water vendors often dominate the water source, making women wait in long lines. As water sources become contaminated or dry up, women and girls may engage in transactional sex with water dealers to obtain water. In addition, women travel great distances to water sources can be raped during their treks to water. In these ways and more, water scarcity drives the transmission of the disease (Siplon, 2008; Fay, 2010). Closely associated with clean water is the anticipated impact of global climate change on health. As climate changes, many areas of the world will experience increased periods of drought. Local water supplies will dry up or become contaminated, exacerbating the water access issues described. In addition, climate change is likely to lead to increases in morbidity and mortality due to periods of extreme heat or cold (Patz et al., 2005). For example, during the summer of 2003, 22,000 to 45,000 deaths in Europe were attributed to extreme heat. That summer was the hottest on record for Europe in 500 years (Kosatsky, 2005). Climate change may alter the ecology of infectious diseases, most likely via expansion of disease vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks, and changes in waterborne diseases. In some places, changes in weather patterns are likely to lead to increases in heavy rainfall events and flooding. Such events have been associated with increases in waterborne diseases such as cryptosporidiosis, campylobacteriosis, and giardiasis (Hunter, 2003). The anticipated effects of temperature change on vector-borne diseases include: increased survival of vectors, change in vector population growth, changes in incubation periods of pathogens, changes in seasonality of vector activity, and changes in seasonality of transmission (Gubler et al., 2001). One example is Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries one of the most prevalent mosquitoborne diseases, dengue fever. This mosquito breeds readily in small water containers. When water supplies are in short supply, people often store water in and around their homes. Studies have correlated the use of such containers during drought conditions with increased populations of Aedes aegypti, thereby optimizing the conditions for dengue fever outbreaks (Hopp and Foley, 2003). We don’t need to look to the future for health effects of climate change. Ten years ago climate change already was estimated to have caused 2.4% of diarrhea and 6% of the malaria worldwide (WHO, 2000). More and more environments are becoming unlivable due to drought, soil erosion, expanding populations, or over-development. People who are unable to make a living from their land often join the expanding ranks of environmental refugees, migrating to overcrowded urban areas or refugee camps where disease and hunger are a constant presence. The number of environmental refugees is difficult to determine. One estimate puts the number at 25 million people worldwide, with a potential eventual increase to 200 million


within the next 40 years (Myers, 1997). The current global health infrastructure is not equipped to handle this wave of refugees from environmental degradation. Many of the described sustainability challenges are greatest in developing countries. Why, then, should students who plan to practice health care in the United States be educated in environmental sustainability? Aside from issues of social justice and altruism, why is such an education required? While perhaps not as inherently obvious, many diseases in the developed world have environmental links. The WHO estimates that 13% of the disease burden in the U.S. – including diseases such as cancer, respiratory infections, neuropsychiatric disorders, cardiopulmonary disease, asthma, and lead poisoning – is associated with environmental causes (WHO, 2009). As we confront dramatic changes to our fiscally unsustainable health care system in the United States, an often-missing component of this debate is the price we pay for living in environmentally unsustainable communities. In an assessment of health costs associated with morbidity and mortality in children, it has been estimated that environmental pollutants are responsible for annual costs of $54.9 billion; 2.8% of total U.S. health care costs (Landrigan et al., 2002). In short, the U.S. could save billions of dollars in health care every year by vigorously addressing environmental concerns. Students who plan to commit their professional lives to the promotion of health should be encouraged to reflect critically on how their actions impact global health. For example, the use of food-based biofuels is a topic rarely addressed in a health training program curriculum, but one that has serious health implications. In 2005, when oil prices jumped to over 60 dollars a barrel, corn-based ethanol became very profitable, leading to one-fourth of the U.S. corn harvest being used for fuel, and a shortage of corn for food (Brown, 2009). Such shortages impact food prices, leading to decreases in food shipments from agencies such as the Word Food Bank. Such decreases in aid can be catastrophic to the 1.02 billion people who do not have enough food to eat (Dugger, 2007). In 2007, the number of undernourished people increased by 75 million; in 2008 this number increased by another 40 million (World Food Program, 2009). In a world where a child dies every six seconds due to hunger and related diseases (FAO, 2004) all of us, teachers and students alike, should consider that the grain needed to produce ethanol to fill a 25-gallon tank one time will feed a person for a year (Brown, 2007). In regard to sustainability, what are the roles and responsibilities of the hospitals and clinics that will employ our students? The focus of most hospitals is the treatment of disease through surgical or other interventions, often without much attention to sustainable environmental practices. Ulhoi argues that hospitals, whose mission inherently involves helping people in need of medical assistance and advising people on how to achieve healthy lives, should avoid behaviors that negatively impact human health. As such, hospitals should not participate in environmentally unsustainable activities (Ulhoi and Ulhoi, 2009). In other words, hospitals should embrace even higher expectations related to sustainable activities than do other organizations due to their unique mission to help, treat, and heal humans (Ulhoi and Ulhoi, 2009). Presently, hospitals are staffed with specialists, trained in a reductionist tradition. Such professionals have little experience or training in sustainability. As new health care professionals enter the field, it is imperative that they understand their role in contributing to a sustainable, healthy community. As educators we have a responsibility to engage all of our students in discussions regarding the complex and interrelated issues of environmental sustainability, social justice, and human health. Sustainability requires contribution from many disciplines. Such interdisciplinary perspective is a hallmark of education in public health. As McMichael asserts, the goal of environmental sustainability is “not just about maintaining the flows from the natural world that sustains the economic engine nor maintaining the iconic species and iconic ecosystems. It is about maintaining the complex systems that support health and life. Population well-being and health, understood thus, become the real bottom line of sustainability” (McMichael, 2006). References: Bery, R., and Rosenbaum, J. (2009). How to integrate water, sanitation, and hygiene into HIV programs to improve lives. USAID/HIP-WHO joint document.


Brown, L. (2007). Distillery Demand for Grain to Fuel Cars Vastly Understated: World May Be Facing Highest Grain Prices in History. Earth Policy Institute. http://www.earth-policy.org/index.php?/plan_b_updates/2007/update63. Brown, L. (2009). Plan b 4.0. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. Bushen, O.Y., Davenport, J.A., Lima, A.B., Piscitelli, S.C., Uzgiris, A.J., Silva, T.M., Leite, R., Kosek, M., Dillingham R.A., Girao A., Lima, A.A., Guerrant, R.L. (2004). Diarrhea and reduced levels of antiretroviral drugs: improvement with glutamine or alanyl-glutamine in a randomized controlled trial in northeast Brazil. Clin. Infect. Dis. 15, 17641770. Dugger, C.W. (2007, September 29). As prices soar, U.S. food aid buys less. New York Times, Retrieved from Dugger, C.W. “As prices soar, U.S. food aid buys less.” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/29/world/29food.html. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. The State of food insecurity in the word. 2004. http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5650e/y5650e00.htm. Fay, A. (2004). Women and water in Africa. Blue Planet Run Foundation, http://blueplanetrun.org/news/awwc1. Global Health Council. (2001) Annan calls for global fund for AIDS and other infectious diseases. http://www.globalhealth.org/news/article/987. Griffiths, J. (2006). Mini-Symposium: Health and environmental sustainability. The convergence of public health and sustainable development. Public Health, 120, 581-584. Gubler, D.J., Reiter P., Ebi, K.L., Yap, W., Nasci, R., Patz, J.A. (2001). Climate variability and change in the united states: potential impacts on vector and rodent borne disease. Environ. health perspect., 109, 23-22. Hopp, M.J., and Foley, J.A. (2003). Worldwide fluctuations in dengue fever cases related to climate variability. Clin. Res., 25, 85-94. Hunter, P.R. (2003). Climate change and waterborne and vector-borne disease. J. Appl. Micro., 94, 37-46. King, M. (1990). Health is a sustainable state. Lancet, 336, 664-667. Kosatsky, T. (2005). The 2003 European heat waves. Euro. Surveill. 10,7 Landrigan P.J., Schechter C.B., Lipton J.M., Fahs M.C., Schwartz J. (2002). Environmental pollutants and disease in American children: estimates of morbidity, mortality, and costs for lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, and developmental disabilities. Environ. Health Perspect., 110, 721-728. McMichael, A.J. (2006). Population health as the “bottom line” of sustainability: a contemporary challenge for public health researchers. Eur. J. Public Health, 16, 579-581. Myers, N. (1997). Environmental refugees. Population and Environment 19, 167-182. Patz J.A., Campbell-Lendrum, D., Holloway, T., Foley, J.A. (2005). Impact of regional climate change on human health. Nature, 38, 310-317. Siplon, P., (2008). “Women, Water and HIV/AIDS: Addressing the Lethal Combination of Climate Change and Circumscribed Development Aid” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Political Science Association, Omni Parker House, Boston, MA. from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p275992_index.html Ulhoi, J., and Ulhoi, B.P. (2009) Beyond climate focus and disciplinary myopia. The roles and responsibilities of hospitals and healthcare professionals. Intl. J Environ. Res and Pub Health, 6, 1204-1214.


UNAIDS. AIDS Epidemic Update 2009. (2009). http://www.unaids.org/en/KnowledgeCentre/HIVData/EpiUpdate/EpiUpdArchive/2009/default.asp. Warrington borough council. (2007). What is Sustainable development and local agenda 21. Retrieved from http://www.warrington.gov.uk/Councilanddemocracy/Sustainability World Health Organization. (2006). Preventing disease through healthy environments. http://www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/preventingdisease/en/index.html World Health Organization (2000). Climate change and human health. http://www.who.int/globalchange/publications/reports/en/. World Health Organization (2009). Country profile of environmental burden of disease; United States of America. http://www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/national/countryprofile/unitedstatesofamerica.pdf World Food Program. Hunger Stats. 2009. http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats.

About the Author – Jill Manske is a professor of biology at the University of St. Thomas. She has a Ph.D in Immunology and is currently completing a Masters Degree in Public Health at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Manske regularly teaches undergraduate courses in Immunology, Emerging Infectious Disease, and Women’s Health. She is interested in exploring the intersection of infection, immunity, and the environment. Her current research focuses on the role of calorie restriction on T-cell function. She also is involved in the Comprehensive Influenza Vaccine Initiative through the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.


May 9th, 2010

The Importance of Controversy: Is Education for Sustainable Development Too Nice? By Robert Bray The Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) literature is uplifting, full of fine ideals and the hope of creating a better world. The values implied are positive, optimistic and democratic; ESD is clearly a ‘good thing’. It would be mean spirited indeed to complain about this: who can criticize such a virtuous agenda? But herein lies a problem, for it may be precisely because it does not offend that ESD avoids the most difficult dilemmas facing our global society. Those dilemmas involve sharply contested views and disagreements concerning fundamental principles. Dealing with such conflictual areas is enormously challenging within education settings. Yet resolving these conflicts may well be the key to unlocking the apparently intractable problems of sustainable development. To highlight the importance of controversy in arriving at sound policy, below I analyze three of these contested areas—there are, of course, others. First, questions surrounding population and overpopulation remain extremely sensitive. There are cogent arguments that the current human population already exceeds the earth’s carrying capacity. If that is the case, policies to reduce and then stabilise population are urgently required. But critics of this view argue that it is based on erroneous Neo-Malthusian assumptions, while there is also strong opposition to population control from some religious institutions. Meanwhile, the total population continues to grow towards seven billion, while estimates of sustainable population levels vary from less than two billion to more than fifteen. Second, the role of science is more controversial than at any previous time in the modern era. Science and technology have brought enormous benefits, but are also seen to contribute to—or even underpin—many of our greatest problems. Although Ecological Modernisation theory and ‘bright green environmentalism’ see technology as the answer to many environmental problems, science itself has lost much of its legitimacy and is widely viewed as elitist and exclusive. Recent controversies, such as those surrounding climate change emails, accentuate the need for scientific transparency. Can sustainable development occur without changing the nature of science and societal views about science? Should Sustainable Development embrace a Post Normal Science approach that makes participation and social learning central objectives? Finally, and perhaps most crucially, is the dilemma concerning the nature of Sustainable Development itself. Can it occur within the current consumptionist, growth-based paradigm? Or can it only come about if we return to the idea that there are indeed limits to growth, and that fundamental laws of ecosystem energy and material cycling necessitate that current levels of resource exploitation cannot be maintained in the long-term? (See Barry 2009; Singer 2010). If real (that is, sustainable) prosperity precludes continual economic growth, how can individual psychology and collective political structures cultivate a fundamentally different paradigm? There is a danger in being too inoffensive. It can create a climate which gives rise to concern that by even raising such sensitive issues ESD practitioners will be seen as being biased. But as Cairns (2002) argues, environmental questions cannot be addressed purely through consideration of ‘objective’ science alone, but


must take account of opinions, values and beliefs. Furthermore, if ESD does not even allow for such difficult problems to be addressed, then it is by default complicit in maintaining a status quo that is, fundamentally, unsustainable (Gadotti 2008). Yet the UNESCO review of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development almost entirely neglects these issues (UNESCO 2009). If ESD fails to address these topics because they are controversial, then it will fail to prepare future generations to be adequately prepared to tackle them. At the very least these issues should be part of any ESD agenda, although it can be argued that for many of these problems Education cannot be neutral, but necessarily has to find its own positions within increasingly polarised debates. References Barry J (2009) ‘Choose life’ not economic growth: critical social theory for people, planet and flourishing in the ‘age of nature’. Nature, Knowledge and Negation: Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Volume 26, 93–113. Cairns, K (2002) The legitimate role of advocacy in environmental education: How does it differ from coercion? Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, 2002, 82–87. Gadotti, M. (2008) What We Need to Learn to Save the Planet. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development 2:1 : 21–30. Singer, M. (2010) Eco-nomics: Are the Planet-Unfriendly Features of Capitalism Barriers to Sustainability? Sustainability 2010, 2, 127-144 Unesco (2009) Learning for a Sustainable World: Review of Contexts and Structures for Education for Sustainable Development (Unesco, Paris) http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001849/184944e.pdf Learning for a sustainable world

About the Author – Robert Bray teaches post-graduate Environmental Studies at the David Livingstone Centre for Sustainability at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. He is currently carrying out research on the use of Multi-criteria techniques in environmental decision making.


Sustainability, Happiness and Education Catherine O’Brien, PhD Education Department, Cape Breton University

Catherine O’Brien is an Assistant Professor in the Education Department of Cape Breton University. She has been engaged in education and research related to sustainability for twenty years. Further information about sustainable happiness may be found at www.sustainablehappiness.ca

Abstract Seventeen years ago, Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 (United Nations [UN], 1993) outlined a plan of action regarding education and sustainable development. However, progress in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has been very slow and the United Nations declared 2005-2014 as the UN Decade for Education and Sustainable Development (UN, 2002) to draw greater attention to the essential role that education should play in improving the quality of life of current and future generations. In a survey of current practice, a UNESCO report questioned whether education is the problem or the solution (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2005a). The same report recommended reorienting teacher education to sustainability. Informing teachers and students about sustainability is essential. A further substantial aim is to introduce education that fosters sustainable behaviour and motivates teachers to integrate sustainability into their personal life and classroom. An ideal place to start is with a topic that has universal appeal to educators and students: happiness. The burgeoning field of positive psychology and happiness studies have remarkable implications for sustainability education and education as a whole. One of the most intriguing outcomes from research on happiness is that authentic happiness has very little to do with material wealth and over consumption. Thus, through happiness studies we have an opportunity to introduce principles and practices that also align with sustainability education. A new concept, sustainable happiness, was developed by O’Brien (2005) to merge principles from sustainability and findings from happiness studies. It is defined as “happiness that contributes to individual, community and/or global well-being without exploiting other people, the environment or future generations.” The concept extends happiness research and reinforces the relationship to sustainability and our interdependence with all life on the planet. Furthermore, it underscores the fact that each of us may contribute positively or adversely to the well-being of others and the natural environment. Sustainable happiness can be incorporated into any area of the curriculum as well as school policies and practice. Sustainable happiness is a course in the teacher education program at Cape Breton University (Canada). Elements of the course are presented and discussed. Keywords: Sustainable happiness, teacher education, sustainable behaviour


Sustainable happiness is happiness that contributes to individual, community and/or global well-being without exploiting other people, the environment or future generations. (O’Brien, 2005) More than two decades have passed since the Brundtland Commission published the comprehensive document, Our Common Future, that linked economic development with environmental conservation and defined sustainable development. (World Commission on Environment and Development [WCED],1987). By 1992, world leaders gathered in Rio de Janeiro at the Earth Summit, the first United Nations conference that combined issues of environment and development. The 40-chapter Earth Summit document that emerged, Agenda 21 (UN, 1993), presented challenges and plans for action around biodiversity, trade, debt, deforestation, poverty, education, agriculture, desertification, human settlements, consumption, and much more. Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 is devoted to the role of education for sustainable development. Progress in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has not kept pace with the need to mobilize the global community towards actions that will substantially shift our unsustainable trajectory. In a survey of current practice, a UN report questioned whether education is the problem or the solution. “At current levels of unsustainable practice and over consumption it could be concluded that education is part of the problem. If education is the solution then it requires a deeper critique and a broader vision for the future” (UNESCO, 2005a, p. 59). This is not meant to suggest that we have been idle in Canada and elsewhere. York University (Toronto) hosts the UNESCO Chair on Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability. Environmental education programs are offered at many universities, and topics related to sustainability have been incorporated, sometimes sporadically, into elementary and secondary curriculum (Canadian Council of Ministers of Education [CMEC], 2007; Working Group on Environmental Education [WGEE], 2007). Students are introduced to topics such as climate change, energy conservation, recycling, cultural diversity, and human rights. There is a rich array of non-formal education resources and web sites for teachers to access. Despite many exemplary achievements worldwide, sustainable development and sustainability are not well understood by many educators, regardless of whether we are referring to elementary, secondary or post-secondary levels of education (UNESCO, 2005a). Furthermore, even though many high school graduates have been introduced to environmental education, the information alone is not sufficient to foster sustainable lifestyles and livelihoods. We would be deluding ourselves if we were to assume that current efforts to integrate sustainability into elementary and high school curricula is adequate in an era of climate change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], 2007), massive environmental deterioration, and escalating loss of non-renewable resources. This paper introduces the concept of sustainable happiness, which despite its apparent “lightweight” significance in the context of extensive human suffering and environmental degradation has a remarkable potential for contributing to sustainability education. In addition, it outlines a course in sustainable happiness that is assisting students to embrace opportunities to live and work more sustainably.


Education and Sustainability 2005 marked the beginning of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). The rationale for this is contained in the following words: There can be few more pressing and critical goals for the future of humankind than to ensure steady improvement in the quality of life for this and future generations, in a way that respects our common heritage – the planet we live on. . . . Education for sustainable development is a life-wide and lifelong endeavour which challenges individuals, institutions and societies to view tomorrow as a day that belongs to us all, or it will not belong to anyone. (UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005-2014, 2005b, p. 8) One of the goals of this designation by the UN is to reinforce efforts to integrate sustainability into formal and non-formal education. The Decade “aims to integrate values, activities and principles that are inherently linked to sustainable development into all forms of education and learning” (UNESCO, 2007, p. 5). Gardner (2006) acknowledges that the education sector is very conservative and slow to change. This can be both a strength and a barrier to progressive transformation. As educators, we would not serve society nor our students well if we reacted to every new educational trend. The drawback, of course, is that education systems are not very adaptive to societies and environments that are experiencing rapid change. These systems are also challenged when confronted with concepts that are inherently interdisciplinary. It is perhaps a reflection of our resistance to change that the term “early adopters” (UNESCO, 2005a) has been applied to educational institutions that are incorporating ESD, despite the lapse of more than twenty years since the Brundtland Report (WCED, 1987). And yet, our education systems must play a pivotal role in ensuring a sustainable future for all. How can we become part of the solution? What further steps are needed to create an education process in the 21st Century that accepts its share of responsibility for sustainability – shifting out of the comfort zone that is satisfied with school recycling programs and environmental clubs? Answers to these questions range from reorienting teacher education, to lowering the ecological footprint of schools (sustainable schools) and integrating sustainability topics across the curriculum. The following sections address teacher education. Reorienting Teacher Education A seminal document on ESD is the Guidelines and Recommendations for Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability (UNESCO, 2005a) prepared by the UNESCO Chair and the International Network of Teacher Education Institutions. The authors note that it is essential for pre-service and in-service teachers to understand sustainability and how to integrate topics and principles into the curriculum. It is also incumbent on teacher education institutions to reflect sustainability in policy and practice, including striving to have a sustainable campus. See Box 1 for a list of recommendations for teacher education. The concept of sustainable happiness fulfills many of these recommendations.


Box 1. Recommendations for Teacher Education          

Require interdisciplinary coursework on sustainability for student teachers and make materials available for student teachers on local and global sustainability issues. Demonstrate pedagogical techniques that foster higher-order thinking skills, support decision-making, involve participatory learning and stimulate formulation of questions. Emphasize to student teachers that citizenry in a sustainable community requires active participation and decision-making into their classroom procedure and curriculum. Discuss social equity (e.g. gender, racial, ethnic, and generational with student teachers and identify ways in which the local community exhibits social tolerance, societal intolerance, equity, and discrimination. Request that student teachers analyze the mandated curriculum they will be teaching to identify topics and themes related to sustainability and those that are linked to local sustainability issues. Provide student teachers with opportunities to explore their own values and attitudes towards local sustainability problems and those of the surrounding region. Promote understanding of global sustainability in order to encourage critical thinking and decision making that influence personal lifestyle and economic choices. Develop specialized ESD programs for student teachers (e.g. mini-courses) with certificates of completion, so that student teachers can include them in their resumes for seeking employment. Promote graduates with ESD specializations, who are knowledgeable in ESD and its contribution to society. Place graduates who have completed courses in ESD in key schools and ministerial positions to help influence and bring about change.

Positive Psychology and Happiness Studies A considerable challenge for sustainability education is to move beyond raising individual awareness and toward fostering sustainable behaviour. This is particularly difficult in Canada and many industrialized countries, where students and educators live in a social and cultural milieu of the consumer society. Worldwatch President, Christopher Flavin (2004), states that “the drive to acquire and consume now dominates many peoples’ psyches, filling the space once occupied by religion, family, and community” (p. xvii). An antidote may be found, however, in positive psychology which offers some intriguing opportunities for sustainability education. Positive psychology emerged over the last decade as a new field within psychology. It takes the refreshing view that understanding what contributes to and sustains happiness and life satisfaction can be applied to enhance individual well-being. Seligman (2002) sees positive psychology as the study of positive emotions, positive traits and positive institutions. Some work is also looking at national well-being indicators, and differences in life satisfaction across nations (Canadian Institute of Wellbeing [CIW], 2009; Diener, 2006). We are learning that happiness skills can be taught and that this has implications for emotional, physical and spiritual well-being (Seligman, 2002).


Happiness and Health Happiness is defined by Veenhoven (2006) as “the overall appreciation of one’s life-asa-whole, in short, how much one likes the life one lives” (p. 2). This is often measured through tests of subjective well-being and life satisfaction. While definitions of happiness may vary, researchers have demonstrated that one’s subjective experience of happiness corresponds with numerous positive health outcomes (Seligman, 2002; Steptoe, Wardle, & Marmot, 2005), including lower blood pressure, the inclination to seek out and act on health information, and more robust immune systems than those of less happy people. Veenhoven (2006) completed an extensive survey of studies regarding the relationship between happiness and physical and mental well-being. The evidence “implies that we can make people healthier by making them happier” (Veenhoven, 2006, p. 6). Diener and Seligman (2004) are more tentative in their conclusions, noting that positive states of well-being generally correlate with better physical health (p.13), but research results are mixed and the variables linking physical health and wellbeing require further investigation. However, Diener and Seligman note that the study of wellbeing and physical health is important for both research and policy “because it signifies quality of life, but it also is important because of its implications for health and health care costs” (p.13). Even for those whose interests don’t extend to sustainability (yet), these studies have applications for student and teacher health and well-being. Research from happiness studies and positive psychology could be incorporated into many areas of the curriculum including health, social studies, language arts and science. Happiness and Sustainability In a world where global warming has begun (IPCC, 2007) and climate scientists are investigating both mitigation measures and adaptations measures, where human suffering has reached almost unfathomable levels, a focus on happiness could appear to be a diversion from the hard issues of sustainability. On the contrary, there is a natural connection between sustainability and positive psychology. Happiness is at the heart of who we are and what we do but in a consumer society, where consumption and happiness are inextricably linked, individuals confuse the “path to the ‘good life’ as the ‘goods life’” (Kasser, 2006, p. 200). Our unbridled pursuit of happiness is often at the expense of other people and the natural environment. However, happiness research suggests that this unsustainable pursuit of happiness is flawed. To differentiate between some popular notions of happiness and happiness that is associated with positive health and well-being, Seligman (2002) uses the term “authentic happiness.” Authentic happiness is derived through relationships with family, friends, meaningful work, and engagement in our community rather than through a relentless striving for material possessions. Several studies indicate that individuals who are less materialistic tend to have higher self-reports of happiness and are more inclined to engage in environmentally friendly behaviour, such as cycling and recycling (Kasser & Sheldon, 2002; Richins & Dawson, 1992; Sheldon & McGregor, 2000). Brown and Kasser (2005) concluded that “the pursuit of happiness does not appear to require consumption-based, environmentally damaging activity” (p. 350). There is also evidence that once basic needs are met, substantial increases in income do not translate into substantial increases in happiness (Diener & Seligman, 2004; Stutz, 2006). Thus, for many of us in the West, time spent to earn more money to buy more things may be a


very inefficient and misguided pursuit of happiness (Litman, 2007). It seems that the over consumption of consumer societies is neither the ultimate path to authentic happiness nor the path to sustainability. More than that, over consumption, particularly of non-renewable resources, is unsustainable. In short, we have a consumer society whose default informal education process tends to reinforce individual lifestyles that are unsustainable and less likely to lead to authentic happiness and overall life satisfaction. We have education systems that have not fully embraced ESD, educators who are not well informed about sustainability (and possibly not very interested in the concept), and educational institutions that are often not models of sustainability. It would seem that unless the education sector is able to provide a counterpoint to over consumption it is part of the problem, and not part of the solution. Sustainable Happiness The concept of sustainable happiness was developed by O’Brien (2005) in order to draw attention to the consequences, both positive and adverse, of how individuals, communities and nations pursue happiness. In a globalized world, everyone’s actions have repercussions on distant lands and people. Some impacts are immediate and short term while some have enduring effects. Thus, further aims of combining the two terms are: to link happiness to sustainability, now and into the future; to emphasize the reality of our mutual interdependence; and to generate discussion regarding the potential for making substantial contributions to sustainability efforts through research from happiness studies. Sustainable happiness is a concept that can be used by individuals to guide their actions and decisions on a daily basis; at the community level, it reinforces the need to genuinely consider social, environmental and economic indicators of well-being so that community happiness and well-being are sustainable; at the national and international level it highlights the significance of individual and community actions for the well-being of all – now and into the future. As a demonstration, consider the momentary pleasure of drinking a cup of coffee. Benefits of attending to and being mindful of our sensory experience have been discussed by Brown and Kasser (2005) and Kabat-Zinn (2005). Viewed through the lens of sustainable happiness, this momentary pleasure can be placed in a wider context. Individuals can also attend to whether that cup of coffee is fair trade coffee, which means that workers in the coffee plantation have been paid fairly and the coffee was grown with regard for the environment. It is important to reflect on whether the positive emotion derived from the coffee, (or anything else for that matter), has come at the expense of other people or the natural environment. The conditions under which clothes are manufactured, how far our fruit is transported, the pesticides that are sprayed on the local golf course, all have some impact on, and connection to, how individuals pursue happiness. On a daily basis, there are countless choices that individuals, organizations, and governments make which could contribute to sustainable happiness, whether we look at an individual’s commute to work, an organization’s procurement policies, or a nation’s foreign trade policies. Sustainable happiness reinforces the fact that we are interconnected and interdependent with all life on the planet, even life that is yet to be born. It can also be used to foster sustainable behaviour. Our natural desire for happiness can become the entry point for discovering that our well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of others and the natural environment. It can


also dispute a common misconception that living sustainably will lower our quality of life. Brown and Kasser (2005) suggest that “as long as environmentally responsible behaviour is framed in self-sacrificial terms, individuals will be faced with tough choices about how to act” (p. 349) because such behaviour is assumed to detract from happiness. Sustainable happiness offers a fresh approach that invites reflection on sustainability issues coupled with opportunities to enhance our quality of life and contribute to individual, community, and global well-being. It also may be used to motivate behaviour change through compassion for others and the environment that sustains us. Individuals, communities, and organizations that investigate sustainable happiness begin a process of deconstructing happiness and sustainability. For example, there are many daily activities that bring an experience of pleasure, but are not contributing to our overall well-being, or are detrimental to the well-being of others or the environment – this would include the consumption of products that have been made in a sweat shop or that have severely degraded the environment. Additionally, there are socially acceptable behaviours for dealing with stress. One of these is “retail therapy” which involves shopping to making oneself feel better, regardless of the potential adverse impact this consumption may have beyond the shopper. Through an exploration of sustainable happiness we can “delink” happiness from consumption and discover ongoing opportunities to enhance well-being and sustainability. Thus, sustainable happiness is a superb approach for introducing sustainability to teachers, motivating student teachers to become models of sustainability and exciting them to integrate sustainable happiness into their teaching practice. Sustainable Happiness and Teacher Education Sustainable happiness is an elective course in Cape Breton University’s Bachelor of Education program (Nova Scotia, Canada). It is also cross listed with Communication. The historic first offering of the course occurred during the Spring/Summer term of 2009. Thirtythree students enrolled: nineteen education students and fourteen communication students. They learned about the research results from happiness studies and the association with sustainability. Weekly activities prompted students to examine the relationship between their daily activities and the impact (positive or adverse) on themselves, other people and the natural environment. Some of these activities included the completion of a ‘baseline chart,’ reflections on genuine wealth, reducing consumption of non-renewable resources, drawing an ‘interdependence map,’ expressions of gratitude, ‘happiness literacy,’ and a sustainable happiness project. Baseline Chart At the beginning and end of the course, students completed a “Baseline Chart” that involved monitoring their behaviour and experience for one day and indicating what impact their activities had for themselves personally, for other people and for the natural environment. They were also prompted to consider what opportunities they have for making different choices that may improve their own well-being, community well-being and the well-being of the natural environment. See Appendix A for a sample chart. The Baseline Chart is a preliminary step that reveals patterns to each individual. Through this activity they are able to see that some of their activities (drinking coffee that isn’t fair trade coffee) may bring a fleeting experience of pleasure, but that this has adverse consequences for others. They also see that activities that


contribute to their own well-being (physical activity) may also have other benefits, such as reducing their use of a motorized vehicle, motivating them to spend time with a family member, or reducing stress so that they relate to others in a more balanced way. After twelve weeks, every student made changes in his or her lifestyle and priorities, and expressed a desire to continue to apply lessons learned in the course. I am trying very hard to purchase locally grown produce when possible and I have also started buying my coffee from the Bean Bank café in Sydney more often than Tim Horton’s because it serves fair trade coffee and Tim Horton’s does not. I have started to incorporate more physical activity into my days and although this is a hard thing to get used to, I have succeeded in walking about three times per week after supper and doing some strength training on the alternate nights. I believe I am contributing more to the well-being of others ever since I completed the sustainable happiness assignment. I am trying to do more self-less acts for people … Overall, there are aspects of my life that have changed for the better since the onset of this course such as my physical activity levels, my eagerness to purchase local and fair trade products, and my outlook on life and the well-being of others. Student comment on her behavior change during the sustainable happiness course

Genuine Wealth and Reduced Consumption The topic of genuine wealth (Anielski, 2007) was introduced to prompt students to explore the non-material wealth that comes from relationships, the beauty of their natural environment, trusting neighbours, and meaningful engagement with their studies. Students identified their own genuine wealth and opportunities to increase it and/or reduce their consumption of non-renewable resources. This section of the course assists students to become more aware of what they are consuming and whether this consumption is supporting their genuine wealth. Several of the self-identified “shopaholics” in the class spontaneously devised their own strategies for determining the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’ One student realized that if she paused for ten seconds before making a purchase, asking herself if the product she coveted was a want or need, then the impulse to buy would diminish and she regained a sense of self-control. Full time students often feel stressed from financial pressure and many commented that acknowledging their genuine wealth improved their experience of well-being and sustainable happiness. I must admit that I have lain in bed a few Sunday mornings wondering what life would be like if I won the 649[lottery]! I thought about paying off all our debt, buying a new home, giving money to my family and those in need, and traveling. After reading our articles this week, I think that 'day dream' would play out differently now. My measure of true happiness is ensuring I sustain solid relationships with my husband and children and maintain my health. Material items have been displaced further down the list. Student comment after completing genuine wealth activity


Interdependence Map Each student completed an Interdependence Map to chart the web of interconnection between themselves, other people, their natural environment, the resources they use, as well as historical and cultural events that have shaped who they are today. A simple way to imagine an interdependence map is to consider all of the factors that influenced the existence of a piece of paper that you have in your office or classroom. If the paper was made from wood pulp, your map would include natural resources such as the sun, wind, soil, water, as well as inventions that affected our use of paper (printing presses); machines that were created to harvest trees, transport logs and convert the wood into paper; the human resources along all the stages of creating and transporting the paper to the place where you or your organization purchased it. This interdependence map for paper is only a tiny part of the web that students create. The assignment helps them to realize that their life touches and is touched by others both near and far on a daily basis. Changing one thing in that map, therefore, can have far reaching results. Students discovered, for example, that by switching to drinking fair trade coffee, they were “touching” people in distance lands. The interdependence map exemplifies John Muir’s famous quote that “when one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” Being a university student, I don't have a whole lot of disposable income, but taking a closer look at the purchases I do regularly make (coffee, groceries, gas, etc.) was very interesting. … looking back now I'm realizing that I actually have made some changes in my spending habits. Some of these were intentional (like getting into the habit of asking myself if I REALLY need to take the car out of the driveway), but others (not stopping at Tim’s[Tim Horton’s coffee shop] every time I leave the house, choosing recycled printer paper, etc.) just sort of happened as a result of becoming more aware of my purchases and their effects on the world around me. Student comment on Lessons Learned from the Sustainable Happiness Course

Gratitude and Appreciation Gratitude and appreciation are associated with positive well-being. Students were frankly astonished with repercussions of simple gratitude activities, such as writing a letter to express appreciation, making a point of thanking people for simple things, counting blessings or an artistic expression of appreciation. This unit also highlights that appreciating what we have now rather than striving for more “things” can offset the tendency that Hamilton and Denniss (2005) describe as ‘affluenza,’ where having too much is never enough. Thus practicing appreciation through the activity of their choice was also intended to reinforce genuine wealth.


The lesson that stands out for me is how easy it is to spread happiness and gratitude. I always tried to think of elaborate ideas to thank someone or try and make someone happier. In this course I have learned that it takes very little effort to accomplish these goals. A simple gratitude letter showed us that it can make a huge difference. … It then makes you want to spread that happiness and gratitude in any way you can. Student comment on Lessons Learned from the Sustainable Happiness Course

Happiness Literacy One unit of the course explores the social and culture influences on our view of happiness. We consider who or what teaches us about happiness and what we are learning. Students interviewed the happiest person they know to discover what contributes to that person’s happiness, how they have dealt with adversity and what lessons the student may draw from this. There were thirty-three interviews with people ranging from eight years old to senior citizens. Students discovered that every single “happy” person valued family, friends, community, and meaningful work. None were overly materialistic. Students also analyzed a television commercial, magazine advertisement or popular song that portrays happiness to determine the overt and underlying messages about what brings happiness. This unit is a further step towards establishing new perspectives on happiness, and becoming more aware of marketing messages that aim to associate happiness with the advertised product. Sustainable Happiness Project Each student was required to complete a sustainable happiness project. There were few parameters other than the fact that the project had to reflect sustainable happiness and contribute to personal well-being, community well-being and/or environmental well-being. Approximately one third of the students selected projects that addressed areas that they had identified for improvement through the completion of their Baseline Chart. Reading about these projects was an exercise in sheer delight. One student decided to reduce her use of plastic water bottles. She purchased a reusable water bottle and calculated how many plastic bottles she would no longer use, the energy savings and her personal savings which amounted to more than $800/year. Several students shifted to sustainable modes of transportation: walking, cycling, transit and carpooling. One young man decided to build a new porch for his mother and recycled all of the old lattice wood for kindling. The physical exertion from making the porch (which had also involved some of his friends) prompted him to join a gym and to improve his eating habits. Several students chose to clean up their neighbourhood. One woman involved her children and members of the community, all girls, and decided that they would be ‘Girls Against Garbage,’ or GAG. They followed their community clean-up with a social gathering at the student’s home. Several students introduced recycling to the organizations where they work. Being a summer course, some students chose to plant a vegetable garden, and discussed the personal benefit and the positive environmental impact. A particularly zealous student decided that he wanted to shift his over consumption habits. He began with his BMW. He felt that he was too attached to his BMW, spending free


time cleaning and caring for it rather than socializing with friends. He had also felt stressed by his preoccupations about dents and scratches. He traded his car for a more modest vehicle and increased the time he spends with friends. He also developed a strategy to interrupt his consumption habit of randomly purchasing products online. Every time he feels the impulse to buy something that is not a basic need he waits one day to allow the impulse to subside. If he still feels inclined to make the purchase after 24 hours, he begins to research where the product is made, and the possible human and environmental impact. He also investigates options for a more environmentally friendly product. If he still feels that he wants to make the purchase he defers it for a month with the aim of losing interest in the purchase altogether. Table 1 outlines the kinds of activities that students chose for their sustainable happiness project. Three categories are used: activities that contribute primarily to individual well-being; activities that contribute primarily to community well-being; and activities that contribute primarily to global well-being. Some activities belong to more than one category but were placed according to the motivation that the student identified. For example, “walking for short trips” was placed in the “Global Well-Being” category because the student was interested in reducing CO2 emissions. However, some students who wanted to increase physical activity chose to walk more often. There are more activities listed than the total number of students because many students engaged in multiple activities. It should also be noted that even if enhancing community or global well-being was stated as the primary motive, every student found that their own well-being was improved through their project. One of the course objectives was for the students to embrace sustainability and link it to well-being, recognizing the capacity they have to contribute to global well-being on a daily basis. Subsequent steps for education students involved examining opportunities to bring these realizations into the classroom.


Table 1 Sustainable Happiness Projects Type of Project

Individual Well-Being Increased Physical Activity

Healthy Eating

Self Care

TOTAL Community Well-Being Increasing Genuine Wealth (usually focused on relationships)

Helping Others (relatives)

Giving to the Community

TOTAL Global Well-Being Reducing Car Travel Recycling, Reducing Waste

Reducing Consumption

Description of Activity

Number of Students Who Named One of These Activities

Joined a gym Began walking to more destinations Began regular exercise routine Made healthier food choices, reduced use of caffeine Brought own lunch to school, purchased more local and organic food Reduced consumption of fast food and bottled drinks Expanded or started a vegetable garden Reduced stress through better time management (was working 3 jobs and reduced to 2) Increased time for self – (time affluence) Decreased involvement in unhealthy relationship




13 Increased time with family Brought foster child into family Turned off TV for a week during dinner time to increase family conversations, established games night to replace watching TV Spent more time with mother Rebuilt relationship with mother-in-law Planted a garden for sister Built front porch for mother Bought more chickens and gave extra eggs to relatives Taught Mi’kmaq language to children after school Initiated community clean up with friends Developed happiness project for Sea Cadets Cleaned home and gave clothes away Wrote a song about happiness Ten days of self-less acts for community or environment (got parents and brother involved) Initiated youth oriented activities in community park Created after school program with focus on global citizenship




18 Carpooled, used transit, walked for short trips Recycled more at home Initiated recycling at place of work (2) Composting Reduced use of plastic water bottles and electricity Purchased rain barrel to harvest rainwater Reduced consumption of non-essential items Switched from paper towels to cloth napkins


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Sustainability Education and Sustainable Happiness Sustainable happiness is a concept that can be integrated into all aspects of teacher education and adapted for every grade level. It assists students in understanding the relevance of sustainability education and the capacity that they have to contribute to global well-being on a daily basis. Integrating sustainable happiness into teacher education meets many of the recommendations that have been outlined by UNESCO (Box 1). The key recommendations met are: 

Require interdisciplinary coursework on sustainability for student teachers. • Course readings drew from a variety of disciplines • Readings from positive psychology were applied to education • Education students were grouped with Communication students who came from diverse fields – science, arts, and business. Demonstrate pedagogical techniques that foster higher-order thinking skills. • Each of the weekly activities required students to reflect on their experience and consider options for enhancing their own well-being without harming others or the environment • Students had a range of activities to choose from – modeling assignments that foster higher-order thinking skills while providing flexibility for diverse learning styles. Emphasize to student teachers that citizenry in a sustainable community requires active participation and decision-making in their classroom procedure and curriculum. • This was one of the particular strengths of the course. The realization of the seamlessness between one’s personal and professional life became apparent in the student discussions. Discussion also focused on applications of sustainable happiness to their future classroom. Discuss social equity with student teachers. • Social equity is integral to the concept of sustainable happiness. It emphasizes the value of sharing the earth’s resources with current and future generations. It underscores the perspective that the well-being of individuals, communities, organizations and nations should not depend on exploiting other people and the environment. Provide student teachers with opportunities to explore their own values and attitudes towards local sustainability problems and those of the surrounding region. • Discussion prompts and weekly activities were designed to create this awareness through each unit. The sustainable happiness project provided the forum for students to move from exploration to action. Promote understanding of global sustainability in order to encourage critical thinking and decision making that influence personal lifestyle and economic choices. • Assigned readings covered sustainability topics as well as topics from positive psychology and happiness studies. Weekly activities created the framework for applying these lessons in their personal lifestyle choices.


Lessons Learned The sustainable happiness course appeared to lead to many fundamental changes in student perspectives and shifts towards sustainable behaviour. The course was not designed as a research study so baseline data was not collected. It would be valuable to follow up the course with a study that investigates whether behaviour that was initiated during the course (drinking fair trade coffee, using reusable water containers, monitoring consumption, using cloth diapers, etc) persisted six months and twelve months after the completion of the course. The interdependence map was a valuable activity for demonstrating the interrelationships that each student has with other people and the environment. Future offerings of the course will require students to refer back to their map to consider how shifting one behaviour can influence various “threads” in their map. Another application of the interdependence concept would be to “map” the links between one new sustainable behaviour and its effect in the community and/or globally. This may help to reinforce the new behaviour. The course was structured to permit students to work with the concept of sustainable happiness in ways that felt valuable to them personally. Each activity had sufficient diversity to meet the needs of various learning styles. More importantly, students could select from a range of activities and determine which ones were most interesting for them. Some students candidly stated that they sometimes selected an activity that they thought would be “easy” such as buying nothing for a day. Then they discovered that this was a greater challenge than anticipated, because they unconsciously purchase many products throughout each day. The most surprising aspect of the course for me was that students elected to engage in healthy lifestyles without a great deal of information on the benefits of doing so. It seemed that by exploring readings on happiness and sustainability, they became motivated to take greater care of themselves, their family and friends, and the natural environment. Perhaps the most compelling and gratifying aspect of this course was the realization that most students voiced at some point in the course that an individual’s actions CAN and DO make a difference. Many students commented that prior to the course they had felt overwhelmed by the enormity of environmental problems and believed that there was little they could do to make a positive change. Through their own activities and the “culture of sustainability” that was created within the course, they witnessed and seemed to integrate the realization that each person has numerous daily choices that can be acted upon to make a difference. Concluding Thoughts This paper has outlined the concept of sustainable happiness and its application to education for sustainable development. One of the key drawbacks to the concept is the term itself. The global challenges that threaten life on the planet and wreak untold human suffering can at face value seem unrelated to “happiness.” However, despite decades of environmental education that have attempted to shift policy and behaviour, we have not sufficiently shifted our unsustainable trajectory. Sustainable happiness has the capacity to attract the attention of individuals who might never consider themselves to be


environmentalists or who feel weary of being prodded toward environmentally friendly behaviour through guilt. It also has the capacity to forge a transformational shift for students who internalize the realization that we are interdependent. Further research may help to determine whether it leads to sustained behaviour changes. Sustainable happiness could complement the environmental education efforts in every nation. The report of the Working Group on Environmental Education (2007) in Ontario has created intended outcomes that include learning opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. Engaging students through sustainable happiness would provide meaningful connections to their personal life, their community and planetary well-being. Practicing teachers would also benefit from professional development workshops on sustainable happiness. These workshops and curriculum resources on sustainable happiness are currently under development. Education in the 21st century can continue to evolve at a comfortable pace that is entirely out of step with the leadership that is needed to embrace sustainability education. Or we can engage in a “deeper critique and broader vision for the future.� Sustainable happiness provides a concept and process for doing the latter. Our experience with student teachers is that sustainable happiness inspires them to become part of the solution. References Anielski, M. (2007). Economics of happiness: Building genuine wealth. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers. Brown, K., & Kasser, T. (2005). Are psychological and ecological well-being compatible? The role of values, mindfulness and lifestyle. Social Indicators Research, 74, 349368. Canadian Institute of Wellbeing. (2009). How are Canadians REALLY doing? First report of the Institute of Wellbeing. Retrieved November 25, 2009 from http://www.ciw.ca/en/ResourcesAndDiscussion/Reports.aspx. Canadian Council of Ministers of Education. (2007). Report to UNECE and UNESCO on indicators of education for sustainable development. Retrieved September 4, 2009 from http://www.cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/104/CanadaReport-ESD-2007-10.en.pdf. Diener, E. (2006). Guidelines for national indicators of subjective well-being and ill-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 397-404. Diener, E., & Seligman, M. (2004). Beyond money: Toward an economy of well-being. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5 (1), 1-31. Flavin, C. (2004). In L. Starke (Ed.), State of the world 2004: The consumer society. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Gardner, H. (2006). Five minds for the future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Hamilton, C. & Denniss, R. (2005). Affluenza: When too much is never enough. Crows Nest NSW: Allen & Unwin. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2007). Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. IPCC Secretariat. C.P.N. No. 2300. Retrieved March 20, 2008 from http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to our senses: Healing ourselves and the world through


mindfulness. New York: Hyperion. Kasser, T. (2006). Materialism and its alternatives. In M. Csikszentmihalyi & I. Csikszentmihalyi (Eds.), A life worth living: Contributions to positive psychology (pp. 200-214). Toronto: Oxford University Press. Kasser, T., & Sheldon, K. (2002). What makes for a merry Christmas? Journal of Happiness Studies, 313-329. Litman, T. (2007, March 8). Mobility as a positional good: Implications for transport policy and planning. Victoria Transport Policy Institute. Retrieved February 21, 2008 from http://www.vtpi.org/prestige.pdf. O’Brien, C. (2005). Planning for sustainable happiness: Harmonizing our internal and external landscapes. Paper prepared for the 2nd International Conference on Gross National Happiness, Nova Scotia, Canada. O’Brien, C. (2008). Sustainable happiness: How happiness studies can contribute to a more sustainable future. Canadian Psychology, 49 (4), 289-295. Richins, M., & Dawson, S. (1992). A consumer values orientation for materialism and its measurement: Scale development and validation. Journal of Consumer Research, 19, 303-316. Seligman, M. (2002). Authentic happiness. Toronto: Free Press. Sheldon, K., & McGregor, H. (2000). Extrinsic value orientation and the tragedy of the commons. Journal of Personality, 68, 383-411. Steptoe, A., Wardle, J., & Marmot, M. (2005). Positive affect and health-related neuroendocrine, cardiovascular, and inflammatory process. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 102, 6508-6512. Stutz, J. (2006), The role of well-being in a great transition. GTI Paper Series No. 10, Tellus Institute. Retrieved November 26, 2007 from https://www.gtinitiative.org/documents/PDFFINALS/10WellBeing.pdf. United Nations. (1993) Agenda 21: Earth Summit - The United Nations programme of action from Rio. Retrieved November 26, 2007 from https://unp.un.org/details.aspx?entry=E93020&title=Agenda+21:+Earth+Summit++The+United+Nations+Programme+of+Action+from+Rio. United Nations. (2002). UN Decade of Education and Sustainable Development (20052014). Resolution 57/254. Retrieved September 4, 2009 from http://www.undocuments.net/a57r254.htm. UNESCO. (2005a). Guidelines and recommendations for reorienting teacher education to address sustainability. Education for sustainable development in action. Technical paper No. 2. Retrieved September 4, 2009 from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001433/143370E.pdf. UNESCO. (2005b). UN Decade of Education and Sustainable Development (20052014):Draft international implementation scheme. Retrieved January 27, 2010 from http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.phpURL_ID=36026&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html. UNESCO (2007). The UN decade for sustainable development (DESD 2005-2014): The first two years. Retrieved February 1, 2010 from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001540/154093e.pdf. Veenhoven, R. (2006). Healthy happiness: Effects of happiness on physical health and the consequences for preventive health care, Journal of Happiness Studies, 15-11.


Working Group on Environmental Education. (2007). Shaping our schools shaping our future: Environmental education in Ontario Schools. Retrieved September 4, 2009 from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/curriculumcouncil/shapingSchools.pdf. World Commission on Environment and Development. . (1987). Our common future. Toronto: Oxford University Press.


Appendix A

Sustainable Happiness Baseline Chart Choose one day this week to create your own log of activities. Fill in as much detail as you can. You may complete more than one day if you wish. Remember to answer the question below as well. Name____________________ Student Number _________________Date_____________





Areas where I could improve my own well-being, or the well-being of others and/or the natural environment.  Catherine O’Brien, 2009


Multi-Dimensional Sustainability: An Exploration of Unification between Ecological & Social Considerations Jordana DeZeeuw Spencer JDeZeeuw@prescott.edu

Abstract This paper addresses 1) the crucial importance of a multi-dimensional vision and approach to sustainability (Wheeler, 2000) and 2) the human responsibility to work toward that end through a transformation in consciousness and action, which ideally will assist in righting humanity’s relationships with itself, all other beings, and the biosphere. The concepts of sustainability and right relationship, as they relate to humanity’s cultural constructs, are explored. An acknowledgement of the acculturated denial that contributes to humanity’s unsustainable ways of being is followed by an examination of the corollaries between the dualities of monologic vs. dialogic communication and environmental vs. sociological foci in sustainability. Finally, the argument is made for a multi-dimensional understanding that may help facilitate transformation in our communicative consciousness and in cultures’ potential for positive change, rather than uncritical perpetuation of unsustainable paradigms. Key Terms: Social Justice, Right Relationship, Holistic vs. Dualistic, Inclusion, Equity, Communication, Critical Consciousness, Dialogic

Multi-Dimensional Sustainability: An Exploration of Unification between Ecological & Social Considerations These are the forgeries of jealousy: And never, since the middle summer’s spring, Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,… But with thy brawls thou hast disturb’d our sport. Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain, As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea Contagious fogs: which, falling in the land, Have every pelting river made so proud That they have overborne their continents: The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain, The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard:… Therefore the moon, the governess of floods, Pale in her anger, washes all the air,


That rheumatic diseases do abound: And thorough this distemperature we see The seasons alter:… The spring, the summer, The childing autumn, angry winter, change Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world, By their increase, now knows not which is which. And this same progeny of evil comes From our debate, from our dissension: We are their parents and original. (Shakespeare, 1993, p.175) Thus rails Titania, Queen of the Fairies, against her husband, Oberon, in Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Reading her indictment of him, it is extraordinary to note the almost prophetic quality of this Elizabethen monologue, which is thought to have been penned originally in the mid-1590’s. (Bloom, 1998) True, the literal interpretation of Titiania’s accusations is that the power of their respective magic has wreaked havoc upon the earth, as an unfortunate consequence of their lovers’ feud. The metaphoric meaning to be derived from it, however, is as powerful as the sense the ancient Greeks made of natural phenomena through their myths (i.e., the creation story of the Titans’ birth; the seasons’ causation attributed to Demeter’s pining for her abducted daughter, Persephone; the sunrise and set caused by Apollo’s golden chariot trekking across the sky (Hamilton, 1998)). Since the dawn of human civilization, we have used stories and metaphors to make meaning of the world around us, as well as to communicate with one another our individual conceptualizations in the hopes of forging shared and communal understandings. Indeed, part of the artistry of theatre is that it can so compellingly invite participants into a conversational engagement with meaning-making. Thus, I thought it fitting to open this paper on understanding sustainability in a multi-dimensional context with a theatrical excerpt, which is timeless in its conveyance of accountability and responsibility. Titania attributes her litany of environmental disasters to the breakdown of her communication and right relationship with her husband, Oberon. What a powerful corollary, then, to see so much of her centuries-old diatribe actualized in current environmental crises, which, arguably, also are the result of a breakdown in right relationship, communication, and understanding. This modern breakdown, however, arises in part because of the larger context in which humanity has articulated its relationship with the rest of the natural world. Situating Author’s Lens and Paper’s Intent As a doctoral student whose particular focus is constructing meaning-making that fosters inclusivity, solidarity, and unified healing, I write this paper both as an argument for integrating diverse disciplines into the field of Sustainability Education and a theoretical overview (a literature review of sorts), representative of dimensions perhaps not commonly considered in the sustainability conversation. Additionally, I examine the crucial importance of multi-dimensional – or “multiple perspectives” (Wheeler, 2000, p.1) in – sustainability and a movement away from the dualistic ways of being that continue to characterize our very definitions and approaches to transformation.


My academic lens, thus, is informed by a number of theoretical paradigms, which complement each other. Aspects of Critical Social Theory (Freire, 2000; Katz, 1999; Leonardo, 2004; McLaren, 2000), Feminist Theory (Brady, 1991; Diller, Houston, Morgan, & Ayim, 1996; Jackson, 1997; Weiller, 1991), an Ethic of Care (Gilligan, 1993; Noddings, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2002) , Intersectionality (Hesse-Biber, Lydenberg & Gilmatin, 1999; hooks, 2004; Smith, 2000, Tatum; 1997), and Dialogism (Bakhtin, 1993; Friedman, 1994; Habermas, 1996; Stewart, 1998) all contribute to this paper’s exploration. Further, as I identify primarily as an educator, I draw from each of these theoretical realms through the perspective of how they inform my educational praxis and approaches to sustainability. Indeed, McKeown’s (with Hopkins, Rizzi, & Chrystalbridge, 2002) assertion, in regards to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), holds particular resonance for me: …the use of education [can be] a tool to achieve sustainability….While some people argue that ‘for’ indicates indoctrination, we think ‘for’ indicates a purpose. All education serves a purpose or society would not invest in it…. ESD promises to make the world more livable for this and future generations. (¶. 4) Similarly, Zinn (1997) reminds us that education is the domain that has substantive power to transform collective consciousness. “Knowledge is power…[a]nd the knowledge industry, which directly reaches seven million young people in colleges and universities, thus become a vital and sensitive locus of power. That power can be used…to maintain the status quo, or…to change it” (p.501). All the more reason, in my mind, to invite diverse fields and perspectives to contribute to a holistic understanding of what sustainability has the potential of being. Structurally, this paper commences by exploring the concepts of sustainability and right relationship, as they relate to our communicative understanding. Then, it discusses the acculturated denial that contributes to our unsustainable ways of being followed by an examination of the corollaries between the dualities of monologic (one-directional) vs. dialogic (two-directional) communication and environmental vs. sociological foci in sustainability. It concludes with my argument for a multi-dimensional understanding that, ideally, will help facilitate transformation in our communicative consciousness and in cultures’ potential for positive change, rather than uncritical perpetuation of unsustainable paradigms. Sustainability and Right Relationship Sustainability. I affirm Allen, Tainter, and Hoekstra’s (2003) assertion that, “the biophysical aspects of sustainability are central. Without a material system capable of functioning for a long time, there is nothing to sustain” (p.29). This is, of course, the literal and pragmatic conceptualization of “sustainability” that is most often associated with environmental sustainability. It addresses whether actions taken by humanity are degrading the Earth’s carrying capacity and systems to the point where the planet will no longer be able to sustain its biodiversity with health, vitality, and balance. While there is certainly an ethical dimension to this literal, specifically environmental, interpretation of sustainability, it seems to me that the tangible threat of losing species, contaminating ecosystems with pollutants, and perhaps doing irreversible damage to the environment has provided a concrete urgency to explaining “why” people should be committed to it. After all, regardless of social ideology, virtually everyone’s self-interest is driven to a large extent by their physiological needs, and if people accept that there is an immediacy to safeguarding their safety and/or well-being, they are more likely to take action. For instance, the interest in hybrid vehicles and alternative fuels has skyrocketed, since


gas prices began to roller coaster, precisely because the financial ramifications of filling one’s gas tank had direct impact on many people. The broader and, arguably, more existential (yet just as vital) aspects to sustainability, however, lie in the less quantifiable dimensions of humanity’s capacity for embodying what sustainability at all levels, ideally, should be – namely systems that emulate balance, equity, justice, health, and connectivity for all constituents. Pittman (2007) articulates a “Living Definition of Sustainability [as:] The long-term equilibrium of health and integrity maintained dynamically within any individual system (organism, organization, ecosystem, community, etc.) through a diversity of relationships with other systems” (p.23). The equilibrium of which Pittman writes hearkens to Habermas’ concept of the constitutive power of communication in which symmetry, reciprocity, and equality are paramount (1996) as well as Bakhtin’s dialogism (1993; Clark & Holquist, 1984). Yet despite the ample models evident in the social field of communication for cultivating sustainable relationships, the conversation continues to predominate in the domain of environmentalism, which limits a holistic understanding of sustainability. One of the reasons the social and relational aspects of sustainability are far less tangible is because there is much in the human-constructed world that gives the appearance of continued survivability (if not sustainability). On a day-to-day basis, many people in the United States may feel little connection to whether or not the basic human rights of others are being violated (Beckerman & Pasek, 2004). There are even those in the environmental movement who seem to think that human issues are not a consideration to sustainability because what they deem as “most important” is the other-than-human world (Shrader-Frechette, 2002). This focus and framing of sustainability primarily within the context of the environment, however, subsequently reifies our communicative understanding of sustainability as not pertaining to social relationships, as well. Such reification is hardly value-neutral, either. As Sprague (1993) notes, “[m]uch of [Habermas’] work is directed toward exposing the way language constitutes, sustains, and often conceals various social arrangements…[and] Habermas rejects any notion of language as a transparent code that merely transmits meanings” (p.5). Thus, by our omission of sociological dimensions and human relationships in the conversation, we divert our focus from a more holistic understanding and actualizing of sustainability. Additionally, human civilization has survived for centuries, while perpetrating horrific acts of injustice and violence against itself, and it could probably survive (maybe even for a few more centuries), while still enacting the oppression, hegemony, and exploitation that currently exist. My argument, however, is that these ways of being are inherently unsustainable because they allow us to be the least of ourselves – the basest, most unethical, and least critically conscious of what humanity is capable. Further, I believe the longer we allow ourselves to excuse the exploitation and degradation of any living being, and continue pardoning Lord of the Flies’ (Golding, 1999) communication and behavior within our human relations, the more our capacities for apathy and callousness will drive destructive and unsustainable actions. (I am reminded of the chant Golding’s boys on that deserted island cried, whenever someone mentions the World Wrestling Federation, “Kill the pig! Slit her throat! Bash her in!” (Golding, 1999, p.60).) A contemporary and applied (as opposed to literary) example of unsustainable practices is apparent in these consumption statistics: According to the WorldWatch Institute, a typical citizen of an industrial country uses three times as much fresh water, ten times as much energy, and nineteen times as much


aluminum as a typical citizen of a developing country…The average American [sic.] uses…two and a half times as much [fossil fuel] as the average Japanese. The United States alone produces and consumes one-third of the world’s paper, despite having just 5 percent of the world’s population and 6 percent of its forest cover…the typical American [sic.] discards nearly a ton of trash per person per year, two to three times as much as…the typical western European (Chapman, Petersen, and Smith-Moran, 2000, p.98) These behaviors and belief systems are a regression in evolutionary consciousness, rather than a progression, and as Lincoln proclaimed in his first inaugural address, we must strive to realize “the better angels of our nature” (1861, ¶.28). Thus, I assert the need for humanity’s embracing, understanding, and articulating the interconnectivity of all living systems. We must recognize that the ways in which we communicate (and each of our correlative actions) have repercussions, which eventually (if not immediately) will also impact us. My definition, then, of sustainability is a multi-dimensional manifestation (communicatively, tangibly, ethically, affectively, intellectually, psychologically) because I believe it is only with this more inclusive perspective that our consciousness, communication, and actions at any level will begin to be transformed. This is the understanding that drives my work in the field of Sustainability Education and why the profoundly social nature of dialogue and cultural construction (as expressed by Bakhtin, Whorf, Habermas, Apgar, Stewart, and others) contributes significantly to my thinking about the environmental considerations of sustainability, as well. The social lens of right relationship and its cultivation, then, also inform my argument for communicative consciousness in ecological sustainability. Right relationship. My working definition of the term right relationship is influenced by: • Garrett and Garrett’s (1996) exploration of the Cherokee concept of holistically, healthily reconnecting with self (mind, body, and spirit), the natural world, and all other beings; • Buddhism’s charge for “integrity” in government (Rahula, 2003, p. 148) and the law of “interdependence” (Kaza, 2003, p. 528); • Many aboriginal cultures’ embrace of “relationship to the whole creation” (McKay, 2003, p. 520); • Theories of Islamic justice (Engineer, 2003, p. 355); and • The Quaker Earthcare Witness’ statement: WE ARE CALLED to live in right relationship with all Creation, recognizing that the entire world is interconnected and is a manifestation of God [sic.]. WE WORK to integrate into the beliefs and practices of the Religious Society of Friends the Truth that God's Creation [sic.] is to be respected, protected, and held in reverence in its own right, and the Truth that human aspirations for peace and justice depend upon restoring the earth's ecological integrity. (Vision & Witness Statement, 2009, ¶¶. 1 & 2) While I, and others, may not resonate with the Quakers’ monotheistic framing or the stipulation that the Earth is “God’s Creation,” there is much to be said for and understood by all of these diverse faith traditions’ articulations of “right relationship.” I particularly appreciate the Quakers’ assertion about “restoring the earth’s ecological integrity,” for we all – regardless of


identifying with religion or not – are a part of ecos or home, and the restoration of integrity in interconnected relations is vital for health and justice to be achieved. Further (and in seeming anticipation of secularists’ resistance to their terminology), Quaker Earthcare Witness explains: In speaking to non-Quakers, Friends may choose the more secular term "sustainable living" as conveying roughly the same idea as "right relationship." Indeed, many of the world's social and ecological problems stem from practices that are manifestly unsustainable—misuse of nonrenewable resources, treatment of soil, air, and water as commodities to be sold to the highest bidder, the general disregard for the needs and rights of future generations. We are all complicit and therefore accountable for damage being done in our name. But "living in right relationship" goes a step further in suggesting why so many humans today seem unwilling and unable to change their ways, even when they are aware of the size and effects of their ecological footprints, in terms of housing, transportation, diet, and family size. (Right Relationship, 2009, ¶¶ 2 & 3) Indeed, the Quakers’ stress on human accountability reinforces the metaphoric connections between the Shakespearean monologue with which I opened and our current environmental context. The swelling riverbanks, ruined crops, and altered seasons of which Titania speaks might well be seen in the broken levies and flooding of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, the devastation of droughts across the continents, and the incontrovertible issue of global climate change. What is so striking about Shakespeare’s seemingly prescient words is Titania’s closing, in which she takes responsibility for the disasters she has enumerated, “this same progeny of evil comes from our debate, from our dissension: We are their parents and original” [emphasis mine] (Shakespeare, 1993, p.175). One can hear the foundational lessons of an interpersonal communication course (Rosenberg, 1999; Stewart, Zediker, Witteborn, 2009) in Titania’s “I” statements. Even in her rage at Oberon, Titania is willing to own her part in the destruction that has ensued, and this self-awareness (coupled with responsibility-taking) is what is crucial, I think, for transforming human communicative consciousness in order to “right” our relationship with the planet. Denying our Responsibility in Relationship Unfortunately, there is a great deal of culturally indoctrinated denial and resultant behaviors that present themselves as formidable obstacles in our current state of affairs, when it comes to taking responsibility in all of our relationships. For instance (Heimlich & Ardoin, 2008), in their examination of behavioral theories and change (explicitly in relation to environmental education), discuss “constellations” or “groups of behaviors” (p.222), which can grow out of acculturation. They provide the example of someone purchasing products, some of which may be environmentally friendly and others not, because that individual’s behavior is primarily financially driven. In mainstream U.S. culture, then (where consumerism and capitalism are paramount), we are encouraged into a state of denying our broader responsibilities, when we feel our personal needs are being met. This denial also is evidenced in (and reinforced by) our resistance to move from monologic (one directional) and linear modes of communicating to more dialogical (two-directional/reciprocal) ways of engaging and constructing mutual understanding.


As a social justice corollary to Heimlich and Ardoin’s (2008) environmental example, I experienced a White, financially privileged, heterosexual, male student in a Multicultural Education class I was teaching challenge me with the question, “If the ‘status quo’ [of institutionalized oppression] benefits me so much, why should I want to work to change it?” While the myriad reasons I offered, in response to his query, are not the purview of this paper, I was struck with the parallels between the paradigm my student articulated and the seemingly laissez-faire outlook much of humanity seems to have, in terms of our unsustainable treatment of the environment and our responsibility to change. Mitigating apathy, fear, and denial. E. O. Wilson (1992) asserts, “In the world as a whole, extinction rates are already hundreds of thousands of times higher than before the coming of man [sic]. They cannot be balanced by new evolution in any period of time that has meaning for the human race.” (p.346) Wilson clearly anticipates an apathetic response, as he continues: Why should we care? What difference does it make if some species are extinguished, if even half of all species on earth disappear? Let me count the ways...In amnesiac revery it is also easy to overlook the services that ecosystems provide humanity…Without these amenities, the remaining tenure of the human race would be nasty and brief…Such organisms support the world with efficiency because they are so diverse…They run the world precisely as we would wish it to be run, because humanity evolved within living communities and our bodily functions are finely adjusted to the idiosyncratic environment already created…an environment that will destabilize and turn lethal if the organisms are disturbed too much…To disregard the diversity of life is to risk catapulting ourselves into an alien environment. (1992, pp.346-347) It is highly likely that being thrust into an “alien” and “lethal” environment would frighten many (if not all) of us with the consciousness to understand such a threat, yet the truth remains that many humans often fail to recognize the need to change their dysfunctional behavior in relationships before it is too late. (The 11th Hour, Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2007 documentary about the state of the environment is aptly titled, since our status quo behavior toward the biosphere and each other draws us ever-nearer to crisis.) Even with the reality of a change being in one’s own best interest (as Wilson eloquently articulates or in the countless examples of individuals perpetuating self-destructive behaviors, like smoking), people, all too frequently, remain in stasis, rather than risking entry into the dissonance and disequilibrium that 3rd order change requires. Thus, a significant part of our more-of-the-same communication, behaviors, and denial is fueled by fear of the unknown that change may bring. Further, we live in a “culture of denial”, as Bowers (1997) argues. The drive for modernity, progression, and individualism creates a socio-cultural malaise of comfort and acquiescence that often goes both unexamined and unchallenged. If anything, many of our educational institutions diminish our desire for transformative comprehension and change. “The educators’ emphasis on the individual has also led to a reduction in the ability of modern cultures to store and renew a symbolically complex understanding of essential human/nature relationships” (Bowers, 1997, p.141). That said, however, I maintain that part of our denial arises from a self-imposed divide between humanity and the rest of the planet, which I think has been perpetuated, albeit inadvertently, in the quest for environmental sustainability above all.


Problematizing the “Social vs. Ecological” Divide A barrier to human’s transforming their understanding of sustainability (and owning their responsibilities in “righting” their relationships) is the dichotomization that so often occurs between the social and ecological realms and the communicative constructs in which this duality is framed. The weakening or destruction of a monologic [unidirectional] context occurs only when there is a coming together of two utterances equally and directly oriented toward a referential object. Two discourses equally and directly oriented…within the limits of a single context cannot exist side by side without intersecting dialogically, regardless of whether they confirm, mutually supplement, or (conversely) contradict one another. (Bakhtin, 1984, pp.188-189, as cited in Schultz, 1990, p.120) By arguing for environmental sustainability as fundamental to sustainability, we, once again, create a value hierarchy and a dualistic divisiveness between humans and ecology. There is the subtle or, at times, explicit implication that nature is separate from humans, and it is more important (fundamental) than humans. Yes, unquestionably, if we succeed in degrading the planet to the point where it becomes lethal to us and other species or continue our acceleration toward surpassing both “optimum” and “maximum carrying capacity” (Odum & Barrett, 2005, p.128), then no other sustainability considerations will matter. At the same time, considering how many millions of people have been acculturated into biophobia and disconnection (Orr, 1993), the longer those of us with the educated privilege and awareness to work for environmental sustainability continue to separate it from social sustainability, the more we perpetuate what I believe is a self-destructive dualism. Environmental primacy bordering on elitism. A compelling examination of this dualism was articulated in a paper written by one of my Master of Arts’ students, which critiqued the disregard that David Orr (2004) and Steven Van Matre (1990) seem to have for social inequities and environmental racism. Particularly as this student is an educator at Bronx Expeditionary Learning High School in Manhattan, he has had the personal perspective of his own valuation of the natural world being confronted by the reality of his students’ lives, which are impacted by socioeconomic disenfranchisement and environmental racism. While it was clear that this graduate student deeply appreciated the scholarship, insights, and challenges Orr and Van Matre offer, he also was pushing back against what he perceived to be their environmental elitism. He wanted to know how his students can be expected to have right relationships with the environment, when so few of the systemic relationships they experience everyday of their lives are “right.” (Maciejewski, 2006) I, like my colleague, appreciate much of what I have read of Van Matre and Orr, in terms of cultivating an environmentally literate, compassionate, and responsibly connected populus. I think Van Matre is correct in his critique that If a few teachers do include an environmental lesson or unit, chances are good that they still do not systematically address what environmental education set out in the beginning to accomplish, i.e., how life functions ecologically, what that means for people in their own lives, and what those people are going to have to do in order to lessen their impact on the earth. (1990, p.5)


At the same time, I found myself balking at Van Matre’s singular framing and the sneering condemnation and judgment he leveled at those who do not have the same awareness or education in environmental literacy that he wants them to have. I firmly believe that one of the quickest ways to lose a potential ally is to convey, implicitly (or state, explicitly), that person is stupid. Discourse analysis to “bridge” understanding. If those committed to environmental communication and sustainability deny the realities of context (what external and internal factors are influencing the speakers) and addressivity (each speaker’s awareness and “attunement to the attunement of the other” (Rommetveit, 1992, as cited in Stewart, 1998, p.342)), then true reciprocity and dialogue are rejected and potential allies may well be lost, because their lived realities have been ignored in the communicative exchange. As all utterances, ideally, are shaped both by the person speaking and by the person being addressed (bringing the role of the listener and the reciprocal, co-generative process of dialogue into sharp focus), the potential for mutual respect and partnership in communicative understanding of sustainability becomes far greater. Thus, there needs to be a dialogical collaboration that occurs through which values can be inspirationally transformed and healthy relationships renewed. Additionally, the presumption that simply providing people with information will compel them to change their behavior has been disproved. “Not only does it not work [people changing their behavior because they’d learned about ecological issues], but too much environmental knowledge (particularly relating to the various global crises) can be disempowering, without a deeper and broader learning process taking place” (Sterling, 2001, p.19). I am convinced that a component of the “information-rich, yet action-poor” paradox is human’s capacity to compartmentalize and see ourselves as “separate from” the information, just as many of us perceive ourselves outside of the biophysical system. By hybridizing the realms of sociology and ecology, however (both in our conceptualizations of them and our communicating about them), we have the potential to move a step closer to restoration, regeneration, and reconstruction. Indeed, trans- and interdisciplinary work at the college level has demonstrated the power such melding can produce: Rowe (1999) found that students who had an interdisciplinary course with a focus on creating a more humane and environmentally sustainable future developed an increased caring about the future of society, an increased belief that they can make a difference, and an increased willingness to participate in solving societal and environmental problems. (as cited in Rowe, 2002, p.8) Working toward right relationship between humans and the biosphere, then, means articulating a more integrated understanding of sustainability’s “bottom line.”

Redefining the “Bottom Line” While I acknowledge many environmentalists’ critique of anthropocentrism, in its myriad forms, I also think it is antithetical (in the pursuit of sustainability) to remove humans from the alchemy. I resonate with Allen, et al., when they state, “sustainability without a social justice component won’t work…Social justice addresses local considerations of individual sacrifice but in support of a larger system that offers real or perceived benefits for the individual” (2003, p. 9). This acknowledgement of the human element in sustainability also speaks, inherently, to Bakhtin’s perspective that our values are constructed in the process of dialoguing with each other. “Bakhtin treats values not as an abstract axiology but as the practical work of building. By


shaping answers in the constant activity of our dialogue with the world, we enact the architectonics of our own responsibility” (Clark & Holquist, 1984, p.10). Embracing our responsibility, then, through enacted communicative discourse, reflects on our capacities for/potential to change, provided we can be “present” and in “partnership”: One of the most terrible responsibilities in the world is that of really being present, of being a presence for the other. We cannot achieve dialogue by an act of will, for dialogue is genuinely a two-sided affair…We are, nonetheless, responsible for what we are… Listening and responding at a greater depth is the direction away from a specious individualism to the reality of the partnership of existence…Those people who relate to the world only as a function of their own becoming will not change…But those people whose trust is grounded in the partnership of existence are changed every time they go out to meet another [emphasis mine] (Friedman, 1994, pp.83-84) By cultivating communicative understanding about the “perceived benefits” (Allen et al., 2003, p.9) socially and ecologically sustainable endeavors can yield for everyone and everything (communally, individually, and biospherically), as well as embracing the “partnership of existence” (Friedman, 1994, p.84) that such dialogical interface can yield, perhaps we can achieve the transformation that is vital for systemic change. If not, I fear the concept of what our relationship is with the “biogeophysical system” (Allen et al., 2003, p.9) and how we need to take responsibility for it will be lost. Sustainability as a Uniquely Human Dilemma. The reason sustainability is even an issue, I assert, is because of humans. The Earth’s biosphere would sustain itself (as it did for billions of years prior to the “age of [Hu]Man[ity]” (Wilson, 1992, p.345), if humans no longer existed. As Capra (2002) puts it, “the outstanding characteristic of the Earth household is its inherent ability to sustain life” (p.230). Thus, it is the rapid acceleration of human abuse of, as well as disassociation from its relationship with (and within), the ecosystem that raises the issue of sustainability at all. In our discourse about sustainability, in general, and the environment, specifically, then, it is crucial that the human element be discussed overtly. Indeed, as numerous critical social theorists have noted (Freire, 1970; Habermas, 1996; Katz and Earp, 1999; Leonardo, 2004; McLaren, 2000) part of the way dominance, exploitation, and hegemony are perpetuated is by remaining unexamined, so discussing humanity’s role explicitly appropriately situates our responsibility in the discourse. Additionally, the emergent field of “sustainability education” refers to educating human beings to live more sustainably. Capra reinforces this by stating, The key to an operational definition of ecological sustainability is the realization that we do not need to invent sustainable human communities from scratch but can model them after nature’s ecosystems, which are sustainable communities of plants, animals, and micro-organisms. (2002, p.230) Golley (1998) presents an interaction matrix of relationships within the biosphere, which demonstrates the sustainability of natural ecosystems, even across the spectrum from parasitism to mutualism. Examples of right relationship, thus, exist everywhere. The dilemma, of course, then becomes how can our communication catalyze understanding and desire within human consciousness to learn from the models of sustainability that the natural world provides us in such abundance? Nesting Systems


As a doctoral student, I am examining a number of different, interfacing systems, which at first glance – may appear to contradict each other, but it is my supposition that they are complementary, inextricably connected, and essential to achieving communicative consciousness around humanity’s right relationship with itself and the rest of the biosphere. Much of my thinking on this is not original, and Wilber (2000), Wheeler (2000), Edwards (2005), and others have helped shape my understanding and articulation of it. At the same time, I am aware that because much of the sustainability movement originated out of environmentalism (Capra, 2002; Mackenzie, 1998), there can be a defensive reactivity triggered, when humans, rather than the environment, are perceived to be the focus in discourse. My premise is that humans must be the initial focus of transformation, as they are the locus of control in whether ecological (encompassing of human and other-than-human life) sustainability will be achieved. In order to explain my rationale, let me examine Sterling’s nesting systems (2001) in concert with an umbrella model I am constructing, which – in turn – is influenced by some of Wilber’s (2000) concepts. Speaking of environmental education, specifically, as one of the “movements for educational change,” which are housed within the broader educational system, Sterling provides this explanation, [The] educational system can be seen as a subsystem of the larger socio-economic and cultural systems, which also directly ‘educate’ people. Socio-economic systems must be regarded as subsystems of the encompassing biophysical system. (The fact that the economic system is often seen as independent of, or encompassing, the biophysical system is partly the root cause of our current crisis, of course.) (2001, p.32) Adapted from Sterling’s Nesting Systems (2001): Biophysical system -----------------------------------Social, economic, & cultural systems--------Educational system---------------------Educational movements for change------

In addition to Sterling’s locating the economic system within the biophysical system, however, I would argue that the economic system is entirely contained within (and is a manufactured construct of) society, so it should not be incorporated as an entity unto itself, but rather another sub-circle, nested inside society. While I understand some proponents defining a “triple bottom line” (Elkington in Edwards, 2005, p.50) comprised of social, economic, and environmental considerations to inform sustainable business practices, I think the Venn diagram that often presents Society, Environment, and Economy, as three equal parts perpetuates a supposition that economics are external to human control. A similar dilemma exists, I believe, in the Brundtland report’s framing of the “Three Es:” Conceptually, the report contained the first articulation of the key to contemporary sustainability – the importance of evaluating any proposed initiative with reference to the interaction of three fundamental criteria: ecology/environment, economy/employment, and equity/equality (Edwards, 2005, p.17)


Here, again, is a separating of economy from equity, which, arguably, are completely intertwined, and it reinforces the notion that economy is independent of human control. Additionally, since ecology is a term that, ideally, encompasses both human and other-thanhuman life, it concerns me that it is so often synonymized with “environment,” rather than housing all aspects of the “E’s” under its umbrella. Changing the framing. These levels of framing in the sustainability conversation demonstrate the power communicative constructs have in shaping our understanding. Since it seems that much of our current understanding of sustainability has arisen from us socially constructing compartmentalized frameworks, I posit that increased social interactionism may help us move beyond such separatism in our discourse and understanding. [S]ocial constructionism examines the way that shared meanings shape the beliefs, activities, and discourse of members of particular groups…the respective communities are said to inform the speakers’ discourse, which in turn “reflects” and “instantiates” the group’s ideology…Social interactionsim examines the role played by difference, conflict, and struggle (“stratification, diversity, and randomness” [Bakhtin, 1981, p.272]) in shaping the meaning and discourse of individuals in their interactions with each other [emphasis mine] (Nystrand et al., 1997, p.117). Thus, the concepts of “social constructionism” and “social interactionism” acknowledge that each macro-culture (and the myriad micro-cultures within) are built by their members, these structures then are reified into ideologies, and the interplay across groups can have the capacity to foment change within each. A Multi-Dimensional Approach These concepts and critiques prompted my increasing attraction to a multi-dimensional conceptualization of sustainability, which, in turn, led me to Ken Wilber’s integrated approach: Laszlo refers to the three “great realms” of evolution: material, biological, and historical. Erich Jantsch refers to them as cosmic, biosocial, and sociocultural. Michael Murphy summarizes them as physical, biological, and psychological. In popular terms: matter, life, and mind. I will refer to these three general domains as the physiosphere (matter), the biosphere (life), and the noosphere (mind). (2000, p.15) All of these examples present a triumvirate of concepts, and I found that Wilber’s articulation allows for the housing of sociology within ecology, while simultaneously recognizing the power of the mind (noosphere) to have profound impact on the rest of life (biosphere), because of humanity’s capacity for “reflective consciousness” (Capra, 2002, p.39). Thus, in the spirit of integrative relationships, I visualize a model in which MultiDimensional Sustainability embraces society as part of ecology while recognizing that there are unique issues within both the Cultural and Biospherical realms, some of which may overlap and impact the others, but all of which must be considered and addressed, in order for right relationship to be re-established. Within the Cultural realm reside all of the relationships and structures humanity has created for its benefit, including its economic structures, its institutionalized systems of oppression, and its relationship with all other parts of the ecological system. Within the Biospherical realm are all of the interconnected aspects that are impacted by humanity’s “reflective consciousness” and actions.


It is my supposition that by intentionally bringing this integration to bear in our communication and language choices, we may begin to shift our collective consciousness. Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the “real world” is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group…We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation. (Apgar, 1994, p.66) Our indoctrinated “choices of interpretation,” then, hold much sway over our subsequent perceptions, beliefs, communication, and actions. This is another reason why I find Bakthin’s dialogism (1993) and Habermas’ (1996) communicative action (i.e., the reaching of mutual understanding and engagement in symmetrical discourse) hopeful possibilities for change in our cultural conversations, regarding sustainability. Cultural Communication: Perpetuating the Disconnect vs. Potentiating Integration There is a grand irony in the culturally perpetuated disconnect humanity has from the rest of the ecological web of which we are a part – namely, we are profoundly dependent upon the biosphere, yet our acculturated valuing of “progress,” at all costs, has us working against the very relationship that most would benefit us and the larger ecological system. Golley (1998) reinforces the interconnectivity of (and relationships between) humanity and both culture and the environment. “There is no way to escape culture. It is as tightly bound to us as is environment. We are penetrated by culture; our actions and thoughts are shaped by it. Yet we are unconscious of culture most of the time” (p.226). This unconsciousness, unfortunately, leads to the perpetuation of unsustainable and “taken-for-granted moral schemata” (Bowers, 1995, p. 9). Myth of progress. Bowers (1995) discusses the deeply imbedded cultural “myth” about social progress (communicated to us in myriad forms, from our elementary school history texts celebrating the pioneer spirit and Western Expansion to contemporary governmental policies on globalization) that has accelerated humanity’s disconnect from ecology and its subsequent degradation of the environment. “This myth…is predicated on an anthropocentric view of the universe and the further assumption that our rationally-based technology will always enable us to overcome the breakdowns and shortages connected with the natural world” (1995, p.4). Bowers (1995) goes on, in his synthesis of Leopold’s “land ethic”, to assert: Whether viewed as individually or culturally centered, behaviors are wrong in every sense – morally, politically, educationally, economically, and ecologically – if they threaten the “integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community” (Leopold, 1966, p.262). In effect, behaviors that undermine the viability of the energy and information webs upon which humans and other members of the biotic community are absolutely dependent are to be judged as ecologically unsustainable. (p.5) The stories we have told ourselves set us apart from (rather than integral within) the natural world, and these stories have been reified in our acculturated treatment of and relationship with the planet.


David Orr – as a leading environmentalist, educator, and sustainability activist – stipulates that, while Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis (1984) may have been instinctively inherent in earlier civilizations, when direct connection to the planet was essential for survival and health, modern society’s disassociation from the natural world has made biophilia or biophobia a “choice.” Defining biophobia as, “the culturally acquired urge to affiliate with technology, human artifacts, and solely with human interests regarding the natural world” (1993, p.416), Orr asserts that the rapid advances in technology are alienating humans from their instinctive capacities for affiliation with their ecology. It is evident that tribal cultures possessed an ecological innocence of sorts because they did not have the power or knowledge given to us. We, in contrast, must choose between biophobia and biophilia because science and technology have given us the power to destroy so completely as well as the knowledge to understand the consequences by doing so. (1993, p.417) I also would propose that, perhaps, biophobia is an unhealthy mutation of our instinctive, biophiliac, nature loving tendencies (much like hate is often a corruption of love), and it is in the healing of our biotic relationships that we can relinquish the biophobia-producing lure of technology and rampant “advancement.” Evolving into integration. Wilber (2000) appears to agree with Bowers’ and Orrs’ appraisals of humanity’s detachment from the rest of ecology, which is perpetuated through our communication and by our cultural constructs, and he proposes the potential for a cultural evolution that might shift us into a place of right relationship: The main difference between tribal and modern eco-devastation is not presence or lack of wisdom, but presence of more dangerous means, where the same ignorance can now be played out on a devastating scale...our massively increased means have led, for the first time in history, to an equally massive disassociation of the noosphere and the biosphere, and thus the cure is not to reactivate the tribal form of ecological ignorance (take away our means), nor to continue the modern form of that ignorance (the free market will save us), but rather to evolve and develop into an integrative mode of awareness that will… integrate the biosphere and noosphere in a higher and deeper union. (p.173) This union would allow for ecosociological sustainability because it would oblige humanity to assimilate all aspects of Cultural and Biospherical realms into its relational and communicative actions. Such assimilation would ideally reinvigorate humanity’s biophilia, as well. Bowers (1997) highlights suggestions for educational reform that would draw from, “the Balinese, Hopi, Koyukon, Ladakh, and hundreds of other indigenous cultural groups [who] demonstrated that conserving local biodiversity is essential to long term survival” (p.135). It is evident, then, that culture, though powerfully capable of perpetuating unsustainable, anthropocentric practices, also has the potential either to return to the more sustainable practices of “traditional ecological knowledge” (Berkes, 1999, p. 5) or to “integrate…in a higher and deeper union” (Wilber, 2000, p.173). This dialectical and educative engagement across cultures is inherent in Apgar’s (1994) concept of “languacultures” (p.60), as well. Finding common ground. Apgar’s exploration of languacultures (and an indicator that paradigmatic evolution in dialogue can lead to transformation of world-views and systems) focuses on the impact they can have on one another.


Whorf showed that language – or languaculture…– shapes consciousness, shapes ways of seeing and acting, ways of thinking and feeling…But if two different symbolic systems,…kinds of consciousness,…languacultures, come into contact, how can they be connected?...When you find similarities,…reach common ground, then you can start work on the bridge to cross the space. (1994, pp.71-72) This concept of finding similarities is also resonant in Rosenberg’s (1999) premise, regarding Nonviolent/Compassionate Communication, that all human beings have the same needs, we just have different strategies for meetings those needs. Our communicative shifts may come from fostering dialogical understanding and learning between cultures already in existence, as Apgar (1994) discusses. Or, they may arise out of our embracing the possibility of evolving from a languaculture that is pre-existent (e.g., our current dichotomized understandings of the environment and humanity) to one which is yet to be created (e.g., intentionally integrated and sustainably communicative ways of being). True, the unfamiliarity and initial awkwardness of exploring the language with which we story our lives and entertaining “different” vernacular or worldviews may be discomfiting (as immersing one’s self in a new country and culture can be). Yet, I trust that the similarities evident across cultures, demonstrating the fundamental good of humanity (combined with our self-serving desire for survival), can move us toward more sustainable and just paradigms. As Wheeler (2000) notes, finding common ground through a holistic approach is key to sustainability education: Our vision of education for a sustainable future is focused on how to get beyond the reduction and analysis – with which we are most comfortable – to the synthesis and integration of what we know and can know. Likewise, a convergence and integration of…systems is core to our work. This is why and where educating about sustainability becomes increasingly complex. We often try to come at sustainability from one direction based on our predisposition. To engage successfully…we must train ourselves to think holistically. Education about sustainability in essence is about learning to make and understand the connections and interactions between…complex systems. (pp. 1-2) Isaacs (1999) reminds us, “to change the way we talk is to begin to change the way we think…our words shape our world” (p.308). By shifting our languaging, then, and disallowing a perpetuation of divisiveness, we may well move closer to Wheeler’s aspiration of thinking and acting more holistically. Conclusion There is no doubt that conserving, preserving, restoring, and renewing the biophysical system of which we are a part is the essence of sustainability. At the same time, when we view the transformation of human consciousness and culture through a multi-dimensional lens, we can foster an active desire and follow-through toward cultivating right relationships in all areas of sustainability. I assert that our communicative understanding can play a large role in this transformation process. By recognizing that education occurs within the broader context of social systems, Sterling (2001) reinforces the role cultural adaptation plays in shifting our ways of being: The systems perspective encourages a change of question, to ‘How can education and society change together in a mutually affirming way, towards more sustainable patterns


for both?’…It takes us from a model of education as one of social reproduction and maintenance, towards a vision of continuous co-evolution where both education and society are engaged in a relationship of mutual transformation – one which can explore, develop and manifest sustainability values. (pp. 32-33) This “continuous co-evolution” is at the heart of dialogical engagement. Indeed, “dialogue is not restricted to two-person communicating,…meaning emerges through all participants… meaning…is collaboratively co-constructed….when you’re listening or talking dialogically, you are not in control of what comes out of the communicating” [emphasis in the original] (Stewart, Zediker, & Witteborn, 2009, p.235). Acknowledgement of the co-ownership and co-creation process of communication allows us, I believe, to move deeper into both accountability and commitment. Like Titania, humanity must be able to own its responsibility in causing the devastation it has, as well as possess the deep love and steadfastness that makes the work of right relationship desirable and worth fighting for. We must facilitate a transformation in our thinking, communication, and ways of being that shifts us away from rampant individualism and toward a greater level of communalism, while recognizing that the adaptations of culture take time: Culture is a form of adaptation, and although it changes, human groups tend not to risk what has worked in the past. We tend, collectively, to be conservatives…This is why environmentalists must learn to manage cultural change. In order to alter our consumptive and destructive patterns of living, we need a different cultural model that stresses maintenance, cooperation, mutualism... These concepts must be taught to children by parents and schools. We must have examples of successful adaptations before our eyes so that we can imitate and improve on them. We must have laws and regulations that move us toward positive adaptation. Eventually these will create a changed culture. (Golley, 1998, pp.226-227) There is a reason why the Jim Crow laws no longer exist and why public schools are no longer legally segregated. Different cultural and communicative models were in order, and Civil Rights activists had to figure out how to facilitate the dialogical adaptations that led to a cultural shift. (It is no coincidence that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a brilliant orator. He discursively engaged with the heart of humanity and, in so doing, fomented extraordinary shifts.) Golley (1998) is correct in his assertions about change. Transformation does not just come from a narrow conceptualization of formalized education or monologically instructive practices. Rather, it arises from dialogical reciprocity, community values, legislation, and examples of “successful adaptations” that can be “imitated” or replicated. We have to transform the institutions and communities that are the value carriers and transmitters of society. It is through these avenues of communication (among myriad others) that the resumption of right relationship can occur. Though it would be nice to have the ease of a flower’s magical juice (that caused both the hilarity and resolution of Titania and Oberon’s rift) to remedy our current crisis, I trust humanity’s capacity to recognize its place within and responsibility for its biospherical home.


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Critical Social Theory and Sustainability Education at the College Level Why It’s Critical to be Critical Tina Lynn Evans evans_t@fortlewis.edu

Abstract This article addresses the value of critical social theory (CST) to sustainability education in higher education. CST is a particularly challenging form of social critique, especially for those who are middle and upper class members of industrial societies. It is argued that important sustainability education opportunities raised by CST actually derive from the deeply challenging nature of CST critique which indicts all who collude with domination and oppression. This article also addresses a common critique of CST: that it offers no explicit alternatives to the systems of domination and oppression characteristic of modern, global, industrial capitalism. It is argued that CST’s focus on critique effectively implies alternatives. It is also argued that CST’s refusal to draw an explicit roadmap to an egalitarian and just future implies a critique of authoritarian leadership and therefore opens space for grassroots visioning and for creating more just and sustainable alternatives to current social systems. The author argues that CST critique in the higher education setting, especially when combined with service learning projects, offers an effective means for transformational learning in service to a more just and sustainable world. Keywords: critical theory, sustainability education, higher education, agency.

Introduction The news rolls in daily: the planet cannot sustain life as we know it. The ideology and practices of the global growth economy threaten on all fronts – the oceans, the land, water, the atmosphere. The earth’s systems are breaking down. Species extinction rates now match those of major planetary die-off events, ocean fisheries are in decline from overfishing, rising temperatures, and other forms of human disturbance, and a warming climate threatens planetary scale, permanent dislocations of human and nonhuman life and the radical alteration of the earth’s productive cycles. Meanwhile, the global economy attempts to satisfy the appetites and needs of rapidly growing numbers of people globally who have become entirely dependent upon it. The bitter irony is that this dependence creates widespread allegiance to the globalized economic system as well as ample opportunity for the powerful to profit from scarcity. For many, the modern experience is like riding a runaway horse headed for a cliff. We feel powerless to change direction and fearful of leaping off, even though many of us are well aware of the ultimate peril we are in if we stay the course. The very structures of modern industrial societies and the social power relationships embedded in these structures seem in many ways to preclude the kind of radical shifts in social systems that are necessary for living


sustainably. How and where does a sustainability educator begin to respond to her students and work for change? I argue that critical social theory (CST) offers us an important foundation for sustainability education at the college level, a foundation that enables us to identify and strategize to change the power relationships in society that produced the house of cards of unsustainable modern life. At the same time, I respond to some important questions raised about CST by some students and colleagues, questions that have made me think very carefully about the efficacy of CST as a basis for understanding the crisis and for working toward a sustainable world. One of the most popular responses to CST is that it’s depressing. Another is to question whether CST actually serves sustainability, or whether it just turns people off. Some ask: why immerse ourselves in so much depressing critique? Can’t we focus on the positive? These are difficult but important questions, and they form a framework for inquiry about the efficacy of CST-oriented critique as a means toward sustainable ends. These questions typically arise among students engaged in sustainability oriented classes that I teach -- students who feel overwhelmed by the magnitude, depth, and entrenched state of oppression and injustice manifested in our globalized, capitalist world. These questions can and should be cause for concern on my part as an educator. They imply 1) that there may be something fundamentally wrong with critique and 2) that critique may have no utility in transforming our world toward sustainability. This article addresses these issues and questions and illustrates how CST is an important bridge between comprehension and action within the context of sustainability. My exploration will clarify the connections between justice and a CST approach to both sustainability education and social transformation. I will highlight CST’s utility as a lens both for critiquing injustice and envisioning/creating a more just world. In this exploration, I do not preclude other possible means for engaging in effective sustainability education. I teach college courses that offer me extended periods of time to interact with adult students, where it is possible to develop and probe complex arguments about the nature of our social systems and possibilities for social transformation toward a just and sustainable world. In this context, I find a CSToriented approach to be both highly useful and highly effective, and I admit that such positionality might be less effective -- or even ineffective -- in quite different contexts. My discussion addresses the following questions: 1. What is CST? 2. Why is CST perhaps even more personally and institutionally challenging than other modes of social critique? 3. Why is CST particularly important to sustainability education at the college level? 4. What are the social alternatives implied in CST? This discussion will show both the value and utility of CST contributions to envisioning and realizing sustainability while, at the same time, leaving a door open to alternate means for moving societies toward justice and sustainability. In particular, I hope to illustrate how CST is an especially useful and appropriate lens for comprehending the breadth and depth of the social justice problems that derive from global capitalism and that this comprehension creates fertile ground for world-changing, sustainability-oriented praxis.


What is critical social theory? What are the central lines of thought and analysis that comprise CST? In the interest of space and time, I will refrain from offering a detailed history of CST, in depth discussion of individual theorists, or comparison/contrast among various strands of this school of thought. Other texts offer more in-depth overviews that are useful in this regard (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998, chap. 11; Held, 1980; Morrow & Brown, 1994). Instead, I will only outline the central premises of CST in order to reveal its orientation toward justice and its applicability to sustainabilityoriented education and action. According to Bentz and Shapiro (1998), [CST] attempt[s] to understand, analyze, criticize, and alter social, economic, cultural, technological, and psychological structures and phenomena that have features of oppression, domination, exploitation, injustice, and misery. They do so with a view to changing or eliminating these structures and phenomena and expanding the scope of freedom, justice, and happiness. The assumption is that this knowledge will be used in the process of social change by people to whom understanding their situation is crucial in changing it (p. 146). In CST, context is of the utmost importance in understanding and transforming social systems (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998, p. 146). CST involves systems thinking. It “asks how the larger social system manifests itself in and reproduces itself through … individual phenomen[a], while asking what the phenomen[a] add to the social system (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998, p. 147). In CST analyses, systems are historically situated and can only be grasped as products of and active agents within particular histories. CST draws upon the concept of dialectic developed by Marx and Hegel in that it calls for analyses of historical phenomena, both small and large scale, in terms of their internal contradictions. CST also engages in immanent critique and ideology critique. In immanent critique, institutions and societies are analyzed according to their ability to keep their word. If a society claims to be “free,” for example, one could use immanent critique as a means to determine the extent to which that society lives up to its own conception of freedom. Immanent critique uses the society’s or institution’s own standards as the measure of success rather than critiquing the institution or society from the outside. For example, the American civil rights movement effectively demonstrated, among many other things, that the nation was not living up to widely supported ideals of equal treatment and protection under the law and equal access for all citizens to participate in democratic governance. Ideology critique is similar to immanent critique in that it deals with rhetorical contradictions. Ideology critique of a society or institution focuses on contradictions between official stories (ideologies) and realities. The widely believed notion that anyone in the United States has real potential to live the “American dream” serves as a good example of an “official story” that could be a focus for ideology critique. In probing this notion, one could ask both how and why the American dream became a widely held notion as well as how and why the story of the American dream differs from the lived experience of many Americans (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998, pp. 147-148). A central premise of CST is that a more just world is an intrinsically valuable goal for human societies, and a more just world would be one in which unequal power relationships that result in domination and oppression were continually reduced, and ultimately eliminated (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998, p. 146; Freire, 1970/2000, chap. 1). According to critical social theorists, we


must work to uncover, critique, and engage in praxis to eliminate relationships of domination and oppression. This work is necessary precisely because domination is at the heart of all social injustice (Freire, 1970/2000). It is the powerful who have used their power to entrench and further increase their wealth and control at the expense of others who suffer unjustly. The ultimate goal of CST is widespread praxis, ultimately resulting in liberation of the oppressed and also of the oppressors (Freire, 1970/2000, p. 88; Morrow & Brown, 1994, p. 158). The freedom experienced in such a world would be both negative (freedom from) and positive (presence of opportunity). CST strives toward freedom from the heavy burdens and constraints of oppression and freedom to realize one’s humanity in healthy, mutual relationship with others. Both of these freedoms are heavily constrained within the globalized, industrial, capitalist paradigm. The collectively violent (Summers & Markusen, 1992/2003, p. 215) principles upon which the paradigm operates systematically concentrate wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands while also extending and deepening dependence upon the system (Miller, 1999). Early CST, with its roots in Marxist analysis, had a great deal to say about society and economy and very little to say about the human relationship to nature. As sustainability-oriented theorists, educators, and activists are coming to see with increasing clarity that oppression of people and domination and destruction of nature are two sides of one coin representing the same exploitive values and practices, CST-oriented analysis is being extended to include the human relationship with the environment (Gruenewald, 2003; Leonardo, 2004; O’Connor, 1991/2008). This more inclusive analysis of domination and oppression is not entirely new (Marcuse, 1972/2008), but the CST emphasis on socio-ecological critique has only recently been gaining strength (Merchant, 1999, 2008). I will discuss below the relevance of this integrated critique to justice and sustainability. Why is CST perhaps even more personally and institutionally challenging than other modes of social critique? Dealing as it does with hegemony, CST admits that we have been deceived by powerful vested interests – and that we deceive ourselves and others – about deeply important things, that some important hopes and beliefs about our culture, our nation, and the workings of the world are built upon falsehoods. And some of the deceptions give rise to alluring and comforting fables in the form of official stories of our institutions and societies: • • • • • • •

That we and our dominant Western culture are on a linear and upward path to an ever growing economy and improved knowledge and material wellbeing (and the corollary belief that all pre-modern and non-modern societies were/are lesser, backward, ignorant), That we live in the best of all possible worlds, That we as free people collectively chose our current reality because it was the best choice possible, That we moderns are freer than any other people has ever been, That we live in a meritocracy rather than a class based society, That our people and nation behave justly toward our own citizens and toward citizens of other nations, That everyone in the world wants to (and should want to) be just like us (and the corollary that those who are not like us are somehow inherently defective) (Bennet, 2007; Clark, 2005; Jarecki, 2006; Spretnak, 1997).


Gramsci (1971/1999) reminds us that hegemony is a system characterized by domination and oppression within which the oppressed assume the values and worldview of their oppressors and, thereby, engage in their own oppression (pp. 57-58; Persaud, 2001, p. 37). Social systems that effectively perpetuate hegemony succeed in creating illusions of freedom and choice along with fables that become so deeply interwoven within the social fabric of a nation, a people, a culture that to unravel the rotten threads would threaten the very integrity of the fabric itself. Successfully hegemonic systems also imperceptibly require their individual constituents to weave threads of deception into their own identities so that a threat to hegemony is perceived as a threat to personal integrity. Therefore, if taken seriously, a CST-based critique calls for a rather painful assessment of what lurks behind the beautiful façade of our culture as well as an assessment of the shadow parts of ourselves that articulate with oppression. This hegemonic framework, within which we in modern Western societies are daily immersed (Marcuse, 1964; Spretnak, 1997, chap. 2-3 and appendix), serves as a genesis point for questions about the utility of CST as a lens for analysis and a vehicle for praxis toward sustainability. It seems to me quite natural that the kind of deeply probing analysis generated by CST-based inquiry would lead to deeply disquieting emotions: a sense of betrayal, guilt, sadness, rage (Bennet, 2007; Clark, 2005; Jensen, 2004; Jarecki, 2006). Such emotional awakenings can prompt us to ask: isn’t CST too depressing, too incapable of inspiring and motivating for change, and just too uncomfortable to be worth it? It also seems quite natural that some students would push back against CST-based analysis in a somewhat kneejerk fashion because it directly challenges the “common sense” of the capitalist system that many of us in industrial societies have absorbed uncritically. In a hegemonic society, we are also told we must think positively. In fact, the idea that everything is fine in our world if we only choose to see it this way has become axiomatic in our culture (Ehrenreich, 2009). As much as positive thinking can provide an emotional boost and contribute to personal well-being, thereby helping us to create positive change, when divorced from the full complexity of the problems of the world, it can lull us into passivity as we gloss over systemic sources of domination and oppression and misapprehend their depth and tenacity. In no case is positive thinking alone a substitute for an honest analysis of the societal powers and structures that gravely threaten us all, nor is it a substitute for well-informed action. In my own experience as a sustainability educator, I have noted that many people are particularly uncomfortable with CST-based critiques, even when they may be quite comfortable with other forms of sweeping cultural critique of modernity. Deep ecology and ecopsychology represent two such deeply critical theoretical frameworks. Theorists of these schools critique: • • • • • •

Modern societies’ disconnection from nature (Devall,1980/2008; Rosak, 1995; Merchant, 2008, chap. 11-12; Nǽs,1973/2008); Consumerism and modern, capitalist growth economies (Durning, 1995); Anthropocentrism (Devall,1980/2008; Nǽs,1973/2008); Oppression of both females and nature (Gomes & Kanner, 1995); Violence done to the human psyche through the process of rending it away from nature (Shepard, 1995); and Grief generated by living within and participating in ecologically destructive societies (Windle, 1995).


Some conservation biologists also critique our modern economies and our ways of living on the land (Callicott & Mumford, 1997). These are deep and useful critiques indeed, but they differ from CST in that most do not employ an integrated and deep critique of both the political economy and the culture that foster domination and oppression. Such a deep and comprehensive critique is vital to understanding unsustainability, and CST offers us precisely this. It can, therefore, serve as a central framework for drawing upon and integrating other forms of social critique in an effort to comprehend and address unsustainability. The comprehensive nature of CST-based critique, combined with its explicit call to action, lead those who listen to confront the oppression of the status quo and to consider options for social transformation. Systems theory is another school of thought that has many adherents among sustainability advocates, but the works of some systems theorists offer little direct critique of society. Such works typically emphasize comprehending the organization and dynamics of systems of all kinds -- from ecological systems to social systems (Folke, Hahn, Olsson, & Norberg, 2005; Laszlo, 2006). Systems theory encompasses systems of all scales and scopes (Laszlo, 2006, pp. 89-109). The theory conveys important insights into how systems of all kinds may embody emergent properties and possibilities that are characteristic of systems as wholes – offering us a means of understanding why an entire system really is more than the sum of its parts. But in focusing on the overarching aspects of systems, the theory can gloss over a crucial aspect of human social systems: that they are historical and, therefore, products of both nature and human agency. Detailed explanations of principles of system functioning can impart an almost autonomous quality to systems, as though emergence and other forms of system change operate outside human history -- only minimally, if at all, influenced by human choice and action. Direct critique of the uses and abuses of social power can slip into the background, as can discussion of human agency. Systems theory-based explanation that does not directly engage critique of social domination and oppression can only superficially inform action in service to socio-ecological justice, especially when the level of social analysis remains general and inconcrete. A systems theory approach to explaining reality that is not situated within a historical context that emphasizes the role of human agency can also offer everyone a way out of recognizing how their own beliefs and actions contribute to the problems of our world today. Such theory is unlikely to be challenged by the powerful or to make anyone uncomfortable since it does not necessarily call upon us to do anything specific to upset existing power relationships or to otherwise shape our future. By contrast, CST-based analysis recognizes that social change is a political process and makes an explicit call to agency. Those who critique broad social phenomena, but who stop short of implicating anyone or anything in particular as generative of these phenomena, mystify the sources of unsustainable living. Such an approach to critique can broaden the audience willing to listen, but it can also obscure effective paths to action. CST clearly indicts privilege acquired through oppression and domination and, therefore, carries guilt as baggage. All who profit through the suffering of others and the destruction of the environment are implicated. It is for this reason that CST can be a particularly challenging form of critique for those who live in hegemonic cultures where ideology and reality exist in contradiction to one another. It seems natural in a hegemonic culture to feel that there must be something wrong with critique that questions the very foundations and organization of society. Such critique, after all, is -- and explicitly aims to be -- destabilizing in that its ultimate goal is the remaking of society itself. Because of its challenge to hegemony and the self-incrimination implicit in taking CST critiques to heart, I believe CST can serve as a


highly useful lens for critique and a foundation for action in service to sustainability. I will explore the reasons for this belief below. Why is CST particularly important to sustainability education at the college level? In sustainability education, critique of domination – whether it is domination of humans by other humans or of humans over nature – is essential to our understanding and acting to remedy unsustainability. Such critique is essential because it opens a window to recognizing and addressing structures and systems of social power that benefit and entrench the powerful at the expense of the oppressed. CST helps us to recognize the driving forces behind human oppression of nature and each other. The modern Western consciousness abstracts humans from nature. The divide itself is not only a division into two, it is a tiered dualism: humans on top, nature acting in all supporting roles (as tool, as resource, as setting). The subjugated “other,” first conceptualized as nature itself, is born with this divide. And there have been many “others” as systems of hierarchy have proliferated to encompass gender, “races,” non-Western cultures, and more. Cultural systems of hierarchy in Western societies and the projection of a hierarchical worldview upon nature itself surely are among the keystone concepts upholding the house of cards that is the unsustainable, globalized, industrial world. If hierarchy and domination are among the key sources for unsustainability, then creating more just systems of social power is central to realizing sustainability. A CST-based critique of unequal power and the systems of domination that arise out of concentrated power and wealth can serve important purposes for generating vision and action to (re)create more sustainable societies. It is important that we come to terms with the kind of indictment CST aims at modern, industrial society – and at all of us who (more or less willingly) both empower and benefit from that society while also suffering its dehumanizing effects. For individuals, the indictment hinges upon collusion with power. In exploring how this collusion manifests, it is helpful to consider the concept of collective violence. According to Summers and Markusen (1992/2003), many institutions of modern industrial society promote and promulgate collective violence. These authors define collective violence as large scale damage or destruction of people and/or the environment perpetrated by large numbers of people (p. 215). According to this definition, the political economy of limitless, global, capitalist growth is most certainly collectively violent, as are many industries, companies, governments, and other institutions. This is not to say that many of these institutions have no beneficent goals or effects – many of them do – but it is important to recognize that the powerful, both at the individual and the institutional level, oppress the less powerful, even when this oppression is not explicitly intentional or precisely targeted. The very presence of the powerful, living a differential life of comparative privilege to the oppressed and doing the everyday things that seem normal to them, results in oppression (McIntosh, 1988). The oppressed are quite aware of the difference between the lives they live and those lived by people of comparative privilege, while the privilege bestowed upon the comparatively powerful tends to remain invisible to the privileged themselves. For the comparatively powerful, waking up to the existence of this privilege -- and the price paid for it by those who are oppressed -- can be deeply disturbing. For those of us who are middle and upper class, I believe it is an important and humbling source of learning to experience selfincrimination through recognition of our participation in collective violence and though


recognition of the ways we benefit from collectively violent systems. I believe a brief story will illustrate my point. I recall many years ago when I first saw the film The Color of Fear (Lee, 1994) which documents discussions about racism conducted among middle-aged men in the United States. There was one realization that struck me particularly deeply upon listening to what these men had to say about their daily life experiences: the minority men thought of themselves first as members of a particular ethnic group, then as male Americans. A white man thought of himself as just a man, a generic man, not a member of any ethnic group at all. His race was invisible to him because he did not have to consider how it might affect his day to day life, how it might affect his opportunities, or how it might influence the way he would be treated by others. I realized that, as a white woman, I had experienced these same privileges without even knowing that they were anything special, that I had experienced a level of comfort that many others might never be able to take for granted. I felt incredibly indicted and so stupid! How could I have been so naïve, so insensitive, so completely oblivious? I had understood quite a bit about how people of other races in my society can be systematically disadvantaged (and how women can be disadvantaged compared to men as well), but I had not clearly recognized my own advantage as directly contributing to the oppression of minorities in my society. My life had seemed just “regular,” “normal.” I believe this rather painful learning experience opened new potential for “cognitive liberation” for me. According to Taylor (2000), Cognitive liberation occurs when (a) the system people once trusted loses legitimacy, (b) people who are ordinarily fatalistic begin to demand social change, and (c) people find and exercise a new sense of political efficacy (p. 520). The experience certainly further awakened my sense of agency and deepened my distrust in the dominant ideology with regard to race. I would never have learned the powerful and humbling lesson that I did about white privilege in my society if I had not been willing to engage with the intellectual and emotional discomfort inherent in the indictment of my own oblivion. None among us, privileged or no, can completely understand the lifeworlds of others, but I do believe that being on the receiving end of the incrimination of CST-based critique can lead to moments of powerful cognition and help develop deep humility and empathy among those who are willing to sit with such critique, take it seriously, and weave it into the fabric of their lives. For those of us who live in comparative privilege, the experience of indictment for our own participation in collectively violent systems of domination and oppression is nothing compared to the oppression and abuse of those overtly oppressed under modern, globalized capitalism. If we are to develop empathy – a feeling of compassion based on understanding – as opposed to sympathy – feeling sorry but without any clear understanding of the experiences others, or the causes of those experiences – we should be able to endure at least these points of painful growth through critical reflection. I would call this experience a version of Freirian (re)naming the world, a form of “conscientization” (Freire, 1970/2000) that can serve to ignite agency. In my personal experience, moments of cognition that lead to cognitive liberation often occur in tandem with negative emotions such as revulsion. Revulsion can be generated through the kind of deeply and broadly systemic critique embodied in CST. Many of us need to experience such deep negative emotion in order to move out of well-worn paths and toward deep and challenging change. Revulsion can occur as a result of demystifying the commodity


fetishism that dominates many of our day to day interactions with the world because the demystification itself encompasses the indictment of all participants in the exploitive system that is modern, corporate capitalism and the global growth economy. Revulsion can be generated through critique precisely through pinpointing and magnifying the contradiction between the rhetoric and the actual practices of our culture (Jensen, 2004; Shawn, 1991). The resulting discordance incites motive to resolve and reintegrate one’s worldview and actions. Fragmentation of self through compartmentalization and isolation of negative past experiences or through attempts to wall off parts of our “shadow” selves -- which we might wish were not parts of us at all -- results in neuroses such as anxiety, depression, and inability to grow spiritually, emotionally, and/or intellectually. When we lie to ourselves about or refuse to think about our own participation in the widespread collective violence of our modern society, we may develop these same neuroses. Dissociation, rationalization after the fact, and compartmentalization of different aspects of our lives such as work and home life represent a few of the coping mechanisms that allow us to deal with gaps between what we believe and what we do (Summers &Markusen, 1992/2003). And so, the slave owner may be kind, gentle, and fair to his family; the defense plant worker may refuse to think about how her work contributes to civilian deaths in other nations; and the one who drops the bomb may say that someone else would have done it if he had not. According to Summers and Markusen (1992/2003), many people engage in selffragmenting behavior and work in the process of focusing on personal benefit: prestige, financial rewards, the promise of challenging and interesting work, the ability to deliver their loved ones “the good life,” or even simple survival. In order to integrate ourselves and experience personal coherence, I believe we must recognize the webs within which we are entangled that limit our options for action (Marcuse, 1964). We must learn to do the best we can in full consciousness of the complexity and undesirability of our current global situation. Since we have become so dependent on unhealthy social systems, it will be difficult to extract ourselves from these systems and create alternatives. Our very dependency upon unhealthy systems to provide us with the necessities of life translates into very real and immediate consequences for those who would resist or dismantle these systems. We are in fact dependent upon the very social, economic, and political systems that CST critiques, and this dependence is impeding the long term survivability of our culture and even our species, not to mention quality of life and survivability for other species. Becoming aware of our own entrapment is a painful experience but, I believe, a potentially powerful one that can awaken agency. CST is a particularly useful tool for recognizing the fragmenting contradictions in both our social world and our inner life that stem from domination and oppression. Those of us convinced of the truth of CST critique are faced with a choice: we can suppress or compartmentalize what we have learned and live with the self fragmentation that results, or we can begin to integrate what we have learned into our knowledge base and actions and thereby hope to achieve personal coherence. The learning process that results from engaging with CST-based critique mirrors Mezirow’s transformative learning theory that hinges upon the importance of adults working through “disorienting dilemmas” (Mezirow & Assoc., 2000). It also corresponds well with Brookfield’s (1987, 2000) discussion of transformational learning that can result from critical thinking. It is important to note that Brookfield’s definition of “critical” derives directly from CST (2000, pp. 126-128). Since sustainability calls for healthy (and therefore integrated) individuals as well as social and ecological systems characterized by healthy relationships, the


call to resolve contradictions, such as that between what we believe and what we do, represents important impetus toward sustainability. This call is embodied in CST, the transformative learning theory of Mezirow (2000), and the critical thinking theory of Brookfield (1987, 2000). The call for coherence of self is also present in Terry’s (1993) theory of leadership. According to Terry, understanding – and wanting to understand -- “what’s really going on” create the foundation for authentic leadership. For Terry (1993), authentic leaders are selfcompelled to engage in action that resonates with their conception of the world as it is and as it should be (pp. 110, 128). Such action further deepens the authenticity of one’s presence in the world. It is therefore important for authentic leaders to attain the political clarity of which both Terry (p. xvii) and Freire (1970/2000) speak so that they can act within a framework of understanding “what’s really going on.” Terry (1993) contrasts inauthenticity in action with authentic engagement in the world: To be involved inauthentically is to feel cheated and manipulated. The alienated feel that they have no power; the inauthentic feel they have pulled a disconnected lever without quite knowing where and how, so that shadows are confused with reality (p. 113). By contrast, authentic leaders live in response to their own sense of political clarity in service to a vision for a better world. According to Terry, “Authenticity entails action that is both true and real in ourselves and the world” (pp. 111-112; emphasis in original); authentic leadership entails living into being a transformed, just world. Terry’s theory of authentic leadership rests heavily upon a critique of domination that parallels CST, transformative learning theory as developed by Mezirow and others (2000), and the critical thinking theory of Brookfield (1987, 2000). This set of related theories provides us with important lenses for comprehending unsustainability, and the insights we gain from examining our world and ourselves through these lenses can help us to create a framework upon which sustainability might be constructed. Proposing alternatives without an in-depth critique of power relations can lead to simplistic or superficial attempts at change that leave the underlying power structures intact and, therefore, change very little in the long term. Through combining an educational process oriented toward social critique with action based on that critique, we might engage in more well-conceived praxis. CST and related theories of education and leadership offer important lenses for social critique highly relevant to sustainability. Based as it is on a critique of domination and oppression, CST addresses perhaps the most important sources of unsustainability. Clearly, CST can help us analyze what is wrong in modern societies, but how useful is CST in actually helping to resolve the problems it identifies? I now turn to a discussion of the utility of CST to sustainable social transformation. What are the social alternatives implied in CST? Critical theorists do not generally prescribe precisely what a more just world would look like and how it would function. Instead, critical theorists tend to focus on critique. At the end of his One-Dimensional Man (1964, pp. 256-257), Marcuse explains what he calls the “great refusal.” He offers no clear answer to domination and oppression, but he claims that refusal to play the game, refusal to fit one’s life to hegemonic realities, may signal the beginning of the end


of the current paradigm. I believe the great refusal still is not happening to the extent necessary for radical social change – even though 46 years have passed since Marcuse wrote this work. Engaging in the great refusal, I believe, is often misinterpreted as inaction because to refuse is seen as not constructive -- constructive in the sense of actually building something. I would say that engaging in the great refusal is constructive. It means living a coherent life by refusing to collude with power in order to benefit personally at the expense of others. Living this refusal implies taking an unusual path in life by building a lifeworld that lives into being an alternative worldview. In living such a life, one is telling a powerful story to others who may be inspired to also engage in the great refusal. Those who refuse to fit themselves to the current paradigm are likely to build relationships among themselves and to create ways of living that embody the refusal. Therefore, alternatives to oppressive hegemony are in part present in the critique. Perhaps many critics of the utility of CST do not recognize this presence because they see the alternatives as unrealistic or because they are used to going with the flow within authoritarian structures of leadership. Individuals acculturated to hierarchy may think they need someone to tell them exactly what to do since they do not recognize their potential to assume responsibility for charting their own course. Since part of the CST critique is a critique of hierarchy, CST-inspired change calls upon people to resist hegemony and, therefore, to work in ways that may seem unnatural to them. In their ethnography of working class males in the United States titled The Hidden Injuries of Class (1972, chap.1), Sennett and Cobb argue that working class people in modern day America can generate critique but feel unworthy of acting upon their critiques because they do not have “badges of ability” such as academic degrees and titles that convey expertise and authority. Their study highlights the importance of demystifying leadership in order to awaken agency. In the modern world of corporate capitalism, “leaders” who possess badges of ability are also most often the hegemons of the current paradigm – those who have been afforded access to power and education throughout their lives. Studying corrupt leadership in the corporate and political spheres -- especially how the leaders in these two realms of society shuffle back and forth between the two in order to serve their own and their friends’ interests -- demonstrates that leaders often do not merit their elevated status (Achebar & Simpson, 2004; Barlow and Clarke, 2002; Black, 2001; Clark, 2005; Gelbspan, 2004; International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, 2003). By studying and critiquing leadership themes and patterns of the current paradigm, we can learn that we had best not passively place our futures in the self-interested hands of today’s leaders. Leadership demystified can awaken agency toward justice and sustainability. Being creatures of our particular history, acculturated within late capitalism, creating vision and embodying action for a sustainable future are very big challenges. Living into being new leadership models for a more just and sustainable future is challenging because we cannot rely upon the leaders and leadership models we know best. These leaders and models are, in many cases, part and parcel of current unjust and unsustainable systems. We have to envision the alternatives ourselves in a world where appropriate individual and community models have been largely obliterated. Still, there are people trying to do just this (Armstrong, 1995; Kemmis, 1990; Kovel, 2002; Martinez, 1997). None of the solutions within the current system can be the entire answer because the system itself is unjust. The potential complete meltdown of our global economy (Clark, 2005) may bring the conditions for real social change, but absent a political


analysis of global capitalism, we may act to resurrect, at least to the extent possible, the kind of systems that we have been led to believe comprise the best of all possible worlds. The struggle implied by CST is rooted in agency. It is always historical. The struggle manifests in history in ways that respond to the circumstances at hand; and, therefore, its particular form is always contingent. I believe we are only now approaching a historical moment when large numbers of people might engage at once in a great refusal. Given our personal histories and the form and function of the world that we have inherited, characterized as it is by entrenched and self-perpetuating systems of domination and oppression that enforce dependency, we may be ill-prepared for the challenge of remaking societies that are just and sustainable. It seems to me unfair in such a world to expect any particular critic to hand us the answers to intractable socio-ecological problems. It seems to me that all of us have to create the answers together, in full recognition that each of us will have only partial insights, visions, and abilities to contribute to this project. Since CST highlights the systemic problems of domination and oppression that are deeply causal to unsustainability, it can serve us well in the process of creating a sustainable future. Conclusions In higher education settings, CST-based pedagogy combined with service learning represents one important means to generate agency and long term commitment to that agency among students. A lengthy immersion into CST -- combined with action projects that begin to create alternatives to the systems critiqued -- offers a good place to begin a process of deep social change. Treating students as though they can handle learning about and beginning to address the problems of late capitalism may also contribute to their believing they can have an effect in creating more just and sustainable societies -- and to their acting on this belief. 1


This article represents the theoretical framing for the pedagogical approach I take in a number of my courses, including End of Oil (http://faculty.fortlewis.edu/EVANS_T/), Culture and Place (co-developed and co-taught on different occasions with Kate Niles and Dennis Lum), The Value of Place (co-developed and co-taught with Kate Niles; http://faculty.fortlewis.edu/EVANS_T/place/s2006/), and Environment and Place (http://faculty.fortlewis.edu/EVANS_T/place/s2008/index.html). In nearly all sections of these courses that I have taught or co-taught, students have been called upon to engage in sustainability-oriented service learning projects and to reflect upon their actions within the context of course readings, films, and discussions as well as within the context of their own life experiences. Most of these service learning experiences have related to local, sustainable food production and consumption and have been part of a program I initiated called Food for Thought. See online course materials for details. My main web page (http://faculty.fortlewis.edu/EVANS_T/) generally provides access to versions of courses taught most recently. I am also working on my dissertation in which I articulate a theory of sustainability education praxis and provide examples of its application and of the perceptions of students who have engaged in it. This work will provide examples of some students who come to see CST critique as an effective motivation and context for sustainability-oriented action.


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Landscape Transitions: Integration of Pedagogical Approaches for Sustainability in Tropical American Mountain Communities Dustin A. Menhart and Fausto O. Sarmiento Geography Department University of Georgia Athens, GA USA mendust@uga.edu

Abstract Tropical mountain communities are susceptible to natural hazards due to severe local landscape features. In addition, their peripheral network of disaster mitigation can be meager leading to population loss, not only from the death toll of catastrophic episodes, but also, by overall attrition due to failing socioeconomic ventures that fuel emigration. For sustainable development, ecological risk must be overcome in order to reduce vulnerability associated with uncertain social, political, and economic futures, thereby achieving a sustainable level of risk that will permit communities to exist in the long term. Educational efforts should include different pedagogical approaches that will better aid environmental interpretation of land use management and technological implementation of land-hazard analysis. This is the best way to understand landscape transitions, from isolated, unstable economies into a linked global production systems. As previous environmental awareness fades, a new paradigm should include sustainability consciousness—from an economic and ecological perspective—as part of a trend towards securing a reliable and respectable future for mountain communities. Sustainability is a governmental responsibility that can be addressed through education of young generations that includes the promotion of policies which generate sustainable economic practices. Purely technological solutions to combat poverty may not provide long-term solutions if changes in attitude are not prompted at an early age in the schooling of mountain communities’ youth. Without sustainability education, the highland exodus towards the lowland plains will continue to rise. Keywords: Sustainability, landscape transition, hazard analysis, pedagogical approaches, tropical America.


Introduction Vulnerability to ecological risk continues to be a significant issue for communities in tropical American mountain areas, due in part to geomorphic, earth surface processes and associated management practices that continuously plague these communities with economic, social, and political strife (Alcántara-Ayala 2002; 2010). We evaluate the complex issues around the social, political and cultural paradigms that guide sustainable policy in mountain communities of tropical America. These concerns affect the livelihood of communities coping with steep, rugged terrain and the mass land-wasting movements on the hillsides. We will examine how ecological risk avoidance through sustainability education initiatives can reduce vulnerability and help mountain communities adapt as they move along the path of global environmental change. Vulnerability captures the notion of intrinsic threats felt by inhabitants of the communities living in the demanding terrain of mountainous regions of tropical America (Adger & Brown 2009). Many people in these regions feel susceptible to disaster from external social, political, and economic forces that arrive from outside their local sphere of influence and greatly increase their vulnerability to ecological risk. Some may argue that these outside forces arrive under the rubric of environmental determinism that is unavoidable in these kinds of extreme environments (Henderson 2009; Sarmiento 2010). This notion—that the physical environment governs human activities—makes the vagaries of weather and climate principal determinants of the fate of mountain villages. Under this rubric, communities are destined to feel trapped in determinism as they deal with uncertainty and ecological risk (Brown & Damery 2009). To combat the rather fatalistic approach to confronting risk offered by environmental determinism, educators should adopt a change in paradigm to the opposite view of possibilism. Tropical mountain communities are quite susceptible to all types of natural hazards due to active plate tectonics, climatic, and geomorphic features of the locale, including elevation, soil type, channelization, drainage, volcanic events, tremors and earthquakes, etc… (Figure 1). The vulnerability associated with the potential for these kinds of extreme environmental conditions brought on by drought, storms, mass wasting processes, earthquakes, and volcanic activities can be considered a principal driver for change in mountain communities (Mustafa 2009). However, as described by Sarmiento & Frolich (2002) in relation to the Andean tree line, several features of highland tropical mountains in the Americas have fuzzy boundaries between natural and anthropogenic. The ‘naturalness’ of the ecological risk is hence maximized when human drivers are included in the analysis. Furthermore, it is often easy to detect ecological risk on slopes where deforestation, trampling and road building have left their imprint (Myster & Sarmiento 1998) in a way that is easy to detect and map. Mapping for hazards thus becomes an important tool in the arsenal of risk prevention in tropical mountains. This kind of mapping then mitigates the disaster, suggests a reasonable response and helps reduce the force of vulnerability as a driver for community change (Harp et al., 2009; Harp et al., 2002). Land management and analysis (Ericksen et al., 2002), as well as sustainability and development for the mountain communities (Classen et al., 2008), all under human control, become more important elements. Maps also help communities understand ecological risk in the context of globalization of tropical American markets. They can even suggest alternate methods for revitalization and cultural affirmation. Teaching from maps is an invaluable strategy for visually grasping on complex issues. In


today’s world, with the ease of access to internet-based mapping utilities, modeling sustainable future scenarios must depend, in part, on quality usage of maps (Herb et al, 2009). Deforestation is another key reason why montane landscapes are vulnerable to the ‘natural disasters’ that continue to riddle both rural and urban mountain regions (Redo et al., 2009). Deforestation becomes apparent when forests are changed to another form of land cover and tree canopy level plummet below arboreal thresholds (Lambin et al., 2003), as illustrated by Redo et al. (2009) for Honduras, the poorest and most heavily forested (4,600,000-5,400,000 ha) country in Central America. Honduras and many other tropical American countries are hotspots of biodiversity and contain multiple ecological regions (Dettman 2006) that are sensitive to climate change, particularly in the cloud forest belt (Kappelle & Brown 2001). Incorporating mountain protected areas is important when trying to conserve biodiversity, thereby influencing policy and management (Zimmerer 2009) of shifting mosaics leading to positive change in landscapes affected by ecological risk. The implementation of mountain protected areas should take into consideration the “4 Rs” of the restoration ecology strategy: 1) to reclaim previously forested slopes, 2) to recover derelict lands, 3) to revegetate denudated slopes, and 4) to rehabilitate environmental services affected by continued disturbance or isolated disaster (Sarmiento 2000) . Through constructs like mountain protected areas, land use transition becomes an important function of political behavior, especially important in countries with volatile governments. When addressing these sensitive subjects of sustainable land management the key is to develop strategies that adequately foster and preserve the landscape and its livelihood (Ericksen et al., 2002) including mountain protected areas, buffer areas and rural farmscapes at large. Land hazard analysis as an educational tool For tropical America to provide protection and security to its mountain communities, governments will have to provide analysis of hazards that directly affect them in their mountain protected areas and at the local scale. Sustainable education modules should exhibit results of these analyses to make them usable for local population engaged in capacity building exercises. The pedagogical approaches, tested since ancient times to effectively build the capacity for enduring performance, are still a valuable tool for achieving sustainability, whether this be Egyptian (Ptolemaic approach with books), Greek (Aristotelian lectures, Socratic questioning or Platonic contemplation), Hebrew (Parabolic allegories), Roman (Deipnosophists conversations), Latino (satisfying sweat equity) or Native American (traditional knowledge). All of these approaches, working in tandem, can and should help illustrate and promote sustainability scenarios (Table 1). The tropical American montane region is prone to environmental hazards that directly affect community livelihoods. One such hazard is mass movements and hill slope wasting, including rockslide, landslides, mudflows, lahars, floods, etc. Accurate and timely information through the use of Digital Elevation Models (DEM) and Geographical Information Science (GISc) produces cartographic outputs that can depict mass land movement scenarios. Using this kind of mapping technology, people can be engaged in learning disaster avoidance and mitigation, risk preparedness and overall awareness about a potential ecological risk. Much work has been completed since the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch brutally swept through the landscape showing no mercy for the people of Tegucigalpa and many other urban and rural communities surrounding the impact area (Harp et al.; 2009; Devoli et al., 2007; O’Hare et al.,


2005; USGS, 2004; Harp et al., 2002). Progress has been made in implementing a landslidehazard assessment program that will allow for much more rapid response (Harp et al., 2009; Harp et al., 2002) and also secure sustainability for the mountain communities in the Mitch region. A landslide-hazard management program not only saves lives but it also allows the country to eliminate costly recoveries, ultimately saving millions of dollars that could be used revitalizing the economy of the country. Although many kinds of natural disasters affect tropical mountain communities, educational incorporation of land management analysis is probably the single most important component for decreasing the sense of vulnerability and environmental determinism that ensues from facing the ecological risk associated with disaster. One of the main reasons Hurricane Mitch and other natural disasters have such great affect in Honduras and adjacent countries, is the severe topography and rugged terrain of the region (Harp et al., 2009; Harp et al., 2002). The art and science behind understanding landslide processes (USGS 2004) needs to be captured before identifying an appropriate management approach. The term “landslide” describes many processes that produce outward and downward movement of slope-materials including; rock, colluvium, soil, alluvium or a combination of these (USGS 2004) in the presence of water (alluvial mudslide) or without it (scree, rockslide). According to Harp et al. (2009, 2002) rainfall from Hurricane Mitch in Tegucigalpa totaled more than 281 mm/year, which was more than three times the amount of rainfall received from past hurricanes “Gert” and “Fifi”. Hurricane Mitch triggered more than 200 landslides in and around Tegucigalpa (Harp et al., 2009; Harp et al., 2002) which can be used as indicators to determine the least stable slopes (Figure 2). Another methodology for indicating landslide susceptibility assessment was performed by Guinau et al. (2005) suggesting that landslide mapping is critical in determining instability factors of the landscape, such as slope and aspect. Guinau et al. (2005) also stated that performing comparison analysis between instability factors and zones of failure would provide appropriate data to determine future disasters. By utilizing hazardous map analysis for landslides, tropical American countries like Honduras can educate their people on proper management and land zoning practices for building and construction purposes (Ericksen et al., 2002). Landslide mapping for hazards is a valuable tool for future land use planning and emergency preparedness, as was proven with the work of Hall et al (1999) and their mapping of volcanic risk of Mount Tungurahua in Ecuador. Manuel Guariguata (1990) showed that the method is also valid for assessing forest regeneration and understanding the response of the ecosystem to heterogeneous, periodical occurrence. Using these categorical maps will benefit the government in deciding how to invest time and resources for future generations to alleviate ecological risk associated with environmental hazards.


Figure 2 Inventory of landslides triggered by Hurricane Mitch in Tegucigalpa, Honduras (SOURCE: E.L. Harp et al., 2009; E.L. Harp et al., 2002)

Sustainability Sustainable development horizons have been an extremely painful experience for the people of tropical America, especially when considering social and political agendas. One of the reasons that sustainability has been such an issue is because of enduring climatic and environmental extremes in tropical mountain regions. It is certain that Honduras will have disastrous weather and damage due to the ill effects of climatic conditions in the future. Another vulnerability factor that impedes development is the economic struggle that poor mountain peoples continuously face (Carter et al., 2007; Morris et al., 2002). Whether it is land issues, social reform, inequalities, or a combination thereof, impoverished communities cannot seem to forge ahead.


Sustainability is a way to meet the needs of people and their environment that captures the essence of well-being without harming ecological reliability in the future (Mansfield 2009). Sustainability also provides the socioeconomic capacity to solve political problems related to the mountain environment. One way to incorporate sustainability and development objectives is by implementing strategies and policies that protect valuable natural resources in tropical countries. Honduras has been able to take advantage of this concept by integrating the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) into national policy (Dettman, 2006) as an exemplar of a “bioregional planning process�. The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (Figure 3) has two major goals: preserving biodiversity through connected protected areas and supporting sustainable economic development (Dettman 2006).

Figure 3 Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Adapted from Dettman 2006. Many different factors need to be engaged in managing and sustaining the corridor areas. It will continue to be a challenging road ahead administering a system as complicated as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, which connects across eight countries, each with contrasting views and policies, while at the same time encouraging local economic development (Dettman, 2006). On a global scale, the planning of sustainability becomes critical relative to the particular path of development that is chosen (Cortese 2003) whereas education preserves the notion that environmental issues are not just linked to the capitalist markets, but that they provide solutions to injustice, inequality, poverty, and land degradation (Mansfield 2009). Landscape Transition Past environmental education campaigns were geared towards the awareness of the physical impacts on natural elements such as flora and fauna. While biodiversity of wild places became the paradigm for protection and ecology became the science of the interaction of the elements in the ecosystem, new developments are now in place. Currently, sustainability education incorporates intangibles associated with the cultural landscape, including people’s livelihood, potential cultural reaffirmation, ecological risk and even resource distribution and


technology. This makes Political Ecology the science of decision making for how elements are allowed to interact in the ecosystem. In tropical mountains, examples include the notion that rain forests are the least productive agricultural landscape. And valleys should be destined to pastureland or urbanization, because slope lands with forests are abandoned due to neglect. With the use of statistics-based geographic tools, Monroe and Miller (2007), landscape analysis techniques are becoming popular for their ability to investigate future risks associated with a particular landscape transition, such as forest clearing (Figure 4).

Figure 4 (Source Munroe and Miller, 2007) Estimated areas at risk of forest clearing Pfeffer and others (2005) argue that there is competing demand for land use with increasing population in Honduras, along with the governmental efforts to conserve natural resources. A case study of the Cerro Azul Meambar National Park (CAMNP) by the Honduran government looked into different land use initiatives that dealt with certain restrictions on resource use of people living inside park boundaries (Pfeffer et al., 2005). As seen in the diagram below (Figure 5), there are six major catchment areas within CAMPN that are of great interest to the Honduran government because of their economic and political importance (Pfeffer et al., 2005).


Figure 5 (Source Pfeffer et al., 2005) CAMNP and classification by degree of slope Because of the steep slopes and the terrain of the park, agricultural opportunities are significantly lowered and trying to plow the land is difficult (Pfeffer et al., 2005). Many different techniques and patterns of land have been identified. However, the local population and their educational formation, is the one driver that has to be maintained or controlled if Honduras will be successful in implementing management policies quality land use into the future (Kok 2004).


Pedagogical approaches It is useful to have access to geographic tools and techniques for land analysis and, and thereby prepare maps of ecological risk to be used as didactic materials. However, the level of affluence in school systems and among families living in the mountain communities rarely allows for access to these techniques and tools. Therefore, traditional educational approaches have to be considered before implementing a change in educational paradigm that incorporates sustainability in such a way that learning outcomes can be incorporated into daily teaching practices in mountainous areas. We propose that professors and other professionals working in tropical mountain communities should use at least four of the following nine pedagogical approaches to affect positive change in the attitude of students learning about their future: Aristotelian method: New lectures on recent discoveries or changes in the curriculum should be impacted by the teachers as the new information becomes available, hence, updating and optimizing the repertoire of class materials towards sustainability. Socratic method: Questions about the environment and the mountain livelihood should be enunciated to initiate a debate of facts and opinions prevalent in the communities affected by risk. By providing feedback to students’ questions, the teachers will likely increase their own understanding of the vulnerability of the site and this, in turn, will prompt new information flow. Platonic method: There must be a level of commitment with either the study area or with the subject matter that brings the educational process to an evocative, personal level, requiring each student to identify and care for it with enthusiasm, respect, even love, for only when you love your place you will care for the long-term maintenance or transcend into improving the future. Ptolemaic method: The passion for reading and learning from accumulated pages of references, encyclopedias, dictionaries, textbooks or any other trusty source of information on environmental topics that should be used to create a library for communal use, allowing access to published materials and developing the habit of assiduous readership. Melchizedekian method: The decisions that students must take from the rush of uncertain outcomes appear without planning, as if they were destined to happen, often, guided by omens that motivate the next step. Uncertain outcomes help affirm convictions that prompt dialectic understanding of the choices at hand, making sustainability a reflection of consumerism by maintenance instead of by growth rate. Parableic method: Students should be exposed to stories that compel by comparison with current environmental problems, such as, allegories of far-reaching destinations, or fables of mythical heroes for environmental amelioration. These tales that illustrate, by local example, inspire spiritual connections with the mountain landscapes. Deipnosophist method: The fact that the body nurtures the mind should be taken as an opportunity to have conversations and other didactic moments at the table with students, whether in breakfast meetings, lunch sessions, mid-afternoon breaks or traditional dinners, where learning about sustainable futures is done with fun debates, happy overtones and nutritious food. Latino method: Applying the admirable endurance of hard working peers, liberal thinkers, and questioning students can be asked to go an extra mile in hands-on assignments, group-based


skits, and mock presentations about environmental issues affecting the community. These presentations, above and beyond the call of duty, form a lasting impression and meet a viable learning outcome, easy to remember and retell to others. Native American method: Making the effort to learn through the realization of mistakes in ceremony, storytelling and song, or the sheer learning of making hunting mistakes so students will not do them in the real world, often following the advice of mothers or wise men clues, observing clues that could provide inspiration in pursuing new options to cope with situations that the elders could not readily identify in the environment.



Description target




Lecturing to an attentive crowd

Formal classroom lectures and speakers



Questioning to the naĂŻve crowd

Debates and discussions, colloquia



Contemplating the affectionate crowd

Poetry assignments, art contests



Reading to the illiterate crowd

Library searches, librarian talks



Conjuring the superstitious crowd

Storytelling, tricks, prestidigitation


Jesus of Nazareth

Parableing the religious crowd

Storytelling, fable reading, show-andtell



Deipnosophisting the hungry crowd

Lively conversations around a meal


AndrĂŠs Bello

Enduring the tireless Effort and sweat equity in crowd educational tasks

Native American

Rainbow Eagle

Fableing the younger crowd


Song and dance; Traditions

Conclusion We reiterate the need to include new pedagogical approaches for teaching traditional subject matters, updated for sustainability education. The role of critical cartography and deep community involvement should be impressed upon students early in their progression. If the use of maps, and their interpretation for disaster mitigation, becomes a staple of formal education, future citizens will show a lot more environmental awareness and commitment to maintain, if not improve, their livelihood in tropical mountains. A larger effort should be made by Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and regional or international funding organizations to incorporate sustainability education as part of the curriculum requirement for high school graduation. With a plethora of didactic approaches to emphasize vulnerability and adaptation to global change, the future generations of tropical mountain residents will be better prepared to cope with their changing landscapes.


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Sustainability Education in Practice: Appropriation of Rurality by the Globalized Migrants of Costa Rica Brandilyn Gordon1, Fausto Sarmiento1, Ricardo Russo2 and Jeffrey Jones3 1) Department of Geography, The University of Georgia, bgordon@uga.edu 2) Humid Tropical Regions’ Agricultural College (EARTH), Costa Rica. 3) GIS Laboratory, Center for Tropical Agriculture Teaching and Research (CATIE), Costa Rica.

Abstract An innovative framework for sustainability helps investigate the impacts of real estate development and educational attainment of newcomers; more specifically, landscape transformation due to ‘amenity migration’ into the Global South. We argue that sustainability research requires a de-categorization from mutually exclusive ‘human’ and ‘nature’ divisions, to refocus on intersections of multiple and complex socio-environmental processes, including the convergence of power relations inherent to development in the cultural landscapes of tropical mountains. Further, due to the explicit impact of amenity migration on the mountain environment, the ecological modernity of Costa Rica becomes less neatly categorical, requiring new educational frameworks linked with ecologically-minded social actors, which could be obtained by developing an educational pipeline for the humid tropics. Due to the normative nature of sustainability, we suggest that sustainability education is an essential component in influencing those value-laden choices central to environmental decision making, which are determined by well informed citizens and professionals trained with sustainability education approaches. Keywords: Sustainability, Amenity Migration, Rurality, Farmscapes, Ecological Modernity, Global Change, Costa Rica.


Introduction This article summarizes and identifies gaps in the sustainability and social-environmental literature, especially those interactions in rural areas of the Global South resultant to real estate development triggered by amenity migration. We argue that sustainability research requires a decategorization between ‘human’ and ‘nature’, in that we need to focus instead on intersections of multiple, complex socio-environmental processes, including power relations inherent to globalization in bio-diverse rural areas, suggesting that a thorough investigation into sustainability becomes less neatly categorical. Our research question relates the fact that in rural landscapes of tropical mountains, such as in Costa Rica, much of the transformation of the landscape responds to drivers associated with cultural and economic activities, many times in the form of natural resource use and conservation management, which current narratives of sustainability education mostly emphasize as a trend of global warming due to abrupt climate change scenarios. We suggest that livelihood (in)security has already suffered, not from the climate alone, but mainly from ‘management’ approaches consequential to amenity migration, such as replacing the traditional cultivation of agricultural products for lawns, golf courses and tourist facilities; pastures for secondary forests; and fertile valleys for cemented surfaces, roads, houses and other urban development (Chipenuik 2008, Sarmiento 2008). In this paper, we concentrate on how both culture and nature in these areas are changing, transforming the landscape of rural Costa Rica into something different, to be defined by the new currents of conservation with a case study using critical geography in farmscape transformation to better understand the political ecology of rural environments in tropical mountains, using Santa Cruz de Turrialba as exemplar. The questions are how does real estate development for amenity migration affect the environment, economy, and culture? What is the aptitude and reality of lifescape sustainability, i.e., that of culture, lifestyle, and economic status of a community in Santa Cruz? In Costa Rica, eco-tourism was just emerging only a decade ago. Its proximity to the United States, along with a peaceful image served as a major factor in catapulting Costa Rica to become a top destination among travelers of all ages. With tropical mountains, waterfalls, abundant ocean vistas and dense rain forests full of biodiversity – all within easy reach from San José’s Juan Santamaria International Airport – the rapid growth of tourism and amenity migration is no surprise. We define ‘Amenity Migration’ as the flow of people from urban areas towards the rural landscapes (c.f.: farmscapes) for bucolic ideals, extended vacations, leisure, rest and relaxation. Clearly stated, amenity migration is the movement of people to places, permanently or part-time, principally because the destination is perceived to have a higher environmental quality and differentiated culture comparative to the place of origin (Moss 2006, Price, Moss and Williams 1997, Glorioso and Moss 2007, Chaverri 2006). Major metropolitan urban areas are one source of amenity migrants (Flognfeldt 2006) that flee the congested city life, affording periodical commutes, to appreciate a more “laid back”, simple rural life around the farm, the second home, the vacation cottage or the summer residence (Chaverri 2006, Sarmiento 2001). In defining the ‘rural’, we consider the dynamic and increasingly unstable social constructions, as well as the fixed geographical entities, i.e., the landscapes produced through these social relations, as collectively shaping a place (Cloke and Little 1997). A substantial body of literature recognizes the significance of the category ‘rural’ as it is constructed by and embedded in everyday social and cultural practices, historically and spatially specific (Hughes


1997). Both the fixed geographical entities and the social relations are transformed by urbanstyle development taking place as an urbanization of the countryside, the byproduct of the amenity migrant (McCarthy 2008, Cloke and Little 1997). In Costa Rica over the past decade, ecological and cultural vulnerabilities emerged as a result of vast real estate development and unplanned urbanization of the landscape. The longterm picture for Costa Rica, both ecologically and culturally, is questionable, and even the lay tourist can recognize that real estate development is encroaching upon the once bucolic countryside in the beach oriented development of lowland Guanacaste, in northwestern Costa Rica. We now expect that a similar real estate shift from urbanized areas to rural mountain communities could be experienced worldwide as global change forces highland youth emigration to lowland cities, with the urban migrants finding refuge in the impoverished highland communities, exerting profound change in livelihood (Chen, Irwin and Jayaprakash 2009). Although impossible to predict what tropical mountain areas will be like without more international interest and federal re-examination of land use policy over the next decade (Glorioso 2009, Price and Butt 2000), a certainty is continued environmental and social transition consequential to a ‘business as usual approach’ operating independent of collaboration among academic planning researchers and communities (Chipeniuk 2006). Costa Rica remains a very special place in the perspective of Costa Ricans and Northerners. With nearly 25% of the land area preserved in national parks, ranking among the highest percentage of official conservation worldwide, the country is indeed a green, tropical ‘paradise’(Chaverri 2006). Additionally, with its tall central mountain range in proximity to two oceans, it ranks among the wettest countries in the world. The transitions from wet humid coasts to cold high mountains enable a large range of ecological zones, reflected in one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world (Janzen 1983). In the heavily populated highlands of the country a fairly comfortable and temperate climate is maintained during most if not all of the year, and based upon its ‘peaceful democracy’ boasting no military presence, its citizens live free of armed conflict. Costa Rica’s commitment to health care, safety and other social concerns allows both residents and tourists to live in relatively secure surroundings (Hall et al. 2000, Basso and Newcomer 2009). Fortunately, many who call this comfortable, amenity-rich country home also show a commitment to nature conservation and educational attainment, particularly in rural spaces of tropical mountain areas (Kappelle and Horn 2005, Sarmiento 2007) Costa Rica’s real estate is amongst the fast growing markets in the world, and is the fastest growing market in Central America (Figure 1). With so many online searches being conducted for “Costa Rica Real Estate” a dramatic increase in land prices is no surprise (International Real Estate Market News 2008). In some high demand areas land values have grown ten-fold, and have doubled or tripled in many other parts of the country (Koutnik 2005). Although tourism and amenity migration have already transformed many Central Valley and North Eastern regions of the country, the periphery of the central volcanic Cordillera remains relatively unaffected, with a continuing focus on a variety of agricultural enterprises, including coffee, sugar cane and dairy production. As land prices continue to increase in coastal and more accessible mountain destinations, Costa Ricans living in San José and real estate developers inthe-know are beginning to discover the affordability of the village of Santa Cruz of Turrialba, as a second-home destination.


Figure 1. Highest, medium and lowest activities shown from searches for real state online business. Source: International Real State Market News

Study Area At 1500 meters elevation, the village of Santa Cruz occupies a piedmont valley in Costa Rica’s Cordillera Volcánica Central, just 80 km to the south of the capital city, San José. The proximity to Monumento Nacional Arqueológico Guayabo, one of the best known prehistoric sites in Costa Rica, and Volcán Turrialba National Park would lead us to believe that the coffee, dairy and vegetable cultivating roots of Santa Cruz would have been taken over in the last decade’s tourism frenzy ongoing in other parts of the country; however, the low-key agricultural village in Turrialba has remained off the radar for now, but the word is beginning to spread. The bountiful cloud forests and peaceful agrarian culture is within a two hour commute of San José, and developers and prospectors are arriving. Costa Rica has experienced surges in tourism and amenity migration, and with subsequent shifting economic, cultural and ecological concerns, land use policy and conservation politics are at the center of the equation for all stakeholders involved (Chaverri 2006).


Figure 2: The location of Santa Cruz de Turrialba, in the southern terminus of the Cordillera Central Volcánica, in central Costa Rica.

The educational sustainability issues associated with amenity migration are related to traditional and eco-tourism discourse, for example, the need to protect cultural identity and ecological resources amidst impending globalization in the rural Global South. Amenity-rich mountain areas frequently border conservation sites and biological corridors, and uncontrolled and under-monitored real estate development for amenity migration directly threatens natural water sources, scenic landscapes and their rich biodiversity – ironically, transforming and degrading the ‘pristine’ landscape originally sought by the amenity migrant (Chaverri 2006). Conceivably, one of the most distinguishing traits of the amenity migrant is the longevity of stay, in opposition to the typical tourists’ passing through mentality – a motivator that could prove beneficial in directing future development in amenity rich destinations, as the amenity migrant conceivably wants to ‘sustain’ the lifescape that attracted them to the destination originally. Some countries, including Costa Rica and Panama, offer wealthy foreigners incentives to take residence there, including attractive tax breaks, subsidies or other stimulus, although Costa Rica rescinded most tax incentives by 1994 (Peterson 2009, Pera 2008). Despite building restrictions on land owned by foreigners (five year residency requirement for building permit issuance), there is a plethora of choices to create Foundations, NGOs, mix-companies or simply hiring a country representative or legal counsel that allows newcomers to get into the economic mesh of


the country and live their dreams in the second destination, for many during their golden years (Peterson 2009). Retirees, expatriates, and those seeking a richer environment and distinctive culture migrate to such destinations as Costa Rica primarily for non-economic purposes. As (Chen et al. 2009) summarize, the amenity migrant is less constrained by employment location and more concerned with place-specific amenities, indicative of retiring baby boomers, a population with a higher disposable income, and an increasingly “foot-loose population” taking advantage of electronic technology to mitigate reliance on living in close proximity to where they conduct business. As a matter of fact, at-home-executives do prefer spaces of solitude and luxury that only the amenity migration phenomenon provides. Satellite telephone service, Skype and videoconferencing software, internet access and other mobile communications, allow people to take prolonged absences from their traditional workplace in big cities without being affected by the isolation of a second home in the mountains (Moss 2006, Borsdorf 2009). While the primary motivator for amenity migrants is quality of life, many also must continue generating an income – whether in working physically in the new location, or receiving income from an outside source, i.e., transfer payments of pensions, investment returns, etc; however, when a migrant moves primarily for economic opportunity they are not “amenity” migrants, but what we consider “economic migrants”(Glorioso and Moss 2007, Borsdorf 2009). Economic migrants many times move to high amenity locations with anticipation in building profitable businesses fueled by and marketed toward amenity migrants. Reconstructing sustainability education amidst ecological modernity Three central themes inform current trends in literature associated with Sustainability Education. Firstly, the presence of normative goals frequently ignored and knowingly overlooked as an unjustified exclusion from academic research analysis on sustainable development. This notion of normativity requires stakeholders to make choices that are inherently value-driven, and requires an analysis of the complexity in coupled humanenvironmental systems (Castree N 2009). Secondly, the power relations of inequality specifically associated with environmental (in)justice disproportionately impact certain communities, most commonly the traditional residents of a destination, versus the hierarchy of educational attainment, cash flow or political network capital of ‘satrap’ or patrician newcomers (Meletis and Campbell 2009). Informally, concentration of this type of immigrants to specific areas of the country (e.g., Monteverde, Papagayo peninsula, Jacó beach and Puerto Viejo) has given Costa Rica de moniker of ‘Ticolandia’, where you can wish-upon-a-star for the relaxing atmosphere of paradisiacal tropical settings. This can also be found in other locales of tropical mountains, such as ‘Gringotenango’ on the shores of Lake Atitlán, in Guatemala, and ‘Gringolandia’ in the likes of Puerto Vallarta, Cancún and San Miguel Allende in Mexico. Finally, the discussion of what is called ecological modernization (Buttel 2000), argued by Zimmerer and Basset (2003), recognizes the importance of environmental issues throughout disciplinary fields as a response to globalization, and thus represents a pivotal transition in society’s approach to conservation; however, Baker (1993) argues that in framing complex nature-society relations, one must provide a historical analysis to understand the future potential in sustainability. Additionally, Zimmerer (2003 ) recognizes that ecological modernization will seek environmental management as central to the functions of present-day and future societies, thus at the core of social and political processes.


A comparison between physical and social science methodologies in researching sustainability in amenity migration provides an accountability perspective (see Table 1). In the 20,000 records identified in a Web of Science database search for the word ‘sustainability’, the majority proportion was identified in Environmental and Physical Science methodologies. Only eleven percent of the top 500 was identified as using social science approaches. Discussions of sustainability (Benjaminsen et al. 2006, Whitehead 2007, Clark 2007), it is again noted that social science theory is rarely used to address social-environment relations, and Mansfield (2009) suggests that the complexity of reciprocal associations between man and nature justify the application of social theory in addressing the burgeoning presence of complications. In the table below, the variance between physical and social approaches in understanding sustainability, rurality and amenity migration is clearly demonstrated through a database search of each of the keywords in column one, of data available from January 1980 to December 2009. Note that rurality and amenity migration are typically researched using social science approaches, in comparison to those questions of sustainability, frequently are approached using physical science methods. This divide between disciplinary geography should be overcome with the use of political ecology works that explain the true nature of cultural landscapes in tropical mountains (Sarmiento 2000).

Table 1: Web of Science Database Search for Records (top 500) from January 1980 to December 2009 – Note: They are redundant, non-mutually exclusive categories Keyword Database Environmental Science, Physical Social Sciences Search Search total Sciences (n=500 Records) hits (n= 500 Records) Sustainability 20,000 60 % 9% (Total Hits) Sustainability, 1,164 53 % 16 % Rural… Rurality 509 21 % 102 % Amenity 117 68 % 63 % Migration Amenity Migration, 6 100 % 0 Sustainab… The divide between the arts and science of conservation is applicable to sustainability, so a separate approach is technically oriented in pragmatic spheres of physical geography, while the political approach is artistically driven towards romantic spheres of human geography (Table 2). We agree that researchers often try to turn sustainability into a technical, rather than political, issue…but the process of defining sustainability is an inherently normative, political process (Castree 2009).


TABLE 2: A sample of 20 years of publications from the Web of Science Database Search for ‘Sustainability’, from 1980 to December 2009. Web of Science Database Search: Sustainability (1980 to 2009) Subject Area (500 titles)

Record Count




60.60 %



9.20 %

Sustainability and Sustainable Development Categories of sustainability can be referenced as endurance and long-term carrying capacity of economic, environmental and social resources within a community (Clark 2007, Zimmerer 2003 ). According to principles of political ecology (Zimmerer 2003 , Zimmerer 2006, Houghton 2005) we address sustainability education for development in tropical mountain areas, with emphasis on identification of local tendencies, unique spatial advantages and challenges, historical contexts, and secondary related factors for each category of sustainability (Figure 3) to reveal the complete political network specific to the research site. Table 3 – The dependent variables associated with amenity migration in tropical mountain areas, consequential to real estate development as a form of globalization.

In analyzing the literature to date on Sustainability practices related to Real Estate Development in rural landscapes, it is apparent that there are different perspectives and theoretical movements at play. Many have formulated that sustainability as it is used today originates with the 1987 UN-commissioned report Our Common Future (the ‘Brundtland report’), defining sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (Adams 2001). In 1992, the goal of the ‘Earth Summit’, or United Nations’ Conference on Environment and


Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, was to automate sustainable development into everyday use as it had been defined in the Brundtland report (Mansfield, 2008, 2009). Mansfield states that the 1992 UNCED represents a shift regarding issues of environment and development, which until then had been considered to be largely disparate. Whether the scale is focused upon local or global, the question remains as to what precisely is to be sustained within the realm of sustainability? What is it that we are trying to sustain? Ultimately, answers to this question are based on normative theory, and will fundamentally involve contradictory value-laden choices of amenity migrants, rather than the local residents, alluding to unequal power relations. What we consider as important and valuable is what we sustain; therefore, sustainability takes on a dynamic role, dependent upon the dialectics of interests and specific values of the different stakeholders involved (Noel Castree 2009). The consensus in representing sustainability, is a tri-lemma at the apex of environmental, economic, and social concerns, hence sustainability only exists if all three are addressed together (Sneddon 2000; Whitehead 2007). While many will argue that the orthodox perspective of obtaining sustainability requires only ‘better knowledge, incentives, and technology’, Mansfield (2009) counters that this narrow perspective ignores relations of power that create problems; concluding that ‘sustainability’ in itself is a political project. In addressing all three components together, rarely are the political implications to involved stakeholders considered as an interactive web. Some are tempted at the idea of researching (un)sustainable relationships among stakeholders as that of a technical problem of degradation to the environment, disregarding the perceptions of what a particular society recognizes as valuable, thereby avoiding the culprit (human-nature association) of the problem and only suggesting it exists (Castree 2009). In utilizing social science perspectives in understanding the concept of sustainability as a normative process, i.e., involving value driven choices, the complexity of coupled humanenvironmental systems can be approached as identifying links among multiple, intersecting nature-society interactions, instead of just noting that there is a connection between humans and the environment (Sneddon 2000). Identifying key social factors that lead to (un)sustainable situations is recommended prior to advocating assistance policies in order to avoid contributing to the original problem, i.e., treating the challenge of world hunger and inadequate water supply as the need to grow more food, and hence use more water (Castree 2009). Limiting our research to only the components of an issue that can be easily measured and correlated (a technical approach), is an unrealistic, overly simplistic method, relying upon the promise of equally simplistic solutions that something can be done (i.e., quick fix) to address the major problems of our time (Castree N 2009, Mansfield 2009). We recognize the coexistence of humans and nature as reality, and feel justified in our attempt to address unsustainable socio-ecological systems, only through recognizing the entire scenario of actual interaction between society, the environment and economies.


Figure 3 – Venn Diagram – Complexity of coupled Human-Environment Systems, (concept Sustainability, Mansfield 2009)

Sustainability Triangle Significance of Human Environment Relationships Creates ‘less neat’ triangle

The vast amount of research conducted on sustainability attempts to analyze UnSustainability as an occurrence among environment, economy and/or society, but it overlooks or disregards the complex reciprocal tensions and power relationships (politics) inherent to social nature settings (Castree 2009). In analyzing commentaries from ecology, ecological economics, and livelihoods, Sneddon (2000) argues that these fields “tend to side step the power discrepancies embedded within social relations…which lie at the heart of many environment and development dilemmas”. Castree et al. (2009) further argue that sustainability researchers disregard by ignoring the politics amongst the actors concerned with specific sectors in the sustainability triangle and in effect are ‘blunting their effectiveness’. Patterns and Politics of Amenity Migration to Tropical Mountains Although viewed as ‘long term tourists’ by a United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP 2001) study on economic impacts of tourism, Laurence A.G. Moss (2006a) distinguishes amenity migrants from tourists primarily based upon the intention of residence in an amenity destination. Amenity migration has been classified into three temporal categories of residence intent: intermittent, seasonal and permanent. Scholars consider all movements for amenities to be amenity migration; however, we will distinguish the tourist from the amenity migrant following Moss (2006b) primarily based upon the intent of the tourist to visit, and the intent of the migrant to reside in a destination. So then, shall amenity migrants concern themselves to a greater extent with the transformation of farmscapes that continued unorganized real estate development postulates? Flognfeldt (Flognfeldt 2006) suggests that the permanence of the amenity migrant may be important for socio-political participation, comprising a link to connect traditional resident and infrequent tourist/outsider in integrating a grass-roots environmental stewardship movement in rural, amenity rich destinations in peril. Rurality in Tropical American Mountains We take Rurality as the best indicator of the quality of being rural, as opposed to the urban identity. The term ‘Rurality’ emphasizes the characteristics of tradition, community, oral history and folklore embedded in rural communities and characteristic of their internal and


external relationships (Cloke and Little 1997). For the visual landscape of Costa Rica, Hall et al (2000) paraphrase the stark contrast of the ‘lush verdant forests’ of the northeast region giving way to ‘brown, denuded slopes’, separated by large, beautiful mountains bisecting the east and west coasts. They further point out that the transition between natural forest and anthropogenic areas is often a sharp delineation (as opposed to gradual) between the green of forests and the newly opened areas, which are often pastures, pineapple plantations (Hall et al. 2000) and cropland (Kappelle 2008). Planted pastures, or at least a resemblance of what appears to be pastureland, are frequently seen in Central America, but cows are relatively few, and scattered throughout, evidence to the declining profitability of the cattle grazing industry. This is what one of us (Sarmiento, in press) calls “paramization” of the high tropical mountains, the encroachment of pasture into the forested matrix. Although deforestation continues, there are some areas of human-imposed reforestation (Hall et al. 2000) and of afforestation mainly in the highlands. Santa Cruz de Turrialba, hence, assists in the comprehension of the divide between the increasing urbanite presence and its popularity, versus the diminishing importance of rural folk, whose livelihood of farming is a distant, iconic myth for a bygone era of small scale family farms and forestry practices. The rural, often associated with a slow paced, backwards community, offers what busy cities of San José and of the Global North cannot offer anymore: abundant biodiversity, clear water and air, organic food, strong individual work with the land, peace and quiet, security from urban crime, and even spiritual renewal on the mountain tops (Chipenuik 2008, Locke 2006). For instance, cars are replaced with oxen-pulled ‘carretas’, traditionally painted with vivid colors and decorations and used throughout the countryside. Horses, cows and chickens frequently roam free adjacent to the rural mountain roads, and people in these villages seem just as uninhibited as their animals, offering the friendly ‘Buen Día’ to even obvious ‘outsiders’. All these values are accrued by the amenity migrant, willing to invest in the target community where the bucolic is possible, evocative of simpler old times, purer life and better health (O'Reilly 2007). Rurality, hence, arrives as a dialectic choice for urbanites of the Global North whose environmental conviction moves them towards the easy-going lifescape of the Global South, where if you have the economic affluence and some technical know-how, you could become an agent of change (Woods 2005). In rurality, national identity, mountain livelihood and folklore are invigorated as drivers of migration, predominantly of the long-term amenity migrant. Tenure and Urbanization in Real Estate Development for Amenity Migration Real Estate booms and landscape transitions have been occurring for as long as people have been settling natural, frontier regions (Firey 1960). One of us (Jones 1985) studied land colonization in Central America and presented a compelling case for the impending influx of people to rural areas of tropical mountains as based on speculation, which continues to be the driver for the current rurality appropriation in Costa Rica. Just as natural resource exploitation alters the physical topography of the land, so shift social demographics and cultural identities. One current trend in Costa Rica is that of wealthy individuals using disposable income to move into open, rural settings, many purchasing property to be used primarily as a retirement or seasonal home (Basso and Newcomer 2009, Moss 2006). The real estate development and influx of non-resident Costa Ricans (outsiders as some will say) not only alter the rural landscape, but also impact existing social networks and power relations. In Santa Cruz de Turrialba, many amenity migrants come from within the country; however, migrants of European and North American descent proliferate in the areas surrounding Santa Cruz. A qualitative investigation is


planned to better understand the demographic, origin, and intent of residency of amenity migrants to Santa Cruz de Turrialba. This trend of widespread real estate development in once bucolic settings (due to amenity migration) leads to augmented land prices, local resident emigration or outmigration, ecological and social fragmentation, and cultural friction between long-term residents and advents (Basso and Newcomer 2009). In developing countries, real estate development is welcomed into the community as a needed economic stimulus, meant to invigorate local societies, just as in most mountain communities in North America, Australia, transitioning Eastern Europe, and much of the rest of Europe. Undesirable outcomes include the transformation of a community to such a level that the identity of the original community becomes unrecognizable amongst gated colonies and villages full of primarily Northerner extended-stay visitors. There are indicative, anecdotal evidence that exurban growth of isolated ‘mansions-‘ and ‘huertos familiares-‘ type of development occurring in Costa Rican countryside have led traditional landowners to feel a sense of overwhelming hopelessness, loss, and fear with the rapid rate of transformation of the lifescape and community lifestyle that they still would like to call home (Basso and Newcomer 2009). Moss (2006a) further suggests that population change in mountain areas is considerable, rapid and characteristically stressful for all involved – both newcomers and earlier residents.

Table 4: Proposed alternatives to forward the integration of real estate development and conservation goals in the Path of the Tapir (Basso and Newcomer 2009) Community-based Alternatives

Country-based Problem

Business as usual: continued uncontrolled, unsustainable development Create new arenas: information gathering, dissemination, and discussion Sound information transfer: sustainability best practices, developers’ performance, and corridor goals Restructure incentives: promote ecological and socioeconomic goals

Real Estate Development and Influx of Outsiders Alter the Rural Landscape and Impact Existing Social Networks

Environmental (In)justice in Amenity Rich Destinations Basso and Newcomer (2009) suggest community-based alternatives (Table 4) as a solution to the rural landscape transformation receiving towns and villages in Costa Rica, ensuing increases in country-wide ex-urbanization, amenity migration, and tourism. This is a clear scale jumping, adding more complexities to the overall trend of appropriation of rurality by the Global North. Along with physical landscape transformation, signs of social (in)justice and environmental degradation are pronounced in some popular Costa Rican destinations. The World Trade Organization (WTO) describes ecotourism as a nature-based form of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourist is the observation and appreciation of nature and/or traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas (WTO 2002). Further, service industries such as


tourism, hospitality and amenity driven vacation providers in Costa Rica frequently portray a benevolent (providing benefits), and benign (reducing negative impacts) character, cohesive with the national slogan ‘No Artificial Ingredients’ (Meletis and Campbell 2009). The receiving communities in Costa Rica, and other Global South destinations typically are comprised of North American and European expatriate lodge owners and tourists (Northerners), and traditional Costa Rican, recent Latino immigrants, or Afro-Caribbean residents - dependent upon the region under study. The Northerner restaurant, tour-company and hotel owners themselves many times locate primarily for gain from amenity migration and tourism and we refer to as ‘economic migrants’ (Glorioso and Moss 2007, Moss 1994, Glorioso 1999). Allegorically, an optimist believes that the destination area can serve as a melting pot of diversity, with all classes, ethnicities, and races finding their individual position and taking part in the economically successful tourism industry. A realist, however, knows better the tension and power relations at play in this ecological modernity of the tropical mountains. In at least one Costa Rican high amenity destination, signs of environmental degradation and social inequality have been cited, where inequality exists within and between affluent and poor communities due to unjust solid waste burdens in Tortuguero, Costa Rica (Meletis and Campbell 2009). The consumption and production patterns of wasteful ‘throw-away’ lifestyle nations are perhaps more pronounced in developing countries with their limited ability to handle increased amounts of garbage produced by the pulsing influx of tourists and amenity migrants. The village of Tortuguero, a mecca for sea-turtle watching, has a reputation as a nature-based, eco-friendly paradise. Only once outside of the ‘ecolodges’ and upon inspection of the center of the actual village of Tortuguero, a place where local people live, work and play (far from the major hotels/lodges), are waste management challenges apparent. The local ‘recycling plant’ (waste treatment and storage facility) in Tortuguero is located in the center of this village, just next to the major residential areas. Many times the ‘recycling plant’ is closed for long periods of time and garbage is left outside the plant, resulting in overflow of waste receptacles, along with burning and illegal dumping around the town and on beaches. The plant frequently closes as a result of several businesses and residents refusing to pay for collection services. An important observation was cited by a local male resident who claimed that “hotels in the area are not doing their part in assisting to create a new system for the ‘recycling plant’, which could handle the excess garbage produced by tourists and amenity migrants.” He claims that it is not the tourists that are throwing out their garbage, but they are generating it. It is then the business owners that are deficient in arranging appropriate disposal of the excess garbage, consequently endangering continued tourism by tarnishing the destination’s eco-friendly image. Garbage is hard to deal with in many rural Costa Rican destinations primarily because there is no transportation to remove solid waste, and effective recycling solutions hitherto have not been implemented. Many times the waste treatment facilities, and their negative environmental and health impacts, are located out of the eye of the newcomer and in the living areas of the poorer residents. If we are to frame the politics of the waste crisis in the theory of environmental justice, Tortuguero and its relation to ecotourism, a supposedly green form of development, includes class and race-related inequalities. Even with the recycling plant working at full capacity, the potential for negative environmental and health impacts for those living in proximity is pronounced (Meletis and Campbell 2009). In a historical perspective of tropical zones, Baker (1993) noted that northerners accept without question that nearly all poor countries throughout the world are tropicals, but why should


this be so? Is it acceptable that two people doing the same agricultural task in the tropical and temperate world should command significant differences in reward? Is hence social (in)justice environmentally determined, is thus sustainability a North-South dialectic, and are the tropics environmentally, economically and socially in trouble? Economic disparities in the developing tropical world were created through slavery, colonial systems and natural resource stripping, consequentially growing a rich Global North (stated as West). Baker (1993) argues that in trying to construct a new world order capable of balancing troubled realities we need something much more positive than guilt to frame our historical (in)justice. In that Global division was created by a historical process, another historical process will be required to change the current state of developing nations in the Global South. Further, the Global North must dispense with the idea that the tropics are poor intrinsically – they were made poor. We must now work toward their “full and fair reincorporation” into a balanced global economy (Baker 1993, Glorioso and Moss 2007). Spoken in the succinct fashion of former head of the World Bank, Barber Conable, “Sound ecology is sound economics” (Baker 1993) and as researchers we must now operationalize a plan to include not only economic valuation of natural resource losses, but go further in conceiving a solution for a balanced economy that includes beneficence to traditional communities, respect for local traditions and invigoration of local cultures (Glorioso 2009, Chipeniuk 2008). Often times, this was not the case in Central America, and foreigners became satraps, showing hegemonic views of urbanization and myopic, often biased views of culture, transforming mountain villages into resort towns, sex trade sites, abused farming practices, mining depots or another secondary role dictated by empire (Russo and Prado 2006). Baker (1993) states that the resources required to bring the developing world out of poverty and assist in providing alternatives to the “rape of the Earth” are stupendous. He further argues the need for global environmental management as the only realist sustainable approach to human-environment complexities, citing a contemporary trend in environmentalism in which international offenders of the environment should pay for violations, thereby redefining the boundaries of environmental policy to an international scale (Baker 1993). Livelihood (In) Security and Sustainability Education The village of Santa Cruz of Turrialba is quickly becoming an amenity migration destination and migration patterns are being evaluated with emphasis on landscape transformation and resultant transitions in culture, economy, environment and institutions. The internal migration from Cartago, Turrialba and San José to Santa Cruz results in patterns of farmscape transformation into villa-style residential haciendas, and consequential shocks to local culture, economy and environment. Incorporating the theory of amenity migration with qualitative analysis, we propose a project in identifying trends of development in Tropical Mountain areas, and answering the following questions: a) What does the local population value in their community with regard to migrant real estate development? b) Where do the previous landowners relocate, and what are the benefits and losses to community in transforming rural landscapes? c) How are the properties being developed, and are they cohesive to the goals of the community? d) Do differences in development styles, and resultant environmental impacts, exist between external and internal migrant home construction? e) What is the process for community


involvement as a stakeholder in landscape transition of rural areas as a result of amenity migration? Zimmerer (2006) emphasizes the criticality of ecological modernization, a perspective recognizing an increased importance in implementing environmental management to be central to present and future societies. The most sophisticated versions of ecological modernization call for the notion that political processes and implementation of those processes are critical in enabling “ecological phenomena to be moved into the modernization process” (Buttel 2000). Mol (1995) compares the role of ecological modernization as a shift from radical environmentalism, thereby noting a shift from a “critical commentator outside societal developments to that of a critical… participant in developments aimed at the ecological transformation.” With identification of key stakeholders in developing areas of the Global South, ecological modernization holds promise in overcoming the shortfalls previously discussed with its sister concept, sustainable development. Mol and Spaargaren (2004) focus on organization of the patterns of production and consumption to incorporate not only “economic criteria of quantity”, but also equally using “ecological criteria of quality”. Just as feasibility of incorporation into lifestyle is a tipping point with sustainability in practice, so might we consider with the concept of ecological modernization. Environmental policy should be steered to create favorable conditions for environmentally sound practices and behavior on the part of producers and consumers, with consideration to the ease of use for both sets of stakeholders. In other words, the success of both sustainable development and ecological modernization demands that people, consumers and producers alike, can easily adapt an ecologically sound practice into their lifestyle without a substantial amount of effort or cost, comparative to traditional ‘ecologically unsound’ practices. Specific to Santa Cruz de Turrialba, the major drivers of change associated with amenity migration (i.e., agriculture, real estate development, science, transportation, industry, etc) should guide conservationists and assist urban planners to acknowledge emerging issues due to continued development, by answering the following research questions in Table 5: Table 5: Major descriptors of change as evidence of farmscape transformation and the community response to prospective transitions for future sustainability. Driver of change

Descriptor of transformation Question community response

Environmental impacts of residential development

Decreased biodiversity and corridor continuity, pollution and waste disposal, deforestation, and global climate change

Can we describe one approach to understand the effects of urbanization and justify the impact of deforestation on water supply?

Ease of locating development

Zoning regulations and building codes for design and construction with regard to

Can we find motivation to require construction codes and better practices for




Cultural transitions, acculturation

Frictions resulting from amenity migration in amongst the social actors and their livelihood

Can we forecast specific cultural shocks that community members will face?

Economic trends and considerations in relation to amenity migration

Normative behavior of a real estate buyer as well as the stance of the communities in peril regarding their valued lifescape

Can we use land value as an indicator of cultural landscape?

Decision making in conservation of cultural landscapes

Mitigation and conflict resolution of cultural, economic and environmental impacts

Can we include retrofits in ecology practices in the management of tropical countries?

In Costa Rica short-term speculation proliferates, and the many bulldozers plowing the sides of once rural roads are frustrating signs of things to come. Opening new roads or improving gravel roads to paved surfaces forecasts a shadow of urban growth, i.e., urbanization. Governmental enforcement of responsibility in land development poses the notion of a custodial view of property, just as manifested in some laws affecting polluters where responsibility (and financial liability) follows the chain of title. This brings us to question: Is land development a right or a privilege? We postulate that land development is a responsibility. Because of the longevity of land use and development decisions (c.f.: man-agement), they must be taken with a sense of responsibility to the community and to the future as well as to the investor. The foreign investments will gratuitously continue to flow into Costa Rica and the land use decisions made today will affect the area for centuries to come. Further research into land use policy allows for developments that are built irresponsibly to be traced back in a similar custodial fashion, and then perhaps a broader sense of responsibility and “voting� with the acquisition dollar by informed investors will help set the course aright. Either way, a broad grass roots holding of stewardship values throughout the tropical mountains is fundamental for change. By integrating geographic analysis, reasoning, and technology for the improvement of the business judgmental decision, specifically with consideration to real-estate development and urban planning, we create a self-sufficient model appealing to economies of scale. We must educate people, on a local level of the school of thought merging the realm of the geographical with the area of business logic and environmental planning and/or management. This creed is the core of a prospective educational pipeline in sustainability education that will


bring undergraduate students from tropical countries through EARTH University in Guácimo, Costa Rica, who will pursue masters degrees from CATIE (Center for Tropical Agricultural Investigation), in Turrialba, Costa Rica, and doctoral studies from The University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia, USA) with special emphasis in ecological agriculture, rural development and political ecology. If the educational pipeline is achieved, the graduates of the program will be in a better position to affect changes for the societal grasp of sustainability in tropical mountains. A solid understanding of economics combined with ecological research of environmental and agricultural phenomena can be that unifying link that lubricates the pipeline for the brain flow towards tropical mountains. Sustainability education requires also that the newest “green ecology” model be understood and carried out by teachers training students and young people in best management practices for the maintenance of quality of life instead of tactics for the increase of quantity of commodities’ needs and wants. It is a most challenging way ahead and the future of tropical mountains depends on it. Conclusion Although amenity migration was the target discussion for sustainability in this review, the surface has just been touched in relation to global change in mountain regions. The magnitude of amenity migration in mountain areas is rapidly increasing worldwide (Glorioso and Moss 2007, Chipeniuk 2008, Moss 2006, Chaverri 2006), and the boundaries of our scope of study are many. We must define the appropriate framework to research cultural and environmental shifts due to amenity migration in tropical mountains. With the similarities between amenity led migration and tourism, one would suggest comparison studies; however, the amenity migrant offers a valuable component to drive sustainability – that of their permanence. With the worldwide popularity of ecotourism and amenity migration, and the growing interest by governments in maintaining this valuable economic option, should these relatively new enterprises be framed and regulated in a similar fashion to that of historical resource exploitation industries, timber and export agricultural industries for example? Prospective projects must include joint initiatives with policy makers in conservation and development planning, whereby studies are conducted to better understand the likely outcomes and probability of land cover change and growth in tourism and secondary housing markets, improving adhesion to sustainable development practices, and simultaneously, addressing the need to protect the value of the rural, bio-diverse environment that initially attracts the migrant, and thereby secures continued economic resiliency of the immigration area, and its sustainability. Acknowledgements We thank the Exposition Foundation of Atlanta, Inc. for funding the study of landscape transformation in Costa Rica and the overall collaboration between EARTH, CATIE and other Costa Rican organizations and the University of Georgia. We also thank the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute (LACSI), and the Geography Department at the University of Georgia for additional support.


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Cultivating Sustainability Pedagogy through Participatory Action Research in Interior Alaska Laura Henry-Stone, Ph.D. Post-doctoral Fellow in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Washington and Lee University Lexington, VA 24450 Email: henry-stonel@wlu.edu. Abstract As the environmental movement grows into a broader sustainability revolution, we must move beyond the traditional scope of environmental education to address social-ecological challenges through integrated education for sustainability. This paper proposes that the purpose of sustainability education is to foster a community culture that will promote the emergence of sustainability in complex adaptive systems with social and ecological components. This research explores how place-based education can promote sustainability of a particular community food system. Through participatory action research, the paper develops and demonstrates pedagogical components of sustainability that are applicable to formal and non-formal educational contexts. This work is based at the Effie Kokrine Charter School (EKCS), a junior-senior high school in Fairbanks, Alaska that teaches with an Alaska Native approach, emphasizing place-based, experiential, and holistic education by utilizing students’ natural and human communities to facilitate learning. The collaborative design of an Interior Alaska gardening curriculum serves as both an organizing framework for the project’s fieldwork as well as an outcome of the research. The resultant gardening curriculum and the rationale behind its design demonstrate components of pedagogy for sustainability, including systems thinking, place-based and problem-based learning, eco-cultural literacy, eco-justice values, and appropriate assessment. This pedagogical framework has theoretical and practical implications in multiple educational settings and indicates ways for our educational institutions to participate in the global sustainability revolution. Keywords: sustainability education, place-based education, participatory action research, indigenous knowledge, pedagogy

The theory and practice of sustainability has burgeoned in the last decade, and the field of sustainability education is emerging in tandem with sustainability research (Edwards, 2005). The best-known definition of sustainability arose in 1987 with the World Commission on Environment and Development’s (WCED) Brundtland Report on sustainable development, defined as “development that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and aspirations” (WCED, 1987). Over twenty years later, literature abounds which examines the theory and practice of sustainable development and sustainability. The practice of education has the potential to synthesize the plethora of sustainability definitions on particular goals and practices associated with educating youth. What we pass on to the next generations through formal and informal education indicates much about what we as communities value. In addition, practitioners and theorists need to articulate pedagogical approaches best suited for sustainability education at multiple levels and


in diverse regions. The research herein contributes to this pursuit by exploring the practical and theoretical implications of a participatory action research project based in Alaska. During 2005 and 2006, as a doctoral student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), I collaborated with Alaska Native middle school teachers and their students at the Effie Kokrine Charter School (EKCS), a public charter school in Fairbanks, Alaska. Through this participatory approach, I explored the question of what Alaska Native pedagogies can teach Western educators like myself about educating for sustainability. My collaborators and I designed place-based gardening curriculum that reflected an Alaska Native approach to education, attempting to merge the goals of Alaska Native education with those of formal Western education through pedagogy. (For a more in-depth report of this research, see my dissertation, available at http://www.ankn.uaf.edu/Curriculum/PhD_Projects/LauraHenryStone.html.) Pedagogy is traditionally regarded as the methods an educator employs in the process of education, but I mean the term in a broader sense. Pedagogy should include the goals and content of education as well as teaching strategies. It provides the unifying philosophical framework that underlies any particular curriculum. In sustainability education, the goal should be to foster sustainability of human communities. Sustainability tends to be a meaningless theoretical concept when disconnected from a specific context in which to apply it. Based on my own interests and on the practical and research needs that I perceived in Interior Alaska, I chose to focus my research on the relationship between education and food system sustainability by exploring how place-based education can promote the emergence of sustainability within the social-ecological systems of a particular region. Through this participatory approach, I concurrently investigated broader research questions, including: What kinds of educational approaches can foster sustainability within regional social-ecological systems? Specifically, how can place-based education promote the emergence of sustainability in a community food system? These questions resolved themselves around the focus of sustainability pedagogy. What does such pedagogy look like? While my work has involved formal middle school education within the context of community food systems (e.g. Feenstra, 2002), this framework is intended to be applicable to any K-12 educational initiative with a goal of promoting sustainability. However, being very qualitative in nature, this research is limited in its generalizability. The objective is to elucidate principles of sustainability pedagogy that can contribute to an international conversation about educating for sustainability. I propose that sustainability pedagogy include the following five components: 1. Systems thinking 2. Place-based and problem-based learning 3. Eco-cultural literacy 4. Eco-justice values 5. Appropriate assessment The first two of these components served as guiding concepts from the early stages of my research and became more refined throughout the research process. The remaining components were less well-developed to begin with and emerged more from the research process as ways to describe the themes regarding sustainability education that begged for definition. Figure 1portrays a conceptual diagram of the integrative nature of this research as well as a general outline of this paper. In the orientation of action research, holism is a key theme in this pursuit through integration of theory and practice, Western and Alaska Native ways of knowing,


and ecology and culture. The literature review of sustainability education and participatory action research explores the theoretical knowledge relevant to this project, although it does not deal with the level of knowledge systems but rather starts with the second level. The research context is addressed in the section on research setting. The bulk of the methodology and discussion concerns the development of the gardening curriculum as an integrating lens for the exploration of sustainability pedagogy. The conclusion takes up the dashed arrows in the diagram, which reflect the contributions made by the research to both theory and the research setting.

Figure 1: Conceptual diagram of this research Review of Literature Relevant to Sustainability Education First, I offer my own definition and explanation of sustainability to guide this investigation of sustainability pedagogy. This research is most influenced by concepts of sustainability that transcend a focus on development or on disciplinary approaches and draw from a systems thinking perspective (Capra 1996, 2002; Meadows, 2005). Sustainability is the capacity of a complex adaptive system to maintain and nourish its primary functional characteristics over a long period of time. I suggest that sustainability can be considered an


emergent property of complex systems. “Throughout the living world, the creativity of life expresses itself through the process of emergence” (Capra, 2002, p. 119). Structures or properties that emerge from this process cannot be planned into being through a linear design process, but rather emerge from a self-organizing complex of factors. In contrast to designed structures, emergent structures “provide novelty, creativity, and flexibility. They are adaptive, capable of changing and evolving” (p.121). Capra explains that all human systems are a combination of emergent structures and designed structures. In the context of social-ecological systems, sustainability is a property that emerges when human activities occur within the appropriate spatial and temporal scales delineated by the context of their natural and cultural support systems. This definition is quite different from viewing sustainability as a static condition and relies on an understanding of complex systems. Perhaps sustainable communities are not something that can be designed through linear or directional models, but are rather a combination of planned and emergent properties of nonlinear systems. The role of sustainability education is to facilitate the creation, maintenance, and exchange of knowledge and skills necessary for human communities to adapt to their socialecological contexts and hence maintain the conditions needed for sustainability of particular systems. This question then follows: How does one design an educational system that allows sustainability to emerge? The field of sustainability education is as varied as the multiple definitions of sustainability as applied in other fields. While the UN uses the phrase education for sustainable development, there are myriad other labels addressing overlapping sets of goals, including sustainability education (e.g., Dawson, 1995), sustainable education (e.g., Sterling, 2001), education for sustainability (e.g., Cloud, 2005, www.naaee.org/news-andevents/communicator_fall2005.pdf), education for sustainable living (e.g., www.ecoliteracy.org/education), and education for a sustainable future (e.g. Blockstein & Green, 2003), all of which have slightly different connotations and backgrounds. However, they all have the goal of integrating environmental, social, and economic concerns, or what are often depicted as the “three E’s” (with society being replaced by equity). Edwards (2005) suggests that a fourth “E” should be education. Indeed, education cross-cuts these three realms of sustainability by addressing what knowledge and skills we pass on to future generations. Several alternative and progressive Western educational models have much to offer to the field of sustainability education. Sustainability education reflects an attitude of progressive education reform espoused by many education philosophers and researchers over the last century (Dewey, 1916; Freire, 1970, 1995; Gardner, 1999; Montessori, 1976; Sizer, 1992). As one of the founders of this progressive and pragmatic approach in American education a century ago, Dewey advocated for education that connects learners to their everyday environments in practical ways that enhance the learning process (Dewey, 1915, 1916). Dewey’s work helped lay the philosophical foundations for today’s interest in problem-based, inquiry-based, and experiential learning (Askell-Williams, Murray-Harvey, & Lawson, 2007; Barrell, 2007). The curriculum planning process known as understanding by design offers a framework for putting these philosophical concepts into practice through creating teaching units and assessing learning outcomes using performance-based assessment (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998; Wiske, 1998). The relatively young field of place-based education also builds on Dewey and encourages educators to link students to their local places—both natural environments and human communities—in order to learn fundamental concepts as well as to facilitate student and community well-being (Elder, 1998; Gruenewald, 2003, 2006; Gruenewald & Smith, 2008;


Sobel, 2004; Williams, 2003; Woodhouse & Knapp, 2000). Place-based education also draws from environmental and outdoor education (Adkins & Simmons, 2002; Palmer, 1998), but its objectives are broader than teaching students about ecological concepts, environmental policy or outdoor skills. The concept of ecological literacy also offers a way to broaden the concept of issues-based environmental education to a more holistic approach to fostering sustainability (Orr, 1992, 1994; Smith & Williams, 1999; Stone & Barlow, 2005; Uhl, 2003). While traditional environmental education has focused on “natural” ecosystems, the popular movement of school gardening in the U.S. perhaps offers more relevant models for sustainability education and this research in particular. Youth gardening has been proliferating in schools and communities throughout the U. S. for the last couple of decades. (A more thorough review, including a typology of contemporary school and youth gardening programs, can be found in my dissertation.) Many excellent gardening curricular resources are available, such as The Growing Classroom (Jaffe & Appel, 2007). While teachers have been growing things with their students for a long time, the organization often credited with shining the spotlight on school gardening most recently is The Edible Schoolyard, started by chef Alice Waters in Berkeley in 1995 (Waters, 2008). The concept of sustainability is referenced several times in the descriptive literature on the program website; they summarize, “Students’ hands-on experience in the kitchen and garden fosters a deeper appreciation of how the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well-being of our school community” (www.edibleschoolyard.org, Accessed Feb 10, 2010). Gardening education has the potential to contribute greatly to the field of sustainability education. Finally, perhaps the most fertile ground for cultivating a framework for sustainability education can be found in Native American and Alaska Native educational models, in which youth learn through holistic and practical experiences (Barnhardt, 2006, 2008; Barnhardt & Kawagley, 2004, 2005; Cajete, 1994, 1999; Kawagley & Barnhardt, 1999; McCarty, 2002). Many Indigenous cultures offer models for the integration of ecological and cultural education because such cultures throughout the world often lived—and in some cases continue to live—in long-term balanced relationships with bioregional environments (Berkes & Folke, 1998; Kroeber, 1953; Redman, 1999). These cultures offer many lessons about living well in natural places that should be included in education for sustainability (Armstrong, 2005; Bowers, 2001; Cajete, 1994). Such lessons involve sustainable ways to extract food and other resources from the environment, such as through intricate common property arrangements (Feit, 2001), detailed knowledge of local landscapes (Basso, 1996), and educational practices tightly wedded to these social-ecological relationships (Kawagley, 1995; Kawagley & Barnhardt, 1999). It may be impossible to integrate all of these various components into one overarching framework for sustainability education, especially regarding the integration of Western and Indigenous ways of knowing and educating. For instance, Bowers (2001) writes of several discrepancies between Western progressive education, such as that articulated by Dewey, and Indigenous education, one of the primary ones being the difference in the fundamental social unit. In Western societies, the individual is emphasized. In many other cultures, the individual may be superseded in importance by social units such as family and community. This difference may be irreconcilable within a framework of sustainability education that is still largely grounded in Western approaches. This study does not seek to resolve all of these possible frameworks but does attempt to explore them more deeply in the context of a real-world educational project.


Research Setting: Interior Alaska Place serves as a primary organizing concept throughout this project. The place under consideration is the bioregion of Interior Alaska. Ecologically, the interior of Alaska is composed primarily of boreal forest, bordered on the north by the Brooks Range and on the south by the Alaska Range, and cut through by the extensive network of glacially-fed streams and rivers that flow into the Yukon River (Thorson, 1986). Interior Alaska was traditionally occupied by multiple groups speaking different dialects of the Athabascan language family (Mishler & Simeone, 2004, 2006; Nelson, 1983, 1986a, 1986b; Peter, 2001; Schneider,1986). They were and are distinct from the coastal cultures of Alaska, such as the Yup’ik of the west and the Inupiaq of the north. The contemporary economic center of Interior Alaska and one of the state’s three urban areas, Fairbanks was founded by Euro-Americans in 1903 on the banks of the Chena River as a fur and gold trading post (Cole, 1999). Today, Fairbanks has a population of about 30,000 in the city proper and a regional population of about 80,000, the majority being non-Native. The town’s economy is still largely dependent on mining and oil industries, but it has other large employers such as the military and the University of Alaska. My research is influenced by the assumption that Alaska Native peoples prior to the incursion of non-Native cultures in the region were well-integrated with their environments (Nelson, 1983, 1986a, 1986b). The depth of knowledge that Athabascans prior to modern times had regarding their environment was of an intimacy far beyond that of contemporary American cultures. Their ecological knowledge and attention to detail came from being entirely dependent on the local environment for livelihood. Because of the erosion of relationships between contemporary Athabascans and their immediate environments, much of this knowledge is being lost. In addition, some researchers suggest that the imposition of a Western education system upon Athabascan peoples contributed to the disintegration of healthy food systems in Interior Alaska (Kawagley, 1995). However, much of life in the close to 50 rural villages in Interior Alaska still revolves around obtaining natural resources from the surrounding environment for local and personal use, a system commonly referred to as subsistence. In the fall of 2005, the Effie Kokrine Charter School opened its doors to its first students. The charter for the school had been approved by the Alaska State Board of Education the previous spring. The school was designed as a middle and senior high school serving grades 7-12 with a minimum of 150 students. The EKCS mission was “to provide educational opportunities for students to succeed in the world by developing a strong sense of purpose, identity, place and community through cultural and academic empowerment” (EKCS proposal, 2005, http://www.ankn.uaf.edu/NPE/EKCS/FinalProposal.html). The proposal also included the following components that provided the basis for meeting the mission: • “Teaching methods based in Native ways of instruction and learning • Active, project-based learning • Curriculum based in Native knowledge of the world • Presence and involvement of Native elders • Use of broad community as a learning context • Building students’ pride in Native culture as an element in success • Academic success” (ibid.) Named after a Native Elder, the school intended to teach with an Alaska Native approach and hence appeal to the many Alaska Native students and families in Fairbanks with ancestral roots from all over the state, but primarily Interior Alaska. The development of the school had been heavily influenced by organizations such as the Alaska Native Knowledge Network


(www.ankn.uaf.edu), which exists in part to advocate for ways that the Western educational system in Alaska can improve their efforts to help Alaska Natives succeed their educational endeavors. When the school opened, at least 95% of the students, half of the eight teachers, and the principal were Native. This composition began fluctuating almost immediately, but Alaska Natives students remained in the vast majority during my two years of work there. One of the most unique aspects of the school is a spiral curricular framework developed by a collaborative of Native educators and adopted by the school (Fig. 2 and e.g. http://www.ankn.uaf.edu/NPE/EKCS/). The spiral is organized around several key cultural themes, such as subsistence, tribe and community, and living in place, and the curriculum cycles through these themes. At any one time, the entire school is focused around that theme, but students in ascending grades deal with more complex concepts and work on higher-level Alaska Standards for education within the cultural theme. I saw the school as an exciting experiment that was putting into practice what many educators had been discussing—integrating Western educational standards with Alaska Native teaching approaches on a whole-school level. As such, the school offered an ideal setting to explore my interests in sustainability pedagogy. I proposed to the school advisory board that I help them meet one of their tangible needs—developing curriculum—while at the same time exploring the practice of place-based education in relation to local food systems. Given my experience and interest in gardening and environmental education as well as my prior education and participation in Alaska Native communities, the board approved my proposal to integrate the existing garden at the school site into the curriculum of the new school.

Figure 2: General format of the Spiral curriculum used by EKCS. Outer ring shows themes. Inner rings refer to grade levels. Source: Alaska Native Knowledge Network (www.ankn.uaf.edu)


Methodology: Participatory Action Research Participatory Action Research, or PAR, is a multifaceted research tradition with roots in a variety of social sciences. It offered an appropriate framework for this study for several reasons. First, the participatory nature of PAR honors the expectation among many Native and Indigenous communities that they be included in the design and conduct of research that involves them (Smith, 1999; Alaska Native Science Commission, www.nativescience.org/communities/code.htm). Second, the action orientation is a good fit with sustainability research more generally, in which the goal is to design, implement, monitor, and/or maintain sustainable systems. This applied goal presupposes a value orientation and potential bias on the part of the researcher: I desire that my research contribute directly to ecological and cultural sustainability within the context in which I work. While PAR does not delineate an explicit methodology, there is a core set of principles or characteristics shared among PAR theorists and practitioners (Atweh, Kemmis & Weeks, 1998; Berg & Schensul, 2004; Gray, 2004; Greenwood & Levin, 1998; Herr & Anderson, 2005; Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000; Reason & Bradbury, 2002; Whyte, 1991). These include the following: • Researchers and practitioners/stakeholders collaborate in the design, conduct, and/or analysis of the project. • The creation of locally-relevant knowledge is a primary goal and the standard for evaluating quality and rigor of the research. • The primary researcher has an active and critical role in designing and conducting the “action” rather than “objectively” documenting the process as in, for instance, a case study. • Data are generated through the experiences of the participants. • Theory and practice are united with the end result of action within the context of the research. • The research design reflects a cyclical nature through which data generation and analysis are continuously built back into the research design. While guided by PAR, my fieldwork was grounded in the qualitative approaches typically associated with ethnography; in a sense, my study was an “actionography.” This research was also cyclical in nature; it did not proceed in the linear format expected of more traditional research, in which the steps of the research process follow one another sequentially. For instance, because of the participatory nature of this work, I often had to readjust my research plans based on changing circumstances. I quickly learned that the collaborative and real-world nature of action research requires flexibility, patience, and a willingness to adapt one’s own goals to those of others. My final project did not turn out as I had envisioned, but my work remained guided by the overarching goal of the research to explore sustainability education in the context of this real-world setting. I was able to sketch the rough outlines of a gardening curriculum that captured the ecological and cultural principles that I wanted to explore. In the following description of my fieldwork, I employ a chronological story-telling format to capture this participatory and non-linear character of my research. My research proceeded in several stages, starting with a “pilot” study during my gardening internship with Boreal Farm in the summer of 2005. I begin the narrative below just after the conclusion of this internship and the inception of my formal work with the Effie Kokrine Charter School.


Research Methods When the EKCS opened in fall of 2005, one of the most innovative components of the new school was its seasonally-based spiral curriculum, which included several weeks of classes in the summer. The EKCS opened at the site of a former school, which already had a school garden operated by Boreal Farm, for whom I had interned as a youth gardening coordinator during the previous summer. I saw the presence of the garden and the summer classes as a perfect opportunity to incorporate gardening into the new culturally-grounded curriculum. My objective was to design gardening curriculum that teachers could integrate into the innovative and still-emerging curriculum. For such a curriculum to be successful, I would have to master the underlying principles of the pedagogical approaches of this new school. For this reason, I saw this as an ideal action research project, in which I would be contributing to the creation and application of local knowledge and would be testing the quality of my work within the research setting itself. I officially began working with the school in October of 2005. I identified one eighth grade teacher who was particularly interested in my initial proposal regarding gardening curriculum (referred to as “Cindy” herein). In order to get to know the school and its students better and develop trust among my collaborators, I began by volunteering in Cindy’s classroom. Over the course of the school year, I became more and more involved in various school activities and staff meetings, witnessing first-hand the challenges and successes of the new school. The school contracted a curriculum consultant to help teachers with the curriculum for their individual classes. I learned much from this consultant concerning her approach to designing culturally-relevant curriculum that integrated Alaska’s standards for public education. I eventually modeled my own gardening curriculum on her templates. However, one of the disjunctions between my vision of a whole-season gardening curriculum and the school’s overall curriculum became apparent; most of the teachers’ units were based on six-week modules, and the whole gardening season does not fit within six weeks. As the seed-starting months of February and March approached, another challenge had to be reconciled. Boreal Farm’s directors intended to manage the school garden as a youth employment program in the same way as they had the previous summer when I worked for them and were not as interested in focusing on curricular integration if it resulted in a diminished garden product for sale to the local community. I had to come up with another alternative. Faced with these challenges, Cindy and I decided to design and pilot a three-week garden module partially based at the traditional family camp of local Athabascan Elder Howard Luke (his real name), who had been actively engaged in the education of Alaska Native youth for many years (Luke, 1998). While the logistics of visiting his camp were challenging, the advantage over using the school garden was the cultural connection to Athabascan gardening practices. I began visiting Howard at his camp, usually with mutual friends along to help with camp chores and listen to Howard tell stories. I paid special attention to his stories about gardening. His mother had always had a garden at their camp, and Howard also worked in the garden at the boarding school he attended in the village of Nenana as a boy. Cindy and I hoped to take her students to Howard’s camp for an extended period of time, but in the end, we were only able to work out a one-night stay in the midst of our three-week module on gardening. This three-week module and the trip to Howard’s camp became the heart of the action part of my dissertation research. Table 1 presents a vignette of our experience at Howard’s camp based on a synthesis of my field notes on that day.


Table 1 Vignette: An Afternoon at Howard’s Camp On May 31, we arrive at Howard Luke’s camp on the Tanana River in two boatloads of ten Alaska Native eighth graders, their two Native teachers, and me, a non-Native doctoral candidate researching place-based education. The objective for this sunny day is to plant Howard’s garden for him. An Athabascan Elder, Howard lives alone at the camp where his mother raised him, near the site of the old Athabascan village of Chena. Despite being just a few miles from Fairbanks, his camp is only accessible by boat because of its location on a large island in the Tanana. Howard’s only source of occasional electricity is a gas-powered generator, yet he has turned his camp into a cultural and educational resource for the community. There are multiple old and new cabins for housing guests and a large gathering hall that Howard constructed with the support of a non-profit foundation several years ago. We are planning on spending one night here with the students. It is less than the week or whole summer we would have preferred, but it is still a treat. Howard greets us from shore as the skiff pulls up next to the silty embankment of this braided, glacial river. Howard is over 80 years old, a small, competent man who loves to tell stories and share his vast knowledge and wisdom with students of all ages. We unload supplies from the boat—food, fuel, and gardening materials—then follow Howard down a faint path along the bank. We pass a couple of older outbuildings before arriving at the heart of the camp, marked by an open-air dance platform a few yards back from the bank. Several cabins, including Howard’s, stand in a row behind the dance platform. The garden we’ve come to tend is nestled next to the oldest cabin in the group—the one-room, dirt-floor dwelling where Howard’s mother lived as a young woman. We head past Howard’s cabin and the dance floor to the outdoor kitchen, a fire pit, small shed, and several picnic tables, all covered by the large blue tarp common to fish camps all over Alaska. Here, we unload our supplies. Cindy, one of the teachers, takes charge and divides the students into groups and assigns each of them chores. She stays in the kitchen with several girls to start preparing lunch, while I take another group of girls to the garden. The second teacher and most of the boys in the group work on whatever chores Howard has for them. Some of them start stripping spruce poles to use as new fence posts around the garden. Others mow the lawn and gather firewood. Over the rest of the day, each student plays some role in preparing and planting the garden. Before our trip, I assigned each of them a particular vegetable to plant. Some of the boys show up at the garden only long enough to deposit their requisite seeds in the ground; many of the girls stay with me through the whole process of preparing the beds and then watering everything in using river water pumped into large barrels next to the garden. In the late afternoon, we give the students free time to play games or visit. I chaperone a walk with several boys down a path past an old graveyard and into the boreal forest Howard knows intimately. As evening descends, I hope that the students will gather around Howard for visiting and storytelling, but the gathering never quite happens. This is my one regret for the day, and I promise myself to work on ways to foster this kind of interaction in the future.


Figure 3: Howard working with students at his camp on the Tanana River. Photo by Laura Henry-Stone, 2006. The gardening season in Fairbanks ends in mid-September, just a few weeks into the conventional school year. The EKCS started its new 2006 school year with summer classes for six weeks starting in July, then resumed again in mid-September after a month-long break. Cindy’s students from the prior year moved on and a new group of eighth graders started in July. I continued to interact with the school and Cindy’s new students throughout the summer, but in September, my research entered a new stage. At this point, I took a step back from my active engagement with students and instead focused on interviewing teachers about their interests in a gardening curriculum. I also participated in several planning meetings that also served as focus group sessions. Both the interviews and the group meetings were open-ended in nature and did not follow a strict interview protocol. General guiding questions included the following: What are your hopes for a gardening curriculum at the school? What is your understanding of the Fairbanks’ food system? How can schoolyard gardening play a part in Fairbanks’ food system? In the nature of action research, I began analyzing the interviews immediately, within the context of the research setting, as I applied their results to the next stage of the research process. Action Research Lens: Designing Gardening Curriculum During the course of the school’s second year of operation, the EKCS board decided to eliminate the summer portion of the school calendar, mostly due to the many administrative problems that had resulted from the lack of alignment between this school’s calendar and the rest of the district. Meanwhile, Boreal Farm continued to plan for another summer operating the EKCS school garden as a youth employment program, despite my efforts to integrate the school garden with what I saw as the school’s educational goals. For instance, several teachers and I agreed that if this garden was to be a model of Alaska Native subsistence practices, selling produce should not be a part of it. For these reasons, I decided that the best way for me to create a useful product for the school and the broader educational community was to design an actual stand-alone gardening curriculum rather than to continue to look for ways to integrate gardening into the existing school curriculum. Many good curricular resources on gardening exist, but most are for elementary level students and consist of collections of activities rather than an integrated


curriculum (e.g. Jaffe & Appel, 2007). My vision was to provide a framework for these types of activities that reflected the principles of Alaska Native pedagogy as they were practiced at EKCS. Once I had made this decision, one of the most interesting developments from the participatory action orientation of my research emerged. The goal of creating a structure and philosophy for the gardening curriculum provided a framework for the analysis of the data I gathered through interviews and observations. The categories I used to analyze interview data were directly tied to practical concerns of developing curriculum, but also reflected some of the deeper philosophical components of the school’s pedagogy. These categories and their descriptions are presented in Table 2. Table 2 Categories of Data Analysis Relevant to Curriculum Design Category Module content themes

Description This is the level at which I focused many of my interview questions. I asked teachers specifically what kinds of themes they would prioritize in a gardening curriculum and what they would recommend I include as components of the curriculum. However, their thematic answers still helped me identify the types of units I would later create as the backbone of the curriculum.

Teacher Understandings of Sustainable Agriculture and Community Food Systems

In my interviews, I included a question about either the concept of sustainable agriculture or community food systems in order to gauge teachers’ understandings or opinions of these concepts. Their responses were all over the board. This divergence is relevant to the curriculum in terms of what background information I chose to include and how to present it in each unit. However, their responses are also potentially more relevant to my concluding discussions about sustainability pedagogy than any of the other categories.


Example Interview Quote “I think one important part we could add is the nutritional value. You know, natural foods versus, um, the more commercial food package stuff. Teaching them that it has many more nutrients and that it’s healthier and, you know, teaching them, finding ways to get veggies for snacks or something, finger food type vegetables…And then if we could do some preserving where we dried stuff and have little things where they take packaged dried vegetables home to add to their soup or something so they get something… they share it with their family. That would be neat. Or potlucks here or something.” “A sustainable food system would be … it’s just… I just see a big garden. Cause it’s not like hunting, because eventually, I mean, right now we see it in my cultural group in my home, people aren’t getting their moose anymore that they grew up with because they’re competing with people from Anchorage, from Montana. You know. They have these cheap rinkydink outboard motors and they’re competing with people that have air boats that can get to places they can’t get. And they’re just stripping apart the land. Therefore, it’s no longer a sustainable food thing, and it’s being regulated to where, you know, before they could just go out and get the meat when they needed it. Now, you have one week or two weeks or three weeks, if you’re

Appropriateness of curriculum to meeting broader school goals

Some of these broader school goals are articulated by official EKCS documents, but some are implicit among the staff. In part, this category teases out some of those goals, specifically those that can be addressed by the gardening curriculum. It also includes more explicit comments on how a gardening curriculum is appropriate to help meet those goals.

Teaching philosophies and approaches

This category is a thematic category that cross-cuts all the categories above. Many times, teachers made comments that related to their own teaching philosophies or approaches.

Curriculum goals

This category is similar to outcomes but is both qualitatively distinct and a bit more explicit about the types of objectives that the curriculum sets out to meet. In my use of the


lucky, that you can go out and get it. But you’re competing with all of these other things. So that’s no longer sustainable… And nowadays we have to have jobs, and you can’t just leave your job and go out there and do that, so it’s not sustainable that way anymore, for a cultural person.” “Oh, I think [gardening curriculum is] a wonderful idea, just because a lot of the students that we’re trying to meet the needs are Native kids who live in the city who don’t necessarily have that tie to their culture or have the village sort of life, so it would be great if they don’t have a garden at home, which a lot of kids live in apartments and can’t have a garden, and we have space here, then I think we should incorporate it, because why not? Space for a garden, kids need to know how to garden. You know… Well, I think it’s part of their tie-in to their culture, you know, sort of the getting back to the nature, and having some sort of a tie to the land rather than just living in a concrete area. They have to realize that as part of the respect for nature value, some…one of that comes from learning how to, um, use the resources wisely. Gardening is a big element.” “What I’d like to see happen here is the idea that we all arrive at, first, a philosophy of methods, and then, kind of a menu of methods that we that we keep using over and over again because we know they work. Because the literature says they work and we’ve experienced them working. Learning styles being one of them. Let’s add to it, though. Journal writing, portfolios, Socratic seminars….So when you look at putting together a module on gardening, I think it’s really important that you balance, “Okay, here’s the content that I want to get across, and here’s the method that I’m doing it, and the different skills I’m teaching…” “Yeah, you know, from a curriculum planning perspective, I guess what I would say is, I think you’d plan a very different curriculum for these guys, if you wanted it to be… if your ultimate

words, outcomes can be tangible, school-wide products, whereas goals explicitly relate to student learning.

Learning activities


Projected outcomes

Many teachers shared input about specific activities they would include in a gardening curriculum. I asked for feedback from the teachers with whom I had worked on various classroom activities during the summer of 2006, and other teachers often offered examples from their own experiences as well. I usually asked my interviewees how they would recommend incorporating standards into the gardening curriculum. I realize now that I assumed that they would want to see a curriculum that made explicit links to standards. Because I asked the question, many of them answered it, so I include their comments here. However, I discovered later, when gathering feedback on my first curriculum draft, that the teachers who looked over the curriculum were perfectly content that I had not included explicit links to standards in each unit. I began this project with my own vague sense of the goals and outcomes I wanted to pursue with the curriculum, but my conversations with teachers helped me think about how to express these. This category includes the comments from teachers most relevant to the outcome level of curriculum.

goal was to teach these kids the value of sustainability, you had these kind of overarching goals, and you wanted to teach them that in the context of their… their daily lives and their choices, then I think it would look different than how you would plan a curriculum for inner city Detroit.” “Work in the garden in the morning to see what’s ready to harvest and then plan a lunch menu around that.” “Plan a balanced meal using Native foods.”

“[O]ne of the science…standards is understanding how organisms work together in an environment. Just the simple things where you taught us about how there are some plants you would naturally plant next to others because they repel bugs. I had no idea about that. And just, things, ideas on how to make things work together naturally. That would be a good science thing.”

“I think if these kids are going to grow up and be healthy productive people with all of the different constraints in the world placed on them, um, part of what we have to be in the process of doing is defining what it means to be a modern-day Native person. They have to. I can’t define that. But really, ultimately, like, being Native… it can’t be what Howard thinks it is. That has to be a part of it. But their lives are too different now than his.”

Using the input from these various categories and from theoretical literature and the review of other school gardening curriculum I had done, I generated a draft of a gardening curriculum appropriate for Interior Alaska. Table 3 portrays the resulting structure for each of the


nine modules of the final gardening curriculum, to be implemented during the course of the gardening season. The structure was also loosely based on the understanding by design framework used by the EKCS curriculum consultant (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998). Table 3 Gardening Curriculum Unit Components Component


Example from Curriculum


Each unit is named based upon its unifying goal and content. There are ten total units.

Unit 1: Sustainable Agriculture

Understanding Goal

Articulating an understanding goal at the beginning of each unit is a technique drawn from an educational design framework known as Teaching for Understanding, which has been employed in the design of other modules in the EKCS Spiral curriculum.

Students will understand that there are different kinds of agriculture, and that sustainable agriculture takes into account cultural, ecological, and economic characteristics of the specific place where it occurs, in this case Interior Alaska.

Performance Task

The performance task is the suggested culminating task required of each student to demonstrate that he or she has met the understanding goal. This is a good place to incorporate different learning styles of individual students.

Students will work together to create a model of a small-scale farm or garden appropriate to Interior Alaska and describe how it is different from a largescale corn field or cow farm in the US Midwest.

Background Information

This section provides background information for the teachers, consisting of the content knowledge I suggest that they need to know in order to help students meet the understanding goal.

Sustainable agriculture is an approach to growing and producing food and fiber that has emerged as a movement in the last several decades. It provides an alternative to the model of conventional agriculture pursued by large agribusiness ventures‌


These are suggested vocabulary that students should know at the end of their unit. Most of them are defined for the teacher in the background information.

agriculture, sustainability, sustainable agriculture, organic agriculture, permaculture, industrial or conventional agriculture, fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide


These are suggested activities for teachers to use to deliver the content knowledge and skills necessary for students to accomplish their performance task and meet the understanding goal.

Visit Boreal Farm for a tour of the farm or arrange to have someone from the farm visit the classroom and guide students on a tour of the EKCS garden. Students should come prepared with questions about why Boreal grows food the way it does. One idea could be to assign each student or pair of students a specific vegetable to investigate and


then report findings back to the rest of the class upon return to the classroom.

Table 4 includes an outline of the nine units according to theme and season. The organization of these units is in part inspired by the spiral curriculum framework employed at the EKCS. The spiral approach employs a place-based and holistic philosophy in that the types of topics being explored during any one unit are in part inspired by what is appropriate for that season, rather than by what standards need to be addressed for the next test. Teachers incorporate discrete standards of learning into the themes of the current unit. Initially, I had hoped to integrate gardening throughout the original spiral curriculum; however, in part because of the cessation of summer classes, this was not possible. We chose to design a stand-alone curriculum that captured the spirit of the spiral instead. Table 4 Gardening Curriculum Outline Theme

Curricular Units

Intro to Gardening

Unit 1: Sustainable agriculture Unit 2: Gardening in Interior Alaska Unit 3: Garden planning and seed starting Unit 4: Soil preparation Unit 5: Transplanting, seeding, and cultivating the garden Unit 6: Pest management Unit 7: Food systems Unit 8: Nutrition, cooking, and preserving Unit 9: Composting

Garden Planting

Garden Harvest

Time of year


Approx. length of time needed 2-3 weeks


2-3 weeks


3-4 weeks

I shared this draft of the gardening curriculum with several of the teachers with whom I had collaborated and interviewed. In this way, the curriculum served as a way to verify my interview data with my interviewees rather than simply showing them transcripts or my data analysis categories as is more typical in qualitative research. However, by the time I shared the draft of the curriculum, there were only three teachers still at the school who had started when the school opened and whom I considered true collaborators. Of the three who reviewed the curriculum, none had significant feedback on the curriculum. Was this because they thought it was good as it was, or because they did not have the time to devote to exploring it deeply? I was never sure. I foresaw that our gardening curriculum, which I had hoped would be used by the EKCS during the summer in their own school garden, would probably not be used as such. I found this exceptionally frustrating, as I saw it as a question of validity—my action research would be validated if the product I collaboratively created were used by the audience for whom it was intended. I acknowledge that there were many factors outside of my control, but I do not know of any instances in which the draft gardening curriculum we created was further developed or used


by any organizations, though it is posted on the website of the Alaska Native Knowledge Network (http://www.ankn.uaf.edu/Curriculum/PhD_Projects/LauraHenryStone.html). One of the most challenging aspects of action research, especially for a graduate student who must write a thesis, is that the author(s) at some point must step back from the participatory action and focus on analyzing the results. This transition marks a new stage in the research; I made very few edits to the gardening curriculum before giving my final draft to the EKCS and moving on. The final stage of my research involved analyzing the gardening curriculum itself to draw more theoretical conclusions about sustainability education. These will be discussed in the following section. Discussion: Sustainability Pedagogy as Demonstrated by EKCS Gardening Curriculum The process and product of the gardening curriculum serves as a “lens” to focus and integrate theory and action (see Fig. 1). The primary outcome of this focusing process is a clearer articulation of the suggested components of sustainability pedagogy introduced at the beginning of this paper. This discussion section returns to this topic with a deeper explanation of the components and then uses the EKCS gardening curriculum to illustrate them. 1. Systems thinking describes the philosophical framework of sustainability pedagogy. Because sustainability is a property of complex systems, it is imperative that students and teachers alike learn how to think systemically. Curriculum should be organized around this philosophy 2. Teaching methods utilize place-based and problem-based learning. Regarding teaching methods, place-based and problem-based learning have much to offer sustainability educators. Because sustainability is most useful when applied to particular systems, students should be encouraged to investigate particular components of systems with which they are familiar. 3. Eco-cultural literacy defines the core content. Regarding content of sustainability education, learning goals could focus on eco-cultural literacy. What knowledge about ecology and culture (including economics, politics, and social institutions as well as cultural practices) do students need to have to understand how to sustain the important components of such systems? 4. Educational values are tied to eco-justice values. Sustainability education cannot ignore the role of values. I suggest that sustainability pedagogy incorporate what Bowers (2001) refers to as eco-justice values, or a set of principles that honors and respects both human and non-human members of the Earth community. 5. Assessment must be appropriate to these above components. How do educators properly assess whether the preceding philosophy, methods, content, and values are in fact creating in students the ability to foster sustainability in the systems to which they belong? Systems thinking is reflected in multiple ways in the gardening curriculum, just as it is in the spiral curricular framework for the EKCS as a whole. My dual objectives regarding systems thinking are to both integrate students within the system under consideration—the socioecological food system of Interior Alaska—and teach students how to think systemically. The curriculum attempts to meet both of these goals simultaneously by including activities to teach students about their own role in their food system, such as by asking students to characterize this system from their perspectives. In addition to learning about their food systems, students undertaking this Interior Alaska gardening curriculum also learn to be agents of a complex community food system, in which they work together as a learning community to plan, plant, and


harvest a garden. Not each student has the same job and learns the same content knowledge; rather, they learn together. The EKCS gardening curriculum also draws from both place-based education and problem-based learning as components of sustainability pedagogy. The curriculum offers a way to connect students with their places through food that they grow themselves and then prepare and eat together. What we eat is one of the most fundamental interactions humans undertake with the natural world. There are several examples in the EKCS gardening curriculum of how place is used, such as taking students to Howard Luke’s camp or a similar community site to conduct gardening activities and asking students to conduct research on their local food systems and growing conditions. Similarly, gardening education is problem-based education. How do we feed ourselves, our families, and our communities without taxing the limits of our local food systems? These are sustainability challenges that students learning through a place-based gardening curriculum can take on as part of their learning process. In this Interior Alaska gardening curriculum, eco-cultural literacy is a key learning objective. Gardening provides an excellent way to learn ecological principles generally and those of specific areas particularly, as students must become familiar with local climate and ecosystems, especially characteristics concerning soils and potential pests. Organic gardening and sustainable agriculture are especially apropos for learning about local ecology because a gardener using principles of sustainable agriculture must have a deep understanding of how to reliably produce quality crops with minimal damage to the local environment. In Interior Alaska, the primary Indigenous culture is Athabascan, though many others are also represented at the EKCS, as is Euro-American. But because this curriculum is intended to be culturally appropriate in addition to creating sustainable food systems, special attention is given to local Athabascan culture. My fieldwork involved working with and learning about the gardening experiences of local elder Howard Luke, which I incorporated into the design of the gardening curriculum. There could be many other ways to incorporate Native knowledge of gardening and food systems into this curriculum as well. However, beyond just including the content about Howard’s experiences, the curriculum also attempts to teach using an Athabascan approach to education, which emphasizes practical skills and an intimate knowledge of local environments. Eco-justice values are expressed multiple ways in the EKCS gardening curriculum. First of all, one of the objectives of the curriculum to improve community food systems in a way that pursues greater food security for students and their families while simultaneously respecting and maintaining the needs of local ecological support systems, a fundamental goal of sustainable agriculture. Food insecurity is linked to poor management of food systems and is often most prevalent among underprivileged communities, such as many rural Alaska communities with high percentages of Alaska Natives. Second, this gardening curriculum provides a way to address cultural values associated with Indigenous Alaskan cultures. One of the goals of the EKCS as a whole is to teach through a culturally-appropriate curriculum, which includes students learning and implementing cultural values. The school is supporting the process recommended by Bowers (2001) in which the EKCS community is evaluating which Alaska Native cultural values are still relevant in today’s world. Elders play a primary role in this process, as the cultural standards adopted by the Alaska State Department of Education and Early Development were developed by a team of Alaska Native Elders and educators from around the state (Boyer, 2006). This incorporation of cultural values is reflected in the EKCS gardening curriculum through the involvement of Athabascan Elder Howard Luke in the curriculum as well as through the correlation of various units and activities to cultural standards.


This draft of an EKCS gardening curriculum does not fully address appropriate assessment. In the understanding by design framework (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998) used to develop the units in the curriculum, students are asked to perform authentic performance tasks to demonstrate their understanding of the learning goal for the unit. I also had the original goal of incorporating Alaska State Standards for education within the gardening curriculum in order to attempt integration of Western and Indigenous pedagogies. However, because I designed the units based upon broader goals for the entire curriculum, standards were difficult to incorporate in the appropriate places and at appropriate scales. Some of the standards, such as those in the content area of science, are extremely specific, while others, such as cultural or technology standards, are broader and therefore easier to apply to a wider range of learning activities. The draft curriculum includes incomplete, preliminary attempts to incorporate standards, with the expectation that classroom teachers are the best judge of which standards to address with which units. Besides more fully incorporating standards, the next step for planning how to evaluate this curriculum as effective sustainability education would be to outline sustainability indicators, which could also be thought of as outcomes. This would be an important arena in which to conduct additional research on sustainability pedagogy. Conclusion: A Sustainable Future for Sustainability Education? This research has been an exploration of how place-based education can promote the emergence of sustainability within a particular social-ecological system. Two research outcomes were proposed (see Fig. 1)—a theoretical articulation of sustainability pedagogy and an increase in sustainability of community food systems in Interior Alaska. The discussion above addressed the first outcome. The more practical outcome has not been the primary focus of this paper. This research did not attempt to measure or evaluate sustainability of the community food systems of which the Effie Kokrine School is a part. This type of evaluation would require a much more extensive research design, including a more thorough development and implementation of the gardening curriculum itself. At this point, I do not know of any plans to continue to develop the EKCS gardening curriculum, but certainly gardening education itself remains a part of the school’s program thanks to the commitment of the teachers and staff. Another evaluative challenge is that conceptualizing sustainability as an emergent property rather than a measurable phenomenon makes assessing sustainability extremely challenging. Complex systems do not lend themselves well to human control; rather, in the words of Dana Meadows, we must learn to “dance with the system” (2005). My research in many ways was about learning to dance with the EKCS system rather than taking its measure. The components of sustainability pedagogy proposed above represent my attempt to synthesize relevant educational concepts from both Western and Native educational paradigms as they apply to a particular context, with the intention of providing an integrated framework for future work on sustainability education. Clearly, this research was heavily influenced by the belief that indigenous approaches to education have much to offer to the field of sustainability education. I am not an expert on Alaska Native culture; I am a Western environmental educator with an abiding interest in indigenous cultures and their relationships with place. I believe that some Native cultures have much wisdom to share about living sustainably and passing on to children these principles of sustainable living. Through participatory action research with a Native educational community I was able to collaborate with practitioners in the design of a curriculum that attempted to integrate these paradigms, informing us theoretically as well as making a practical contribution. Do these core principles of sustainability pedagogy apply to


multiple contexts or are they specific to unique settings? My hope is that this framework provides both an educational and a research model for other sustainability educators and researchers to explore by applying these components to the development and evaluation of other sustainability education programs, especially gardening programs. There are some areas in which this integration occurred smoothly and some that did not integrate as well. For instance, the holistic and place-based educational approach demonstrated by the EKCS spiral curriculum is clearly aligned with the systems thinking advocated by sustainability educators. On the other hand, the assessment components of Western and indigenous education frameworks do not correspond so well. As mentioned in the review of literature, Bowers (2001) touches on this point with his discussion of the difference between individual-based societies like those in the Western world and societies that prioritize a different social unit as do many indigenous cultures. In addition, the truest assessment of sustainability education in indigenous cultures used to be simply whether the culture survived (Kawagley, 1995).These differences in the scale or unit of assessment have significant implications for the field of sustainability education. As a product primarily of the Western educational world, this field has not fully grappled with the question of appropriate assessment. These differences in worldviews about how to assess the effectiveness of education have interesting implications for meeting our sustainability challenges. Visiting Howard’s camp is usually a profound experience. As I sit under the blue tarp by the river, gazing at its timeless current, I try to imagine what Howard has seen in his lifetime living on the Tanana. People of my grandparents’ generation have all witnessed significant changes in the world around them, but Howard has the added value for me of observing this change from the perspective of a completely different culture—Athabascan Indian—and in a place on the fringes of American society—Alaska. The people living across the river in comfortable, multi-story homes are mostly Euro-Americans whom Howard has watched immigrating to this land for decades. As one of those Euro-Americans, I feel it can only benefit those of us from each culture to understand one another and face the challenges of the future together. These challenges are massive in scale and will take patience and ingenuity and adaptability—qualities relevant to sustainability.

Acknowledgements While innumerable people made this work possible, I would like to particularly acknowledge Dr. Craig Gerlach and Dr. Ray Barnhardt at the University of Alaska Center for Cross-Cultural Studies and the teachers and students at the Effie Kokrine Charter School. In addition, I am deeply indebted to the many Alaska Native people and Elders who shared their time and experience with me. I do not presume to speak for them; I merely offer the lessons that I learned from them. Author Biography Dr. Henry-Stone earned an interdisciplinary doctorate in Sustainability Education through the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2008. She continues to research and implement place-based sustainability education in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Appalachian Mountains of western Virginia.


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Sustainability Education in K-12 Classrooms Wendy Church and Laura Skelton Facing the Future http://facingthefuture.org/ Abstract The national focus in K-12 education currently is on core subject mastery and testing; this is a tough environment in which to instill and expand sustainability education. Even those educators committed to sustainability education often have difficulty finding ways to incorporate what is considered by many to be ‘add-on’ material. Nevertheless our experience shows that educating for sustainability can be and is implemented effectively in virtually all kinds of K-12 classrooms by using one of four general approaches. This article includes descriptions and examples of these approaches, provides a summary of benefits of sustainability education, and gives an overview of sustainability education in the U.S. Included are results from several of our studies conducted on the use of sustainability education. A list of K-12 sustainability education resources is provided at the end of the article. Keywords: K-12 education, global issues, sustainable solutions, sustainability education, critical thinking, systems thinking, student engagement

Over the last 10 years our organization, Facing the Future, has worked to help educators incorporate global issues and sustainability education into their K-12 classrooms. We’ve surveyed and interviewed thousands of educators and administrators around the country to learn what they need and how they incorporate sustainability education into their teaching. During this time we’ve launched and grown a global issues and sustainable solutions curricular effort that annually reaches over 1,500,000 K-12 students in all 50 states and around the world. We hope the following information that we’ve culled from over a decade of experience will highlight the importance of educating for sustainability and help educators simply and effectively incorporate sustainability education into their classrooms.

An Overview of Sustainability Education in the U.S. Sustainability means different things to different people. For our purposes we define it broadly as the notion that a generation of people can consider sustaining themselves without inhibiting the ability of future generations to do so. While some people use the term “sustainability education” interchangeably with “environmental education”, sustainability differs from environmental education in that it necessarily includes environmental, social, and economic concerns (McMillan and Higgs 2003). We like to use the broader term “global sustainability” which refers to applying the sustainability concept on a global as well as local level, recognizing that at this time in human development we are all very much connected.


The broad interconnected issues we often think about when talking about global sustainability are population, poverty, environment, consumption, conflict, and quality of life. Specific topics of current or historical interest, such as climate change, education or health, fall under the umbrella of these broad issues. In addition to these broad issues, there are several skills that many believe to be critical to global sustainability. These include (for a more in-depth discussion of this topic see Cloud, 2010 and Nolet, 2009): 1. Taking a global perspective, including a recognition that issues, people, and places are interconnected 2. Understanding how systems operate 3. Thinking critically and making informed decisions A decade ago, the U. S. President's Council on Sustainable Development (1996) published Education for Sustainability: An Agenda for Action. This document articulated a clear vision and a Federal agenda for education for sustainability in formal and informal settings and was emphatic in calling for the presence of sustainability in the K-12 curriculum as well as in the preparation of teachers. Since that time, global sustainability has become increasingly prevalent in teaching. Some states have or are adopting education standards around sustainability (e.g., Vermont 2000, Washington 2009). In the private schools sector the national governing body, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), has developed an emphasis on sustainability in schools according to what they are calling “global initiatives.” NAIS’ Global Initiative seeks to “...help students become global citizens and global leaders, and to assist schools and their students in making contributions across borders.” 1 Key support for the increase in sustainability education is provided by overlaps among sustainability and some universal educational standards, including critical thinking, systems thinking, and specific subject area standards. An example of where sustainability concerns overlap with the latter is the high school National Science Education Standard F: Science in Personal & Social Perspectives, which includes such topic areas as “personal and community health; natural resources; environmental quality; and natural and human-induced hazards (National Research Council 1996).” We’ve observed global sustainability teaching occurring at all levels of K-12 education. At the classroom level, teachers are using sustainability as a context within which to teach core subjects, as well as teaching sustainability as its own subject. At the school level, a great variety of schools are focused on sustainability-centered learning themes. In some cases, school districts also have a stated emphasis on or ongoing commitment to sustainability. Our data indicate that sustainability is being successfully integrated in every state, in every grade level, and in most subjects. We recently surveyed over 1,000 K-12 teachers who had incorporated teaching for global sustainability into their classrooms. These teachers self-selected to respond to an online survey conducted by Facing the Future; approximately 2/3 had used Facing the Future sustainability curriculum and 1/3 had not. Most of the respondents taught in 1

National Association of Independent Schools, “Global Education,” http://www.nais.org/sustainable/index.cfm?ItemNumber=146778&sn.ItemNumber=151259 (accessed February 5, 2010).


public schools (79%) and included a mix of high school (56%), middle school (40%), and elementary teachers (15%). The teachers surveyed represent varied classroom settings and communities: they teach in 48 different states, the classrooms of 50% of these teachers include a significant percentage of students on free and reduced lunch, and over 30% of the students in the classrooms involved are nonwhite. Among these teachers, global sustainability was used as a context within which to teach core subjects (32% total in math, science, reading, writing, social studies), as well as in its own right (61% taught sustainability as its own subject). In a number of cases sustainability was taught as an interdisciplinary unit. The teachers worked sustainability into their teaching using different methods, including: • 1-2 day activities, from 1 to 25 lessons a year used as ‘hooks’ to engage students in a core subject (60%) • 1-2 week intensive curriculum units, containing lessons and student readings (27%) • supplemental reading for a unit (12%) • supplemental reading to provide the thematic background for an entire semester, or to teach an entire course on sustainability (5%) In addition to the incorporation of sustainability into K-12 classrooms, a very exciting development is the increased interest in incorporating global sustainability into colleges of education. An example of this is Washington State’s Professional Educator Standards Board, which recently adopted Teacher Preparation Standard V for colleges of education which seeks to ensure that, among other things, “All students are prepared to be responsible citizens for an environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society.” Inserting social issues programming into these colleges can help create new generations of teachers equipped and motivated to include sustainability issues in their teaching.

Benefits of Sustainability Education Sustainability educators provide a variety of reasons why sustainability education is needed in K-12 education. However, not all educators are equally enthusiastic or willing to commit to sustainability education. Those educators wishing to incorporate sustainability concepts into their classrooms often face resistance from other teachers or administrators in their educational setting. The obstacle we hear most often mentioned by educators is a lack of time – time to learn something new, or the time to introduce an idea external to the curriculum. This is summed up in the following quote from a department head in a mediumsized public school: “We’d love to integrate sustainability into our classrooms, but there is little to no room in the curriculum for add-ons.” An increasing number of K-12 teachers, schools, and districts are including elements of sustainability education into either specific classes or as a district or school-wide thematic focus (e.g., Schachter 2009). Here’s a summary of what we’ve heard as the primary reasons that these educators are choosing sustainability education. At the end of this section are the results of a survey Facing the Future conducted with science teachers about what specific benefits they observed from incorporating sustainability into their teaching.


Builds essential skills Sustainability concepts can provide wonderful context for developing the skills of critical thinking, systems thinking, collaboration, and communication. One teacher who had incorporated sustainability lessons into his classroom told us: “The nature of lessons on sustainability requires that students apply critical thinking skills and that they draw from their own experiences and world knowledge. The interactive characteristic of the activities invites the participation of all students.� Because sustainability discussions involve current affairs and often complex global connections, the material can be used as a starting point for critical thinking exercises as students consider the many facets of an issue. Climate change is a great example of this, as it involves both science and related complex social and economic issues. Below is a table of how the sustainability issue of climate change can be used to teach required high school science skills. Table 1. Student Learning Objectives Mapped to Science Standards Using Climate Change as the Context NSES A: NSES B: NSES C: NSES NSES E: NSES F: Sample D: Science as Physical Life Science Science & Science in Climate Inquiry Science Earth & Technology Personal & Change Space Social Learning Science Perspectives Objectives e.g., Understanding of scientific concepts; an appreciation of "how we know" what we know in science. Brainstorm and discuss personal and structural solutions to climate change


e.g., Chemical reactions


e.g., Interdependence of organisms; matter, energy, and organization in living systems


e.g., Energy in the earth system


e.g., Abilities of technological design; understanding about science and technology


Debate climate change policy from multiple viewpoints Understand the impacts of climate change on living communities

e.g., Personal and community health; natural resources; environmental quality; natural and humaninduced hazards




Describe some economic solutions to




climate change Explore environmental justice issues related to climate change


Explain the science behind the greenhouse effect and rising global temperatures Understand the impacts of climate change on societies and environments in different parts of the world




Analyze the benefits and consequences of using various fuel sources



Improves student engagement in learning Distracted students are non-learning students; student engagement in learning is a key to academic success (Bowen et al. 2003). We’ve seen that real-world sustainability issues can engage students in a way that other topics or contexts do not. While there is no hard data linking improved test scores to sustainability programming, there are reports that that link student engagement to improved academic performance. From Using Student Engagement to Improve Adolescent Literacy (Learning Point Institute 2005): “As anyone who has spent time with middle and high school students can attest, attempting to build the skills of disengaged adolescents is a futile enterprise. Whether expressed as passive noncompliance or passive “checking out”, the student who refuses to learn will succeed in that effort.” Readings and activities that enable students to grapple with real-life, real-world issues and combine them with opportunities for reflection and syntheses make learning authentic. A teacher of English language learners told us: “The students who are in the achievement gap are engaged by the curriculum because it speaks to their truths. The curriculum doesn’t leave anyone out of the picture. All people are represented and an understanding of their lives is incorporated into the lessons.” Facing the Future annually surveys thousands of teachers around the country about their curriculum and professional development needs and habits. Year after year, teachers


overwhelmingly talk about improved student engagement when teaching real-world sustainability issues. In one survey of over 1,700 K-12 educators nationwide, more than 50% told us that their main motivation for using supplementary curricula in general was its “superior ability to engage students.” Even more compelling is that each year over 85% of teachers surveyed say that the use of global sustainability curriculum engages their students “more or as well as anything else” they use. A middle school social studies teacher noted how a lesson on depletion of natural resources helped engage all of her students: “The handson activities brought in another dimension of learning and brought my tougher-to-reach kids into the lesson.” Connects students to their community and inspires active citizenship In addition to our annual teacher surveys we’ve conducted a number of studies with students, assessing their knowledge, beliefs, and behavior before and after learning about global sustainability in their classrooms. The following quotes from 7th and 9th grade students made after participating in global sustainability programming in their classrooms show the kinds of changes in attitudes and worldviews that can occur when sustainability education is taught: “I used to say I wanted to make a difference when I grow up. After this [global sustainability unit] I realize that I can make a difference right now.” “I think more about the world and what my purpose is in it.” “It made me think about what is happening in the world and how much the way I live is affecting it. This unit really changed my insight on life and it really makes me want to try to do something.” It is important to note that sustainability education can be especially powerful when an action component, such as service learning, is included. Topics taught using sustainability as the context can be overwhelmingly complex or depressing to students who are not also learning about the positive steps being taken toward sustainability, or how they can work to create a future of their own making. Prepares students for challenges of the 21st Century One factor that can motivate sustainability educators is that global sustainability education prepares students for challenges of the 21st century. In fact, this is why many educators enter the teaching profession in the first place. Educators express that they feel there is a moral imperative to prepare students for a globally interconnected world in which we are seeing unprecedented population levels coupled with living systems and resources in decline. Many feel that we cannot simply let our children inherit problems such as climate change, resource depletion, and poverty without teaching them the knowledge and tools to create a more sustainable future. The overriding message that educators are conveying to students with sustainability education is that solutions exist and we can build healthier communities while addressing these challenges.


Study: Benefits of teaching global sustainability in science classrooms We surveyed 55 science teachers who had incorporated a study of climate change into their high school classrooms using supplementary curriculum. These teachers used a 1-2 week comprehensive curricular unit about climate change. 2 These teachers worked in a variety of situations: they taught in 31 different states, 42 taught in public schools, the classrooms of 70% of these teachers included significant percentages of students on free and reduced lunch, and over 35% of the students in the classrooms were nonwhite. Almost all (96%) of the teachers reported that the lessons taught using the contextual framework of climate change increased their students’ critical thinking skills. Most (82%) saw increased engagement in the classroom with this context, and 79% said the units “increased students' belief that they can make a difference on global issues”. After using the curriculum 88% of the teachers found their own knowledge of the subject and confidence in teaching it increased, and 87% thought it improved their teaching. It’s worthwhile to note that that 20 of these teachers (over 35%) were not particularly interested in teaching specifically about climate change, but used it solely as a means to engage their students in a core science topic.

Effective Strategies for Integrating Sustainability into Education Global sustainability is currently incorporated in a wide variety of ways into classrooms, schools, districts, states, and in non-formal education settings. Some teachers are able to teach about sustainability as a stand-alone subject, either as part of a course or in some cases, full courses. Others work sustainability into their materials as the contextual basis for core subjects, or for various kinds of student projects. There are a small but growing number of schools and districts around the country who have developed their entire school-wide theme around sustainability; that is, sustainability provides a context for learning in all subject areas. Below are descriptions of the four major approaches that we’ve seen educators use to incorporate sustainability into their learning environments, along with some examples taken from U.S. classrooms. Strategy 1: Sustainability as its own subject In some cases, teachers and schools may be able to teach sustainability as a stand-alone subject, not necessarily tied to particular core content learning standards. There are different variations on this approach: sustainability may be the subject of an entire course, it may be taught as a thematic unit within a core subject course, or it may be incorporated as a single lesson. Supplemental curriculum, particularly activity-based lessons, is a great way to insert sustainability into classrooms. Described below are two sustainability-based lessons, followed by teachers’ comments about these activities. We have seen these particular lessons 2

This unit, “Climate Change: Connections and Solutions,” is available free via download on Facing the Future’s website: www.facingthefuture.org.


adopted for use by teachers in middle and high schools, as well as in interdisciplinary settings. Example 1: Sustainable Fisheries, Migration, and Conflict This lesson is in wide use, and presented in different forms by various curricula providers. Students are divided into small groups, each with a bowl of M&M-type candies. The students are told that the bowls are their oceans, and the candies are the fish. Students are given straws with which to ‘fish’, and told that there will be several fishing seasons. The only rule is that students must each catch 2 ‘fish’ each season to feed their families and survive until the next season (see picture #1). After each fishing season, the ‘oceans’ are replenished on a 1:1 basis students taking all of their ‘fish’ in the first season are faced with no replenishment, and an empty ocean. As the lesson goes on, a few students are given spoons with which to fish (instead of straws); this new ‘technology’ makes it much easier to ‘fish’. What typically happens as this lesson progresses is that one or more groups of students empty their oceans. Because they haven’t been told they can’t, these students may then migrate to other students’ oceans and try to take their fish. This predictably leads to conflict, often with students wielding straws fending off their classmates with spoons. When the lesson is over the teacher can take the discussion and subsequent work in a number of directions; for example (s)he can talk about sustainable harvesting, or the effect of resource depletion on emigration and on conflict, all of which link to current global realities. One high school history teacher had this to say after incorporating this activity into her classroom: “Hands-on activities generate an experience that reaches many students who cannot connect with text. The ‘Fishing’ activity has supplemented my current unit and allowed students to visualize the impact on our oceans, rivers and streams.”

Picture #1: Middle school students practicing sustainable ‘fishing’


Example 2: Ecological Footprint and Social Equity In this activity-based lesson students are placed into groups of four or five and asked to think of something they use or enjoy in their everyday lives. The students draw a picture of the object on a large piece of paper (often using color). Once the students have done that, the teacher asks questions about the origins of the component parts; for example, if the students choose a hamburger, the teacher would ask them “Where does the meat come from?” Students might start out by saying “the store”. Additional questions lead the students to track back the ultimate origins of the product. For hamburger meat this would include cows, pastureland, and water. Students are then asked to identify the impacts of the various elements, for example, pollution resulting from transporting the meat from the butcher to the store. The end result of this lesson is a map of all of the externalities associated with everyday objects that are familiar to students (see picture #2). This includes things like chemicals used to create the product and associated pollution (such as pesticides used in vegetable production), labor and associated human rights issues around production for athletic shoes, and fair trade issues around coffee and chocolate production and distribution. Some of the objects we’ve seen students choose to “map” include snowboards, SUV’s, toilet paper, and pizza. This lesson grabs students’ attention as it starts with something that is interesting to them. Teachers see a real ‘aha’ moment as students grasp how choices in their everyday lives affect the world around them: What does it really take to create a hamburger? How does chocolate get from trees in Africa to stores in the U.S.? One middle school language arts teacher shared the following observations with us about the impact of this activity on her classroom: “Every one of my regular students was actively engaged in the "footprint" activity -- even those who rarely ever speak in class. The issues they find in this type of curriculum are things they feel directly connected to. It is very relevant to their lives today and what they are hearing and reading in the news and seeing in their own communities.”

Picture 2: Student artifact mapping the ecological footprint of socks Many educators create or use 1-2 week thematic units to bring sustainability issues into their classrooms. In most cases they build the units up from simple activities, such as those


presented above, by integrating the activities with readings and projects. We’ve seen the popularity of this approach rise as more teachers want to try to insert sustainability issues into their classes in concentrated segments. Popular topics include climate change, poverty, and sustainability as a whole. Strategy 2: Sustainability as the context within which to teach core subjects Global sustainability provides an authentic and engaging context for teaching core subjects. We’ve seen this approach taken in particular by science and social studies teachers. For example, when teaching about chemical bonds, a chemistry teacher might discuss how carbon’s chemical structure is connected to global climate change. As noted above (Table 1), contextual and personal connections make up a portion of most educational science standards, and sustainability issues such as climate change provide a great backdrop for linking science to its compelling social issues. We’ve also seen this approach taken in math classes. Below is an example of how one teacher used sustainability as the context within which to teach foundational algebra and geometry. Example: Math: Area and Transformations - Wildlife Habitat At the Community Learning Center East, an alternative school for at-risk 7-9th graders in Florida, a math lesson on area and transformations became a catalyst for a school-wide habitat project. The lesson introduced the students to the concepts of geometric figures and transformations by having them calculate the dimensions of snow leopard habitats in the Bronx Zoo, the Naltar Wildlife Sanctuary in Pakistan, and the Ajar Canyon wildlife preserve in Afghanistan. The students’ interest was piqued as they learned about an endangered species they have never seen. After getting hooked on these math concepts through the lesson, students went outside their classroom to investigate their own ‘habitat’ around their school. What they found was a lot of weeds and very little “green stuff.” Using their newfound math skills, the students determined the requirements and parameters for a school garden. They calculated the perimeter of the garden’s planting area, the area of weed cloth required and the volume of mulch needed. As the project grew within the school it became interdisciplinary, involving the Language Arts teacher who worked with students on conducting research and persuasive writing on native plants and habitats. As a result of this project, community relationships were established, including connections with several related groups including the local native plant nursery, the National Wildlife Federation’s backyard habitat resources, and the Florida Native Plant Society. Ultimately the school’s garden became a showcase for the students and the schools, and they developed and conducted tours for the public which generated local publicity. As the lead teacher for this project reflected on the curriculum and the project, she said, “Rather than using prescribed practice items, this provided real world skills. It wasn’t an add-on, but just a replacement of less effective materials.” Strategy 3: Sustainability projects Project-based learning is incorporated into many schools and the interest in this approach is growing, particularly for culminating/senior projects, ‘Project Weeks’, and to fulfill service learning requirements. Global sustainability provides an incredible platform from which to base a breathtaking array of projects. Below is an example of how the social justice element


of sustainability was used as the context in which students engaged in a service learning project. Example: Service learning at Morris Brandon Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia In a 4th and 5th grade Connections class at Morris Brandon Elementary School, students went beyond merely learning content about some of the social justice issues involved in sustainability, and engaged in a service learning project to benefit CARE. To jumpstart this topic in her class, the Connections teacher invited a representative from CARE who had spent several years in Kenya as a refugee from Uganda to come in to speak to the class about refugees. After this first-person account of what it was like to be a refugee, students participated in a simulation-based lesson developed by Facing the Future called “Seeking Asylum” (the activity can be downloaded in its entirety from the Facing the Future website). Through this lesson students experienced the difficult choices and struggles facing refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Students (in family groups) are told that civil war has broken out, forcing them to flee from their homes, and that they have two minutes to decide what they want to take with them. Students who remember to bring their ID cards become refugees, while the others end up in an IDP camp. Each group has to come up with a plan for what they will do to survive. In addition to the simulation, students researched refugee issues on select websites including The United National High Commissioner for Refugees, Anatomy of a Refugee Camp from CBC News, and Medecins Sans Frontieres. After they did “Seeking Asylum” and read some articles about real refugee situations, the class did a ‘refugee walk’ to raise money for CARE. During the 40 minutes of class, everyone went out on the track and walked as many laps as possible. The students had gotten pledges for the amount of laps they could walk. The students and teacher carried backpacks, blankets and other household items to "empathize" with the refugee situation. This was a simple way to raise money that did not involve after school activities, parents permission forms, chaperones, or transportation (some of the many hurdles to implementing service learning projects). Strategy 4: Sustainability at the school-wide or district level to guide institutional and curricular innovation - thematic In a handful of schools and districts around the country, sustainability is becoming an integrating context for “greening” the facilities and curriculum across subjects and grades. One such example is the Gladstone School District in Oregon. Located about 15 miles south of Portland, the district educates about 2,000 students, 50% of whom are enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. What ultimately is becoming a comprehensive sustainability initiative started with a $40,000,000 bond measure that was passed in 2006 (Gladstone School District). As administrators began planning for facilities renovations in the district, some spurred their thinking on the advantages of greening their facilities, and as a result the school board developed a ‘sustainability goal’ for the district. The district has worked closely with the regional community as the work has progressed. As a result, they have reached out and developed new partnerships with higher education institutions, statewide sustainability groups, and the renewable energy community. The building renovations and improvements have served as a touch point for innovation in teaching and learning. A sustainable curriculum development team was formed to infuse sustainability themes into the


classroom, and student involvement on the campuses is increasing. A video of the some of the work going on at Gladstone is available on the district’s webpage at: http://www.gladstone.k12.or.us/Videos.html.

Looking Ahead and Resources The multitude of approaches to incorporating sustainability education into existing curricula and educational settings means that teachers from all different situations can teach sustainability in ways that are appropriate for their unique circumstances. From a single lesson to a district-wide theme, sustainability can be taught to all U.S. students. We have seen that even teachers resistant to adopting new things or accepting sustainability as a legitimate educational construct will put it into their classrooms when it meets their needs, which could be anything from covering core subject learning standards to meeting service learning requirements. A number of sustainability education resources are available for curricula, programming, professional development, and consulting, whether it be for inserting a few lessons into the curricula or establishing sustainability as a thematic context for a district. All of these sites are good starting points as they all provide extensive lists of additional resources. The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education: http://www.sustainabilityed.org/ Facing the Future: http://facingthefuture.org/ Shelburne Farms: http://www.shelburnefarms.org/index.htm U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development: http://www.uspartnership.


Works Cited Bowen, E. R., J. Zahner, L. Starnes, K. Rohacek, J. Brazeal (2003). Student Engagement and Its Relation to Quality Work Design. Action Research Exchange, vol 2, no 1. (available at http://teach.valdosta.edu/are/) Cloud, J. P. (2010). Educating for a Sustainable Future. Chapter 10 in Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World, H. H. Jacobs, Ed. 168-185. Gladstone School District. Questions and Answers about the Gladstone School Bond Measure 3255. Available at http://www.gladstone.k12.or.us/Bond/Bond.html (accessed April 21, 2010). Learning Point Institute (2005). Using Student Engagement to Improve Adolescent Literacy. A Quick Key Action Guide originally produced in whole or in part by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. McMillan, V. M. and A. L. Higgs (2003). Implementing Sustainability Education: Lessons from Four Innovative Schools. Practicum submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science at the University of Michigan. vi. National Research Council (1996). National Science Education Standards. 108. Nolet, V. (2009). Preparing Sustainability-Literate Teachers. Teachers College Record, vol 111, no 2. 409-442. Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (2009). Washington State K-12 Integrated Environmental and Sustainability Education Standards. Professional Educator Standards Board. Educator Preparation Standard V. Available at http://www.pesb.wa.gov/ProgramReview/default.asp (accessed April 21, 2010). Schachter, R. (2009). A Deeper Shade of Green: School administrators are raising the bar on sustainability efforts, and the results are paying off big time. District Administrator, June-July 2009. Vermont Department of Education (2000). Vermont’s Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities. 3.2 and 4.1. Wheeler, K., R. Ponce de Leone, M. Kunin, M. Schaefer (1996). Education for Sustainability: An Agenda for Action. Final report for the National Forum on Partnerships Supporting Education about the Environment, U.S. President’s Council for Sustainable Development.


Standing in the Crossroads: The Role of Transformative Education in Addressing Sustainability Christine Kelly chrmkelly@earthlink.net

Abstract Today we find ourselves standing in the crossroads of our future. Will we learn from our past mistakes and successes or become yet another story of societal and ecological collapse? As sustainability educators we are called to consider our contribution to education innovation by asking, as does Stephen Sterling (2001), what is education innovation, what is education innovation for and how is educational productivity defined. Our capacity to leverage the knowledge contained in the past and present chronicles of environmental devastation and human behavior lies in how we choose to answer these questions today and into the future. This article explores how complexity, resilience, transformation and regeneration form a transformation pedagogy based in a paradigm of learning as change. This pedagogy underscores the need for systems thinking, paradoxical curiosity, dialectical thinking, and transcendence within an authentic action context as well as the necessity for more aesthetic and spiritual spaces of engagement and connection. This approach to sustainability education is designed to intentionally increase the complexity of our learning environments by creating persistent relational communion platforms that though their adaptation and transformation allow for the emergence of the as-yet imagined—for it is this creative and imaginative capacity that can foster catalytic change; change that moves us from the brink of collapse towards a sustainable future for all. Key Words: Transformation, Complexity, Resilience, Regeneration, Sustainability, Education

Standing in the Crossroads: The Role of Transformative Education in Addressing Sustainability Jared Diamond, in his book “Collapse: How Societies Choose or Fail to Succeed� (2005) explores how environmental components, the contributions of climate change, and hostile neighbors and trade partners lead to the collapse of societies such as the Maya of the New World and the Norse of Greenland. Diamond identifies eight factors that have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies. These factors include deforestation, habitat destruction, soil degradation, poor water resource management, overhunting, overfishing, invasive species,


overpopulation and increased per-capita ecological impact of people. While Diamond recognizes that environmental damage is not the only major factor in the collapse of civilizations (the collapse of the Soviet Union a case in point), he underscores that the human capacity to choose lay at the heart of the problem. In his New York Times January 2005 op-ed, Diamond sees us standing at yet another societal crossroads. Our choice this time…will we learn from our past mistakes. Unlike any previous society in history, our global society today is the first with the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of societies remote from us in space and in time. When the Maya and Mangarevans were cutting down their trees, there were no historians or archaeologists, no newspapers or television to warn them of the consequences of their actions. We, on the other hand, have a detailed chronicle of human successes and failures at our disposal. Will we choose to use it? (New York Times, 2005) The Maya, Norse and Mangarevans had no chronicles to inform their decisions nor did they have advanced educational institutions to interpret and learn from these chronicles of human successes and failures. Anthropologist and historian Joseph Tainter’s (1990) examination of two dozen cases of collapse spanning more than 2,000 years found that societies collapse when their investments in social complexity, such as educational and technological innovation, reach a point of diminishing marginal returns. Today as we stand in the crossroads of our future we, as sustainability educators, are called to consider our contribution to educational innovation. Stephen Sterling in his book Sustainability Education: Re-visioning Learning and Change (2001) explores this question with several others: •

what is education innovation,

what is education innovation for,

how is educational “productivity” defined.

Our capacity to leverage the knowledge contained in the past and present chronicles of environmental devastation and human behavior lies in how we choose to answer these questions today and into the future. At present, education is at risk of becoming Diamond’s ninth critical factor of collapse. Yet found within all Diamond’s factors of collapse are possible solutions: reforestation, soil restoration, effective water resource management, and population control to name a few. Innovative education is also a solution. This article explores how complexity, resilience, transformation and regeneration help shape what education innovation is and what it is for. It is my hope that this exploration will help sustainability educators create transformative learning contexts and communities that foster catalytic change – change that moves us from the brink of collapse and towards a sustainable future for all.


Reframing the Cross Roads: The Nature of Complexity, Resilience and Regeneration How we interpret, educate and take action towards environmental and sustainability issues is greatly influenced by the lens we use to observe them. Are we facing a crisis or an opportunity? Is it better to address the underlying local problems or the overarching global issues? Can we distinguish the problem or issue from its symptoms? The past traditions of science and education largely consider these questions by a mechanistic examination of the relationships among the parts or acting agents. Using this reductionist lens, we interpret the whole through the sum of its parts and believe cause and effect relationships are predictable given enough time and resources. Much knowledge was gained using this lens and, despite the view of many critics of this lens, it remains an important tool when used in balance with other ways of knowing. But as Stephen Sterling (2004) states, “We are accustomed to analytic and reductionist thinking which understands things by taking them apart. But in a highly complex and turbulent world, there’s a strong argument that says that analytic thinking is not enough. Indeed, by itself, it is probably increasing our problems (p.iv).� Complex systems thinking offers a different lens to view our world. This new lens opens us to a world whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts and a world whose interconnections are unpredictable, nonlinear cause and effect relationships. Through this complex systems lens we see a world in the midst of transforming in response to change. Today there is a growing interest in complex systems, as evidenced by the number of papers, websites, disciplines and conferences dedicated to the topic. Studies and applications of complexity are emerging from a wide range of disciplines including physics, biology, economics, engineering, and social science. As we will see this new lens is changing the way we view the world. The Nature of Complexity: There is still much discussion on the definition of complex systems, an indicator that the field of complexity and complex systems is itself evolving. Francis Heylighen (2008a) considers the challenge of defining complex systems to be one of the most problematic aspects of complexity. He himself describes complex systems as entangled relationships or agents interacting over time and space in unpredictable ways. While the definition of complex systems remains unsettled, there are several global features of complex systems that appear across multiple domains. The most prominent two features are self-organization and emergence. Self-organization allows complex systems to spontaneously organize themselves so as to remain resilient to various internal and external disturbances and stimuli. This adaptive quality allows the system to emerge new behaviors in response to a changing environment. The self-organizing and emerging properties of complex systems are responsible for most of the patterns, structures and orderly arrangements that we find in the natural world, and many of those in the realms of mind, society and culture (Heylighen, 2008b). The general properties of a complex system as currently understood can be summarized by the following:


Complex Systems components themselves are DISTINCT and INTERCONNECT: A complex system consists of many (but not necessarily all) parts that are connected via their interactions. Thus, a complex system is more than the mere sum of its parts. The components of this system are paradoxically both autonomous and to some degree mutually dependent. Complex systems have FUZZY BOUNDARIES that are OPEN: The boundaries of a system are difficult to determine, thus the decision of what is within and outside the system is ultimately made by the observer. Matter, energy and information flow across these fuzzy boundaries. Relationships in a complex system are NONLINEAR: In a complex system, the relationship between the causes and the effects are not proportional. A small change within the system may cause a large effect, a proportional effect, a small effect or even no effect at all (where as all linear relationships are proportional, the cause equals the effect). Relationships in a complex system contain FEEDBACK loops: Feedback loops are chains of events in which an “output” of an initial set of events influences, as input, the next set of events, and the next, and the next—until the initial chain is again impacted. These inputs can have both balancing and reinforcing effects, which are fed back into the systems in such a way that the behavior of the system itself is altered. Complex Systems are NESTED: The components of a complex system may themselves be complex systems nested within each other at many different levels of scale both physically and spatially (i.e. through space and time). Complex Systems are SELF ORGANIZING: The internal organization of a system, though the processes of positive and negative feedback, increases in complexity without being guided or managed by an outside source. Complex Systems have EMERGENT BEHAVIORS and are almost always UNPREDICTABLE: The system can have new qualities or behaviors emerge that are not directly traceable to the system's components, but rather to how those components interact over space and time. These emergent behaviors are almost always impossible to predict. Complex Systems have MEMORY: As complex systems continually impact each other and change over time, the prior states of the system continue to influence present states. Relationships in complex systems build DIVERSITY through LOCALIZED INTERACTIONS: Within a complex system are islands of locally contained interactions. These localized interactions can result in the emergence of different behaviors or dynamics occurring in different parts of the network thereby creating greater diversity. Complex systems are GOAL SEEKING and have the capacity to LEARN: Through the process of feedback within a system, certain configurations of complex systems are intrinsically more stable than others and therefore will be preferentially retained and/or multiplied during the system’s evolution. This learned preference for stable over


unstable states means that unstable states will sooner or later be abandoned. Over time this learning allows a unity within the system that is capable of adapting itself to change. Simon Levin in Fragile Domain (1999) describes the behavior of complex systems as nonlinear local interactions among the diverse components of the system. Through these interactions the components become organized within nested systems across multiple levels of scale that determine and are reinforced by the flow (i.e., movement of energy, matter, individuals, and/or information) and interactions among the parts. These interactions create capacity of the system to absorb disturbance without shifting to another new regime of stable states – in other words its resilience (Walker & Salt, 2006). Resilience, Transformation and Regeneration within Complex Systems: Resilience is a property of a complex system that creates its capacity to absorb change. Resilience is defined as the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks (Holling, 1973). As we consider the current changes in our ecological and social systems, we see complex systems behaving in a manner consistent with an effort to remain resilient to change. For many of these systems this means undergoing significant re-organization and downsizing. One of the most prominent recent examples is the largest deleveraging of the global economy since the end of the Second World War. Resilience is initially established and maintained in a system as its self-organizing capacity spontaneously emerges global structure out of the numerous local interactions. “Spontaneous” in this case means that no internal or external agent is in control of the process. The spontaneous process is truly collective and distributed across all components of the system. This makes the resulting structure intrinsically robust and resistant to damage and perturbations (Heylighen, 2008b). Resilience in social-ecological complex systems has three defining characteristics (Walker et al, 2002): •

The amount of change the system can undergo and still retain the same controls on function and structure.

The degree to which the system is capable of self-organization.

The ability to build and increase the capacity for learning and adaptation.

A system’s resilience changes as these above characteristics increase or decrease. As a system loses its resilient capacity, it becomes vulnerable to the changes that it, in prior states, was able to absorb (Kasperson & Kasperson, 2001). In a vulnerable system, even a slight change may have dramatic results. Resiliency in a system, however, can be interpreted as a desirable or undesirable state. Eutrophication in a fresh water system is a resilient system as much as is a diverse native prairie. In a recent study Leuteritz and Ekbia (2008) found social parameters—such as a shared community value, intentional knowledge exchange and protection of the resource—are the


dominant drivers of change in the social-ecological systems. They conclude “it is not how rich a society is and how many resources it allocates to conservation initiatives that guarantee ecosystem resilience. It is how the society organizes human activity and intervention in the environment that determines its future trajectory: Not all roads lead to resilience. (p.12)” The resilient capacity of complex systems provides for reorganization, transformation and renewal or regeneration of the system (Gunderson & Holling, 2002, Berkes et al. 2003). Maturana and Varela (1987) have described regeneration as a network of system processes of the transformation and destruction of its own components that by their very nature produce the components that, in turn, through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate the network of processes that produce them. Complexity and Education: Using a complex systems lens we see that learning is not just a cognitive endeavor but an existing natural property of all complex systems. This learning results from changes in the adaptive behavior of a system in response to feedback that ultimately affects the systems response to change in the future. A plant will grow around obstacles in order to reach the sun. The plant’s response to current conditions changes the way it will respond in the future. It has therefore learned an adaptive behavior that allows it to be more resilient to changes in its environment in the future, such as a new obstacle or low light. Resiliency of a system is linked to its goal seeking behaviors and ability to build and increase the capacity for learning and adaptation. If learning is a design innovation of complex systems, why then are many of our human systems degrading rather than regenerating? Why are so many systems essential to our well being lacking the resiliency to absorb change? We now turn to explore how our understanding of complexity can help shape what education innovation is and what it is for as we ask what type of education innovation is necessary to foster learning for a sustainable resilient, regenerative future for all. Transforming the Crossroads: The Goal of Education as a Transformative Learning System David Orr (1994) often asks if education is the solution, what is the problem? He believes to effectively answer this question we must place ourselves in the web of life as citizens of a biotic community. He together with Stephen Sterling share a vision of education that extends beyond formal school as we know it to that of a continuous re-creation or co-evolution where both education and society are engaged in a relationship of mutual transformation (Sterling, 2001). I have, until this point in this article, been exploring the properties of complex systems as a lens for viewing the world – a lens that affords us the opportunity to understand our world as a selforganizing complex system that spontaneously emerges new behaviors in response to a changing environment. We see complex systems are more than the sum of their parts. They are resilient, transformative and regenerative. The choice of a lens metaphor and the use of terms such as “see,” “view,” and “interpret” throughout this discussion have been very purposeful. While terms such as “blind,” “obscured,” and “eclipsed,” have not been used, these too are relevant


within this metaphor. It is important to recognize that viewing the world through a complexity lens does not change it. Much like telephoto lens or a macro lens in your camera does not change the physical thing you are taking a picture of. It changes your focus. It changes your perspective. The key is the relationship of your perspective to your set of choices –for it is these choices that have the potential to change the world. Using a complex systems lens, let us revisit Orr and Sterling’s vision of education: a continuous re-creation or co-evolution where both education and society are engaged in a relationship of mutual transformation. If we are careful to interpret “vision” not as imagining something in the future but as the act of seeing, the meaning of Orr and Sterling’s statement changes dramatically. Orr and Sterling’s vision is not a future state of education any more than placing ourselves in the web of life as citizens of a biotic community is something to be done. We ARE citizens in a biotic community and education IS a continuous re-creation where both education and society are engaged in a relationship of mutual transformation. The vision Orr and Sterling offer is a new lens not a new state of the world to be achieved. Why is this distinction important? All too often as we discuss how to address environmental and sustainability issues and how to transform educational systems we use a future tense to describe the properties of the systems we aim to change. We find ourselves saying things like “add feedback loops” when discussing organizational planning. An organization is a complex system, and as such it has feedback loops by its very nature. It just may be that those feedback loops are operating more in reinforcing “pass the buck” than ownership of the problem. Forgetting that a complex system does exist in arenas we wish to effect change is a pit we all fall into from time to time. Most of us have little practice using a complex systems thinking lens for any extended amount of time. The more that we can learn when we or others have fallen into this pit, the better we are able to understand the problem. It was in this same pit that Donella Meadows (1997) found herself and her colleagues while sitting in a meeting about the new global trade regime, NAFTA and GATT and the World Trade Organization. “The more I listened, the more I began to simmer inside…Suddenly, without quite knowing what was happening, I got up, marched to the flip chart, tossed over a clean page, and wrote: ‘Places to Intervene in a System’ (p.2).” Meadows captured the following leverage points (in increasing order of effectiveness) 9. Numbers (subsidies, taxes, standards). 8. Material stocks and flows. 7. Regulating negative feedback loops. 6. Driving positive feedback loops. 5. Information flows. 4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishments, constraints). 3. The power of self-organization.


2. The goals of the system. 1. The mindset or paradigm out of which the goals, rules, and feedback structures arise. Meadows’ list is a nice primer for avoiding pitfalls in our complex systems thinking. Again as we revisit Orr and Sterling’s vision of education we see our current educational system is a continuous re-creation and co-evolution where both education and society are engaged in a relationship of mutual transformation. So why aren’t we producing lots of people with an ecological consciousness? The problem (and thus the leverage point or opportunity) lies in part in the goal of the system. What we are currently continually re-creating is a centralized, homogenized, standardized, technologized, and industrialized thinking (to use the words of David Orr) in which education and society together mutually transform our institutions and culture into followers of a mass marketed single paradigm of a quality of life that can only be achieved through over-consumption. Change the goal and the system behaviors will change as well. (It should be noted that if we are truly complexivists we recognize that all leverage points are equally valuable and that in a complex system any change can have an impact given the vulnerability of the system.) With this in mind we are now ready to return to our central questions of the value of education using a complexity lens: what is education innovation (process); what is education innovation for (goal); and, how is educational “productivity” defined (the outcome). The Process--Transformative Learning: Jack Mezirow (2000) is largely credited for the development of the theory of transformative learning. He sees a defining condition of being human as “our urgent need to understand and order the meaning of our experience, to integrate it into what we know to avoid the threat of chaos. If we are unable to understand we often turn to tradition, thoughtlessly seize mechanisms, such as projection and rationalization, to create imaginary meanings (p. 3).” We witness this human condition all too often as we watch people act in contradiction to their own well-being and the well-being of the services of nature that sustain human life. The goal of transformative learning, according to Mezirow is “to become critically aware of our tacit assumptions and expectations and those of others and assess their relevance in making interpretations (p. 4).” He defines transformative learning as “the process by which we transform our taken-for-granted frames of reference (meaning perspectives, habits of mind, mind-sets) to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, emotionally capable of change, and reflective so that they may generate beliefs or opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action (p. 7-8 ).” Mezirow describes the transformation process as occurring in 10 phases typically brought about by a disorienting dilemma that calls our fundamental beliefs and values into question. This dilemma leads to a critical reflection on our assumptions, discourse to validate the critically reflective insight, followed by action. Mezirow’s theory of transformative learning has been criticized for its over emphasis on rational thought (Taylor, 1998). Based on this criticism others have broadened the theory to include a more holistic view of the person that learns and the complexity of the learning environment. This has lead to the development of a transformative learning process that is more aware of and uses all the functions we have available for knowing and being, including our cognitive,


affective, somatic, intuitive, and spiritual dimensions. Today transformative learning is considered a profound experience that requires an individual’s ability to take risks, a willingness to be vulnerable and an openness to have ones' attitudes and assumptions challenged. When transformative learning is based in complexity, however, the emphasis expands from individual change to systemic change. We see change as achieved through the intentional cultivation of increasing complexity within the learner and the learning environment. The result is more than a transformation of our individual thinking; it is a holistic shift in and emergence of our collective consciousness. This shift is better captured in the definition of transformative learning posed by Edmund O’Sullivan, former director of the Transformative Learning Center at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Transformative learning involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions. It is a shift of consciousness that dramatically and irreversibly alters our way of being in the world. Such a shift involves our understanding of ourselves and our self-locations; our relationships with other humans and with the natural world; our understanding of relations of power in interlocking structures of class, race and gender; our body awareness, our visions of alternative approaches to living; and our sense of possibilities for social justice and peace and personal joy. (O’Sullivan, 2003, p. 326) O’Sullivan cultivates complexity by emphasizing relationships that place the individual within the surrounding environment and within a localized network of interdependent relationships. John Paul Lederach’s (2005) work in peace building also underscores that successful transformative learning is based on increasing complexity. Lederach believes peacemaking requires a persistent relational platform for the adaptive and continued generation of solutions that makes emergence strong and possible—the development of a persistent communion learning platform for transformation. Beyond a simple linear learning space, this transformative communion platform, through its understanding and sustaining of relational spaces, encourages transdisciplinary engaged dialog that allows for the emergence of the as-yet imagined. This platform is adaptive and smart flexible in reference to the changing environment and continuously emerging issues, obstacles, and opportunities it presents. The Goal – Ecological Consciousness: If the process of education is framed as a transformative communal platform creating the conditions for the emergence of the as-yet imagined – what is the goal of education? I suggest, as does O’ Sullivan and Taylor (2004), Capra (2002), Orr (1994), Sterling (2001) and others, that the purpose of education is to illuminate the connectedness of our world, our collective belonging within it, and relational ways of being and acting. Stated in the language of our early vision of education, I suggest the goal of education is to continually re-create and co-evolve our ecological consciousness where both education and society are engaged in a relationship of mutual transformation of the harmonious human presence on Earth. The paradigm out of which this goal emerges is the paradigm of learning as change. Within this paradigm we understand learning as a creative, reflexive and participatory process in which knowing is seen as approximate, relational and provisional (Sterling, 2001).


The Outcome -- Catalytic Change for a Sustainable Future: If the process of education is transformative learning and its goal ecological consciousness, what is the outcome or productivity of education? Traditional education employs a transmissive process with the emphasis on the transfer of information in order to prepare citizens for an economic life (Sterling, 2001). Here quantitative indicators assess the effective of this transmission of information. Productivity is measured as the efficient movement of fixed knowledge from institution to learner. Bell curve distributions of these transmission rates are acceptable and rote regurgitation of information preferred. In this learning environment assessments are conducted externally (i.e. by other than the learner) and outcomes predetermined. Globally this productivity is largely determined by our growing gross domestic products. In transformative learning environments knowledge is recognized as transdisciplinary, provisional, relational, negotiated and emerging. Assessments are therefore self-generated, success indicators negotiated by the collective, and outcomes broadly drawn and constantly revisited. In this setting, productivity is ecologically based with a shift to learning as change rather than learning for acquisition. The emphasis is on process over product. Productivity in a transformative learning environment, viewed from an ecological and complex systems perspective, is measured as increasing diversity, growing clusters of localized collaborative networks, and reinforced flow of energy, matter, individuals, and information. Locally this productivity is evidenced when knowledge is distributed and applied and the silos between academic disciplines and between school and community are transcended. Globally this productivity is determined by the impact of local actions that collectively increase our ability to live in harmony with nature’s systems in a manner that increases the resiliency and regeneration of the services of nature upon which life depends. An additional measure of this educational productivity lies in the ability to create what Watts and Dodds (2007) call “global cascades.” When we create transformative learning platforms for the emergence of our ecological consciousness, we evolve the conditions for “global cascades” or the wide spread propagation of influence through networks. Watts and Dodds studied the dynamics of social contagion by conducting thousands of computer simulations of populations, manipulating a number of variables relating to people’s ability to influence others and their tendency to be influenced. Their work showed that the principal requirement of global cascades is the presence not of a few influential individuals but, rather, of a critical mass of adopters who changed after being exposed to a single adopting neighbor. The size and frequency of the cascade depends on the availability and connectedness of adopters, not on the characteristics of the initiators. We regularly see this type of global cascade connected with Oprah Winfrey, an American television talk show host. Oprah has been cited as the most influential women by Time, Life, and USA Today magazines. Her impact, sometimes referred to as the Oprah Winfrey effect, may not be as much about Oprah’s ability to influence, as it is her strong connection to millions of willing adopters. Much like the size of a forest fire has little to do with the spark that started it and lots to do with the state of the forest [i.e. the amount of good kindling] (Watts and Dodds, 2007). If the network permits global cascades because it has the right concentration and configuration of adopters, virtually anyone can start a cascade. If the network doesn’t permit


cascades, nobody can. We as educators, through the creation of learning processes and the configuration of learning communities, have the kindling within our reach to foster a catalytic change – a global cascade — for a sustainability education and a sustainable future. But we must refocus our attention on creating even more kindling rather than lighting matches. A Transformative Learning System A complex transformative learning system emerges when we vision educational innovation as a transformative learning platform for ecological consciousness that catalyzes systemic change for a sustainable future. Within this system, traditional approaches to curriculum and instruction are themselves transformed. Little research has been conducted on this type transformation pedagogy—the practice of fostering transformative learning through the cultivation of complexity. Taylor (1998) found ideal conditions for fostering transformative learning (as defined by Mezirow) included promoting critical reflection and affective learning equally; providing a safe, trusting, open and collaborative learning environment; encouraging the exploration of alternative perspectives; and emphasizing personal self-disclosure, self-dialogue and solitude. Laurent Parks Daloz’s (2000) study of transformative learning that occurs as a person develops a sense of social responsibility identified four salient conditions of transformation: the presence of others, reflective discourse, a mentoring community, and opportunities for action. Taylor’s later work (2009) found several other elements equally significant: a holistic orientation, awareness of context, and an authentic practice. He also identified all transformative learning elements have an interdependent relationship. These interconnected conditions of transformative learning point to a curriculum that cannot be selfcontained in the classroom. The community and authentic action therefore become the context for learning. Mathematics’ educator Brent Davis (2005) has integrated developments in cognitive and complexity science to explore the role of the teacher in fostering the capacity for what he calls complex, communal cognition. He uses the metaphor of “teaching as the consciousness of the (classroom) collective.” Davis explains that this metaphor is a suggestion that the teacher is responsible for prompting differential attention, selecting among the options for action and interpretation that arise in the collective. The teacher’s task is not just to select from among those possibilities that present themselves. Rather, teaching seems to be more about expanding the space of the possible and creating conditions for the emergence of the as-yet unimagined. Transformative learning and teaching are not about prompting a convergence onto pre-existent truths, but about divergence into new interpretive possibilities. The emphasis is not only on what is, but also what might be brought forth. As Lederach’s (2005) work suggests designing education as communion platform requires allowing for the emergence of the “mistake” that suddenly created whole new avenues of insight and understanding. Much of the theories that inform this transformation pedagogy are themselves still in the formative stages of development. It is therefore premature to offer a “how-to” guide to creating the conditions for a communal platform for transformation. One place, however, to start is to explore practical methodologies that increase complexity within the learning environment. This includes:


The exploration of self as a fuzzy boundary or what Laurent Daloz (2004) calls are semipermeable self – or “ourselves as nodes in a dance with the universe” (p. 39) that are simultaneously distinct and interconnected.

The creation of interconnected open collaborative relationships among learners, between disciplines, between school and community and between humans and the environment that both deepen our sense of place and intentionally foster the flow of matter, energy, information and individuals.

The establishment of feedback loops and the cultivation of diversity in all its forms – with particular emphasis on the diversity of ways of knowing and being that are often in paradox.

The fostering of distributed cognition in which knowing is not merely something that occurs inside the learner but is distributed in a learning ecology across the context and environment as well as a cultural space.

In my own work in nonformal sustainability education, I draw on conversation and community building methodologies such as World Café (Brown & Isaacs, 2005) and Open Space Technology (Harrison, 2008) and appreciate inquiry techniques such Assets Mapping (Kretzmann & McKnight 1993) as entry points for creating a communal platform for transformation. These tools allow for the exploration of questions that matter, the selforganization of dialogue, an emphasis on possibilities and a process of knowledge generation and action. I also regularly include arts-based inquiry methodologies that use the artistic process as a primary way of understanding and examining experience. This type of inquiry involves the actual making of artistic expressions in all of the different forms of the arts. From personal clay sculpting, drum circles and collaborative wall murals to co-created theatre and movement; new insights within a diversity of knowing and experiencing are generated through a creative intelligence not assessable in traditional inquiry methods. Equally important to transformative learning are the distinct processes of narrative inquiry and storytelling. Narratives can act as a way to give shape to experience and life; conceptualize and preserve memories; and pass on experience, tradition, and values. Through both the process of sharing narratives via storytelling and exploring narrative meaning through narrative inquiry, we are able to more creatively imagine our present, past and future. For as Stephan Pace Marshall (2000) notes, a paradigm shift occurs when we become the stories we tell. I have also found the work of Margaret Wheatley (2002), Peter Senge (1990), Parker Palmer (2004) and Peter Block (2008) to hold many interesting methodologies for opening spaces for transformation. At first glance the above methodologies appear relatively simply to apply. But once employed they rapidly and often unexpectedly challenge existing paradigms of knowledge, engagement, empowerment, ownership, and collaboration for both the learner and the teacher. They underscore the need for new skills in paradoxical curiosity, dialectical thinking, and transcendence within a context of authentic action as well as the necessity for more aesthetic and spiritual spaces of engagement and connection. It cannot be underscored how both threatening and regenerative these transformative spaces can be. Without the ability of a group to cultivate a sense of self-as-connected, hold paradox, accept


the emergent nature of knowledge, and accept the risk in breaking from the mundane; conversations exploring topics such as our shared vision of a sustainable future quickly degrade in complexity and fall back into linear individualistic black and white truths and defensive competitive stances. Creating safe trusting relationships that allow individuals to speak from the heart over the head allows for greater risk taking, vulnerability, altruism, growth, and ultimately transformation that is hope-based, renewing and regenerative. Collectively these skills, sensibilities and methodologies open the possibilities to catalyze a sustainable future for all. In closing, Edward Taylor offers a caution to be well heeded by those embarking on this practice for the first time. It is clear that much remains unknown about the practice of fostering transformative learning, and so it should not be practiced naively or without forethought or planning. It often requires intentional action, personal risk, a genuine concern for the learners’ betterment, and the ability to draw on a variety of methods and techniques that help create a classroom environment that supports personal growth and, for others, social change (Taylor, 2006). Those who venture into this arena will have to trust their teaching instincts, since there are few clear signposts or guidelines, and develop an appreciation for and awareness of their own assumptions and beliefs about the purpose of fostering transformative learning and the impact on practice. (Taylor, 2009, p. 14) This heed is stated more simply by Socrates who exclaimed we teach first who we are and second what we know. We begin creating a transformative learning system when we commit to intentionally discovering the self that teaches sustainability education. Connecting the Cross-Roads: Tools for Addressing the Crisis of Education Many frame the current state of our environment as a tragedy of the commons (Hardin, 1968). Levin (1999) notes that environmental groups urge us to “think globally and act locally,” but he believes that until people also think locally, their motivation to act responsibly is weak. Whether they are thinking globally or locally, how and what they think are critical to making informed choices to act. When thinking and acting are ill-informed and inharmonious with the collective system, we have global environmental and sustainability crisis. The roots of this crisis are in our institutions of education and the diminishing return of our current educational investments. Throughout this article I have explored several important tools for addressing this crisis. Many overlap and integrate with one another but together they provide a framework for a transformation pedagogy and an innovative approach to sustainability education. This framework requires creating a communal platform for transformation that includes the following key elements: 1. Cultivate a Sense of Place: Jared Diamond’s understanding of societal collapses began with his deep exploration and connection to place. From this connection he was able to see patterns, recognize interdependent agents and understand the importance of our collective understanding and resulting actions. Cultivating a sense of place requires we seek to understand patterns,


practice interdependent living, and as Laurent Daloz (2004) eloquently states nourish our semipermeable self. Without this deep sense of place, the remaining tools in this list are ineffective. 2. Foster Complex Systems Thinking: Peter Senge stated in The Fifth Discipline (1990) that the unhealthiness of our world today is in direct proportion to our inability to see it as a whole. A complex systems lens affords us the opportunity to understand our world as a self-organizing complex system that spontaneously emerges new behaviors in response to a changing environment. We see complex systems are more than the sum of their parts. They are resilient, transformative and regenerative. Learning is an inherent property within complex systems. A complex systems lens reframes the goals, processes and productivity of all our institutions. Foster complexity in order to cultivate a transformative learning platform by exploring relationships based on participation, feedback, emergence and self-organization. 3. Increase Resilience and Vulnerable as Necessary: Resilience is a systems capacity to absorb change and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain its identity (Walker and Salt, 2006). Many of our natural systems now have little resilience while our educational institutions have too much. But changing the resilience and vulnerability of our educational system without cultivating a sense of place and complexity can lead to too much of a good thing and not enough of another. Only increase resilience and vulnerability as necessary. Establish learning environments that foster reliable information flow on critical local and global issues, monitor and feedback knowledge into the system, reduce risk by broadening the scale at which education occurs (i.e. inside and outside the formal classroom), encourage transdisciplinary study and finally diversify, diversify, diversify. 4. Plan for the Not-Yet Planned, Expect Surprise: The permanence of change requires the permanence of creative adaptation. As John Paul Lederach suggests (2005) designing education as communion platform allows for the emergence of the mistake that suddenly created whole new avenues of insight and understanding. Plan for the not-yet planned by accepting the limits of knowledge and predictability, practice-dialectical paradoxical thought, create flexible response systems, act with precaution, be adaptive and smart-flexible and finally expect and delight in surprise – for it is a possible sign of emergence. 5. Elevate Contemplation, Creativity and Communion: Margaret Wheatley in “Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope in the Future” (2002) believes that as the world speeds up, we lose the very things that make us human: questioning, curiosity, dreaming, creativity, and reflecting – all tenets of learning. Individually and collectively reclaim the time to think, feel, express and connect. Meaningfully consider the taken for granted frames of reference, understand the collective learner and diverge into new interpretive possibilities. Make a commitment to reclaim time for outward expressions of ourselves us as ecological beings. 6. Mentor, Support, Challenge, Act and Inspire: Laurent Parks Daloz’s (2000) study of transformative learning indicates the four salient conditions of transformation are the presence of others, reflective discourse, a mentoring community, and opportunities for action. Create a safe mentoring community organized around recognition, support, challenge, action and inspiration. 7. Think Globally, Think Locally, Act Locally, Act Locally Again: The components or agents of a complex system initially interact only locally, i.e. with their immediate neighbors. The actions of remote agents are initially independent of each other. At first there is no correlation between the


activity in one region and the activity in another. However, because all components are directly or indirectly connected, changes propagate so that far-away regions eventually are influenced by what happens here and now. Think and learn locally to create globally thinking and learning. 8. Built Trust and Acceptance: Trust each other, trust and accept paradoxes, trust ambiguity, accept risks and be vulnerable in your thoughts and resilient in your collectiveness. 9. Make Kindling through the Celebration of Life: Societies can often best be understood by what they collectively celebrate. Create celebrations that emphases meaningful connection over consumption, questions over answers, and cooperation over competition. Celebrate the transitory nature of knowledge. Celebrate all ways of knowing and experiencing. Celebrate the natural services upon which all life depends. Through these celebrations, make the kindling for positive global cascades - in other words foster the catalytic ability of humans to create positive systemic change towards a sustainable future. Then light a match. Today we are challenged to create a different future—one in which all can thrive and flourish. If we are to be successful, every individual must be a creator, innovator and steward of this future. We can no longer function as silos focused on optimizing our own piece of the puzzle. We must engage in new ways of thinking and being. We must build a shared understanding and a larger vision. We must write a new cultural narrative that brings forth a new world through shared stories. The wellspring of this new narrative ultimately lies in our capacity as individuals, as educators and communities to transform our imagination so we may freely imagine a future rooted in the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist. Yet all too often we believe in our shared vision and narratives we use to communicate them (such as the vision shared in this article) but not in the inherently messy process by which we as a community acquire them. Community is a chaotic, emergent, and creative force that needs constant tending (Palmer, 2004). A communion platform for transformation requires that we remain close to the actual messiness and serendipity of ideas, processes, and change—so that from such a place we can speculate about the nature of our work, the lessons learned, and paths of our future (Lederach, 2005). Shy not from ambiguity and chaos, rather see it as a sign post marking the story of our sustainable future that connects the crossroads of our past successes and failures with our future innovations and ultimate regeneration.

A Post Note Before we leave this discussion we should stop for a moment to consider transformative learning itself as a paradigm. Recall Donella Meadows’ nine places to intervene in a system? Her top two were: 1) change the goals, and 2) change the paradigms out of which those goals emerge. Changing the goal of education to that of ecological consciousness and the paradigm to learning as change are effective places to intervene in the education. But before Donella Meadows completed her list of places to intervene in a system she offered one final addition: the power to transcend paradigms. She adds: Sorry, but to be truthful and complete, I have to add this kicker…The highest leverage of all is to keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms, to realize that NO paradigm is


"true," that even the one that sweetly shapes one's comfortable worldview is a tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe‌It is to "get" at a gut level the paradigm that there are paradigms, and to see that that itself is a paradigm, and to regard that whole realization as devastatingly funny‌I don't think there are cheap tickets to system change. You have to work at it, whether that means rigorously analyzing a system or rigorously casting off paradigms. In the end, it seems that leverage has less to do with pushing levers than it does with disciplined thinking combined with strategically, profoundly, madly letting go. (Meadows, 1997, 84) In this article I offer the lens of complex systems and transformative learning as a way to meet the challenge of catalyzing a sustainable future for all. This lens can help define a new role for us as sustainability educators, members of local communities and designers of our educational systems. It is offered only as an opportunity to change your focus – to vision sustainability education as a complex system that at its core is driven by a set of human choices cultivated by how, why and what we learn. I believe this lens is the basis for creating a truly transformative learning environment that holds the power to bring forth a collective ecological consciousness and to foster catalytic change for a sustainable future. But I offer this lens with the caution that you use it only long enough to know when to cast it off for others old, current and emerging that bring us in stronger communion with the goals of our multidimensional universe yet to be realized. One cannot help but be in awe when [one] contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. Albert Einstein


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Transforming Higher Education: A Practical Plan for Integrating Sustainability Education into the Student Experience Mark Stewart stewartm@umd.edu Abstract This paper introduces a comprehensive plan for integrating sustainability education into the practices of nearly any college or university. Best practices in sustainability education including green orientation, first year education, graduation requirements, interdisciplinary education, the campus as a model sustainable community, and sustainability-focused academic programs are combined to construct a comprehensive, easy-to-replicate strategy that administrators, faculty, staff, and students could use to improve sustainability education efforts at their own institutions. Keywords: green orientation, first year education, graduation requirements, interdisciplinary perspectives, sustainable campuses, sustainability-focused academic programs

Introduction Sustainability has exploded onto the higher education scene within the past few years. Student affairs professionals, faculty, business officers, campus planners, and the national associations for these and many other campus personnel have made sustainability the focus of recent conferences, publications, and trainings. The call for sustainability has come from state systems of higher education (e.g. the University System of Maryland Sustainability Initiative), the U.S. Senate (via the Higher Education Sustainability Act), and even the United Nations (via the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005-2015). Local, national, and international attention to sustainability becomes more focused each year as our global predicament becomes clearer—exponential growth of the human population and our unyielding consumption of finite resources are unsustainable and are causing profound damage to our global ecosystem. A new way forward is needed. Government, industry, aid organizations, and other groups of people around the world are looking to institutions of higher education to create sustainable solutions to environmental, societal, and economic challenges. Between December 2006 and April 2010, more than 680 American colleges and universities answered that call by pledging to “green” their operations and set goals for eliminating their contributions of global warming emissions though the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Some institutions, including Arizona State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Maryland, have made significant efforts —such as developing new academic programs, creating graduation requirements, and training faculty on how to integrate sustainability across the curriculum—to educate all their students about sustainability and prepare graduates to be thoughtful citizens of a planet in peril.


Despite the calls for involvement and the strong response from the higher education community, college and university leaders have surprisingly few resources from which to draw ideas for comprehensive sustainability education strategies. Some scholars have called for broad integration of sustainability education across the various curricula of colleges and universities (Chase & Rowland, 2004; Creighton, 2001; M’Gonigle & Starke, 2006; Orr, 1994; Rappaport & Creighton, 2007). Professor David Orr (1994) suggests that colleges and universities can breathe new life into the liberal arts by approaching sustainability from every social, cultural, political, and artistic angle. Liberal arts graduates would be valued for their broad, creative, and critical ways of thinking about local and global issues. Orr’s larger point—and the motivation for this paper—is that sustainability offers a conceptual framework for addressing today’s problems and that students in every discipline must be engaged in conversation about sustainability and action to help reshape society. In this paper, I offer a comprehensive plan for integrating sustainability education into the practices of nearly any college or university. The programs described herein are currently in practice at higher education institutions throughout the United States, however, I know of no university that employs all programs simultaneously. The intent of this paper is to string together best practices in sustainability education to construct a comprehensive, easy-to-replicate strategy that administrators, faculty, staff, and students could use to improve sustainability education efforts at their own institutions. The plan is based on an extensive literature review, best practices in sustainability and environmental education, and my experience developing educational programs at the University of Maryland. As the Campus Sustainability Coordinator, my work centers on the idea that all students should be introduced to the concept of sustainability early in their college careers, be continually prompted about how their work relates to sustainability, and reside in a campus community that is committed to modeling sustainability so that they can live the experience as well as learn about it. I summarize a vision of an academic institution that is deeply committed to preparing students to create solutions to reduce some of the world’s biggest problems. Educating all students about sustainability should not be a goal of only a few select colleges and universities which have strong environmental traditions; rather, comprehensive sustainability education is an essential pursuit for any college or university that desires to be relevant in the 21st century. Sustainability Learning Outcomes In education, “learning outcomes” are statements of what students are expected to understand, do, and/or appreciate at the conclusion of a learning experience. “Experiences” are not limited to time or space; they can occur in or out of the classroom and span anywhere from a moment to an entire college career or lifetime. Like many concepts, sustainability is nebulous and lacks explicit learning outcomes. After the president of the University of Maryland signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007, University administrators convened a 55-member committee to create a plan for reducing the campus’s greenhouse gas emissions and integrating sustainability into the University’s mission of teaching, research, and service. This large and diverse group of faculty, staff, and students took it upon themselves to develop a list of sustainability learning outcomes that would guide discussion about opportunities to integrate sustainability in the curriculum. Table 1 lists the draft learning outcomes.


Table 1. Learning Outcomes for Sustainability Education Drafted by the University of Maryland Climate Action Plan Work Group Students will: Understand: • The meaning of sustainability (the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs) • The fundamental issues of sustainability, including: o Modern society’s dependence on fossil fuels o Human population growth o Habitat destruction/loss of biodiversity o Economic development versus economic growth (growth is inherently unsustainable because it relies upon a never ending supply of resources through the economic system) o Perceived connection between material consumption and happiness o Climate change o Linear systems verses closed loop systems o Differences between non-renewable and renewable materials o Limits of Earth’s natural resources o Increasing demand and diminishing stock of fresh water o Food (origins, health/nutrition, sustainable agriculture) • The implications of population growth on the environment, economy, and society • The concept of a carbon footprint and ecological footprint and the factors that affect both • That sustainability involves complex social, cultural, political, economic and scientific issues • The definition of carbon neutrality • The impact of sustainability in maintaining economic, physical, and social health Do: • • • • •

Live sustainably Seek work that will contribute to a more sustainable society Engage in an informed conversation on issues of climate change and sustainability Calculate one’s own footprint Make informed decisions on lifestyle changes

Appreciate: • • • • •

The inter-relation between humans and the natural world That sustainability is a moral and ethical obligation The opportunity to grow our economy with green jobs The fragile nature of life on earth Individuals’ responsibility and government actions are both needed to solve the climate crisis


The draft learning outcomes developed by the Climate Action Plan Work Group may not be comprehensive enough to satisfy the interests of all environmental educators and yet may be too broad to implement in undergraduate general education. Some of the items are also controversial and have profound implications for our current global economic model. Still, the knowledge, skills, and values presented here provide a model for higher education which is, at least with regard to transformative environmental education, somewhat lost in the fog—most American colleges and universities are not doing enough to prepare students to create a sustainable future. The educational strategies presented below, including green orientation, first year education, graduation requirements, interdisciplinary education, the campus as a model sustainable community, and sustainability-focused academic programs are meant to provide each student who matriculates through this new curriculum a deep and comprehensive understanding of the challenges we face and will help them be prepared to make a meaningful contribution to developing a more sustainable society. Green Orientation Colleges and universities should demonstrate their commitment to sustainability on students’ first day on campus, which occurs for many students during the summer before their first year of college. New student orientation programs are generally one- to two-day campus visits when incoming students register for classes, learn about campus services, and begin to become inculcated in the student culture of their chosen college or university. If sustainability is to be part of the campus culture, then it deserves attention during orientation. Countless ways exist for orientation leaders to integrate sustainability into their programs and professional and student staff members should be encouraged to find creative ways of engaging new students in sustainable behaviors. Over the past few years, the Orientation Office at the University of Maryland has made great strides toward infusing sustainability into the New Student Orientation Program. First, to address food waste generated from meals, the Orientation Office coordinates with the Department of Dining Services to collect waste for compost during orientation meals. Orientation staff also work with caterers to replace non-biodegradable plates and cutlery with compostable alternatives. Using well-labeled bins for compost, recycling, and trash, new students learn that separating disposable material and composting food waste is part of student life at the University. Second, The Orientation Office saves roughly 300,000 sheets of paper each summer by using an online “virtual folder” that has all the fliers and resources students typically receive during the orientation program. This online resource also reduces the amount of preparation time required for each orientation session, makes it much easier to update information, alleviates the problem of students losing the paper version of these folders, and saves money. Third, to drive home the concept that sustainability is an important part of campus life, Student Orientation Advisors perform a high-energy and entertaining skit about adopting sustainable behaviors as Maryland students. The skit—a sequence of three humorous scenes acted out by Student Orientation Advisors—encourages students to turn off lights and electronic devices when they leave their rooms, to recycle term papers, and to dine-in at the dining hall instead of using disposable take-out containers. According to one unpublished survey, the


sustainability skit is the most memorable of the green elements in the new student orientation program. First Year Education Research shows that students are able to recognize connections to sustainability in their classes and learn from their surroundings if they have a solid foundation in the core concepts of sustainability (Gottlieb & Robinson, 2002). These concepts—including human population growth, limits on resource consumption, and consequences of exceeding carrying capacity— should be built into required first year courses, if they are offered. The first year course serves a traditional role of introducing students to services on campus, helping develop study and time management skills, discussing issues of diversity, and addressing responsible behaviors. However, the courses could also deepen students’ understanding of sustainability and encourage interdisciplinary solutions to real-world problems (Rowe, 1999). First year courses could be designed to connect students with nature, be it through class field trips or by encouraging outdoor extracurricular activities, which is shown to increase environmental literacy among youth (Culen & Mony, 2003). The specifics of how sustainability would be integrated into these courses are best left to individual institutions and faculty. Because of the large number of first year seminar classes at the University of Maryland, I decided to employ a peer-educator model in order to take advantage of the free labor of energetic students, but another model may better suit your institution. The important take-home message is that students should have a foundational knowledge of sustainability by the end of their first year. Beginning in 2008, I worked with a small group of exceptional university juniors and seniors to develop and teach an interactive lesson about how sustainability affects students, their studies, and future career prospects. These peer-educators, who are known as the Student Sustainability Advisors, presented a 60-90 minute lesson to 19 first year seminar classes (approximately 400 students) and received rave reviews from the students and their instructors. The lesson—which focuses on population growth, resource consumption, and sustainable solutions—is largely discussion-based and utilizes multi-media Student Sustainability Advisors teach interactive lessons about how sustainability affects students, their technology. The program expanded in fall 2009 studies, and future career prospects. when a new group of advisors presented the lesson to 32 first year classes, reaching approximately 640 students. The ultimate goal for this lesson is to make it a core component of first year education so that all at University of Maryland students are prepared to consider how their studies and lifestyles mesh with the values of sustainability.


Graduation Requirement General education requirements for undergraduate degrees have changed at some colleges and universities to include an in-depth focus on sustainability, including an environmental literacy component as well as a civic engagement/social responsibility component (McIntosh, Cacciola, Clermont, & Keniry, 2001; Wolfe, 2001). In order to graduate, students must have at least one course that focuses in-depth on how to create a sustainable environment and a more humane society. Like the sustainability components of new student orientation and first year classes discussed above, a semester-long sustainability-focused course should be mandatory for all students. Environmental literacy is an important component of sustainability education and, as such, was the focus of two national studies that looked at the extent to which sustainability concepts have been incorporated into higher education. For A Survey of the Environmental Education of Students in Non-Environmental Majors at Four-Year Institutions in the USA (Wolfe, 2001), chief academic officers at four-year institutions were surveyed to examine the extent to which their institutions provide for the environmental education of students in nonenvironmental majors and to identify various approaches for increasing environmental literacy at the college level. In this survey, environmental literacy was defined as “a basic understanding of the concepts and knowledge of the issues and information relevant to the health and sustainability of the environment as well as environmental issues related to human health” (p.2). Of the nearly 1,000 institutions that responded to the survey, 11.6 percent indicated that an environmental literacy course was required of all students and 55 percent reported that such a course was not required but was available and countable toward the institution’s general education requirements. In other words, only 11.6 percent of institutions require environmental literacy for their graduates and, worse yet, at 45 percent of the institutions, non-environmental majors do not have the option to include environmental courses as electives for part of their general education requirements. The National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology Program conducted a separate survey entitled State of the Campus Environment: A National Report Card on Environmental Performance and Sustainability in Higher Education (McIntosh et al, 2001). This survey of both two- and four-year colleges showed that only eight percent of higher education institutions had an environmental literacy undergraduate requirement, and another five percent had this requirement for most of their students. An additional three percent were planning to build in this requirement in the future. Mark Van Putten, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation explained the situation: While a number of colleges and universities stand out for educating students in all disciplines about sustainability, the survey found that, unless they are majoring in biology or environmental studies, students in many institutions may complete their studies without gaining basic environmental literacy. (McIntosh et al, 2001 p. iii) Both studies, Wolfe (2001) and McIntosh et al (2001), had large samples and yielded similar findings, so it is reasonable to conclude that approximately one in ten higher education institutions in the United States had an environmental literacy graduation requirement for all students in 2001. In the past nine years since these studies were published, the percentage of


schools with such a requirement may have increased considering the growing national and international concern for the natural environment during that period. Research shows, not surprisingly, that college-level environmental courses do increase students’ environmental literacy (Benton, 1994; McMillan, Wright, & Beazley, 2004; Rowe, 1999; Ryu & Brody, 2006; Smith-Sebasto, 1995; Wolfe, 2001). Students at the University of Georgia, which has an environmental literacy graduation requirement, report increased environmental knowledge and awareness because of the requirement (Moody & Hartel, 2007). Research also shows that taking as little as one environmental course may increase students’ adoption of environmentally responsible behaviors (Benton, 1994; McMillan, Wright, & Beazley, 2004; Rowe, 1999; Ryu & Brody, 2006; Smith-Sebasto, 1995; Wolfe, 2001). This finding is important because behavior change, not just knowledge, should be the ultimate goal of environmental education. Although there is clear evidence that environmental courses increase environmental literacy and encourage environmentally responsible behavior (Benton, 1994; McMillan, Wright, & Beazley, 2004; Rowe, 1999; Ryu & Brody, 2006; Smith-Sebasto, 1995; Wolfe, 2001), more research is needed to determine the level of environmental literacy required for students to understand how to live truly sustainable lifestyles, if that sort of understanding can even be reached through environmental education. Moody and Hartel’s (2007) study shows broad support for the environmental literacy requirement at the University of Georgia; however, half of the faculty surveyed said students are environmentally illiterate. Even if all students were typified as being environmentally literate, this does not necessarily mean they are prepared and committed to lead more sustainable lives and promote a sustainable society. Sustainability education experts such as Orr (1994, 1995) and Rowe (1999) say that sustainability and environmental literacy must become the premise for all education. A required course in sustainability is a step in the right direction but one course is not enough to expect that students will understand complex relationships between environment, society, and economy. Students need to continue to learn about sustainability throughout their years in college. Interdisciplinary Perspective If higher education is responsible for developing leaders who are equipped to create a sustainable society, then students must understand how the lessons they learn—in art, philosophy, history, science, engineering, and every other discipline—can contribute to a more sustainable society (Orr, 1994). This integration across the disciplines helps students think critically about their local environment, fosters interdisciplinary learning and problem solving, and prepares students to find solutions to complex 21st century problems. Students need to encounter sustainability issues in many, if not all, of their courses (Orr, 1994; Rappaport & Creighton, 2007; Rowe, 1999). A few universities, including Tufts University, Northern Arizona University, Emory University, and the University of Maryland have created faculty development programs to encourage the integration of sustainability across the curriculum. In 1990, the first such faculty development program was pioneered at Tufts University. Faculty members attended the Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute (TELI) to learn how their work relates to sustainability issues and how to teach sustainability through their courses (Rappaport & Creighton, 2007). Northern Arizona University (NAU) created a similar program in 1995 called the Ponderosa Project, named after the ponderosa forest adjacent to the NAU


campus. Between 1995 and 2004, more than 100 faculty members attended the two-day Ponderosa Project workshop and sustainability was integrated into 120 courses across the curriculum (Chase & Rowland, 2004). The workshop was facilitated by four resource experts who were faculty members from different disciplines familiar with sustainability. The first day of the workshop was a mixture of presentation and discussion to introduce “sustainability as a concept and provide as many openings to the topic as possible” (Chase & Rowland, 2004, p.96). The second day of the workshop was dedicated to working with resource experts to integrate sustainability into course curricula and to discussing what students would learn because of the revisions (Chase & Rowland, 2004). The Ponderosa Project became the model for the faculty development program at Emory University called the Piedmont Project, named for the Georgia piedmont (Barlett, 2004). In 2009, I created the Chesapeake Project for University of Maryland faculty who are interested in finding unique ways of teaching about sustainability across the disciplines. The name of this initiative represents two ideas: (1) that the University of Maryland is joining a network of other colleges and universities that are making strides to integrate sustainability throughout their curricula and (2) that Maryland faculty will use ecological, social, and economic examples from around the Chesapeake region to help our students see the connection between curriculum and place.

The Chesapeake Project was created for University of Maryland faculty who are interested in finding unique ways of teaching about sustainability across the disciplines.

Central to the Chesapeake Project is a two-day workshop designed to help University of Maryland faculty integrate sustainability across all academic disciplines. Participants learn about core concepts of environmental, economic, and social sustainability from resource experts— faculty from environmental science, sociology, and business—who help the participants integrate sustainability into their existing courses. Through taking these revised courses, students have the opportunity to explore sustainability through multidisciplinary lenses in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject. For instance, an art professor might lead a class discussion about sustainable materials or a math professor might frame math problems as they relate to the declining oyster population of the Chesapeake Bay. Results from the first workshop were very encouraging. From the 26 faculty (23 participants and 3 resource experts) who attended, 33 courses were revised to include sustainability. Courses that now include some form of sustainability activity, assignment, or discussion include History of American Art To 1876, Printmaking, Molecular Genetics,


Marketing Principles and Organization, Management Consulting, Kinesiology for Dancers, Planning for Cities, and Black Theatre and Performance, among others. Furthermore, all but one workshop participant said they were motivated to integrate sustainability into all of their courses and 17 of the 26 participants said they will make pedagogical changes because of the workshop. Finally, the faculty participants requested that the Chesapeake Project be turned into a faculty learning community instead of just a one-time workshop. To foster that community, a couple of the resource experts and I began hosting monthly “brown bag” luncheons. Faculty development workshops like the Chesapeake, Piedmont, and Ponderosa projects are easily replicable and highly adaptive to unique educational settings. More importantly, they successfully bring together educators from varied disciplines to discuss sustainability issues and build collaborative bridges between distinct areas of study and sustainability issues. Funding is helpful to provide faculty stipends and meals, but expenses can be kept to a minimum if faculty do not require monetary compensation for their participation. A great resource for faculty or staff who want to develop a workshop on their campus is the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Across the Curriculum Leadership workshops, which are hosted twice each year. Campus as a Model Sustainable Community Greening campus operations are a critical piece of the campus sustainability movement. Institutions are striving to reduce environmental impacts and operating expenses by replacing lighting fixtures, bathroom faucets, heating and cooling equipment, and other inefficient energy and/or water systems, especially if there is a relatively short payback period on the initial investment. Energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reductions are the primary foci for the more than 680 colleges and universities that have pledged to become carbon neutral; however, many schools are also involved with projects that are less carbon-focused such as creating on-campus organic farms, developing zero-waste operations, and building stronger connections between campus and the surrounding community. Colleges and universities are being transformed into living laboratories—models of healthy and productive communities we hope graduates will recreate throughout the world (Orr, 1994). Sustainability principles are evident in facilities design, energy production, waste management, purchasing practices, investment criteria, and other operational areas of the campus. Here, students have the opportunity to participate in the process of greening the campus and learn from their surroundings. Of course, many sustainable practices are invisible, so it is important that facilities managers take the time to create permanent signs or other means of educating students about sustainable features. Campuses are essentially small communities; many opportunities exist for students to get hands-on experience with campus operations that they can then apply in “the real world.” In fall 2009 at the University of Maryland, the Office of Sustainability, Facilities Management Energy Office, and Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life collaborated on an energy awareness and conservation project called Energywi$e UM. The purpose of the project was to educate building occupants about electricity consumption, provide tips on how to conserve energy, incentivize conservation, and monitor progress. The Office of Sustainability recruited a team of student interns to pull data from the University’s energy data management system, construct weekly


energy reports, interface with building occupants and facilities managers, and analyze the impacts of specific interventions on energy performance. Beyond some impressive results in energy conservation, Energywi$e UM is an example of an interdisciplinary learning project. Engineering and science students explained how to analyze energy data, a psychology student used her knowledge of behavior change to design strategies for incentivizing conservation, and a political science student employed her skills to creatively manage the team of interns. Many interdisciplinary student teams work on sustainability projects at the University of Maryland and at schools around the world. Administrators and educators should consider how to utilize student interest in sustainability to create projects that mutually benefit both student learning and campus operations. Sustainability Major, Minor/Certificate, and Graduate Program The focus of this paper has been on creating a learning environment where all students receive an orientation to the campus culture of sustainability, an introduction to sustainability concepts as part of first year education, opportunities to explore sustainability issues through a graduation requirement, and holistic out-of-the classroom learning experiences by living on and participating in a model sustainable community. These initiatives, if well implemented, should increase students’ environmental literacy and encourage environmentally responsible behavior (Benton, 1994; McMillan, Wright, & Beazley, 2004; Rowe, 1999; Ryu & Brody, 2006; SmithSebasto, 1995; Wolfe, 2001). Still, students may need a much deeper understanding of the interaction of environment, society, and economy if they are to make the sort of meaningful impact many scholars believe is needed. In the past few years, there has been a significant increase in sustainability majors, minors/certificates, and graduate programs at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (2009), 14 institutions now offer a Bachelor’s degree in sustainability, 18 offer a minor, 25 offer a certificate, and 14 institutions offer a Master’s and/or Ph.D. in sustainability. These programs, all of which are interdisciplinary, are preparing students to be leaders in industry, government, and education. Year by year as the planet warms and resources become scarcer, the value of people with this specialized training is becoming clearer. Between 1998 and 2007, the number of clean energy jobs grew nearly two and a half times faster than overall jobs (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2009), making the case that this is a skills set in demand. Although graduate programs in sustainability may only ever exist at a limited number of institutions, a minor or certificate in sustainability should be offered at every university. The problems humanity faces will not be solved by engineers and scientists alone. Students in every discipline need to understand how their chosen career paths can contribute to a more sustainable society. A minor or certificate should be an option for students who want to explore how their major field of study relates to sustainability. These programs would provide a solid conceptual framework of sustainability, allow flexibility so that students can take sustainability-related courses that already exist within their majors, and offer a capstone experience where students could complete a thesis or project on how they—as social scientists, physicians, lawyers, teachers, politicians, etc.—will help usher in a better future.


Conclusion The proposals I set forth in this paper are not a lofty plan for higher education reform. All of the strategies discussed—green orientation, first year education, graduation requirements, interdisciplinary perspectives, sustainable campuses, and sustainability-focused academic programs—are being implemented at various colleges and universities, large and small. Aside from what can be a sizable investment in faculty and staff time, the operating expenses of some of these programs can be minimal (e.g., the Chesapeake Project, graduation requirements, and sustainability-focused academic programs), some program can be free (e.g., sustainability integration in first year education), and some may even save money in the short-term (e.g., green orientation and energy conservation efforts) or long-term (e.g., a sustainable campus). Very few if any institutions have employed all these strategies simultaneously, but to do so would transform the student experience. An institution with a comprehensive approach to sustainability education is a place where students are part of an academic environment where they see the connections between disciplines and work collaboratively to find interdisciplinary solutions to real-world problems. They experience living in a low-carbon, resource-smart community and can therefore look at society through new lenses. They are inspired to find new and creative ways to further green their campuses and actively seek opportunities to share what they learn with communities beyond their institution. Creating this sort of institution is certainly ambitious, but it is achievable if individuals take ownership of specific programs and work together (with learning outcomes in mind) to coordinate sustainability initiatives. Faculty, staff, and students exist at every college and university who are passionate about sustainability and eager to find ways to make a difference. This interest and energy needs to be channeled into bringing about transformational educational experiences that students both want and need and upon which the fate of our environment, society, and planet may very well depend. In my work at the University of Maryland, I have learned that leadership can come from anyone. If you are inspired to initiate your own sustainability program, find a few like-minded people and jump in where it makes sense for you and your institution. You will be surprised by how many people learn about what you are doing and want to help.


References Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (2009, Dec 6). Curriculum resources. Retrieved from http://www.aashe.org/resources/curriculum.php Barlett, P. F. (2004). No longer waiting for someone else to do it: A tale of reluctant leadership. In P.F. Barlett & G.W. Chase (Eds.), Sustainability on campus: Stories and strategies for change (pp. 67-87). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Benton, R. (1994). Environmental knowledge and attitudes of faculty: Business versus arts and sciences, Journal of Education for Business, 70, 12-16. Chase, G. W. & Rowland, P. (2004). The Ponderosa Project: Infusing sustainability in the curriculum. In P.F. Barlett & G.W. Chase (Eds.), Sustainability on campus: Stories and strategies for change (pp. 91-105). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Creighton, S. H. (2001). Greening the ivory tower. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Culen, G. & Mony, P. (2003). Assessing environmental literacy in a non-formal youth program, The Journal of Environmental Education, 34(4), 26-28. Gottlieb, C. & Robinson, G., eds. (2002). A practical guide for integrating civic responsibility into the curriculum. Washington, DC: American Association of Community Colleges. M’Gonigle, M. & Starke, J. (2006). Planet U: Sustaining the world, reinventing the university. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers. McIntosh, M., Cacciola, K., Clermont, S., & Keniry, J., (2001). State of the campus environment: A national report card on environmental performance and sustainability in higher education, National Wildlife Federation, Reston, VA. McMillan, E., Wright, T. & Beazley, K. (2004). Impact of a university-level environmental studies class on students’ values, The Journal of Environmental Education, 35(3), 19- 28. Moody, G. & Hartel, P. (2007). Evaluating an environmental literacy requirement chosen as a method to produce environmentally literate university students, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 8(3), 355-370. Orr, D. W. (1994). Earth in mind: On education, environment, and the human prospect. Washington, DC: Island Press. Orr, D. W. (1995). Educating for the environment: Higher education challenge for the next century, Change, 27, 43-46.


Pew Charitable Trusts (2009). The clean energy economy: Repowering jobs, businesses and investment across America. Retrieved from http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/ Clean_Economy_Report_Web.pdf Rappaport, A. & Creighton, S.H. (2007). Degrees that matter: Climate change and the university. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Rowe, D. (1999). Creating instructional leaders via an interdisciplinary project, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development annual conference presentation materials, San Francisco, CA. Ryu, H. & Brody, S. (2006). Examining the impacts of a graduate course on sustainable development using ecological footprint analysis, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 7 (2), 158-175. Smith-Sebasto, N. (1995). The effects of an environmental studies course on selected variables related to environmentally responsible behavior, The Journal of Environmental Education, 26(4), 30-34. Wolf, V. L. (2001). A survey of the environmental education of students in nonenvironmental majors at four-year institutions in the USA, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2(4), 301-315.


Enriching and Evaluating Sustainability Education Larry E. Erickson, Wendy Griswold, Keith L. Hohn, and Oral S. Saulters* Department of Chemical Engineering and Center for Hazardous Substance Research Kansas State University Manhattan, KS 66506 Abstract Through innovative partnerships, programming and platforms, sustainability education can be enhanced. Unique approaches as crystallized in a Sustainability Seminar, an annual Dialog on Sustainability, and an annual Sustainability Conference have enriched sustainability education at Kansas State University and throughout the region. Multidisciplinary members of diverse partner organizations of the Consortium for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (CESAS) and others have assisted with and participated in these efforts to advance progress towards sustainability. Undergraduate students participating in the NSF-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates program on sustainable energy were actively engaged in an effort to identify perspective transformations associated with sustainability. Transformative learning theory is used together with other methods to evaluate some of the sustainability education activities. Key words: sustainability, education, enrichment, evaluation, transformative learning, multidisciplinary Introduction If indeed education is the most vital of all resources (Schumacher, 1973) and sustainability is the key to innovation (Nidumolu et. al., 2009), then we will likely see more recognition of the true value of sustainability education going forward. Accordingly, sustainability has been a growing area of educational activity at Kansas State University. It is being incorporated into existing educational programs, departments, curricula, and courses. In this paper some creative educational programs and strategies to enrich and evaluate sustainability education at K-State are described. Recent innovative programmatic elements include: Sustainability Seminar, first offered in January 2008; Research Experiences for Undergraduates, focusing on sustainability, started in 2009; Dialogs on Sustainability, held each July in 2006-2009; and University wide sustainability conferences, held in 2009 and 2010. Additionally, the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences Secondary Major has added sustainability courses and provides opportunities for students to expand their sustainability education. Furthermore, a Consortium for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (CESAS) has been organized to support and encourage communication related to sustainability both within the university system as well as more broadly with other private and public sector collaborators. Sustainability has many dimensions, and there is often growth over time in comprehending the multidisciplinary aspects of sustainability. The social and political aspects of advancing sustainability are of great importance; however, the initial thinking of an engineer is often related


to the science and technology that is needed to move toward sustainability. A perspective change is needed to recognize that the triple bottom line (environment, economic, and social) provides an excellent approach to decision making related to sustainability. There is also the need to see sustainability from the perspective of the person who is trying to sustain life and community in a developing country where people live on one to five dollars per day. Progress toward achieving the United Nations millennium development goals provides another perspective with respect to comprehending sustainability. In a sustainable world all should be able to have basic sanitation, public education and good drinking water. Water, renewable energy, land resources, and climate stability are crucial aspects of sustainability; however, population, health care programs and economic stability are also paramount. Adopting sustainable lifestyles and economies will require significant perspective shifts in many segments of the global population. Consideration of Transformative Learning Theory (TLT) (Mezirow and Associates, 2000) as a method of facilitating these perspective shifts and measuring the impact and efficacy of efforts to incorporate sustainability content in sustainability education is warranted. Many academic departments have taken significant steps to incorporate sustainability content into the core courses for their majors, while unique programs and partnerships are serving as complementary learning platforms and catalysts for transformation. These activities to enrich sustainability education are being described because readers may be interested in learning more about these positive experiences and how and why the activities were carried out. In addition to describing the programs offered at K-State that are nurturing sustainability education, this paper provides an example of how TLT was used to evaluate the outcomes of one of those programs. Evaluation results are reported for the 2009 10 week REU program, which included the Sustainability Seminar and the Dialog on Sustainability. The REU program is sufficiently long and focused to provide a good opportunity to evaluate the application of transformative learning theory to sustainability education. These results are preliminary because this is the first year of a three year program, and there will be further collections of data on the original 10 students in the future. Enriching Educational Programs Several programs have been developed at K-State to enrich sustainability educational programs and activities. These programs serve many audiences, including students, faculty, staff, as well as the surrounding community, industry, and government entities. They function as a web, connecting various stakeholders from multiple sectors and disciplines with each other in our common goal of advancing sustainable mindsets, practices, and policies both locally and across the globe. The purpose in providing a description of these programs is twofold. First is to share information with other practitioners on the programs offered at K-State. The second is to provide a supporting context for the research on perspective transformation discussed later in the paper. While the research is focused on participants in one specific program, several of the programs described in this section provide support (directly and indirectly) to the program and make a valuable contribution to its effectiveness.


The programs described below are Sustainability Seminar, Dialog on Sustainability, Sustainability Conferences, the Consortium for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (CESAS), and the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences Secondary Major (NRES). The first three visionary and symbiotic activities have provided opportunities for students, faculty, and community members to enrich their educational experiences related to sustainability without a major investment of time. There have been more than 1000 participants to date. Each program will be described in more detail below. Figure 1 illustrates the different elements of the sustainability effort.

Figure 1. A graphical illustration showing that the Dialog on Sustainability, Sustainability Seminar, and Sustainability Conference are core activities. This “Sustainability Pal� enriches education through credit and non-credit programs. Sustainability Seminar CHE 670 Sustainability Seminar has been a versatile platform for addressing many overarching and specialized topics within the field of sustainability. It was initially taught in January 2008 as an intensive 2 and 1/2 day Intersession event with the special topic "Renewable Energy, Food and Sustainability." In Fall 2008, it was offered in a weekly seminar format. In Summer 2009, it was offered as a weekly seminar as part of the new Research Experiences for Undergraduates program related to sustainable energy. In January 2010, it was offered as a rigorous 2 and 1/2 day Intersession event on the timely and relevant special topic "Greenhouse Gases, Carbon Taxes and Trading, and Carbon Sequestration." The objectives of Sustainability Seminar are 1) to provide a high quality educational experience for those who participate; 2) to develop and offer an effective distance education course; 3) to


expose students to the leading edge of sustainability science from subject matter experts, practitioners, and policy-makers; 4) to create a collegial climate where professionals want to come, participate, network, and learn from one another; and 5) to have a streamlined learning and dissemination system that is easy to implement and use. Sustainability Seminar has two audiences: students enrolled for academic credit and professionals seeking to further develop their abilities in a non-credit program. To earn the hour of credit, students participate in the seminar program, prepare a written paper on a topic of their choice, make an oral presentation over the same topic, and prepare a top ten list of actions to make the world sustainable. Some experts from government, companies, and other universities are invited to help as speakers and panelists in order to develop a high quality offering. Professional development and continuing education hours are available for various certifications and credentials; important aspects that can support professional society educational activities. In Sustainability Seminar, the learning objectives include 1) greater understanding of core sustainability principles and the various dimensions; 2) in depth study of one or more topics related to sustainability; 3) active learning by developing a manuscript and oral presentation on a topic of interest; and 4) the opportunity to address the global aspects of sustainability. Information about the content of each of the four Sustainability Seminar offerings is available at http://www.engg.ksu.edu/CHSR/sustainability/index.html#SpecialSeminars. Both students and professionals are invited to participate in the distance education program; Sustainability Seminar is offered each semester as a distance education course. Students have appreciated the dynamic dialog that results from having a mix of academic, government, and industrial professionals together asking questions and sharing information. The digitally linked classroom has advanced audio-visual capabilities, including Wi-Fi, video streaming, and embedded microphones located throughout the room for superior recording sound quality. Google video has been utilized to broadcast lectures via the World Wide Web. Dialog on Sustainability Each year in July, starting in 2006, Kansas State University has hosted a Dialog on Sustainability in order to encourage meaningful exchange and engagement on educational, research, operations, and outreach topics. It has been organized as an open dialog without any registration fee. It includes oral presentations, panels, facilitated discussion, posters, and exhibits. Members of partner organizations of CESAS are invited to participate. The goal of the event is to encourage communication, sharing of information, and direct interaction with facilitated discussion of germane topics. Notable features include the roundtable breakout sessions, guided by trained facilitators from the Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy, and the green design and technology demonstrations. In addition to the university and extension network, online websites such as Greenopolis.com that focus on environmental sustainability have been used to disseminate event information. With strong support from university leadership, the new K-State president, Kirk Schulz was one of the featured speakers in 2009. Further information on these events is available at http://www.engg.ksu.edu/CHSR/sustainability.


Figure 2. Electric vehicle, President Kirk Schulz and Professor Noel Schulz, and REU student Tai-Wen Ko with solar lantern and poster. Sustainability Conferences The Director of Sustainability has provided leadership and coordination for the two sustainability conferences, "2009 Sustainability Conference: Leading Kansas in Sustainability" and "2010 Sustainability Conference: Kansas Going Green in Higher Education."A featured speaker, oral presentations, panels, posters, exhibits, and informal communication were included. In the 2009 conference, the emphasis was on leading Kansas in sustainability; that is, the challenge of making Kansas sustainable. Sustainable land use was the focus of one of the plenary sessions. The 2009 conference won “The Great Plains University Continuing Education Association Outstanding Non-credit Program Award.� In the second conference, networking among colleges and universities in sustainability education was emphasized. For more information see http://sustainability.ksu.edu/. Furthermore, in 2006 and 2008 respectively, many K-State faculty and staff members, in cooperation with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others, led organizational efforts for successful Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Redevelopment conferences. Consortium for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (CESAS) The Consortium for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (CESAS) is a network of over 60 diverse partner organizations (academic, industrial, government, and nongovernment organizations) that are working cooperatively to advance sustainability. CESAS enriches sustainability education by pursuing forward-thinking initiatives and leveraging intellectual capital while also helping to support the planning and development aspects, publicity and offering of events such as those described above. CESAS representatives collaborate through regular monthly meetings with representatives from each partner organization, targeted working groups, and by putting together a calendar of activities related to sustainability for broad distribution. A simple voluntary dues process has provided sufficient financial support to allow the organization to cosponsor several events each year. CESAS was organized in part because sustainability impacts all educational programs, and open communication is needed to encourage cooperative efforts to enrich sustainability education. The CESAS Internet site is at http://www.engg.ksu.edu/CHSR/sustainability. The annual reports for CESAS are available there.


Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES) The Natural Resource and Environmental Sciences Secondary Major, which requires 24 hours of courses including a 3 credit capstone course, provides another important option for undergraduates. This secondary major is available to all students in the university. It allows students to take several courses related to natural resources and sustainability and work on a sustainability project in a multidisciplinary team. Sustainability Seminar is one of the courses that can be taken. The educational goal of the NRES program is to prepare undergraduate students to apply broadly-based scientific knowledge to the use, management, sustainability, and quality of soil, air, water, mineral, biological, and energy resources. The rationale for the program is that because resource and environmental issues are so broad and complex, they exceed the scope of any one discipline and are best addressed through an interdisciplinary secondary major. Consequently, the program was founded in 1991 and became an option for KSU students in 1992. To date, 521 students have graduated with the secondary major degree. Overall, the NRES Secondary Major stands today as one of the most successful and well-respected inter-disciplinary undergraduate programs at Kansas State University (NRES, 2009). It is an excellent educational program for students to enhance their knowledge of sustainability. Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sustainable energy is a critical area of importance nationally and internationally in terms of education and workforce development. To address this need, K-State created a Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) Program focused on sustainable energy with empirical data analysis, mentoring by faculty, and robust learning opportunities; this REU includes research, security, environmental stewardship (including climate change), policy, and economy topics as emphasized in the recent National Science Foundation, National Science Board report (NSF, 2009). Kansas State University was awarded funding from the National Science Foundation to support undergraduate students for 10 weeks of sustainability research during the summers of 2009 2011. The "Earth, Wind, and Fire: Sustainable Energy for the 21st Century" REU program included research, Sustainability Seminar, the Dialog on Sustainability, student presentations, field trips, team projects, reflective journaling and social events. Evaluation by a team of professionals is part of the program. Ten students, 13 faculty and 3 staff participated in this program in 2009. The Graduate School also provided coordination with other REU and related programs for integrated activities. The focus of the Seminar component was on sustainable energy with presentations by faculty helping with the research program. On the final day of the 10 week program, the morning was devoted to a symposium with an invited speaker followed by poster presentations by the 10 students. The multidisciplinary summer program included chemistry, geology, grain science, and engineering (chemical, electrical, computer, biological, and agricultural engineering).


All of the students reported on their research twice during the summer in addition to their poster presentation at the end of program. Some of the student/faculty teams presented posters at the Dialog on Sustainability. All of the students submitted a written report as part of the requirements for the seminar. Beyond the classroom and the laboratory, all students participated in one of two team projects. Six students created presentations on actions individuals can take to make their lifestyle more sustainable. A public meeting at the Manhattan Public Library was organized, and members of the public came to listen to the presentations. The other team prepared a white paper on solar energy and transportation planning. This team studied the benefits of shaded parking, energy production, and electrical connections for plug-in hybrid or electrical cars and the economics of the project. A program website was designed to foster information sharing, exchange, and knowledge base expansion (see http://www.che.ksu.edu/reu/). Exploring real-world applications involved visits to local and regional industries and research sites. The field trips included trips to The Land Institute to discuss sustainability in agriculture, to a wind farm, a coal fired power plant, a nuclear reactor, NanoScale Corporation, and the Advanced Manufacturing Institute. From the local to the global, one student worked on a project to develop a solar lantern for parts of the world that did not have electrical power. Some students realized for the first time that many people live without electrical power and simple light switches. One of the challenges in the world is how to best move toward sustainability. A new perspective for some is the idea that we can best do this by making biofuels and wind and solar energy less expensive than energy and power from coal and petroleum. This is the motivation to support renewable energy research and for the REU students to help find better and less expensive power systems through their research projects. Based on student feedback, most felt strongly that the REU would prove beneficial for their career. The growth in knowledge about sustainability has both personal and professional value. More details on the impacts and outcomes of this program are discussed in the next section. Evaluation Framework Transformative Learning Theory (TLT) was used along with other methods to evaluate some of the sustainability educational activities during the 2009 REU. TLT is the process by which the world views of individuals, groups, and organizations are changed as a result of the adult development process. TLT is focused on how we make meaning and "how we learn to negotiate and act on our own purposes, values, feelings, and meanings, rather than those uncritically assimilated from others to gain greater control of our lives as socially responsible, clear thinking, decision makers" (Mezirow and Associates, 2000, p.8). It is expected that these new or transformed perspectives or world views will be more complex than previously held ones and they will acknowledge a pluralistic view of reality.


According to TLT, the driving purpose or central goal of the human mind is to make meaning out of experience. TLT also recognizes that all meaning is embedded in the context of how we know it (Mezirow and Associates, 2000). TLT is intended as a "comprehensive, idealized, and universal model consisting of the generic structures, elements, and processes of adult learning. “Cultures and situations determine which of these structures, elements and processes will be acted upon and whose voice will be heard," (Mezirow, 1994, p.222). While theorists and practitioners (Brookfield, 2000; Cranton, 1994) agree that transformative learning is not a neat, linear process, several key phases have been delineated. They are: 1.

A disorienting dilemma;


Self-examination with feelings of shame or guilt;


A critical assessment of epistemological, sociocultural, or psychological

assumptions; 4.

Recognition that one’s discontent and the process of transformation are shared

and that others have negotiated a similar change; 5.

Exploration of options for new roles, relationships, and actions;


Planning a course of action;


Acquisition of knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plans;


Provisional trying of new roles;


Building of competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships; and


A reintegration into one’s life on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s new

perspective (Mezirow, 1991). With respect to a planetary perspective, transformative learning theory "recognizes the interconnectedness among universe, planet, natural environment, human community, and personal world. Most significant of these is recognizing the individual not just from a socialpolitical dimension but also from an ecological and planetary one" (Taylor, 2008, p. 9-10). A growing body of literature gives support for use of TLT as an appropriate vehicle for researching and facilitating perspective transformation related to environmental sustainability (Lange, 2004; Sims and Sinclair, 2008; Moore, 2005, O’Sullivan and Taylor, 2004). TLT is utilized in some of the programs described in this paper based on the view that making the shift to an environmentally sustainable world requires perspective transformation at individual and social levels. Mechanisms for facilitating transformative learning include critical questioning and reflection, shared experiences, experimenting with new roles and ideas, and planning for the future. Evaluation methods As part of the 10 week program, students were asked to maintain a journal where they reflected on their REU experience. In the first week, REU participants wrote about their initial


perspectives and attitudes toward sustainability, science and engineering, and research. Each week the students submitted written information on the theoretical and technical aspects of their research as well as reflections on the learning experiences for the week, with a focus on any perspective changes with respect to attitudes toward sustainability, science and engineering, and research. Journaling prompts normally included a short series of questions. For example, in Week 4 students were asked the following: Describe the group sustainability project you are working on. What is your role in the project? What will the benefits of this project be to you, the group, and to society at large? In week 9 of the program, students were asked the following: What are the obligations/responsibility of scientists and engineers to society? Has any experience during this program impacted your answer to the above question? Please see Appendix A for a copy of the journaling prompts and guidance used in the 2009 REU Program. The purpose of this part of the program was to develop students’ ability to mindfully reflect on the learning experiences and write effectively about them. It also provided a rich source of evaluative data, which was collected unobtrusively. The preliminary analysis represented 86 journal entries and the transcript from a focus group interview conducted with the participants during week 9 of the program. (See Appendix B for the focus group schedule.) Data from the student journals and focus group have been coded and managed using QSR NVivo 8 software to create a case study database. Data were coded using frameworks from Mezirow and Associates (2000) and The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education (2009). Emergent themes were also included in the case study database. Data were analyzed using a keyword phrase search derived from the aforementioned frameworks. The case study database was utilized to conduct searches and to tabulate and manage search results. The results are termed a preliminary analysis as further data will be analyzed and incorporated, which may impact these results. These include observational data, student applications to the program, and follow up evaluation with students. Additional data will be collected from students in the subsequent years of the program and compiled with year one data. Findings Findings from this preliminary evaluation focused on four areas: career path, definition/concept of sustainability, role in sustainability, and habits of mind. Career Path Exploration of options is one of the stages of transformative learning theory (Mezirow and Associates, 2000). Summer 2009 REU students demonstrated their engagement in this stage through their comments about their career paths and future plans. Student comments about their future careers were related to refocusing their interests to renewable energy, deciding to pursue graduate degrees, expanding their perspectives related to sustainability and choosing research foci for future work. Examples of student comments are below. “Before this, I was considering going toward petroleum. I think this overall experience has actually opened my eyes to maybe it’s not such a good idea to go into that field and maybe stick more to sustainable fields”. Student C, Focus Group


“As I continue to do more and more lab work and especially this first week of working in a lab full time, I find myself enjoying the work. I am a slow, methodical, and patient person who likes to do things precisely: a perfect fit for working in a lab atmosphere. I have been contemplating going to graduate school, and work like this has encouraged me more than anything to pursue my graduate school goals”. Student B, Journal Entry Definition/Concept of Sustainability Students’ concepts and definitions of sustainability underwent perspective transformation during the REU experience. Student comments related to their changing perspectives are representative of more than one of the stages in Mezirow’s framework: critical assessment of assumptions, acquisition of knowledge and skills, and planning a course of action. In the focus group and journals, students discussed their changing concepts of sustainability. Most notably, several students reported that prior to the program their concept of sustainability was limited to energy issues. As a result of the program, students’ perspectives were broadened to include a wider definition of sustainability issues, as well as options for solving problems. Examples of their comments are below. “Throughout the events on sustainability, I have realized that every region has different sustainability issues and solutions, and it is less homogeneous than I once thought. Still, many of the broad challenges are the same, such as reducing the use of a finite resource, for example oil”. Student E, Journal Entry “I would say it hasn’t really been challenged, but brought into perspective that we have to look at sustainability including water, and crops and basically everything has a certain level of sustainability and I always thought of sustainability as more as solar and wind. It’s interesting to see different aspects of it as well”. Student H, Focus Group “The most compelling idea that I have learned in the program thus far is that there is not just one solution for making our world sustainable. We cannot depend solely on wind or solar energy, and we cannot just power our cars through biofuels, we also need to have them run on sustainable electricity. Sustainability is a much broader topic than most people tend to think about. Through this I think that sustainability is reaching across all of the sciences and bringing people together to come up with new ideas and new sustainable technologies”. Student I, Journal Entry Role in Sustainability Students were asked about their roles in sustainability and the role of engineers and scientists in sustainability. Student responses for this question were also related to the following TLT stages: exploration of options, planning for a course of action, critical assessment of assumptions, and building of competence and self-confidence. In discussing their individual roles, students saw


their roles as educating others and serving as role models for others in how to take actions that are more sustainable. With respect to the roles of engineers and scientists, students stated that scientists and engineers have significant roles in developing technologies and solutions related to sustainable issues. They also noted that scientists and engineers have problem solving roles, as well as have a role in educating the public about sustainability issues. Examples of student comments related to roles in sustainability are below. “The Dialog on Sustainability helped me some in this aspect. I think my role is to live a lifestyle that tends toward sustainability and show other people how to do it. Some of the people we were living with, the biology kids were great, some of the brothers at the frat don’t think about this stuff very much and you can influence everyone around you on steps they can take”. Student D, Focus Group “Before I thought that as an engineer my job was simply to work to create the technologies that improved lives. Now I realize it is also my job to educate and teach others what I have learned. After last summer's REU (at another university) I had become a little concerned because it seemed like options for solving the energy crisis and becoming a sustainable society were running out, but this summer I have learned so many new ways to live sustainably and solve this challenge. It has renewed my hope for these things”. Student A, Journal Entry “I attended the sustainability talk held last Thursday at the Manhattan Public Library, and that experience showed me that scientists, as technically inclined people, can also act as teachers to the community. The education that scientists receive put them in a position to learn about topics outside their field, and to explain them to less-technical people”. Student D, Journal Entry Habits of Mind Changes to existing habits of mind are essential to perspective transformation (Mezirow and Associates, 2000). The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education has developed a rubric for assessing sustainable habits of mind, based on their sustainability education content standards (2009).


Table 1. Student rubric overview: The dimensions Understanding of The extent to which one sees both the whole system and its parts as Systems as the Context well as the extent to which an individual can place one’s self within for Decision Making the system Intergenerational The extent to which one takes responsibility for the effect(s) of her/his Responsibility actions on future generations Mindful of and Skillful The extent to which one consciously makes choices and plans actions with Implications and to achieve positive systemic impact Consequences Protecting and The extent to which one works to reconcile the conflicts between Enhancing the individual rights and the responsibilities of citizenship to tend the Commons commons Awareness of Driving The extent to which one recognizes and can act strategically and Forces and Their responsibly in the context of the driving forces that influence our lives Impact Assumption of The extent to which one assumes responsibility for one’s self and Strategic Responsibility others by designing, planning and acting with whole systems in mind Paradigm Shifter The extent to which one recognizes mental models and paradigms as guiding constructs that change over time with new knowledge and applied insight (Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, 2009) Summer 2009 REU students’ journal writings were analyzed in terms of the above rubric. All students had comments that were coded for one of the above dimensions. The dimensions with the most number of students’ coded comments were understanding of systems as the context for decision making (80%), awareness of driving forces and their impact (60%), and assumption of strategic responsibility (60%). Figure 3 below shows the data for all dimensions.


Students with Journal Entries Coded for Habits of Mind Dimensions Understanding of Systems as the Context…


Intergenerational Responsibility Mindful of and Skillful with Implications… Protecting and Enhancing the Commons Awareness of Driving Forces and Their… Assumption of Strategic Responsibility Paradigm Shifter 0

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Percentage of Students

Figure 3. Percentage of students with at least one journal entry coded for individual habits of mind dimensions. Understanding of systems as the context for decision making. This dimension is related to the extent to which one sees both the whole system and its parts as well as the extent to which an individual can place one’s self within the system. Eight students had journal entries coded for this dimension, with a total of ten separate entries. Students’ discussions were related to the research process; synergy between demonstration projects, community education, and training engineers; global issues; complexity of energy systems, and elements of the triple bottom line. An example of a student comment related to this dimension is below. “Visiting the wind farm was a great opportunity. I enjoyed seeing a new type of energy actually expanding. Everyone has known about wind power for quite a while now, but I never would have guessed the technology that actually goes into a turbine now. The wind farm does not tie directly into my project, but it does help lighten the load that bio-fuels have to fulfill. Assuming our energy consumption continues at its current rate, wind or bio-diesel alone cannot hope to fill the demand. Only by using all our available sustainable resources can we hope to be successful”. Student G, Journal Entry Awareness of driving forces and their impact. This dimension is related to the extent to which one recognizes and can act strategically and responsibly in the context of the driving forces that influence our lives. Six students had journal entries coded for this dimension, with a total of ten separate entries. Students’ discussions were


related to economic forces, social value, the importance of multiple perspectives, communication, community education, politics and leadership. An example of a student comment related to this dimension is below. “The second stop at the wind farm was directly related to my project. I am working on a wind program for schools in the local Kansas area, so being able to see these massive turbines in real life was great. I also learned a little bit about where the power goes and how the wind energy is used and predicted on a day-today basis. It also gave me insight on some of the politics involved when installing turbines. You need landowners, grid power lines, and wind to all work in the same location. It sounds very difficult and hard to accomplish, but Horizon seems to be getting the job done”. Student F, Journal Entry Assumption of strategic responsibility. This dimension is related to the extent to which one assumes responsibility for one’s self and others by designing, planning and acting with whole systems in mind. Six students had journal entries coded for this dimension, with a total of eleven separate entries. Students’ discussions were related to their intentions to play active roles in sustainability problem solving by developing skills to prepare themselves for real world application. Discussions ranged from individual responsibilities to that of the engineering profession. An example of a student comment related to this dimension is below. “I truly enjoyed visiting the wind farm at Concordia. As a Kansan, I appreciate the vast wind resource that this state has to offer. Kansas has the potential to be a wind power leader not for just this country but for the world, but unfortunately we do not have the leadership in this state to do that. This activity can be indirectly applied to my current project. Since wind is an intermittent energy source, large amounts of hydrogen could potentially be used to supply electricity when the wind is not blowing. That possibility, however, is a long way from becoming actuality. The fact that most sustainability projects are still in their early stages is somewhat troublesome for me. Research is a slow process, and even though many projects have promising ideas, the leap from theory to practicality to economic to becoming implemented is a long arduous progression. Someone has to work to make these leaps, and I certainly want to be a part of that process”. Student B, Journal Entry Summary Analysis of student journals and the focus group transcript provided a window into program impacts and benefits. This effort has demonstrated that many of the students had a very positive experience and they have a much better understanding of the dimensions of sustainability and the importance of it. Many of the students indicated an increase in their interest in pursuing a career in research and attending graduate school. They experienced perspective changes in their career paths, broadened their concepts of sustainability, and articulated their roles in creating a sustainable future. They also demonstrated their understandings of systems thinking, driving forces, and their willingness to play leadership roles in actions to promote sustainability.


Results and Conclusions Our modern society is facing very complex issues which demand sustainable and pragmatic solutions. This is complicated by today’s increased economic, ecological, and geopolitical uncertainty. Addressing these complex issues requires global citizens and leaders who are capable of perspective transformation and are equipped with habits of mind that reflect sustainability concepts. As institutions charged with producing future generations of scientists, engineers, teachers, and policy makers (to name a few), higher education has a need to develop methods of both facilitating transformative learning in our communities as well as ways to measure its successes (and failures). Transformative learning theory offers a set of solutions to address both of these needs. For some of the students in the 2009 REU, this summer program was a transformational experience. They gained the perspective that sustainability will impact their professional career and increase in importance during their lifetimes. The group assignment to present their ideas to the public required them to formulate these ideas. There was significant personal growth associated with the information gathering, group discussions, and evaluation of ideas on how to change personal behavior to advance sustainability While sustainability education can be included in many classes, there is also a need to enrich sustainability education by adding seminars, dialogs, special programs, and conferences which can enhance the experiential value, professional exposure, and engaged training for students and faculty. Our experiences with several of these have been described. Evaluations of these activities have demonstrated that many participants have had positive experiences and have developed richer understandings of sustainability and options for action and involvement. Transformational learning is often one of the outcomes of these activities. The perspectives of many college students are changed because of their participation in active learning processes such as dialogs, field trips, developing reports, reflective journaling, making oral presentations, and real world group projects. References Brookfield, S. (2000). Transformative learning as ideology critique. In J. Mezirow (Ed.), Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. (p. 125-148). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education. (2009). What is Education for Sustainability (EfS)? Accessed on February 9, 2010 from http://www.sustainabilityed.org/education/what_is_education_for_sustainability.php Cranton, P. (1994). Understanding and promoting transformative learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Lange, E.A. (2004). Transformative and restorative learning: A vital dialect for sustainable societies. Adult Education Quarterly, 54(2), 212-139.


Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformation theory and cultural context: A reply to Clark and Wilson. Adult Education Quarterly 41(3), 188-192. Mezirow, J. (1994). Understanding transformation theory. Adult Education Quarterly, 44(4), 222-232. Mezirow, J. and Associates. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Moore, J. (2005). Is higher education ready for transformative learning? A question explored in the study of sustainability. Journal of Transformative Education, 3(1), 76-91. National Science Foundation. (2009). Building a sustainable energy future: U.S. actions for an effective energy economy transformation. Arlington, VA: National Science Board, NSB-09-55. Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. (2009). NRES alumni newsletter, May 2009. Kansas State University: NRES Number 5. Nidumolu, R., C.K. Prahlad, M.R. Rangaswami. (2009). “Why sustainability is now the key driver of innovation” Harvard Business Review, September 2009. O’Sullivan, E.V. and Taylor, M. M. (Eds). (2004). Learning toward an ecological consciousness. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Schumacher, E.F. (1973). Small is beautiful: economics as if people mattered. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Sims, L. and Sinclair, A.J. (2008). Learning through participatory resources management programs: Case studies from Costa Rica. Adult Education Quarterly, 58(2), 151-168. Taylor, E.W. (2008). Transformative learning theory. New directions for adult and continuing education, 119, 5-15. Acknowledgments We thank many coworkers and students who have assisted with and participated in these events, evaluation activities, and provided feedback in various ways. This work is partially supported by NSF. Author Bios Larry E. Erickson is Professor of Chemical Engineering and Director of the Center for Hazardous Substance Research at Kansas State University. He is a member of the team that provides leadership for the Consortium for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability.


Wendy Griswold is a Project Manager at the Center for Hazardous Substance Research at Kansas State University. She has a Ph.D. in adult education and B.A. and M.S. degrees in women’s studies. She has worked in the area of environmental community education and outreach for thirteen years. Keith L. Hohn is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Kansas State University. His research area is heterogeneous catalysis with an emphasis on sustainable energy applications. He is co-director of the National Science Foundation-funded 'Earth, Wind, and Fire: Sustainable Energy in the 21st Century' Research Experience for Undergraduates program at Kansas State. Oral S. Saulters is a Team Leader at the Center for Hazardous Substance Research at Kansas State University. His work is focused on environmental analysis and technology development. He is a collaborator with the Consortium for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability.


Appendix A Reflective Journaling Topics Please review the questions and/or guiding statements below. In 20-30 minutes, write a response to the appropriate week’s topic. We are asking you to write a reflection on your experiences and how they are affecting you as a scientist, a learner, and as a person. Do not be overly concerned with crafting a perfectly written document. Instead, just relax and let your responses emerge. Week 1 1. Describe the project you are working on this summer. 2. What are your goals for the summer research program? Week 2 Choose an activity from the week and answer the following questions: 1. Describe the activity and why it was significant to you. 2. How can this activity be applied to your current project? Week 3 1. What is the most compelling idea/concept you have learned about in the program so far? 2. Describe your understanding of this concept. 3. Why do you find it compelling? Week 4 1. Describe the group sustainability project you are working on. 2. What is your role in the project? 3. What will the benefits of this project be to you, the group, and to society at large? Week 5 Choose an activity from the week and answer the following questions: 1. Describe the activity and why it was significant to you. 2. How can this activity be applied to your current project? Week 6 Reflect on the research project you are working on. 1. Describe your role in the project and your contributions. 2. What have you learned during this work that is significant? Why is it significant? 3. What problems will this project help solve? Week 7 1. What is the most compelling idea/concept you have learned about in the program so far? 2. Describe your understanding of this concept. 3. Why do you find it compelling? Week 8


Reflect on the Dialog on Sustainability that you attended on July 23. 1. What surprised you? 2. Was there anything you didn’t agree with? Please describe why or why not. 3. What do you think are the benefits of these kinds of activities? Who does it benefit? Week 9 1. What are the obligations/responsibility of scientists and engineers to society? 2. Has any experience during this program impacted your answer to the above question? Week 10 Review your previous entries. 1. What have you learned this summer? 2. Have your perspectives and beliefs changed? 3. How will you use this experience in the future?


Appendix B NSF REU Summer 2009 Focus Group Schedule 1) Has your definition/understanding of sustainability been challenged or changed? In what specific ways? 2) Have you met your original goals? What helped you meet them and what barriers or challenges did you meet? 3) What elements of the program have been particularly good and useful? What haven’t been so good and useful? (program elements - field trips, individual projects, group projects, seminars, brown bags, dialog on sustainability, journaling) 4) Do you have any recommendations for next year’s program? 5) What are your future goals? How has this summer affected your future plans? 6) What is your role in developing a sustainable future? How has this summer affected your ideas about that role? 7) Is there anything else you’d like to add to the discussion?


Rekindling Memories of Yesterday’s Children: Making the Case for Nature-Based Unstructured Play for Today’s Children. Linda Ramey Thumbprint Endeavors LLC, Environmental Consulting

Abstract This study examined adults’ feelings towards the environment in relation to recalled memories of childhood play. Today’s adults often associate scouting, summer camps, or playing in a creek with environmental education, with positive affect. Tomorrow’s adults won’t have this experience base. Environmental education and outdoor play have become too formalized for children to benefit in the affective domain, a key ingredient to student engagement and long term memory formation. This study examined descriptive narrative and graphic responses related to outdoor childhood experiences of 222 adult participants. Themes in the data indicate common trends in participants’ early outdoor play experiences and how those experiences shaped their understanding of nature as adults. This pattern suggests both that 1) evoking powerful childhood memories in today’s adults can be a profound tool for environmental education, and 2) tomorrow’s adults need unstructured play experiences now while they are still children. This research provides a bridge between the memories of today’s adults and the well-being of today’s youth – a powerful connector for environmental educators as we struggle to find meaningful tools to persuade adults of the critical need to get children and themselves out into nature and the healing influence of unstructured exploration and play. Key words: Environmental education, outdoor play, exploration, formative experience, environmental sensitivity

I played outside as a child. I jumped rope, rode my bicycle, roller skated, twirled my baton. I never explored nature. Our surroundings were harsh--dirt, tumbleweed, mean ants, scorpions, biting insects, snakes. Others may have noticed the beauty in it but I did not. I stayed on the sidewalk. I want more my children - I want them to be interested in captivated by the miracles in nature. (Narrative Response, growing up in New Mexico) Introduction Current life style choices, poor nutrition, and low physical activity levels are negatively impact children’s overall health. The American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report (2008) states that Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” has been linked to less bone density, diabetes, higher percentages of body fat, and other physical health issues stemming primarily from a lack of outdoor activity. When did environmental education change from being about nature study at


summer camp to a formalized, politicized item squeezed into the busy agendas of today’s children? This question has guided the present study and our exploration of insights and further specific questions on this important topic for the future of our youth and our citizenry. The long, rich history of environmental education goes back to the day-to-day interactions between humans and the natural world. The renowned E. O. Wilson coined the term Biophilia, meaning an inner “urge to affiliate with other forms of life and to describe “humans’ love of living things our innate affinity with nature” (1984). David Orr also describes this ancestral “preference for certain landscapes such as savannas and in the fact that we heal more quickly in the presence of sunlight, trees, and flowers than in biologically sterile, artificially lit, utilitarian settings” (2002). Today, given the increasing complexity and industrialization of our world, human interaction with nature, especially for children and young adults, has become formalized, standardized, and politicized. The present study illustrates the power of remembering the important role of outdoor play experiences for the vast majority of adults. This remembrance carries a sense of urgency as the current generation of children increasingly plays indoors. Children have a crucial need to get outside and do what children should do best - play, create, imagine, laugh – and engage in activities that promote health for children and adults alike.

The Role of Outdoor Learning Experiences Richard Louv’s 2005 national bestseller “Last Child in the Woods” has drawn attention to a gap in children’s overall preparation for the future. I the last 20 years, Americans have not been providing children with sufficient interaction with nature in order to foster an understanding of how nature works and where humans fit in to the entirety of the natural world, a concept now referred to as Environmental Literacy. Wellbacher (2009) says that formal K-12 school experiences tend not to produce environmentally literate graduates, capable of weighing scientific information or making informed choices for living sustainably in the world community. Bixler, Floyd & Hammutt (2002) find people have positive perceptions about play in wild settings but they see a disconnection between those positive interactions with nature and environmental education experiences provided in schools. Teacher preparation programs in environmental education emphasize effective methodologies and interdisciplinary curriculum. In these programs, teachers are taught to integrate outdoor experiences that foster learning in both formal classroom settings and informal, outside-the-classroom settings (Ramey-Gassert, 1997; Ramey-Gassert, Walberg & Walberg 1994). However, we need to make seamless connections between environmental education, academic content standards, and unstructured outdoor play, while simultaneously developing understanding, empathy, and a connectedness with the natural world. This thinking is echoed in a Canadian study of “eco play” that states, “As a society, we have to make our neighborhoods and communities more child friendly by preserving and allocating natural landscapes and by allowing unstructured play to occur in environments that are free from adultdominated processes, structures, and designs.” (Staempfli 2009, p. 278).


Impacts on Children’s Learning and Well-being Today, U.S. children are spending more time in a passive mode versus an active mode and less time outdoors than did early generations of Americans (Hofferth and Sandberg, 2000). In a study of 830 mothers and their children in the U.S. today, Clements (2004) reports a notable decrease from previous time spent outdoors in unstructured, open-ended play. She states that there is a drop in social skills due to sedentary, isolated, passive/receptive behavior resulting from more TV viewing indoor time and less time outdoors interacting with others. This change in behavior patterns results in a poor understanding and knowledge of the natural world. In this electronic era, we need to find ways to educate our children, teachers, parents, and neighbors about the complexity and interconnectedness of all of nature, including the role of humans; and that better overall human health is correlated with increased time spent outdoors. As Pergams reported to the U. S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, a host of recent studies equate trends of increasing television or computer “screen time” for children and adults with increasing rates of physical health problems such as obesity and diabetes (2008). Louv (2005, 2008) and Bohling-Philippi (2006) find that well-being and stress are reduced when people spend more time in nature, thus showing the curative and restorative power of outdoor settings. Wells (2000) states that forest and vegetative natural environments surrounding children’s housing are linked to increased cognitive functioning in low-income youngsters. Indeed, when I worked at Chicago Botanical Garden, I witnessed inner-city children who were fearful to step off the school bus for a field trip because the wind was blowing through the branches of the trees, rustling the leaves. They had never been into a forest, but they had heard stories about scary creatures in the woods. Many urban children grow up without crucial positive exposure and learning experiences in natural areas. They also lack a knowledgeable, caring adult mentor who can share and guide them in exploring nature, even within the planned natural habitats of city parks.

The Role of a Caring Adult Childhood outdoor play experiences foster an appreciation and love of nature, positive environmental attitudes and behavior choices that are environmentally friendly. Such experiences can even lead to the pursuit of a career in the environmental realm. While the hope is that outdoor play leads to increased environmental literacy, Bixler, Floyd & Hammutt (2002) found that it does not always inspire individuals to follow careers related to the outdoors or environmental sciences. Chawla (1998, 1999) has researched and written extensively on many aspects of environmental education, including children experiencing nature, and the significance of life experiences in developing environmental sensitivity. She speaks of the role of parents and teachers in fostering a loving concern for the natural world and the importance of an adult who acts as an engaged and guiding co-investigator with the child (Chawla 2006, 2007).


Figure One. Child with Caring Adult in a Natural Setting. “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder . . . he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in” (Carson 1956 p. 45).

Although a caring adult can focus a child’s attention, encourage the child to express enthusiasm and generate interest in the simplicity and complexity of nature, the adult and child still need green spaces in which to spend time sharing nature. Increased focus on carefully planned green space for children and adults is needed, as urban sprawl, development, and a growing human population increasingly limit the availability of natural areas and wilderness.

Children’s Formative Experiences, The Importance of Play The propensity of adults to spend time in woodlands and natural areas is correlated with previous time spent in nature as a child (Thompson, et. al., 2008). Also important is the role of women and whether adults or children feel safe and comfortable alone in nature. Wells and Lekies (2006) examined the connections related to the development of adult environmental engagement, concluding that positive environmental attitudes and behaviors related to the environment were associated with the type of nature experience. They studied “wild nature” versus “domesticated nature” that adults experienced as children, and the importance of solitary play in nature without rules or demands (Wells and Lekies, 2006). The importance of outdoor play is central to Sobel’s work on Place-based Education (2004, 2005). This, coupled with his earlier work on Children’s Special Places (1993), lend insights regarding the importance of outdoor play for children. Henig (2008) adds that even with this information, many people do not fully understand the relationship between the development of an understanding of the natural world and less unstructured outdoor playtime for children. Recent efforts ,such as the No Child Left Inside Initiative (NCLI, 2007), draw attention to these issues or parallel efforts that have been enacted in many states and in more local communities.


Such initiatives, focused on getting children and families outside, are increasing. As of now, however, there are too few outdoor opportunities for children in the U.S. in their neighborhoods or their schools to increase their knowledge of the natural world and the environment. This said, it should be noted that the impact on one’s ability to feel comfortable and confident outdoors and to develop a caring respect of the natural world is deeply rooted in childhood experiences (Pergams 2008 from Zaradic & Pergams, 2008).

The Role of Qualitative Environmental Research in Connecting Outdoor Experiences with Conservation Efforts and Sustainability Based on extensive interview data, it appears that personal exploration and interactions with nature (as opposed to simply playing with other children outdoors) may hold the key to understanding life/career path choices (Vadala, Bixler and James 2007). However, longitudinal studies are needed especially since “researchers know little about the details of play experience during the formative childhood years” (Vadala, Bixler and James 2007, p. 3). Basic descriptive research to examine the processes by which environmental sensitivity develops is needed (Chawla, 1998): Descriptive phenomenological research of this kind has important insights to offer. It is a necessary foundation for the construction of theories that are grounded in people’s own understanding of their experiences and actions. For although longitudinal research may give more accurate measures of the actual fact of people’s environmental experience, whether or not people remember and draw upon these experiences depends on how they filter and evaluate the past in the context of their present needs. (p. 9) The present study aims to fill this gap in descriptive research on the role of play, thereby contributing by asking adults to recall their play experiences as children. The overarching goal of this research is to find ways to make critical connections among the physical, emotional, psychological, and cognitive needs of today’s children as they experience unstructured outdoor play, as well as to reconnect them (and their families) with the natural world. Griswold, with The Nature Conservancy, summarized this line of thinking well. “If today’s children are not experiencing nature, they will not protect it as adults” (2009).

Methods Data Collection Narrative and pictorial data were collected over three years from 222 adults. Study participants included college-age students, parents, pre-service and in-service teachers, early childhood educators, and home childcare providers. Respondents, with a fairly even male/female ratio, represented a wide range of ages, backgrounds and socio-economic levels. An initial two-sided form was created and piloted to gather preliminary feedback as to the design and the questions to be asked (See Figures 1 and 2). Twenty-three pre-service science methods students participated in this phase of data collection. Questions were posed related to childhood play and early learning experiences. As shown in Figures 1 and 2, participants were


asked to sketch/draw a map of where they grew up on one side of a sheet of paper and to write a narrative on the other side responding to the questions: “What did you do as a child?” “Where did you play?” “What did you do outside?” and “What did you do for fun?” Minor wording adjustments were made to clarify the questions. In the next phase of the study, additional survey information was collected from a larger group of participants. Sixty-eight in-service teachers, homecare and childcare agency employees, outdoor/environmental educators and 131 undergraduates and graduate-level pre-service teachers were given the survey bringing the number of participants to 222. While many participants had a common interest in children, the data represents a wider spectrum of the general public than many previous studies. The initial data was incorporated with the full study data since it was found to be consistent with the larger sample group responses.

FIGURE 1. Example of Narrative Side of Data Collection Form


FIGURE 2. Example of Graphic Side of Data Collection Form

Developing a Rating Scale for Measuring Diagrams and Narratives Data were analyzed both qualitatively, by viewing and reading pictorials and narratives) and quantitatively, based on a rating scale developed to measure the diagrams and narratives. Preliminary insights were gained using quantitative methods after it was compiled into a database. Common elements in the narrative data and the graphic data were then tabulated according to the number of times wording/terms/image appeared. As an example, the element “playing in a sandbox” appeared in the data 11 times. Codifying the variability in the graphic and narrative data allowed for the development of a ranking system based on richness and complexity of the responses, without regard for the elements present. A one to five rating scale was created to differentiate the very simple graphic or narrative data from that which was rich and colorful in details and descriptions of events or places. These rating scales were not assessed on artistic abilities as much as richness and the amount of data depicted. Similarly, the level of detail or richness was not determined by the writing style, spelling or grammar. A sample level one (1) narrative read simply: “Played in woods and cemetery; Climbed trees; Swam in creek.” A sample level five (5) narrative is much more complex and elaborate:


“[As a child, I] Climbed Trees – I had a favorite spot; Swinging on the willow tree vines; Walked 2 blocks to a small woods - exploring and playing hide and seek and other games; Catching lightening and lady bugs. Started my own garden – totally on my own age 11 or 12, grew cucumbers and pumpkins. Played in sandbox; picked plants and smashed berries, tried to make medicines (tropical); splashed in giant puddles; built hideouts in the tall grass field; Found injured creatures and brought them home, taking them to rehab center. Fishing and catching crawdads and skipping rocks (this was in drainage ditches). Watching ants; playing flashlight tag in evening. Biking to various destinations–library, pool, schoolyard, parks, Dairy Queen.”

Similarly, graphic representations that accompanied the narrative data were repeatedly reviewed to categorize and codify the various elements. Like the narratives, graphic representations varied greatly in complexity and could be ranked in detail levels from 1, with very simple pictures with a few, relatively generic elements (see Figure 3 for an example), to 5 where many complex, rich elements are portrayed in great detail (see Figure 4 for an example). See were extremely simple as shown in Figure 3 (Sketch 1, detail level=2), while others were very rich and detailed as shown in Figure 4 (Sketch 2, detail level=5). Graphic responses could also be separated into sketches (as seen in Figures 3 and 4), with little reference to indicators of a real locale and maps with detail that would make it possible to physically locate the area described (as shown in Figure 5). Inter-coding reliability was established for the rating level for both the pictorial/graphic and the narrative data with slightly over a 90% confidence level.

FIGURE 3: Example of a graphic response that is categorized as a sketch with a relatively low level of detail (Level = 2)


FIGURE 4: Example of a graphic response that is categorized as a sketch with a relatively high level of detail (Level = 5)

Figure 5. Example of a graphic response that can be categorized as a map since details are provided that make it possibly to physically locate the area pictured.


Results Geographic Location and Urban/Rural Setting of Respondents Childhood Homes Most of the study participants were raised in Ohio (81.5%), and a large majority 17.1% spent their childhood in other regions of the U. S. while three grew up outside of the U.S. Of the 222 narratives, there were 62 responses that clearly described the place where they grew up as suburban (69.8%), with only five participants claiming an urban childhood setting (See Table 1 for details).

Table 1. Location and Settings of Childhood as Indicated by Respondents Location/Setting of childhood

Number of Respondents

Percentage of Responses

Ohio U.S. (outside Ohio) Outside of U.S.

181 38 3

81.5 17.1 1.4

Suburban Setting Rural Setting

155 62

69.8 27.9

Urban Setting



Many of the suburban-type settings described by the now-adult participants were located in a small town or partially developed area bordered by a rural landscape. Interestingly, much like the line from the Joanie Mitchell’s 1970 hit song, Big Yellow Taxi, “ . . . they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot”, many of the respondents talked about their childhood home during the time that they were growing up as being on the edge of town. They stated that, the area is “all developed now” or “eventually we found ourselves on a street of then new homes. At that point the woods were still on one side for about 5 miles or so. It is mostly subdivisions now”.


Levels of Detail in Narratives and Graphics of Childhood Nature Memories

50 40

Narratives, n=213

30 20

Maps, n=37


Sketches, n=182

0 1 = Simple detail




5 = Rich detail

FIGURE 6: Distribution of Rating Levels of Narratives, Maps and Sketches Thirty-seven of the graphic representations were categorized as maps (16.7%) and 182 as sketches or drawings (81.9%). Three responses had no pictorial/graphic data (1.4%). The distribution of detail level indicates a normal distribution for narratives, sketches and maps, with the mean level of detail in each case at “level 3.”

Quantitative Analysis of Narrative Responses: Who, What, Where The narrative responses were analyzed for content about who respondents spent time with as children, what kinds of activities they did, and where they realized those activities. Table 2. Data of “Who” Respondents Spent Time with as Children Who Respondents Number of Percentage of Responses Spent Time With Respondents Siblings, friends, neighborhood children Other family members Pets, farm animals



51 28

22.9% 12.6%

As shown in Table 2, 182 responses (nearly 82%) stated that they played with siblings, friends and other children in their neighborhood. Visiting with family accounted for 23% of the survey data as to the people with whom they spent time. Many noted special memories of time


spent with grandparents. Not surprisingly, much of the data revealed the importance of relationships and interactions with others, including animal friends. Graphic data paralleled this information, depicting playtime with other children, family pets or farm animals in the majority of the scenes.

What Respondents Reported Doing Riding Bikes Playing Sports Outdoor games - Hide & Seek, kick/can,…

Playing in a Creek/Pond/Lake/River Playing at and/or Going to Park Hiking/Walking/Sledding/ice… Building - Forts, Tree Houses, etc. Climbing Trees/Rocks Play Set/Swing Set/Swinging Doing Farm/yard/gardening chores Catching Bugs/Insects/Creatures Fishing Board games, puzzles, cards, Nintendo,… Exploring Camping Getting into trouble/hiding/alone …



34 30 27 26 23 18


FIGURE 7. What Respondents Reported Doing


69 65 62 57 52 46


127 122 115


80 100 120 140 160

Figure 7 indicates the results as to “What” the respondents reported doing as children. Not surprisingly, “playing”, in its many forms, was what respondents said they did most. As noted previously in Table 2, the highest number of responses cited playing with siblings, friends and children in the neighborhood. Bike riding for over two-thirds of these respondents was what they did most often with their playmates. Outdoor neighborhood games, often those played after sunset were noted by 122 respondents. Time spent in natural settings, doing a wide range of “kid things”, often in open fields, wooded areas and involving water features was also listed in the vast majority of responses. Other play activities were listed as sports, ranging from impromptu games of kickball or dodge ball to more organized games, but only 10 responses listed school or organized league team sports. Playing in water was prominent in the data. Swimming at a pool or beach, tossing water balloons or running through a sprinkler was cited 115 times. Playing in creeks, ponds, lakes, rivers, puddles, water-filled roadside ditches, etc., was cited in 69 responses, demonstrating the importance of water in the respondents’ childhood play. Several other outdoor very energetic play activities – climbing, building, hiking -- were cited on in the vast majority of responses. One outdoor experience, camping, which perhaps more often involved adults, was only listed on 18 of the 222 surveys. Twenty six surveys listed less active play (board games, puzzles, cards, Nintendo/video games, Legos, building model airplanes, dolls), primarily cited in reference to


times when the weather was too cold or rainy to go outside. Several discussed also playing with these toys outdoors, namely on a deck or under a tree. These statements were reinforced by the fact that 174 respondents said they remembered playing outside nearly every day.

Where Respondents Reported Playing Yard/neighbor's yard Woods/trees



Fields/vacant lots/open areas













FIGURE 8: Where Respondents Reported Playing



Examination of the data, in terms of “where did you play?” found that their yard, neighbor’s yards and “in the neighborhood” was the largest category of 179 responses in the data. As shown in Figure 8, wooded areas and trees played also played a prominent role. One hundred thirty one responses discussed playing in woods, a wooded area, or in or around trees. Almost half of the respondents (109) specifically recalled playing in some water feature (one described a ditch that filled after a rain). Parks and playgrounds were also important, being cited in 97 responses. Undeveloped open areas were also important, showing up in 51 narratives. Swings or play sets, including tire swings were popular, referenced 46 times in the data. As stated earlier, many of those surveyed grew up in a rural or semi-rural setting – on the farm/near or in the barn/in the fields (35), and hay pile/hayloft was also indicated. Not surprisingly, this data was depicted over and over again. Maps and sketches showed “my house”, the “neighbor’s house”, woods, trees, playground/ball field/empty lot, creek/pond/lake/river/ditch, field/farm, school/yard repeatedly in the participants’ drawings. The overall evidence from the graphic data supported the information in the narratives primarily by showing the places where participants’ play occurred, such as a drawing of a kid-made baseball field in an empty lot with a tree as second base.

Qualitative Analysis of the Data Qualitative researchers, Merriam (1991) and Marshall and Rossman (1989) recommend use of a exploratory/descriptive approach with narrative and pictorial data to address complex questions. Connelly and Clandinin (1990) suggest incorporation of data, such as life experience


narratives, as descriptive data to capture information of interest and to inform the study. Creswell (2002) suggests a similar qualitative methodology to examine purposeful, systematic identification of overarching and underlying themes within data. Design of the study and data analysis used this grounded, mixed methodology to identify the following trends. Following the initial quantitative data mining process, narratives were carefully read numerous times and descriptive key elements drawn from the data. Then, qualitative methodologies were used to identify, cluster and analyze recurring themes in both streams of data as guided by the research questions related to adult’s childhood play experiences. Data indicated several common trends while confirming the contrast between participants’ descriptions of their childhood and the lives of most children today.

Theme 1: We Were Outside All the Time I loved the house I grew up in as a child! Everyday after school and all day during the summer, I played with my brothers and neighborhood friends. My house had a pool in our backyard, so swimming was a daily activity. We would play games and have races in the pool. Right behind our house was a park. We always got a group of kids together and played baseball, kickball, and soccer. I rode my bike around the track and through our neighborhood on a daily basis. A lot of times, we rode our bikes, pretending they were cars. We would designate certain houses as “McDonald’s” and “the bank”, etc. and pretend we were like our parents! As a child, I played outside all the time. Even in the winter we played in the snow and would go sledding. Being outdoors was always fun and exciting! As noted above, over three fourths of the respondents stated comments and drew graphic data similar to this one. They wrote and drew extensively and fondly of their primarily unstructured outdoor playtime. One point to remember in viewing this data is that respondents were fairly evenly represented in terms of their gender; both girls and boys recalled playing outdoors and being engaged in any number of active kid pursuits. As a child, I was always outdoors. My mother used to get upset with me because I ruined my new shoes in weeks (if not days). In my neighborhood, I was pretty much the only girl (in a huge group of kids my age) out of a group of 10+ boys. We often played kick the can, hide and seek, football, and many other games until it was dark and our mothers called us inside. We had no woods to play in, but plenty of trees to climb, and in my case fall out of. There are a series of long driveways in my neighborhood, and in between them allotted plenty of grassy area to run. We made up games, built hammocks, jumped off swing sets, built ramps on ramps on sledding hills, raced our big wheels down the street, and so on. I was also involved in soccer and softball at a very early age, so this is also a credible reason as to why I was always outside. Oh, and even into adolescence, I loved riding my bike. I rode my bike everywhere—miles and miles a day. Ahh, good times! As a child, I was part of the “brat pack” as my dad would say. All of us neighborhood kids would play outside in the summer on swing sets, in yards, or on driveways. We’d


ride bikes, play basketball, jump rope, or many other activities like running through the sprinkler. Our favorite games included “red rover” and “ghost in the graveyard”. In the winter, we would bundle up to play in the snow. We would go sledding occasionally. All this was done in our neighborhood or the town park while our parents played tennis. If we played inside, it was often spent in imaginative play such as playing house, school, or Barbies. My parents encouraged us to play outside as much as possible, however, and it was always a special treat to get to go to the community pool. All of these things kept us kids entertained and having fun. As shown in Figure 7 (above), playing, climbing, exploring, hiking and so on were dominant in the data. Many responses focused on water features -- creeks, ponds, lakes, rivers, puddles, etc. -- swimming, fishing, catching critters demonstrating the importance of water in the respondents’ childhood play.

As a child we always played outside (my brother and I). We would swim in the pool, climb trees, catch newts, watch the lightning on the front porch. We were out all day – we’d come in long enough to eat and sleep. We didn’t have cable – if we weren’t outside at our house, we were outside at a friend’s house . . . We’d go outside, even if it was just to color. We usually only stay inside if it is extremely hot or cold.” Animals also appeared prominently in the data through the listing of bugs, insects and other creatures, family pet(s) and farm animals in responses. There were a lot of kids (mostly boys) in my neighborhood so sports were a staple. We played all of them and there were enough of us to field full teams (including friends from neighboring neighborhoods). We build tree houses, swam in the pool, but our greatest adventures were in the wooded area that surrounded our neighborhood as well as several things. I am not sure the acreage but it was about a 3-hour hike to walk from our end of the woods to the end the dumped out on the next major road. We played a game called war, where we broke into even teams, separated and then hunted each other down. It was sort of a hide and seek/ capture the flag game. We played at night and dressed all in black. We would experience a lot of local wildlife; foxes, deer, owls, rabbits, snakes, spiders, etc. all of the favorites of the group. The majority of my life has been spent outdoors experience nature and life in general. I do not intend to change it and have already begun influencing my children with the same experiences. This theme of playing for countless hours outdoors was reinforced by the fact that 174 respondents said they frequently played outside. “I was never inside from sun up to sundown” was echoed many times in the data.


Theme 2: Active, Active, Active vs. Passive Play Playing is important and memorable in childhood. Not surprisingly, “playing”, in its many forms, was what respondent said they did most. The highest number of responses cited playing with siblings, friends and children in the neighborhood, as shown above. Riding bikes was cited as the second category of what they did the most as children. Their bikes were their primary mode of transportation when they were playing with others, independent of adults, “We had a lot of freedom to play. We rode our bikes, all over, all the time”. TV viewing was interestingly absent and only mentioned in a few of the responses. As indicated below, the small handful of the responses that cited watching TV mentioned it was as an option of last resort because there were more interesting and active ways to spent playtime. Watching TV was an activity that occurred primarily at times when one was sick or when the weather was too cold or rainy to go outside. . When I was a child I was outside all the time with my siblings in our backyard. We played in the sandbox, the driveway, the field behind our house, and in the park that was not too far away. We usually played pretend—acting like animals, rich bankers, you name it. We also played baseball and soccer. When I wasn’t with my siblings, I usually rode my bike all over the neighborhood. I knew all the best places to ride and I would make believe I was a race car—speeding up and down the block. If we couldn’t play outside, my siblings and I played with blocks and Legos. We would make fantastic sculptures. The television would rarely be on, normally only for a few minutes ‘til we thought of something more fun to do. Most of my time was spend outside at my neighbor’s house. We rode our bikes, hiked in the woods, walked in creeks, built theme parks in flooded sand boxes, swam in pool, badminton, football, made up games, king of the hill, basketball, horseshoes, raised ducklings, sledding, hide and seek, catch bugs and frogs, lightening bug contests, garden, play baseball in the rain, climb pear trees, fly a kits, play frisbee, croquet, feed squirrels peanut butter, swings at the park. One of my favorite times was when a huge oak tree had to be cut down. We would watched it fall and then we got to play in it. We divided up the tree into different “rooms” and played house. Or we would go to the edge of the woods and make a witches brew out of rocks, dirt, and trash we found in the woods. I always felt like I was doing something bad but getting away with it. In the summer I always played until dark where my mom had to yell for me to coming and even then I didn’t come right away. If it was rainy or too cold, I played more inside in my room with dolls or Legos, creating houses out of cardboard and trash, reading, TV was limited until about the 3rd or 4th grade. The more I watched I gained weight as a child and life was boring.


Theme 3: Purposeful Play vs. Kicking around. Another trend noted was that participants had unstructured playtime in nature, be that a game or sport, but more often just “hanging out” or “messing around” in a wooded area, field, ditch, “the swamp” or other improvised natural play area. As a child I spent most of my time outside displacing crawfish, teaching box turtles how to swim, taking a walk in the pasture with my only safety equipment being the family dog. Fishing, canoeing, biking were everyday occurrences either alone or with a group of friends. More purposeful play may involve keeping score or winning a game. Playing games and sports included backyard, neighborhood or pickup games of baseball, basketball, kickball, softball, football, soccer and other group sports. Less than 10 of the surveys listed school, club or organized teams. Frequently mentioned were outdoor games like hide and seek, kick the can, ghosts in the graveyard, frozen statues, tag, red light, green light and so on. Again, respondents stated these as similar to “just games we played with whoever could come out and play,” often after supper or “just after the street lights came on.” Reminiscent of Sobel’s (2001) work on the need for children to have secret places, a handful of responses recounted the desire to get away from adults by climbing trees or fences, or sneaking off to “the swamp”, “getting into trouble”, generally hiding out from parents or others. One recounted it as: I had never had any adults overseeing my childhood . . . spending my days following creeks, wandering through the woods, swimming in ponds, and riding horses bareback at a neighbor's farm when I could catch them. My dog was my best friend. I can hardly imagine a more pleasant childhood waking up summers . . . lying in bed and listening to morning doves and the sound of bullfrogs out back in the pond. I can’t image a more idyllic existence. Played outside; We played in the neighborhood; Played in the creeks, picked mulberries; Colored rocks; Worked and planted large gardens; Rode bikes and walked around town; Sat at my favorite tree to think. Perhaps balancing some of the time spent with others, fourteen narratives also described “alone time”, looking up at the sky as well as reading or drawing outdoors on the deck or under a tree. I spent a lot of time riding my bike through the woods, around the neighborhood, and to stores. I went to the parks and playgrounds. As a kid, I liked spending time with my friends, riding my bike, and playing outside. I used to play outside on my back and go “cloud watching”. We would guess what shape of the cloud reminded us of (like a dog, a dragon, a face…). I loved to help take care of the “garden”. My grandpa had a small farm. He grew all kinds of veggies. I remember walking through a “forest” of mammoth sunflowers. I loved it. I also loved to sit under the weeping willow trees.


Theme 4: Need for Undeveloped Space, the Pioneering and the Creative Spirit: Children, like all living creatures, need undeveloped space. Fifty-seven of the surveys described building forts and/or tree houses, and camps. Pretending was a large component of these building projects. Playing house or pioneers, “Little House on the Prairie” and making “stew from the stuff we found in nature”, pretending to run a store or playing school or making up plays or stories of spaceships or pirates was evident in nearly a third of the data. I rode my bike, played in the creek, played with my dog and cats. I would go to school, play sports, help grandpa on the farm. I liked to help my dad around the house. He built it himself. I would hang out with my friends and family. I would play games, any kind. Mostly outside, even in the wintertime. I would work; I would play. When I was a child I was all over the place. I would ride my bike everywhere. I enjoyed seeing my friends and playing. When I would hangout with the neighbor boy, we would build forts and look for odd things. I played outside all of the time. I do not remember any time not being outdoors. I would play basketball all night long and I would play baseball all the time. I had a bunch of fun when I was a kid. I guess I was very active, but I did not live in a place where I could explore and not get into any real trouble. The majority of survey responses emphasized the importance of open, undeveloped wooded or green space where they played as children. As pointed out earlier, the majority of surveys talked of frequent, unstructured, unsupervised play with other children. Often the mention of parents or adults focused on vacation time, camping or family gatherings, but even those instances incorporated time also spent with siblings, cousins, or other children. The following narrative account provides a representative sample of the role of other children in playtime: Built forts in the woods with brothers, played football and baseball on our very own “fields” with brothers, played “town” with brothers, bike wheels on pavement, played basketball (“around the world”), explored the field behind our house and went on adventures, built tree house in large tree behind our house, lots of imagination in play, rode out go-cart through woods and made a trail, played in the hay pile in the barns and built houses out of bales of straw, rode our horse along the back fence and in the field in the snow, played “kick the can”, “go to court”, “ghost in the graveyard” around the house in the yard.” As Sobel (2001) discusses in his book, another recurring theme was the emotional ties with “special places” such as a “hide out”, “camp” or “fort” that served as a place to be alone, which might be called reflection time. Also, some noted in the data that they enjoyed sharing of that “special place” with other children and that served as another emotional type of connection with their childhood experiences in a natural setting. Several respondents also stated a sense that something important was missing from the lives of children today, in that they had terrific opportunities to play and explore that are not present for today’s youngsters. When I was a child I was always outside. Most of the summer you would catch me outside in the woods with my neighborhood friends building bike racetracks and


constructing forts. Even through middle school years, my good friend and I built a twostory fort that even had electricity. (All the wood we used was from a house being constructed next door). Most of my childhood years I spent outside. Perhaps expectedly, notable differences between the outdoor play experiences recounted by urban, suburban and rural children’s time in the natural world. One narrative portrays an urban childhood experience in distinct contrast to the majority of other respondents: As a young child my favorite place to play was inside with my mom and sisters. It was a safe place. Outside our home was surrounded by chaos. The local park was sprinkled with shards of glass and drunken men. The sidewalks had cracks, and the streets were unkind. My backyard was fun from time to time with the rusty swing set, but the best times were inside my home by my mother’s side caring and playing with my sisters. Mom tried from time to time to take us to safe outdoor activities. There were cleaner and safer parks, which we explored together. In looking back thirty or forty years, settings where participants grew up that they depicted as suburban were not as densely developed as today. What respondents called neighborhoods were often semi-rural by today’s standards with accessible woods, creeks, ponds and open play areas. Participants with rural or semi-rural/suburban backgrounds generally stated richer outdoor or nature-connected experiences, such as capturing insects or observing and/or raising animals/pets. Numerous responses captured outdoor activities played in all four seasons. This was reinforced in the majority of participants who responded that they played outside -- “I was never inside from sun up to sundown”, “I lived outside”, “I spent all of my time outside”, was echoed many times in the data.

Discussion Chawla (2007) presents many of the key aspects of our developing understanding, from both research and societal perspectives. She discusses the importance of using memories of adults (that they may not have been able to express as children) to motivate parents and teachers to get children into nature. Discussing cultural, sociological views of connectivity with nature Dutcher, et. al. (2007) states: We believe that future efforts to understand and measure environmental values must distinguish between material connections between people and nature and the affective experience of people and nature as part of the same community. Indeed, the literature questions the notion that effective conservation can be ethically grounded solely in the utilitarian appeal of human survival (p. 490). Outdoor experiences are extremely important in providing children with unstructured time exploring the natural world. These experiences shape adults’ understanding of nature, as can be seen in the study data. When asked to recall their childhood play, adults are more than eager to recount their adventures but are also very aware of the great enjoyment they had outdoors. They are also struck by the absence of such freedom and fun for today’s children.


Adults who remember and feel the strong emotions evoked by their childhood time in nature may then be motivated to help their own children reconnect with the outdoors, which in turn might help foster better future stewards of Earth. Findings from this study confirm and expand our insights about the importance of children’s outdoor play time. Children need outdoor time that is unstructured, unplugged and un-tethered, time spent alone and with other children, as well as sharing experiences in the natural world with an adult. This time spent in nature – playing, exploring, testing the limits and learning boundaries – helps children to define who they are and how they fit in to the larger context of the natural word through what I refer to as the “Four I’s.”

The Four I’s: Independence, Image of Self, Imagination, and Interdependence. As a child I would spend my summer days outside from sun-up to sundown. I would meet my friends at a basketball court or at the community pool. I would spend every minute outside either getting in trouble, or doing something no one would ever find out about. My friends and I would make up games, set our own rules, and basically change them later. During the winter I was all about school and didn’t really have time to go outside. When school was cancelled because of snow, it was time to take our sleds and find the best hill around. Our parents would never drive us, if it was five miles away, we walked five miles. Our rules, no matter what time of year, when the streetlights came on you were late. Independence. A great majority of the narratives recount “riding my bike” as an activity done all day long, all over town. A sense of freedom and emerges in striking fashion, as adults remember simply riding around the neighborhood or around their small town. How frequently do we see children today, simply riding their bikes for enjoyment and exercise? More cars and more roads today may make this a more dangerous activity, but even after and accounting for those factors, children are still denied the opportunity to become confident in finding their own way about the streets of their own neighborhood. They are driven to the library and school and soccer practice. When asked, how many kids today could tell us the street names or how many blocks to their school or the park? They may wear a helmet for safety, but are we raising children who do not have a clear sense of place, which may be just as important for safety and confidence? Simply riding a bike or walking to a park or to school in their community builds map reading skills, recognition of area landmarks and the relational sense of neighborhood places. Among study respondents, bike riding was remembered as developing this sense of independence. By setting out on an adventure on their bicycles, adults remembered exploring with friends, making their way on their own, getting lost and having to back track, or finding a new route from where they are to where they’ve been. These are terrific learning experiences that serve as the larger lessons of life. Part of growing up is learning to take chances, to evaluate risks, to make good judgments, to know our limits and to learn to trust ourselves. As illustrated in the Michigan PBS production Where do the Children Play? (2008), we can find examples of extensive outdoor play in the lives of children today, but they would be the exceptions. Thirty to fifty years ago, the vast majority of children simply went outside and


played, in unstructured fashion, often all day long, year round. They knew their backyard and the creatures in it; they explored and splashed; they learned to negotiate rules with others,;they found ways to amuse themselves; they made things up, imagined and created – they played. The dangers inherent in being in alive surely were present. However, Louv (2006, 2008) and others discuss the role of the ever-present media in creating a climate of “stranger danger” where the risk and elements of uncertainty are seen to be always present and ominous. Car accidents, lightning strikes, snake bites and so many other risks are constantly being presented in the media. However, we learn from weighing the options and we learn to be careful, but we don’t stop being activity. We learn to drive defensively, but we still drive. Several respondents recalled hearing what seemed to be the universal, ubiquitous cure out of every parent’s mouth for the child whining “I’m bored . . .”. They were told by an often loud parental voice, “Get out of the House! Go outside and play”. Today, these words are not voiced very frequently, if at all. Are parents who are overly concerned with keeping an overprotective eye on children instead commanding their children to, “watch TV or play some video games on the computer”? How do we address parents being overly concerned about the safety while still giving children the outdoor experiential knowledge required to engender a clear understanding of the factors in play and what is at risk? Playing outdoors entails safety issues and risks, but no more today than in previous eras – we are perhaps more concerned about trying to control and manage the possibilities of children hurting themselves. This level of caution, however, may keep children from learning valuable life lessons. Children need to learn when they can take a chance and when to play it safe. Image of self. How do we form a sense of our own identity, apart from others? Much of childhood play is about learning about ourselves and others -- learning about our abilities, our likes/dislikes and our limitations, and forming the boundaries of who we are. Clayton and Opotow (2003) broadly explore the concept of the formation of identity and the natural environment. Many of the narratives in this study recalled incidences of testing limits, learning from the outcomes (often not so good outcomes, but memorable just the same) and thereby gaining all-important experiences that shape an adult’s decision-making processes. None of the respondents stated being grounded for life but frequently reported that “we had to be home when the street lights came on or else” or that they had to know when and where they could “cut across the mean neighbor’s yard.” Children need to learn when they have literally gone too far out on a tree limb and it begins to give too much (do children still climb trees?), or when ice on the pond begins to make too many quick-fire cracking noises. Parents may be concerned with scheduling their child’s life (as they do their own work and home life) as a form of keeping the child under control, so that parental lives are not “messy”. Keeping children “safe” in front of an electronic baby-sitter may be just an excuse to avoid unscheduled time or having children out of direct parental control. However, the result may be young adults who have an image of themselves that is shaped by the continual stream of media images and not by their own testing of themselves. Can children really come to know themselves through what they see vicariously on the screen? Do they know their own limits and boundaries upon which to make smart choices? Several of the participants’ narratives stated the fact that their parents “did not know from the time the breakfast bowl landed in the sink and the screen door slammed until the street lights started to come on” where or what kids are up to. Maybe today’s parents are micromanaging children’s lives with all of the cell


phones and texting and constant “communication”. Perhaps kids need some time to just “lay on the ground and watch the clouds roll over my head”. Maybe children need quiet unplugged space to develop their own image of their independent, individual self. Imagination. How do children develop imagination? Or perhaps more accurately, how can they be allowed to hold on to the innate imagination that they have when they are young? The media forces that surround them in today’s world seem to conspire to dampen an active, colorful imagination. Many of the study responses talked about using imagination to fashion pretend castles, forts, food and other children’s play items out of grass, sticks, bark or mud. Creativity abounds in outdoor play as children build and create their pretend spaces. One aspect of imagination that is vitally important is being able to imagine “what happens next?” What are the consequences of me doing this? Then what could be the possible outcomes? Both Brown (2009) and Wenner (2009) point out that researchers in the areas of psychiatry, psychology and social sciences are more closely examining this aspect of childhood play and social development in terms of reasonably imagining the next step or the outcome of one’s action and the implications on adult decision-making. If learning to imagine the possible outcomes of our actions and playing nicely with others as youngsters helps us to mature into caring, responsible adults, then play and creativity are essential to our health and well being. This may be true in childhood and probably would be best if extended into adulthood. Interdependence. The largest response category for how childhood time was spent was “playing with others.” The data show we are very social as children and we enjoy play with other children. We need to forge friendships and learn about the give and take of negotiating rules of games and play. Those relationships help us to understand ourselves, to respect the boundaries and the rights of others, and to respect who we are and who others are. Learning to be dependent on others while fostering a sense of independence is critically important in order to develop social skills and to be emotionally intelligent. Another important lesson to be learned in childhood is that each of us, as individuals, are not the only thing that matters, nor are we inconsequential. Rather humans in general, and each of us as individuals, are a part of the larger fabric of the web of life. We are in part independent, but also dependent and interdependent on other living things on this earth – other humans, other animals and other plants. Outdoor play, in nature—during which children learn about their ability to be constructive as well as destructive and then take responsibility for their actions— helps them acknowledge the need to understand life in terms of sustainability. Part of growing up is learning about our interdependence through intrinsic lessons that children learn while playing and studying nature. Another aspect of interdependence may be the role of an adult mentor. As stated earlier, children do need some time on their own to seek out hideaways and develop their independence (Sobel 1993). An adult who acts as an engaged and guiding co-investigator with the child is also important and shows up repeatedly in the research (Chawla 2006, 2007). So, as is usually the case involving nature interactions, a balance of experiences is needed. Time for the child to be alone to ponder and discover their own thoughts and abilities as well as time spent with an adult mentor to provide guidance and excitement about being in nature.


One extension of allowing children to have unstructured time to play in natural settings is the growth of appreciation and understanding of nature and the complexity and interconnectedness of natural systems. In a rapidly changing world, we need to foster that knowledge and appreciation in young people in addition to the four I’s: Independence, Image of self, Imagination, and Interdependence. These tools better equip the next generations to face the increasing challenges related to sustainable decisions with strength, creative thinking, problem solving skills and resolve.

Future Directions The media is full of information on trends about children’s health and “nature attention deficiency” as documented in the NCLI literature and the 2005 American Institute for Research. With the growth of suburban areas and more roadways, children are less likely to ride bikes or play unsupervised in available open green spaces. Rather children are shuttled to organized sports and other activities by car; or else they spend “screen time”, be that on the television or computer. The vast majority of respondents expressed strong emotion about their memories of childhood play in the natural world. This emotional connection was also expressed in regard to how things have changed for children. Most respondents thought that it was not for the better. Sometimes the numbers from quantitative test results tell only part of the story. Often it is these affective, emotional stories that touch us, as humans, and convince us to do the right thing, even if it does not appear to the most economically feasible or rational choice. Outdoor exploratory play allows children to develop better self-knowledge, leading to increased self-confidence and a greater ability to take well-calculated risks. Active outdoor play leads to youngsters who are physically, psychologically and emotionally fit (Brown 2009). Time spent in nature allows children to grow in ways that are important, whether measurable or not. An “ultimate outdoor play area” is an undeveloped, unpaved places where children can have unstructured time to play, pretend and explore in nature. These findings lead us to hard logistical and practical questions: How do we convince schools, parents and childcare providers of the importance of unstructured outdoor play activity for the overall health of children? Can misconceptions of “stranger danger” and other exaggerated concerns stemming from the abundance of media coverage be overcome with rational presentation of factual information? Can recalling their own outdoor experiences in nature create a desire for parents to allow their children similar play? Can childhood play and deep interaction with the natural world around them, help to foster a love for nature and a commitment to preserving the environment? As we learn more of the critical importance of sharing nature with children in terms of their health and overall wellbeing, these insights need to inform our decisions about creating and preserving environments that allow for safe yet unstructured exploratory outdoor play. There is a critical need for informed, environmentally literate citizens. They will be our educated decision-makers as we face crucial long-term choices pertaining to environmental issues, sustainable choices and resulting behaviors. Tough questions need to be asked of policy makers and even more difficult decisions need to be made as to our global responsibilities (Hawkin 2007). How do we raise environmentally literate children and community members, who have a caring concern for the natural world? Can we move forward with educating children,


through childhood play experiences, as to the intricate complexity of natural systems? How much of this thinking is first heard with the heart – how do we engender understanding and caring concern for the natural world? Does a part of the answer lie in outdoor play and exploration as children? Part of the answer must come from research, such as this study, that begins to establish a link between childhood play and feelings towards nature that adults use in their daily lives, as they make decisions and set policy. The appeal to an emotional connection with nature, coupled with solid statistical data should inspire parents to reconnect with nature, which in turn should produce a nature loving, informed public as well as future community leaders who are committed to sustainable lifestyles, social justice and preservation of natural habitats.

References: American Institute for Research. (2005, January). Effects of outdoor education programs for children in California. American Institute for Research. Retrieved September 23, 2006, from http://www.air.org/news/documents/Outdoorschoolreport.pdf Bixler, R. D., Floyd, M. E. & Hammutt, W. E. (2002). Environmental socialization: Qualitative tests of the childhood play hypothesis.” Environment and Behavior 34(6): 795-81. Blumstein, D. T, & Saylan, C. (2007). The failure of environmental education (and how we can fix it). PLoS Biol 5(5): e120. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050120. Bohling-Philippi, V. (2006, September/October). “The Power of Nature to Help Children Heal.” Exchange: 49-52. Brown, S. (2009). Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Penguin Publishing. Carson, R. (1956). The Sense of Wonder. New York: Harper & Row. Chawla, L. (2007). “Learning to Love the Natural World: A Unifying Message for Parents and Teachers.” The NAMTA Journal 32(1): 152-170. Chawla, L. (2006). “Learning to Love the Natural World Enough to Protect It.” Barn 2 2006: 57-78. Chawla, L. (1999). “Life Paths into Effective Environmental Action.” Journal of Environmental Education 31(1): 15-26. Chawla, L. (1998). “Significant Life Experiences Revisited: A Review of Research on Sources of Environmental Sensitivity.” Journal of Environmental Education 29(3): 11-21. Clements, R. (2004). “An Investigation of the Status of Outdoor Play.” Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood Vol. 5(1): 68-80.


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Hawken, P. (2007). Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. New York: Penguin Group. Henig, R. M. (February 17, 2008). “Taking Play Seriously.” The New York Times. Hofferth, S., & Sandberg, J. (2000). Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981-1997. University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Louv, R. (2005, 2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. Louv, R. (2006, July/August). “Leave No Child Inside.” Sierra Magazine. Retrieved September 23, 2006, from www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200607/child.asp. Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1989). Designing Qualitative Research. Newbury, CA: Sage Publications. McKibben, B. (2007). Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. New York: Holt Company.


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Ward Thompson, C., Aspinall, P., Montarzino, A. (2008). “The Childhood Factor: Adult Visits to Green Places and the Significance of Childhood Experience. Environment and Behavior 40(1): 111-143. Wellbacher, M. (2009). “The Window Into Green.” Educational Leadership, 86(8): 38-44. Wells, N. M., & Lekies, K. S. (2006). “Nature and the Life Course: Pathways From Childhood Nature Experiences to Adult Environmentalism.” Children, Youth and Environments 16: 1 24. Wells, N. M. (2000). “At Home with Nature: Effects of ‘Greenness’ on Children’s Cognitive Functioning.” Environment and Behavior 32(26): 775-795. Wenner, M. (2009). “The Serious Need for Play.” Scientific American Mind, available at: www.sciam.com Wilson, E. O. (2006). Naturalist. Washington DC: Island Press. Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Reports and Case Studies October 26th, 2010

The Heart of Sustainability: Big Ideas from the field of Environmental Education and their Relationship to Sustainability Education or What’s love got to do with it? By Donald J. Burgess and Tracie Johannessen Introduction A common raven suddenly begins to call from Cornwall Park. I rush to the front porch trying to see what the commotion is all about. Two adult ravens are flapping high over the green canopy, croaking vigorously. Like vigilant Block Watch captains protecting the integrity of a neighborhood, ravens exhibit exceptional observational prowess coupled with intense fidelity to family and place. I scan the forest with binoculars and notice three raven fledglings perched in a scraggly birch tree at the edge of the forest. Scanning higher, I finally detect a distant bald eagle circling over the urban park where the ravens have nested for a decade. Ravens recognize an opportunistic predator like a bald eagle as a “threat to the neighborhood” and they act decisively to protect their home. The raven’s objection is clearly articulated through their vocalizations and aerial antics and the bald eagle soon circles out of sight. Why is it that when human observers experience an ecological threat and speak out in alarm (warning against drilling oil 5000 feet below the ocean surface or climate change) that our most heartfelt appeals remain ineffective? Is it an inability to understand the true threat to our children? If we truly perceived the ability of humanity to survive as linked to the ecological integrity of our surroundings, would the human response to these cries of alarm be different? What roles do love and caring play? Problem Statement As life-long naturalists in the northwest, we intimately know the texture and nuance of our home landscapes. We welcome the migrations and bloom sequences that pulse with seasonal variations in climate as evidence of the cycles that contain and sustain us. Through surveys and species inventories of rare plants, birds and marine communities, we have helped to systematically chronicle the changes in distribution of northwest flora and fauna. After years of naturalizing and teaching in the wild places that comprise Cascadia, we unabashedly venerate the relationships between biota, land and season. As educators and writers we choose to express our biophilia by sharing our love for the land and sea. We resonate with healthy and diverse natural communities. Yet, increasingly, we are alarmed by the degradation of our local landscapes and the habitat changes that threaten species diversity and human security. Today, we find ourselves steeped in the 21st century assault on nature. We witness the continued loss of basic knowledge of ecosystem components and functions to the extent that dramatic changes seem to go unnoticed by our students, friends and neighbors. “One of the penalties of an ecological education,” warned Leopold (1987), “is that we live alone in a world of wounds.” To heal these wounds we choose to live and act decisively as purposeful educators in favor of ecological, economic and cultural integrity.


The more we read and think about the implications of what is taking place now on this planet, the more we are convinced that human civilization is facing a deepening ecological crisis that has never been faced before. If we want to create a culture, environment and economy that are viable in the longer term, we must learn to promote an ecologically sustainable, socially equitable and bio-culturally diverse planet (Bowers, 2010). We believe the central question for educators is how do we engage our students in a consideration of the degradation of earth’s ecosystems and their ability to support us in our current lifestyle in a way that engenders something other than despair? In an interview with Bill Moyer, Barry Lopez states “the kind of expertise we need is not a facile grasp of policy, but a deeper love of humanity. The kind of love that can help us resist the temptation to despair” (Moyer, 2010). As environmental educators, we hold the belief that this capacity for love can and must be cultivated through shared experiences that help people discover value in the natural world, experiences that encourage the exploration of what we believe and who we are and how we intend to live in the world. “Troubling” the concept of sustainability One of the well-known issues with “sustainability” is that the term is rarely if ever clearly defined. What are we trying to sustain – our lifestyle, economy or surrounding natural communities? Walls and Jinkling (2002) warn that “sustainability talk can, when used by advocates with radically different ideas about what should be sustained, mask central issues under the false pretense of a shared understanding, a set of values and common vision of the future” (p.2). For example, in Hot, Flat and Crowded, Freidman (2008) suggests that sustainability literally means that we must learn to think and behave in a way that sustains the natural world and our cultural relationships for generations to come. Are we hoping to sustain conditions as they are now or actually improve conditions through ecological restoration and resource conservation? Certainly our human well-being depends on a vibrant economy, healthy environment and equitable society (Nolet & Wheeler, 2010). Do we therefore mean “sustainability” of an industrialized country or are we betting that a less economically developed country will have more staying power? Moreover, if one country’s lifestyle is essentially dependent, as it is in America, on natural resource “subsidies” from other countries, especially from countries far less well off than this country and its citizens, can that lifestyle in any measure really be “sustainable?” It is essential to think globally with sustainability arguments. Yet, the issues of “sustainability” are intimately related to the local “carrying capacity” of the land which has been greatly diminished through resource exploitation, pollution and poor land and water stewardship. Capra and Stone (2010) enlarge a common operational definition of sustainability from simply meeting material needs and avoiding ecological degradation, to include all the natural and social dimensions of the web of life. To make matters worse, the recent literature on sustainability education and education for sustainability (EfS) includes comprehensive lists of practitioner tips, principles, skills, dispositions, competencies, realms, theoretical frameworks, elements, portals, perspectives and big ideas. Some educators use “sustainability education” and “environmental education” interchangeably while others argue that sustainability differs from environmental education by focusing on broader social and economic issues (Higgs & McMillan, 2006). To highlight human connections that stretch from local to worldwide levels, Church and Skelton (2010) deemphasize environmental education’s focus on place-based nature study and adopt the inclusive term “global sustainability.” Nowhere in these emerging notions of sustainability education do we see a substitute for the curricular activities applied in environmental education to cultivate feelings for humanity or value for healthy ecosystems in the natural world, the foundation from which any true change must grow (Wilson, 1984, 1994, 2006). To pursue ecosystem-based resource management or gain insights into functional ecosystem processes requires the cultivation of intimate knowledge of one’s homeground, of paying close attention to one’s surroundings and exploring one’s values and feelings based on the relationship of people to nature, yet many argue for the separation of sustainability education from the big ideas of environmental education in a desire to distinguish one field from the other. We argue that to inspire people enough to make changes in their perceptions and behaviors, sustainability education must embrace the central role of acquiring ecological knowledge through direct and shared experience in the natural world. Conversely, leaders in environmental education describe as a characteristic of their field an interdisciplinary approach, with the unifying theme being a study of the relationship between people (which


by definition includes economics and social issues) and the environment. This relationship is best explored through multiple disciplines including science, literature, history, civics and the arts. As naturalists and educators, we are concerned that the importance of cultivating love for nature and humanity is diminished as sustainability education seeks to define a separate domain and promote it’s “newness” in contrast to environmental education’s implied “oldness.” We have watched sustainability education grow and define itself in contrast to place-based, nature-centered, experiential environmental education and see this as a detriment to the emerging discipline’s ability to accomplish its stated goals. Now more than ever we need a strong connection to nature forged through direct experiences in the natural world as the basis from which the ability to consider broader connections and imagine alternate futures can unfold. The desire to distinguish sustainability education as something new or substantially different from environmental education often results in the perhaps unintended marginalization of educational practices that seek to instill ecological awareness and knowledge through direct experience in nature. By focusing on more abstract learning about economics and social issues sustainability education attempts to create “green” schools and practices without building underlying curricular foundations tied to experiencing the natural world. While we agree that the concept of a triple bottom line should be included in the study of economics, and the relationship of people to environment considered in the study of social and cultural issues, it is our human relationship to nature that remains the best big picture integrator. There has long been a need in environmental education to develop and expand curriculum in social studies, and sustainability education could well fit this need, but the goal should be to create a broader integrated curricular foundation built on teaching children to value and understand their relationship to nature. That is best done in place and through direct experience in order to allow students to consider and form their own relationship to nature (Sobel, 2008). A more advanced curriculum may ultimately outgrow sustainability all together (Rowland, 2010) by embodying the underlying principles of “ecology, coupled with the values, ability, and fortitude to act on that understanding” (Capra & Stone, 2010). Where does this leave us as we embark on the important work of understanding and implementing sustainability education? To effectively educate for change and sustainability, we have to define clearly what we value in good educational practices. Big Ideas for Sustainability Education Environmental Education has often been described as not a necessarily a unique subject area but a call to embrace the best practices in education such as integrated, learner centered and experience based approaches. In the process of curriculum design as it is currently being taught, teachers are asked first to identify the big ideas of the topic. We propose that the big ideas of sustainability education overlap with those of environmental education in many significant areas, including but not limited to those listed below. Strategies like teacher training and the development of curricular scope and sequence for sustainability education should reflect these ideas. Big Idea 1: Biophilia and conservation of natural resources We are losing touch with the natural world that sustains us. In order to be successful, education for sustainability has to first and foremost answer the questions: what do our children need to be healthy and engaged in learning, and how do we instill respect for self and others that will form the basis for a positive future? As a starting place our children need intimate connection with nature in order to develop a sense of empathy, caring and interdependence (Lopez, 1988; Pyle, 2002; Sobel, 1996, 2002). This is a critical issue today since children are increasingly living in a world where nature is inaccessible (Kellert, 2002; Pyle, 2002). If children are losing their sensitivity and connection to the natural world, what role, if any, can education for sustainability play in helping children develop a personal sense of value for the natural world? The central question remains: what are the elements of a curriculum that provide children with experiences that awaken and nurture care, concern and love? Sustainability educators recognize that nature and nature’s myriad life forms are not commodities to be exploited without cost. We must differentiate between Nature’s “interest,” its surplus, and not continue to draw down its “capital” as though there were no tomorrow. We have to consciously move towards “downsizing” modern culture, to live “bioregionally,” and to factor in “carrying capacity” in all our policy


decisions. Until we do, any conversation about “sustainability” will be little more than an academic exercise. Leopold (1966) simplified the definition of conservation by suggesting, “To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering” (p. 190). We translate this to our children by providing opportunities to understand that just because you have the ability to use all of something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Acts of restraint like releasing the smaller fish back into the lake, not cutting all the trees or diverting all the water requires an ethical construct based on caring for something beyond your own immediate desires. Natural resource-based conservation education, from which environmental education emerged, is regarded by some as an outdated idea. In a world where a growing population consumes ever more limited natural resources, conservation is an essential value that we must pass on to our children. Standing in stark contrast to modern consumption habits, land and water conservation is an important part of our heritage, rooted in traditional values and described by some of our best American writers. Its most meaningful lessons are best learned through interdisciplinary approaches to the study of natural resources. Big Idea 2: Making connections between ecosystems, economies, people and place Central to environmental education’s proven success in improving student learning is its interdisciplinary nature. By looking at the relationship between humans and their environment through scientific study, literary exploration, artistic expression, and cultural history, a multi-faceted way of knowing is cultivated, critical thinking is enhanced and student’s enthusiasm for learning is improved (Lieberman & Hoody, 2002). This includes the opportunity for students to evolve their own thinking rather than being asked to merely accept the idea that a certain set of actions will “save the earth” and relying on fear to motive them toward action. Interdisciplinary education results in an increase in higher level thinking skills which impact the development of personal ethics. But, we argue, the environment is the best integrator, not the abstract concept of sustainability. Big Idea 3: Constancy and changes Our children must also come to understand ideas associated with constancy, specifically conservation and equilibrium, as well as ideas about change (AAAS, 2007). We must help our children develop adaptability and resilience to the accelerated biological and social changes that are produced by a warming planet (Smith, 2010). We must also help them develop the ability to see the changes taking place in the landscape around them. Their resilience can be supported by the development of a sense of global interdependence based on their study of social decision-making, social conflict and political and economic systems (AAAS, 1994; Wheeler, Wheeler, & Church, 2005). Since much of technology centers on creating and controlling change, it is critical for children to study the designed world including agriculture, communication technologies and computers (AAAS, 2007). Big Idea 4: Sustainability education is not possible without social cohesion (race, gender, ethnic, religious, political and wealth) Shared experience creates cohesion and is the foundation for community. Our educational focus must include issues of access to the natural world and experiences that engender empathy, tolerance and constructive social interaction. Spending time together in nature is a great equalizer, providing opportunities for teachers to see students, and students to see each other, in a different light. Walls and Jinkling (2002) promote the merits of taking a more participatory, democratic, pluralistic, and emancipatory approach to education and sustainability, particularly in higher education. Access to nature should be a part of these educational efforts. Big Idea 5: Sustainability is not a destination (but rather an aspiration) based on precedent (we create it) Without an endless supply of energy to support our cultural needs we will be forever aspiring toward sustainability. As environmental education practitioners, we have always believed that the most important thing we can instill in our students is the ability to envision a future that is different from the one that they see laid out before them. Time and time again we have heard students describe the future as overbuilt, crowded and polluted. Our task, then, is to involve them in a personal and ecological healing that opens up the possibility of something other – a future born of love rather than fear. Can a curriculum based solely on


the study of the definition and/or principals of sustainability and lacking opportunities to form a relationship with nature engender this love? Conclusion: It doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s how you do it With the growing anthropogenic pressures on the earth’s biotic communities and our increasing concern over children’s diminishing affiliation with nature (Louv, 2005), it is now essential to embrace a comprehensive educational transformation that is attentive to an ecological and practical wisdom of place. If education for sustainability embraces the best qualities of good environmental education (experiential, place-based, interdisciplinary and nature-centered) and embraces the big ideas that the two disciplines share, then as naturalist educators we are eager to participate and have much to offer. But if the field continues to differentiate itself by what it does not include, intentionally excluding the importance of connecting students to nature in deep and meaningful ways, we feel it represents a step backwards. A larger umbrella is needed, not a smaller one, and developing scope and sequence based on a foundation of hope and love is where the real work of education for sustainability lies. As emissaries of the natural world, we see sustainability education as heightening environmental literacy with the goal of creating a sustainable relationship between people and the environment. Inherent in this view is the assumption that environmental education is education for social and environmental change through a process of collective action (Elder, 2007). We assume that environmental education can improve relationships among humans and between humans and their environment (Wals, 1994). We also view environmental education as a potent means for educational reform rather than as a tool to modify children’s behavior with a predetermined endpoint in mind (Elder, 2007; Orr, 1991; Wals, 1994). Only by giving children the resources (i.e., environmental knowledge, experiences in nature and time to reflect), can they begin to engage in a wider participatory process of societal and environmental change. References AAAS (2007). Atlas of science literacy (Vol. 2). Washington, D.C.: AAAS and NSTA co-publisher. AAAS (Ed.). (1994). Benchmarks for science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press. Bowers, C. (2010). Reflections on teaching the course “Curriculum Reform in an Era of Global Warming”. The Journal of Sustainability Education, 1. Capra, F., & Stone, M. (2010). Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability. The Journal of Sustainability Education, 1(0). Church, W., & Skelton, L. (2010). Sustainability Education in K-12 Classrooms. Journal of Sustainability Education, 1(0). Elder, J. L. (2007). What is environmetnal literacy Retrieved September 14, 2007, from http://www.fundee.org/facts/envlit/whatisenvlit.htm Friedman, T. (2008). Hot, flat, and crowded: Why we need a green revolution — and how it can renew America. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. Higgs, A., & McMillan, V. (2006). Teaching through modeling: Four schools’ experiences in sustainability education. The Journal of Environmental Education, 38(1), 39-53. Kellert, S. R. (2002). Experiencing nature: Affective, cognitive, and evaluative development in children. In P. H. Kahn & S. R. Kellert (Eds.), Children and nature: Psychological , sociocultural, and evolutionary investigations (pp. 117-152). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Leopold, A. (1987). A sand county almanac and sketches here and there. New York: Oxford University Press. Lieberman, G. A., & Hoody, L. (2002). Closing the achievement gap: using the environment as an integrated context for learning.: SEER. Lopez, B. (1988). Children in the woods Crossing Open Ground New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Moyer, B. (Producer). (2010, June 16, 2010) Barry Lopez. Bill Moyers Journal. Podcast retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04302010/transcript3.html. Nolet, V., & Wheeler, G. (2010). Education for sustainability in Washington state: A whole systems approach. The Journal of Sustainability Education, 1(0). Orr, D. W. (1991). What is education for. The Learning Revolution, 2006 Pyle, R. (2002). Eden in the vacant lot: Special places, species and kids in the neighborhood of life. In P. H. Kuhn & S. R. Kellert (Eds.), Children and Nature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Rowland, P. (2010). The many faces of sustainability. The Journal of Sustainability Education, 1(0). Smith, G. (2010). Sustainability and schools: Educating for interconnection, adaptability, and resilience. [Case Study]. Journal of Sustainability Education, 1(0). Sobel, D. (1996). Beyond ecophobia: Reclaiming the heart of nature education. Great Barrington, MA: Orion Society. Sobel, D. (2002). Children’s special places. Detroit, MI: Wayne State Press. Sobel, D. (2008). Childhood and nature: Design principles for educators. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers. Wals, A. E. J. (1994). Pollution Stinks! Young adolescents’ perceptions of nature and environmental issues with implications for education in urban settings. De Lier: Academic Book Center. Wals, A. E. J., & Jickling, B. (2002). Sustainability ín higher education: From doublethink and newspeak to critical thinking and meaningful learning. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 3(3), 221-232. Wheeler, B., Wheeler, G., & Church, W. (2005). It’s all connected: A comprehensive guide to global issues and sustainable solutions. Seattle: Facing the Future: People and the Planet. Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wilson, E. O. (1994). The Naturalist. Washington, DC: Island Press. Wilson, E. O. (2006). The creation. New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc.


About the Authors – Donald J. Burgess is assistant professor in the Secondary Education Department and the Science Education Group at Western Washington University. His research interests are science education, college readiness and children’s perceptions of nature. Tracie Johannessen has worked in the field of environmental education for over 20 years. She was education director at North Cascades Institute (www.ncascades.org) for 10 years and currently works as an independent consultant on environmental education program design and evaluation.


May 10th, 2010

The Role of the Architect in Sustainability Education By Christopher Haines Overview The field of sustainability is gaining prominence in higher education. While teaching sustainability includes information from many traditional academic fields, it should also include the expertise of the architect. Many professional architects are knowledgeable in aspects of the built environment critical to sustainability. In addition, the art of the architect, that is, the design process is a model for resolving problems by integration instead of dissection, appropriate to complex issues such as many found in sustainability. Examples of utilizing this expertise in sustainability courses are provided. Introduction The world is struggling with the un-sustainable course set by western society just as other parts of the world are striving to imitate us. We are facing climate change, rising populations, drought, floods, hunger, intensifying storms, depleting resources, destruction of human and non-human habitat, the potential of rising sea levels and the realization that we cannot maintain a growing economy within a finite world. There is a growing movement to transform our educational system to better prepare students to live in and address this changing world. Many colleges and universities have committed to The American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) to “make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students.” Architects and the field of architecture can assist sustainability education with both content and process and they, the students and society at large, will benefit. This paper proposes that the architect and the profession of architecture need to be an intimate partner with other fields as we expand the education of sustainability to “all students”. To evaluate this thesis we consider: what sustainability means, how sustainability of the built environment is evaluated, the subject matter of architecture as it relates to sustainability, the value of the architectural design process to resolving complex problems such as those found in sustainability and examples of how the inclusion of the expertise of the architect could benefit sustainability education. Sustainability “There are some truths, even fundamental ones, that are apt to elude us. The most basic truth concerning our Earth-home is that all living things, in some manner, are related to each other. This fact, while mainly important as a physical principle, carries implications even of a spiritual nature.” (Storer, 1956) The term sustainability has been so over used it is hard to know what it does mean. To quote from recent comments by a leading architect in the field, “If society can continue to do something for 10,000 years it is sustainable. If they cannot, it is not” (Reed, 2010). What can we continue to do for 10,000 years? Let us start with what we cannot do. We cannot increase the world’s population. We cannot grow an economy. We cannot fight wars. We cannot oppress a segment of the human population. We cannot depend on nonrenewable energy and material sources. We cannot consume renewable resources at a rate greater than the natural replacement rate. We cannot deplete soil fertility and we cannot kill the living structure of the soil maintaining fertility. We cannot pollute soil, water and air. We cannot deplete the world’s forests. We cannot compromise natural habitat of the non-human species. We cannot produce non-recyclable, nonbiodegradable products that go to land fills.


So what must we do? We must reduce population to reduce the stress on the world’s resources. We must develop an economic model that fits within the fact that the world is finite. We must learn to settle conflicts peacefully and deal justly with our neighbors. We must live solely on renewable resources below the replacement rate. We must build and maintain soil fertility (see Farmers of Forty Centuries, F. H. King). We must live with materials that recycle within the natural world so as not to pollute. In fact we must clean up much pollution. We must expand forest reserves. In short we must live “within the web of life” and not believe we can live outside of it. Mathis Wackernagel (1994) developed a system to measure the impact of a person’s lifestyle on the earth by translating it into the equivalent land area required to provide the energy and materials and remediate pollution generated by that demand. The system focuses on four elements of lifestyle; the goods and services we own and consume, our diet, our shelter, and our mobility. Western society is marked with a much greater amount of stuff, a diet higher in protein, particularly red meat that requires more land area and energy per calorie unit, larger houses with more energy consuming comfort and convenience features and a mobility system that is largely based on high energy private automobiles and a high use of energy intensive air travel. The average US citizen has a much larger footprint than the average European with a similar lifestyle due to a variety of efficiencies in the European structure. The calculations indicate we are currently consuming more resources than the earth can provide and if more of the world population achieved the US living standard we would require several extra planets of resources. The footprinting concept is also being used to translate lifestyle demands into greenhouse emissions instead of translating it into unit areas. Sustainability of the Built Environment The country has largely adopted the LEED (Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design) rating system by the US Green Building Council (USGBC— www.usgbc.org) to evaluate the environmental impact of building projects. The LEED system provides project points for aspects and elements of the project that promote environmental sustainability. The rating provides: • up to 26 points for aspects of the site selection and use, • up to 10 points for measures that improve water use efficiency, • up to 35 points for improved energy efficiency, • up to 14 points for use of sustainable materials and practices, • up to 15 points for improved indoor air quality, • up to 6 points for design innovation, and • up to 4 points for regional issues. To 110 points total. Ratings are awarded at the certified (40 pts), silver (50 pts), gold (60 pts) or platinum (80 pts) level. Any checklist system of this sort faces disagreements over the correct inclusion of items and the proper weighting of points. The system has made an incredible impact on raising awareness of sustainability among architects but has many critics, and even some of the original founders claim it was never intended to measure sustainability in the manner in which it is used. Other rating systems have been proposed by other groups, but none have been as widely recognized as LEED. The Green Globes system is supported by the Green Building Initiative, a not for profit with a mission to accelerate the adoption of sustainable building (www.thegbc.org). Energy Star programs are promoted by the US EPA, along with energy star labeling of appliances and computers (www.energystar.gov). Ed Mazria, an architect and early proponent of energy efficiency is promoting the 2030 Challenge to make all buildings energy neutral by 2030 (www.architecture2030.org). The Living Building Challenge developed by the Cascade Region Green Building Council (the local branch of the USGBC) was a response to the perceived limitations of LEED. The group envisioned “Imagine a building that operated as elegantly as a flower” (http://ilbi.org). This is an inspired program along the lines of Daniel Burnham, the architect of the 1893 Chicago World’s fair, “Make no little plans for they have no magic to stir men’s minds.”


In 2008, I proposed a simple performance based system that utilizes three metrics to define a building’s sustainability: the environmental impact of the construction or ecological footprint, the energy (and other resource) consumption of the facility over its life and its durability and longevity (Haines, 2008). To be sustainable a building must be constructed of materials that do not over-commit the earth’s resources, be energy neutral or energy positive and last for a very long time, perhaps 500 years is an appropriate goal. I proposed that this concept be evaluated with the International Standards Organization (ISO) 14000 Environmental Management System that promotes a continuous improvement cycle since the learning curves required to achieve these results will be fairly long and steep. The Subject Matter of Architecture. The architect is “the first builder” in the built environment. Originally the architect, as the designer controlled the design intent and oversaw the work of the builders. As projects became more complicated, specialists, first in structural engineering and later in other fields became sub-designers to the architect. Today the architect is the central contact in what is sometimes a vast array of specialists working to complete a construction project. As the central figure, the architect is responsible for the conceptual design of the structure, the design drawings that turn that concept into an actual building, the technical plans and specifications that define the construction for the contractor and generally for oversight of the construction project to insure that the construction is built as designed. While some of the design details may be done by sub-contracted designers, the architect is responsible for the package as delivered to the owner. The architect translates the owners’ requirements into a program of spaces and functions that fulfill the owners’ needs, comply with all relevant codes, provide a structurally sound, storm and fire-safe building that is weatherproof, moisture-safe, thermally efficient, low maintenance and durable, built of materials and construction technologies that fall within the owners’ budget and schedule and is presented in an artistic form that lifts the spirit of the building inhabitants. The architect must first be an expert in materials and building technologies. Choices are made for selection to meet the above listed requirements along with aesthetics. Where availability and/or prices change, adjustments may be required to stay within budget and schedule. To meet sustainability criteria, choices must be made on the embodied energy (energy invested to make that material available) and resource use of the materials selected. As an example, the materials in a standard 22 story concrete office building (Santos Offices, Adelaide, South Australia) were calculated to contain the embodied energy of six atomic bombs the size of those dropped on Hiroshima (based on Student work, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia). Many new materials are being touted by companies as green and sustainable. The architect must be able to analyze those claims to determine the truth behind the advertising. While new materials may be improved over older versions, without a track record to work from the architect must determine if the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks if the material fails to live up to its claims, or causes some unforeseen problems in the construction of which it is a part. There are standards for choosing new materials, but the architect must be careful, keep all parties informed and record all communications in case a problem arises that fuels disagreements. Architects must increasingly be experts in the energy consumption of the buildings they design. Buildings and structures account for about 40% of the energy and about 70% of the electricity in the country (www.usgbc.org citing US DOE statistics). The energy consumption of buildings is clearly a major component of our greenhouse emissions and a critical element of any movement towards a more sustainable future. While much of that energy consumption is due to the electrical and mechanical equipment in the building, specified by the respective engineers, the architect at the center of the design is responsible for the thermal efficiency of the building envelope that determines much of the energy use of the equipment systems.


While LEED does not fully address durability, it is clearly a prime concern for sustainability. Architects must build durable structures that will sustain for future generations. Fortunately, where previous architects have done that, society inherits their built environment and investigations into how well, or badly those buildings perform, as many years of use reveal much about sustainable construction. There is now general recognition that historic preservation is inherently linked with sustainability. Many older buildings require repairs from the ravages of time on what were then new technologies and the stress placed on buildings to be fully space conditioned to modern standards. Rapid change in the materials and technologies of the construction industry turns the design and construction of buildings into ongoing experiments. A standard material that is no longer available, or has become too expensive, is replaced with a new material that has no track record. A new material is tried in order to lower costs or to meet increasingly stringent building codes or new environmental standards (or a LEED rating). Some of these experiments prove successful, but some will fail, and with that failure a building requires expensive repair. Probably more destructive to building fabrics are the expectations to fully climate control buildings. While the Greeks, the Romans, architects of the Renaissance and many others worldwide made buildings that are still standing after hundreds or thousands of years, none of those structures were space conditioned to modern standards. Early examples of buildings that were space conditioned were terribly inefficient and lost large quantities of energy through the building fabric. Once we became conscious of energy loss and tightened up the envelope to improve efficiency, we discovered moisture migration and mold. Many buildings designed to be highly energy efficient experienced extensive moisture induced damage, some failures and lawsuits. LEED buildings have not been exempt. While many more practitioners now understand the problems and can avoid them, problems will continue for some years to come. Learning to build structures that will endure for far longer than a human life time will continue to be a challenge for the industry. Architectural practice is not limited to the design and construction of individual buildings. Determining a facility’s location impacts transportation energy and greenhouse emissions that, in turn, impact the mobility footprint of the region. An architectural practice may likewise include planning studies of commercial facilities that impact the supply and purchase of goods and services. The same factors may have an impact on the distances required to transport food stuffs to metropolitan areas. Thus architects are at the heart of sustainability of the built environment and gain direct experience in these issues throughout their professional life. The Art of the Architect Western society has developed discreet academic fields and students become experts in their chosen field. Some very small percentage gain degrees in multiple fields. The different fields view the world from different perspectives, make different assumptions and ask different questions. As the amount of information has increased, people have become more and more specialized. No one can cover or keep up with the breadth of an entire academic field. Lawyers cannot cover all aspects of law; they are specialists in some discreet subset of law and even that is becoming harder. When we become overwhelmed by our own discipline, we lose the ability to see the world from another perspective, to consider wider issues, or entertain alternative interpretations. We build incredible depth of expertise but are so focused we may lose the big pictures even within our general discipline. Architects are artists in the sense that they are generalists at heart, not specialists. Society rewards specialization and some architects have become specialists in some sub-set of the discipline. For example, some have become code experts, some specialize in building envelopes or in hospital design. While architecture is a field of study, it is one that requires the synthesis of information from a wide range of academic disciplines. Architects are not geologists or landscapers but must understand the site on which they set the building. They are not sociologists, but must create a building that fits into the surrounding context. They are not structural engineers, but must understand engineering to develop a structural design that supports the design idea and parameters. They must pick materials that are appropriate to the project requirements and will fit the owner’s budget and schedule. They are not physicists or chemists but must avoid material interactions that could cause corrosion or deterioration of the building envelope. They are


not lawyers but must create a design that meets all legal and code requirements for that building type and size within that jurisdiction. The building must perform on a wide range of performance criteria and to that list we are now adding requirements of sustainability. While not psychologists they must so fully understand human perceptions of space and finish that they achieve these ends and do it so as to create a “Wow” experience for all who enter the building. They say the greatest compliment you can ever give an architect is “of course”. When the solution appears obvious after the fact you can be sure it was the hardest one to find. The only course that provides the architect with any chance of success is to work by integration and not by dissection. The solution is found by expanding the problem out to get a larger view, by looking at relationships more than at objects, by finding new ways to see the problem differently. I once resolved a design problem by turning the program upside down. It allowed me to see something I had not seen right side up that provided the insight I needed to resolve the problem. This is not intended to boast that all architectural designs are successful. Many are not, but the process is important. Architectural training is only the beginning of learning how to use that process to “see” differently, to resolve problems and provide truly creative and artistic solutions. Le Corbusier is said to have commented near the end of his life, “I am just beginning to learn how to see”. This “learning how to see” could be extremely important in the integration of expertise to address sustainability. The Architect in Sustainability Education Architects traditionally train architectural students in the theories, history and practice of architecture. Most architectural programs could increase and deepen information and problem solving abilities in energy, materials and durability issues around sustainability. Some programs are making those changes and are finding better ways to have students address sustainability. The American Institute of Architects has been fairly aggressive in promoting radical responses to climate change among architects (www.aia.org, advocacy, resources). While having architects capable of designing zero energy buildings and sustainable construction projects is clearly important, I believe that it is more important to have owners who understand the issues, will pick architects capable of delivering sustainable projects and will demand (and be willing to pay for) truly sustainable solutions. I know dozens of examples where owners did not understand the ramifications of cutting costs and ultimately paid thousands to millions of dollars more to repair the problems they created. Based on that experience, I have found teaching environmental management (ISO 14000) and sustainability in an MBA program to be very rewarding. Buildings, whether built, renovated or rented are a major cost to any business. As business students become aware of environmental issues and more fully appreciate the implications of standard business responses, they start to see the issues differently. These students will not become architects, but they will be better prepared to ask the right questions should they have to hire an architect, will be better able to understand the architect’s recommendations and better able to seek additional advice if they need it. Architects who are knowledgeable about energy resources and energy use in buildings generally have a broad perspective. While engineers, who are usually specialists in either electrical or mechanical engineering, will know more about their specialty, they will frequently know less about the building envelope and its potential both to reduce energy loss and to provide renewable energy harvest. There will be some exceptions to this. Architects will also likely be better attuned to the critical people issues that engineering will not resolve. The engineering is necessary but not sufficient. The architect’s expertise provides ample options for coursework in energy resources, energy efficiency and renewable energy critical to any business operation. Information on material resource management and Life Cycle Analysis (ISO 14043) could be separate courses or combined into the energy material for a less extensive format.


Architects are concerned with the productivity of workers in their buildings and many studies have been done on the productivity improvements of workers in sustainable buildings (due to light, color, vision, stress and psychological factors). A course on the science of productivity taught by, or with the input of a knowledgeable architect could be very beneficial in a business program. Another business course that includes environmental factors is triple bottom line accounting. An architect is not likely to be sufficiently knowledgeable to teach that course, but could add valuable input as a co-teacher or team member. The above examples for a business program are far from exhaustive and many schools are innovating in their program structures and course offerings. Therefore the value of expertise on the built environment, energy resources and use, and environmental management depends on individual circumstances. Courses in sustainable living, footprinting, environmental choices & ethics, sustainable design for non-architects or alternative building technology could be appropriate in many undergraduate core programs. Conclusion Specialization is our worst enemy when faced with sustainability. The web of life is an incredibly intricate, complex and interrelated system with multiple feedback loops and inter-dependencies. For all the expertise we can put together in, for example the biological sciences, how much do we still not know, and how much do we not understand, particularly at the peripheries where fields juncture? Many have recognized this issue and have addressed it by the use of interdepartmental teams and cross departmental studies programs. There is much merit in such approaches. The bringing together of different perspectives and different assumptions promotes conversations that widen the student’s (and perhaps the faculty’s) perspectives. The academic give and take promotes understanding in many ways. As we move forward building curriculum to bring the lessons of sustainability to all students, we need to bring the perspectives, contents and understanding of all disciplines to bear on the problem. While architecture is generally seen as a professional, not academic field, the architect’s experience and expertise relate directly to many of the issues we face. Their experience with buildings, energy consumption, materials and durability is critical to sustainability. That expertise needs to be included, along with the expertise of other disciplines, in assisting students to better understand the changing world. In addition, the architect’s training as a generalist and integrative thinker provides experience that, while different from most fields, could be a beneficial asset when faced with the complex problems of sustainability. References Storer, J.H. (1956). The Web of Life (New York, Mentor) Reed, B. (2010). Boston Society of Architects Lecture, The Practice of Living System Design, Boston, January 20 2010. Wackernagel, M., (1944). Ecological Footprint and Appropriate Carrying Capacity: A Tool for Planning Towards Sustainability. PhD Thesis. School of Community and Regional Planning. The University of British Columbia Haines, C. (2008). The Three Key Performance Indicators of Sustainability, Build Boston. About the Author – Mr. Christopher Haines is a licensed architect with a master’s degree and over 20 years of US and international experience in commercial/industrial energy efficiency, conservation, renewable energy, sustainability and environmental management systems (ISO 14000). He holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology and History. He teaches environmental management as an adjunct faculty member in the MBA Program at Salve Regina University in Newport RI and has taught architectural technology at the under-graduate and graduate level.


May 9th, 2010

Sustainability and Economics 101: A Primer for Elementary Educators By Susan Santone The terms “sustainability” and “economics” are often paired these days, in presidential speeches as well as Wall Street reports. But what does “sustainable economics” really mean? What–or whom–is to be “sustained”? And why should an elementary educator care? This article aims to answer these questions and serve as an economics primer for sustainability-minded elementary educators. The article begins by defining and comparing “conventional” and “sustainable” economics approaches to introduce readers to these concepts. The article then describes effective ideas for teaching sustainability and economics to young learners (grades k-2), with examples that highlight equity and culturally-responsive instruction. Defining “conventional” and “sustainable” economics Economics is broadly concerned with the core question of how to allocate scarce resources to meet unlimited needs1. As the “Production, Distribution, and Consumption” strand of the National Social Studies Standards states, People have wants that often exceed the limited resources available to them. As a result, a variety of ways have been invented to decide upon answers to four fundamental questions: What is to be produced? How is production to be organized? How are goods and services to be distributed? What is the most effective allocation of the factors of production (land, labor, capital, and management)? 2 Given that these ideas form the basis of K12 economics education (and are derived from dominant schools of economic thought3), this article will refer to this paradigm as the “conventional” economic paradigm. The sustainability paradigm shares similarities and differences with its conventional cousin. Like the conventional school of thought, sustainability also concerns itself with questions of scarcity, needs, and distribution. But the sustainability paradigm begins with a fundamentally different question: How can we create an economic system that enables individuals and communities to thrive, while also sustaining the capacity of the environment to support this?4 The question reflects the fundamental assumption of the sustainability paradigm: economic activity occurs within, and depends upon, larger ecological systems. In other words, the economy is contained within the environment. As explained below, this is more than an assumption–it is a basic scientific fact that informs the models, practices, and policies that distinguish sustainability from conventional economic thinking. Before going further, a clarification of terms: As commonly defined, the “environment” is all living (biotic) and nonliving (abiotic) substances on earth that comprise our surroundings5. In this definition, humans are part of the environment, not separate from it. Moreover, the environment is everywhere, not just in the rainforest, the artic, or other “wild” places.


In an economics context, the substances and materials of the environment are often referred to as “natural resources.” The term “resources” implies that the environment is merely a set of materials for human to use–an assumption which flies in the face of the biological reality that all species (including humans) are part of the environment. Sustainability-minded educators often use “natural materials” as an alternative to “resources” to more accurately reflect the fact that the environment supports all life forms, not just humans. Core principles of the sustainability paradigm By now, the reader may begin to think that sustainability is really a science topic. It isn’t; however, economics in this paradigm is grounded in some basic scientific ideas that can help educators make their teaching more integrated and relevant. While some of these concepts are too advanced for an elementary classroom, they are provided here to introduce all educators to the essential knowledge for teaching sustainability at any level. Let’s begin with an overview of five key principles6 that all educators should understand (and with which readers may already be familiar). To provide a context, the principles are applied to an everyday item: a jar of strawberry jam. Principle 1: All materials come from the environment. The environment is the ultimate source for all raw materials used in any economic activity. For the jam, essential materials include not only soil and solar energy, but also silica (for the jar), metal (for the lid), and trees (for the label). Technically, even a plastic jar is not “man-made” since it is derived from crude oil, the decayed remains of plants and animals. Principle 2: Economic activity involves the transformation of natural materials. Transformations occur at all stages of a product’s life cycle, including extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, consumption and disposal. For example, making the jam required growing berries (perhaps with machinery powered by diesel fuel), and cooking them (powered by electricity from a coal-powered plant). Moreover, making this energy available involved its own set of transformations, such as mining, refining, and combustion. All of these stages create outputs–wastes. This leads to the next idea. Principle 3: The environment is the final “sink” into which all wastes go. The wastes produced through jam-making (or any economic activity) go back into the environment in one form or another: The glass jar may end up in a landfill. The carbon emissions from processing the jam will go into the atmosphere. As described in the next principle, these wastes do not–and physically cannot–disappear. Principle 4: There is no “away.” The First Law of Thermodynamics–a scientific law as basic as gravity, but far less known–states that energy (including the potential energy in matter) cannot be created or destroy, but only transformed. This means that the wastes (outputs) produced through economic activity can change physical or chemical form, but do not leave the environment. For example, the plastic bag the jam was carried home in can break into small pieces but it does not decompose. The carbon emissions will circulate through the carbon cycle. If leftover jam was composted, it will return to the soil as valuable nutrients. (In this case, “wastes” are not polluting, but serve as nourishing food for next year’s crop.) In reality, then it is impossible to throw something “away” since outputs are continually changing form within the environment. (The Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy, constitutes another related principle, but an explanation is omitted here for the sake of brevity.) Principle 5: The environment provides critical life-sustaining services. Consider the many–and often invisible–ways the environment plays a role in producing the jam: Wetlands surrounding the strawberry field absorb fertilizer run-off; trees absorb the carbon emissions while providing oxygen; organisms in the soil maintain its fertility. The conventional paradigm tends to ignore the value of these life-sustaining ecosystem services, whereas the sustainability paradigm counts them. In fact, a landmark 1997 study assessed them to be worth $33 trillion per year – almost double the global output of human-made good and services, valued then at $18 trillion7. And while such research invites speculation and debate, it also underscores the importance sustainability places on the value (intrinsic and otherwise) of the essential services provided by ecosystems.


Reflecting these ideas, Figure 1 shows the true relationship between natural systems and human systems (the economy). Here, the environment is not merely a factor of production (as it is portrayed in the conventional “circular flow” economic model), but rather the containing system for the economy. The diagram shows that environment is the source of all materials humans use and the “sink” into which all wastes go; moreover, wastes stay in the system and do not go “away.”.

Figure 1: The ecological economics model. The placement of the economy in the center reflects the fact that it is contained by the environment, not a suggestion that human activity is the “center of the world.” It is important to clarify these ideas with s Figure 1: The ecological economics model. The placement of the economy in the center reflects the fact that it is contained by the environment, not a suggestion that human activity is the “center of the world.” It is important to clarify these ideas with students. The principles described add up to a simple fact: the economy exists within, not apart from, the environment. This raises several critical questions: Does our culture–and the economic systems that result from it–acknowledge this fact? To what extent are we designing production processes, markets, and policies to reflect the reality of interdependence? To what end are current indicators such as the GDP serving the well-being of the larger system?


Preliminary answers to these questions can be found by exploring a few other conceptual differences between the sustainability and conventional paradigms. Full-cost accounting: In conventional economics, indirect or unintended impacts such as pollution are considered “externalities.” For example, the carbon emissions produced by driving are not counted in the price of gas. In the jam example, the carbon emissions and other wastes are not reflected in the jam’s price, creating hidden subsidies that make it artificially cheaper. A sustainability paradigm approaches this differently, and attempts to quantify external environmental and social costs using a “full cost” approach. The research mentioned above is an example of ecosystem valuation: identifying the true value of these vital service so that markets function with more accurate price signals. The Commons: Air and water are examples of environmental “commons” that all species depend on–but which are limited and/or degraded by overuse. How we allocate these needs–and whether we recognize them as basic rights–are the policy questions surrounding “the Commons.” (Economist Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize for her work in this area.) In a convention paradigm, overuse of the Commons is often framed as the unavoidable “tragedy” of open access; consider the overgrazed field described by Garrett Harden in his 1968 article “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Sustainability also recognizes the potential for overuse, and seeks policy solutions that are equitable and sustain the Commons; this may means a mix of market incentives, regulation, cultural norms, and community ownership. Some of these policy approaches overlap with conventional economics, demonstrating again common ground between the paradigms. Long-term vs. short-term return: A sustainability framework recognizes that the well-being of human, economic and environmental health are connected across time, place and scale–often in vast and long-term ways. In this view, short-term actions are assessed by their long-term consequences. In contrast, the conventional paradigm tends to focus on short-term returns: profits, gross domestic product (GDP), or stock returns. And, while these short-terms measures certainly matter in a sustainability paradigm, but they do not define “success” to same extent as they do in the conventional one. Quality vs. quantity (“More vs. better”): Both sustainable and conventional economics are concerned with the question of “utility” (well-being). The sustainability paradigm measures well-being through qualitative improvements in health, happiness, and satisfaction of real needs. On the other hand, the conventional paradigm tends to emphasize quantitative growth, with the assumption that “more” is “better.” Consider, for example, the GDP: A rise in the GDP is considered good news, yet the GDP can rise as a result of spending on crime, illness, or environmental clean-up. The indicator does not differentiate between beneficial economic growth and “gains” made through spending on negative things such as crime. Sustainability indicators, on the other hand, consider economic growth within a broader framework of community and environmental well-being8. Of course, sometimes more is better, and sustainability recognizes this. Having more food or water is better for someone who is hungry; however, the sustainability paradigm would consider not the only quantity of calories or food, but also the quality of nutrition as well as broader impacts on the individual, environment, community, and economy. The “more or better” question is also reflected in each paradigm’s approach to global economic issues. In a conventional paradigm, the term “developed” is typically applied to Western, industrialized societies. “Development” is likewise defined as the process of advancing “undeveloped” countries along a Western path–of making “them” more like “us.” These terms carry the assumption that industrialization is higher up along the ladder of human evolution and ignores questions of overall, long-term well-being. In contrast, a sustainability paradigm focuses on these qualitative factors, and takes a hard and honest look at the role of economic growth in advancing these. When does growth bring real improvements in people’s lives and communities? In contrast, when are increases in GDP tied to (or a result of) “bads” such as disease or environmental destruction? This type of analysis is more complex and accurate than the simplistic (and incorrect) assumption that economic growth, measured in output or monetary terms, is the


sole or even best path to improved well-being. Moreover, the sustainability paradigm requires exploring issues from multiple perspectives–a much-needed competency in a diverse and global society. From theory to practice: Getting started in the early grades How can an elementary educator turn the challenging questions of sustainability into effective and ageappropriate economics instruction? The following section explains tested and effective activities for teaching the most basic concepts to young learners in the context of familiar topics. (See the Appendix for lessons and resources to teach the more advanced principles not addressed here.) Beginning the inquiry: What do we need for a fulfilling life? As noted, the concept of “utility” (fulfillment; well-being) is common to both “conventional” and sustainable economic frameworks. This forms an excellent entry point. To begin, the teacher can ask students to generate responses to the question, “What do we need for a fulfilling life?” This can take many forms: brainstorming, or prioritizing and sorting needs vs. wants. This leads to the next question: “How do we get what we need?” In a conventional paradigm, the discussion might be limited to material products and the roles of consumers, producers, markets and money; the teacher might have students give examples of these concepts in their lives. A sustainability approach looks different. First, students would have defined a broader definition of wellbeing or “quality of life” that goes beyond material products to consider friends, love, and other noncommodities. (See Figure 2.) Next, instead of focusing on money as the way to meet needs, sustainability first asks students to consider the elements and relationships that sustain their well-being. For example, children might identify the role of families in providing needs, and the role of the environment in providing air and water. In sustainability, understanding how these elements work together– interdependence–is the cornerstone concept. To further explore human-environmental relationships, the teacher can provide the students with two lists of words: One lists natural “Commons” (sunlight, water, air, etc.), and the other, human-created physical and cultural elements (roads, power lines, stories, language). Students must cross out the things they can do without if they are to live a fulfilling life9. Usually, nothing is crossed out, or there is a heated discussion about whether one can have a fulfilling life without a computer. (This provides an excellent opportunity to re-examine needs and wants, and to do identify the real benefits of the computer: fun, education, communication.) As students uncover, these are things we all need, and the computer is but one of many ways to obtain them. Students must next choose at least one word from each list (natural and human-created), and describe how the two work together to provide well-being. For example, students might pair sunlight and food markets, noting that we need the sunlight to grow the food to sell at the market. Through this, students see how the natural and human Commons support each other in larger systems. Thus, sustainability is not “against” conventional concepts such as markets and money, but rather emphasizes the essential role of the environment in supporting these elements. Questions of the Commons and well-being can also add a new lens to a common early-grade activity: learning about families and communities in other countries. Imagine how this might typically play out: The teacher assigns Johnny to make a poster about family life in a Ladakh, a remote part of India. Johnny selects images of traditional homes, and people herding and making their own cheese and clothes. During his presentation to the class, Johnny talks about how “poor” and “primitive” the people are; the other children concur, noting the decided lack of cars, video games and other technologies.


Through a sustainability lens, this activity has different outcomes. Building on the “fulfilling life” activity, the assignment now focuses on identifying if the family has what it needs to thrive and the factors that contribute to this. This time, Johnny comes to different conclusion: He realizes that the family’s home, made from local materials, is not only better suited to the climate, it is also affordable and can be maintained using readily-available knowledge and technology. Likewise, Johnny discovers that the family’s food is not only nourishing and fresh, but that it also comes from plant and animals that are suited to the environment, and is produced with traditional methods that sustain human and environmental health. He extends his understanding of technology beyond computers to include looms, water wheels, and other tools made from local materials. Johnny also learns that skills such as weaving and cheese making are important assets for community life, serving not only as cornerstones of their economy, but also vehicles for building intergenerational relationships. The learning can deepen by encouraging students to think about shared needs, similarities, differences, and ways cultures and communities are interdependent. For example, students could create Venn diagrams or make collages comparing everyday needs and ways they are met. (“Everyone needs clothes. How is the way you get your clothes different from how the Ladakhis do? Why is this? What would it be like to make your own clothes? Who in our class knows how to sew?”) This line of inquiry helps students explore the richness among cultures while expanding students’ conceptions of what has value. (It is also a starting point for an essential intercultural skill: considering issues from the perspective of a different culture.) Teachers can further foster these outcomes with questions such as “If you went to Ladakh, what would you like to do or try? What would you like to learn more about?” Likewise, “If a child from Ladakh came to our school, what favorite games or activities would you most want to share with them?” This two-way questioning also reflects another side of interdependence: that we all need to learn with, from, and about each other. (This also avoids the problematic (if well-intentioned) practice of holding up traditional peoples as a romantic definition of diversity: “others” who are different (in a wonderful way, of course) from “us.” ) To serve as effective learning, a sustainability paradigm must avoid naiveté in other ways as well. Returning to the families-in-other-countries example, an honest investigation of global well-being will surface inequalities, hunger, disease, and illiteracy (with the level of disclosure appropriate to students’ development and prior learning experiences). For example, while the family Johnny studied is healthy and stable, Maria may find a family that does not have what it needs. But here, too, sustainability opens a door to meaningful inquiry. Again, using well-being as a starting point (and a foundational goal of economics), the teacher could ask, “Do all families in the [school, community, nation, etc.] have what they need to thrive? Why or why not?” This lens invites students to learn more about needs within the community, the role of the economy in meeting them, and ways students might contribute in positive ways. A sustainability approach would help students experience multiple types of exchanges, including a toy exchange (barter), a food drive (sharing/gifting), or a student-led “buy local” campaign (markets/monetized exchanges). As described below, framing economics in broader terms than money and consumption is essential for reaching all learning. Creating relevance Of course, Maria or Johnny may themselves be the ones that don’t have what they need. Then what? How does a teacher make economics not only relevant, but also a context for effective teaching and learning? A sustainability paradigm offers multiple opportunities for building authentic bridges among students’ cultures, economic knowledge, and deeper inquiry. The question and role of money in economic exchanges provides a good example. As noted, conventional economics tends to define economic activity in terms of consumers, producers and markets, with money being the means of exchange (with a token nod to barter and “traditional” economic systems). The centrality of money in this framework omits other exchanges, relationships, and


“currencies” that may be more prominent in the lives of low-income, homeless, and/or immigrant students: barter, repairing, and non-monetized networks of exchange (car sharing, community gardening, etc.). In contrast, a sustainability paradigm provides opportunities to examine and find the value in these types of exchanges. To begin, after completing the “fulfilling life” activity, students could then explore multiple types of relationships and exchanges they utilize to meet their needs: sharing skills or resources within the community, bartering, and/or buying. This approach not only broadens the definition of economic activity, it also provides opportunities for students to identify the resources and skills they do have, rather than focusing on the money they don’t. For example, students can survey the knowledge, skills and resources in their own communities. Who in our community knows how to grow food? Fix a bike? Winterize a home? Surfacing these skills can validate cultural knowledge while also making a bridge to other forms of economic activity: How could Johnny use his bike-fixing skills to earn money or barter for other needs? Thus, rather than viewing lowincome students as “deficient,” the pedagogy of sustainability and democratic education emphasizes the resources and knowledge students do have. This inclusion of both monetized and non-monetized forms of enterprise is thus essential for making economics relevant to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Of course, sustainability is not idealistic; it doesn’t pretend that money doesn’t matter. On the contrary, the paradigm recognizes that students must gain knowledge and skills to function in the dominant, monetized economy. The approaches described are thus not ending point, but rather a starting point: The goal is to identify students’ existing knowledge, and help them build on it to acquire the skills needed to succeed in the “power” culture and the cash economy10. The activities described are the perfect foundation for exploring a full range of economic concepts through a sustainability lens. This includes product life cycles, the Ecological Footprint, price. vs. cost, economic indicators, trade, and more. While a discussion of teaching these topics is beyond the scope of this article, readers can find resources in the accompanying list. Conclusion As an instructional approach, a sustainability approach to econonmics offers teachers an opportunity to build a foundation of economic thinking that is integrated, holistic, and inherently connected to students’ lives and communities. The approach builds bridges to learners of all backgrounds, invites students to explore real-world issues through an interdisciplinary lens, and equips learners with skills to be effective citizens. What more could an elementary teacher ask for? Notes 1. “20 Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics,” (National Council on Economic Education, 2009), http://www.councilforeconed.org/ea/standards/. 2. “Curriculum Standards for Social Studies,” (National Council for the Social Studies), http://www.socialstudies.org/standards/strands 3. Mark H. Maier and Julie A. Nelson, Introducing Economics (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2007), 15. 4. Herman E. Daly and Joshua Farley, Ecological Economics (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2004), 5. 5. G. Tyler Miller, Living in the Environment (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2002), G5. 6. Herman E. Daly, “Introduction to the Steady-State Economy,” Economics, Ecology, Ethics: Essays Toward a Steady-State Economy, Ed. Herman E. Daly (San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1980), 1-31.


See also Herman E. Daly and Joshua Farley, Ecological Economics, 74-75. 7. Robert Costanza, Ralph d’Arge, Rudolf de Groot, Stephen Farberk, Monica Grasso, Bruce Hannon, Karin Limburg, Shahid Naeem, Robert V. O’Neill, Jose Paruelo, Robert G. Raskin, Paul Suttonkk, & Marjan van den Belt, “The Value of the World’s Ecosystems Services and Natural Capital,” Nature, Volume 387, (May 1997): 253-259. 8. Herman Daly and John B. Cobb, Jr., For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment and a Sustainable Future (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1989), 84, 443. 9. Creative Change Educational Solutions, “Defining What Matters” (Lesson plan in on-line database), http://www.creativechange.net. 10. Lisa Delpit, Other People’s Children (New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995), 24. Resources • For lessons and curriculum on sustainability and economics: Creative Change Educational Solutions, http://www.creativechange.net. Site offers free downloads with subscription-based access to an extensive curriculum library. View a slide show of ecological economics concepts and teaching approaches at http://www.creativechange.net/programs/economics/ • The classic article on the Commons: Harden, Garrett. (13 December 1968). The Tragedy of the Commons. Science, Vol. 162. no. 3859: 1243-1248. Available at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/162/3859/1243 • For adaptable ideas on teaching sustainability and economics, see Santone, Susan, “Ecoeconomics in the Classroom,” Teaching Green: The High School Years, Ed. Tim Grant and Gail Littlejohn (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2009), 96-102. • For a deeper analysis of economics education, see Mark H. Maier and Julie A. Nelson, Introducing Economics (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2007). • The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economic is another useful website for educators, providing clear explanations of the core ideas of sustainability and economics. www.steadystate.org/ • The United States Society for Ecological Economics is a leading academic and scholarly association for sustainability and economics. Their site has documents and newsletters that provide background information on eco-economics. www.ussee.org/ About the Author – Susan Santone is the Director of Creative Change Educational Solutions, a national nonprofit focused on sustainability-based leadership and innovation. Under her leadership, Creative Change provides curricula and instructional change models to institutions that are reframing instruction through the lens of ecological economics, sustainable food systems, and other topics. A former classroom teacher, Ms. Santone is also an adjunct instructor in the Department of Teacher Education at Eastern Michigan University.


May 9th, 2010

Reflections on Teaching the Course “Curriculum Reform in an Era of Global Warming” By Chet Bowers In the summer of 2009 I taught a course for students who were in the last stage of their masters program. I titled it “Curriculum Reform in an Era of Global Warming”, which should have left no doubts as to what the focus would be. Twenty-four students representing different subject areas signed up for the five week course. Years of listening to students and faculty in teacher education programs discuss the ideas of prominent thinkers in the field led me to conclude that the survey approach fails to provide an in-depth understanding of the importance and limitations of the ideas of educational theorists and the issues they addressed. The survey courses too often leave students with little more than a few phrases and concepts of such theorists such as John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Peter McLaren, and Nel Noddings, but little understanding of the cultural/ecological issues they did not address. I was determined to avoid turning the course on curriculum reform in an era of global warming into a survey that would leave students with little more than the sound bites of progressive and, now, “sustainability” thinking. The following overview of the course, as well as the list of readings that were the focus of class discussions, clearly indicated that we were going to engage in an in-depth examination of the different ways in which the teacher, in a variety of subject areas, could introduce reforms that would support the efforts of grass roots community groups as well as political leaders who are attempting to reduce the human impact on natural systems. The following is the syllabus that served as the conceptual roadmap for the course. ————————————————————————COURSE SYLLABUS TED 610 Curriculum Reform in an Era of Global Instructor: Chet bowers Overview of Course: In taking Albert Einstein’s observation seriously that the same mind-set that created the problem cannot be relied upon to fix it, this course will have four main foci. First, it will reframe the current approaches to thinking about curriculum reform in ways that take account of cultural patterns of thinking and relationships that contribute to a smaller ecological footprint. Special attention will be given to what teachers need to understand about how the language in the curriculum and in classroom discussions often reproduces the misconceptions of an earlier era when environmental limits were not understood. How to help students recognize when it is important to reframe the meaning of words in ways that are culturally and ecologically informed will also be given attention. Second, attention will be given to how curriculum reform can help students recognize the connections between a consumer dependent lifestyle and the deepening ecological crises. The nature and ecological importance of the local cultural commons (the intergenerational knowledge, skills, and mentoring relationships that are less dependent upon consumerism) will also be considered, as well as the teacher’s role in helping students become more aware of the differences in their personal development and the ecological impact as they move between the relationships and activities within the local cultural commons and settings where they are consumers. Third, attention will be given to what students need to understand about how computer mediated learning contributes to a smaller ecological footprint within certain contexts as well as how it undermines the local cultural commons. How to incorporate into the curriculum an understanding of the cultural transforming


characteristics of computers will also be addressed. Fourth, attention will be given to how to explain the nature of ecological intelligence, as well as how to exercise it in daily experience. Course Evaluation: As one of the purposes of the course is learning to recognize in existing curriculum materials patterns of thinking that reinforce the ecologically unsustainable industrial/consumer oriented paradigm, students will be asked to write two short papers that are based on a critical examination of existing curriculum materials—which may include a software program. The final will take the form of a collaborative project that leads to the development of curriculum materials that are informed by the issues discussed in the class—and that can be used by public school teachers. Readings posted as online can be accessed by Googling C. A. Bowers for articles and the Ecojustice Press. Schedule of Topic and Readings: (Each session met for two hours) Session 1 Introduction to themes of the course Session 2 Scientific reports on different aspects of the ecological crises Read: L. Brown, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, pp. 48-84 P & A Shabecoff, Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children, pp. 43-48 Session 3 An example of how market forces transform community traditions of self-sufficiency—lessons for classroom teachers Video: “Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh” Session 4 Ignoring the smaller ecological footprint found in local communities—both rural and urban Read: A. Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, pp. 305-323 C. Bowers, Online book, Toward a Post-Industrial Consciousness, Ch. 6 “Revitalizing the Cultural Commons in an Era of Political and Ecological Uncertainties” Session 5 Do the ideas of Dewey and Freire contribute to addressing the ecological crises? Read: J. Dewey, Democracy and Education, pp. 49-62 P. Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, pp. 57-77 C. Bowers, Online book, Transitions…. Ch. 10 “Rethinking Social Justice Issues Within an Eco-Justice Conceptual/Moral Framework” Session 6 Curricular implications of understanding how language carries forward the misconceptions of earlier thinkers who were unaware of ecological limits Read: C. Bowers, Online book, Toward a Post-Industrial Consciousness Ch. 3 “The Linguistic Colonization of the Present by the Past”


C. Bowers, Online book, Toward a Post-Industrial Consciousness, Ch. 7 “Toward an Ecologically Sustainable Vocabulary” Session 7 Continued discussion of language issues in the curriculum Session 8 Language issues that marginalize awareness of the intergenerational knowledge and skills that have a smaller ecological footprint and reduce dependence upon a money economy . Read: E. Shils, Tradition “In the Grip of the Past” pp. 34-67 Gouldner, The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of a New Class, pp. 28-29 (handout) Session 9 The nature and educational implications of ecological intelligence Read: G. Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, pp. 316-320 C. Bowers, Online book, Educating for Ecological Intelligence, Ch. 2 “Educational Reforms that Foster Ecological Intelligence” Session 10 Continued discussion of how to explain and demonstrate ecological intelligence Session 11 Curricular issues related to introducing students to their cultural commons Read: C. Bowers, Online book, Transforming Environmental Education Ch. 4, “The Classroom Practice of Commons Education” Session 12 Curricular approaches to introducing students to the different forms of enclosure of the cultural commons Read: W. Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 30-77 N. Klein, The Shock Doctrine, pp. 3-22 Session 13 Curriculum models that enable students to recognize different forms of enclosure Read: Online readings to be assigned Session 14 The issue of language again: the ecological implications of using Orwellian political language Read: D. Brooks, “The Long Voyage Home” (handout) G. Lakoff, Don’t Think of an Elephant, pp. 3-34 C. Bowers, Online book, Transitions…. Ch. 8 The Double Bind of Environmentalists Who Identify Themselves as Liberals” ****** Bring your laptops to this session******* Session 15 The political context of commons education


Read: C. Bowers, Online book, Transforming Environmental Education, Ch. 5 Session 16 Curricular importance of “thick description” of students’ embodied/culturally mediated experience and the teacher’s role as a cultural mediator Read: C. Geertz, The Interpretation of Culture. Pp. 5-17 C. Bowers, Online book, Toward a Post-Industrial Consciousness, Appendix: “Handbook on how to introduce cultural commons and ecojustice issues into the curriculum” Session 17 Introducing students to the cultural colonizing characteristics of computers Read: C. Bowers, “The Janus Machine: How Computers Contribute to the Enclosure of the Cultural Commons” In the online journal, Language and Ecology, Vol. 2, No. 2 Session 18 Review of key concepts and how they can be introduced in the curriculum—and into discussions with colleagues Sessions 19-21 Student in-class presentations of model curricula, and discussion of pedagogical issues ——————————————————————————————————Establishing the Key Priorities and a Conceptual Framework I made several assumptions that were proven correct during the first few meetings of the class. The first was that most of the students’ previous classes were focused on social justice issues, but that these issues were framed in terms of middle class values and thus did not take account of the social changes that the deepening ecological crisis is already bringing about. The other assumption was that most of their educational and discipline-based courses reinforced many of the deep cultural assumptions that were established before there was any awareness of environmental limits—including misleading assumptions that marginalized awareness of the role that language plays in the social construction of what is taken to be reality. In effect, I would be challenging them to think against the grain of many cultural orthodoxies that are widely shared by nearly all classroom teachers and university professors. The first readings were intended to be a wake-up call about the nature and extent of the ecological crisis. In addition to the chapters from Lester Brown’s book, which documented changes taking place in different ecosystems such as glaciers and aquifers, and from Poisoned Profits on the widespread effects of the industrially produced toxins that are causing cancers and abnormal physical and mental developments, I asked them to view the Nova program titled “Extreme Ice.” Observing how scientists were measuring the rate at which major glaciers in Alaska and Iceland were melting and moving into the sea seemed to make an impact. But it was momentary. This was primarily because the students, in spite of their personal sense of being financially limited, interacted daily in the natural and built environment of Eugene that continues to communicate the plenitude of a consumer society. That the Earth’s natural systems are being severely stressed is not evident in Eugene! Nevertheless, the brief introduction to what scientists are documenting about climate change and the other forms of environmental degradation served as a reference point that I kept referring to throughout the course. The other reference point was established by showing the video based on Helena Norbert-Hodge’s book, which was also the title of the video “Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh”. This documentary of the transition from a largely commons-centered community lifestyle that was intergenerationally connected and sustained by patterns of local decision making and mutual support to a western style of existence marked by greater dependence upon a money economy, manufactured products, and a growing sense of individualism served throughout the course as a concrete example of the ecological and community destructive nature of the industrial market system of production and consumption. Stressed was the point


that the many examples of cultural commons practices in Ladakh should not lead to thinking of the cultural commons as only existing in Third World cultures. Rather, the important insights to be taken from the documentary are the ways in which the cultural commons, which differ from culture to culture, are being undermined by the economic and technological forces of enclosure. It was further emphasized that the enclosure (transformation) of the cultural commons, which exists in both rural and urban settings, magnifies the ecological footprint of the industrial/consumer-dependent lifestyle as well as contributes to the loss of local decision-making and to the loss of patterns of mutual support within communities. If these points had not been emphasized some students were likely to interpret the subsequent discussions of how to engage students in learning about their local cultural commons as an effort to revert back to an earlier period of cultural development, instead of recognizing that cultures that have taken different pathways to development are facing the same pressures of being integrated into a global market economy. As Al Gore’s film was still being discussed in the media, students were assigned the last chapter of his book, An Inconvenient Truth, which listed changes in behaviors that would reduce the pressures on global warming. His list of ecologically sustainable behaviors, which mostly involved changes in consumer behaviors, was then juxtaposed with an in-depth discussion of the characteristics of the local cultural commons. The chapter, “Revitalizing the Cultural Commons in an Era of Political and Ecological Uncertainties, provided an overview of the various cultural commons activities (that is, largely nonmonetized activities) that can be found in all communities. Important to this broader and more in-depth discussion was the introduction of how awareness of the participation in various activities of the local cultural commons goes unrecognized because of the nature of taken-for-granted patterns of thinking and behavior. This was followed by a discussion of how the emphasis on print-based thinking and communication, which are reinforced by the media as well as by the high status accorded to print in public schools and universities, marginalizes awareness of contexts and tacit understandings—both essential to understanding how daily life is dependent upon the intergenerational knowledge and skills of the local cultural commons. The chapter lists the diversity of cultural commons activities, ranging from the preparation and sharing of food to protesting the loss of civil liberties and the gains made by previous social justice movements. Two issues were stressed in the discussion of the complexity of the cultural commons and the forces of enclosure. The first related to how to integrate learning about the diversity of cultural commons activities in the students’ community. The second issue related to how the lack of awareness of the different aspects of the local cultural commons, and of their community and ecological significance, leads to not resisting their integration into the market economy—which is accompanied by the loss of local decision making. This part of the discussion laid the basis for the later discussion of the teacher’s mediating role in helping students develop the communicative competence necessary for deciding which aspects of the cultural commons need to be reformed or abandoned entirely, which aspects of the industrial/consumer-dependent culture should be carried forward, and which forms of enclosure need to be resisted. The broader issue of how to educate for an ecologically sustainable future was continually mentioned as a way of framing the discussion. The readings and discussions of the cultural commons, and the type of individualism that the industrial/consumer-oriented culture requires, set the framework for a brief discussion of the ideas of John Dewey and Paulo Freire. Their key ideas were introduced for two reasons. The first was that most of the students had already encountered a largely non-critical presentation in their other professional courses. The second reason was that the previous discussion of the cultural commons provided an ethnographically informed framework for recognizing how key assumptions underlying the thinking of Dewey and Freire, when introduced into other cultures, support the process of colonization that undermines the local cultural commons—thus leading to the emancipated form of individualism that lacks the skills and mutual support system that make personal survival dependent upon consumerism. The following was emphasized in the discussion of the ideas of Dewey and Freire: (1) both were Social Darwinian thinkers who assumed that there are three stages of human and cultural development and that their approach to knowledge represented the most evolved stage; (2) both failed to understand the complex nature of socialization, including how their own ideas were based on the assumptions of European Enlightenment thinkers; (3) both misunderstood the complex nature of traditions and how they varied from culture to culture— thus, they were unable to recognize how the intergenerational knowledge and skills that sustained the cultural commons represented sources of resistance to unrestrained market capitalism; ( 4) both ignored how


modernization was contributing to the environmental degradation of their times—with Freire ignoring the vast outpouring of concern about the deepening ecological crisis until just before his death. In this section of the course, special attention was given to the difficulty students have in recognizing these limitations when they share many of the same assumptions that Dewey and Freire took for granted—and when they learn about these two educational reformers from professors who also share the same assumptions. The point emphasized about Dewey and Freire not understanding the dynamics of cultural reproduction and thus of being little help in providing teachers with a key part of what should be their professional knowledge led to the next topic: the curricular and pedagogical implications of understanding how language carries forward the misconceptions and silences of earlier thinkers who were unaware of environmental limits. Students were assigned two readings from my online book, Toward a Post-Industrial Consciousness: Understanding the Linguistic Basis of an Ecologically Sustainable Future. Following the reading of “The Linguistic Colonization of the Present by the Past”, the following issues were the focus of a discussion of teacher decision-making about whether the language of the curriculum was reinforcing the patterns of thinking of earlier culturally specific eras when there was no understanding of environmental limits and other cultural ways of knowing. 1. 2.

3. 4.



How to understand that most words are metaphors. How the choice of analogs by earlier thinkers and the influence of earlier events continues to frame the current meaning of words—such as freedom, individualism, progress, tradition, markets, and so on. That words (metaphors) have a history and thus may carry forward misconceptions and silences of earlier thinkers who were influenced by the cultural assumptions of their era. That interpretative frameworks that organized social life over hundreds of years, influence behaviors and values, and marginalize awareness of aspects of experience, are based on root metaphors. Root metaphors such as patriarchy, human-centeredness, individualism, mechanism, progress, etc., illuminate certain ways of understanding while hiding other possibilities. That it is possible, indeed necessary in light of the ecological crisis, to reframe the meaning of much of the modernizing vocabulary by identifying analogs that are culturally and ecologically informed—words such as progress, individualism, intelligence, community, technology, poverty, wealth, etc.. That the analogs based on the culture’s understanding of the attributes and thus the meaning of words such as woman, weed, wilderness, uncivilized, resource, and so forth carry forward how moral behavior is governed by the cultural understanding of the attributes of the other—person, plant, and physical environment.

Students were also asked to read the chapter titled “Toward an Ecologically Sustainable Vocabulary” which was used as the basis for a discussion of how teachers could encourage students to examine the history of words, including the cultural events and ideas that led to the earlier choice of analogs for such words (metaphors) such as woman, technology, tradition, property, individualism, nature, progress, wealth, and so forth. Students were also asked to consider how they would go about incorporating into the curriculum at different grade levels the examples presented in the chapter on how many of the words (metaphors) in today’s modernizing curriculum could be reframed by the choice of analogs that reflect an awareness of differences in cultural traditions and that supported an ecologically sustainable lifestyle. There was also a discussion of how the examples of reframing the meaning of commonly used metaphors reflected my own taken-for-granted cultural experiences and assumptions, and how taking account of other cultural ways of knowing could lead to the choice of different analogs—thus avoiding the problem of linguistic colonization where the analogs from the dominant culture are used to frame the meaning of English words that are expressed in other languages—such as development, individualism, tradition, community, and so forth. The discussion of the metaphorical nature of language and thinking was continually grounded through the use of examples from textbooks, educational software programs, and by giving close attention to the discourse in classrooms. That most students in the class had been reinforced for years to assume that language is a conduit in a sender/receiver process of communication, it was necessary to provide many


examples of how root metaphors served as taken-for-granted interpretative frameworks, and how these interpretative frameworks are highly useful in understanding certain aspects of experience, and how they also marginalize the ability to understand other areas. It was suggested that one of the ways to introduce their students to the influence of root metaphors that had their origins in the distant past, and how they continue to reproduce earlier ways of understanding (many of which are still useful in certain contexts), was to have students identify the vocabulary excluded by different root metaphors—and thus how the excluded vocabulary marginalized awareness of other issues and possibilities They were asked to consider the vocabulary that is excluded when mechanism, individualism, progress, patriarchy, evolution, and ecology are the root metaphors that serve as taken-for-granted interpretative frameworks. As in all the previous discussions about how language carries forward earlier ways of thinking, as well as the values of the culture, attention was given to determining when students possess the necessary background of experience for connecting the classroom discussions with their own experience. Indeed, the point was emphasized that the students’ languaging processes should be used as examples, and that the most effective way of doing this was to have them reflect on words whose meanings (analogs) they take-for-granted, and how giving attention to different aspects of their culturally mediated embodied experiences leads to recognizing how the language that still carries forward earlier ways of thinking marginalizes awareness of different aspects of their present experience. Several class sessions were devoted to this part of the teacher’s professional knowledge, which is largely ignored in most of their other courses. As the simple idea that the language in the curriculum has a history, and that it carries forward patterns of thinking that continue to undermine the development of ecological intelligence that is needed if we are to slow the rate of environmental degradation, it nevertheless was so radically different from thinking that students construct their own ideas, that the rational process is free of cultural influences, and that there is such a thing as objective data and information, devoting two class session served only as an introduction. The following class sessions, which were focused on different issues, involved making the connections to these language issues. The readings from Edward Shils’ book Tradition, and the short selection from Alvin Gouldner’s The Future of Intellectual and the Rise of a New Class provided a transition to a different set of language and thus cultural issues. As many of the cultural mainstream teachers have been socialized to think of traditions essentially as holidays and that other traditions, following the Enlightenment derived analogs, are impediments to individual self-realization and progress, Edward Shils’ ethnographically based overview of the traditions that are largely part of our taken-for-granted experience provided these future teachers with the culturally grounded vocabulary necessary for challenging the current emphasis on change and progress that marginalizes an awareness of the local cultural commons. For the members of the class who were being socialized in their other professional courses to adopt the critical pedagogy emphasis on equating the promotion of critical thinking with continual change (which they assume always to be progressive in nature), it was particularly important to introduce examples of how so many aspects of their taken-forgranted experience, as well as the cultural practices they are aware of, are based on the intergenerational knowledge, skills, and practices (traditions) carried forward from the past. Introducing these future teachers to a more complex understanding that traditions represent the history of a culture, and thus are not always shared by other cultures, provided them with the vocabulary necessary for helping students recognize their own taken-for-granted traditions—and, more importantly, to being open to considering the forms of intergenerational knowledge and skills that would enable them to live less consumer dependent lives and to reduce their ecological footprint. The critical pedagogy view of tradition, which is based on a non-critical acceptance of the Enlightenment derived analogs that have framed the meaning of tradition for hundreds of years and has been used to justify the cultural colonization of other groups, leaves teachers with a limited and thus distorted vocabulary for introducing their students to the many ways traditions are misunderstood—including the ecological and political implications of these misunderstandings. The point was emphasized that if students were socialized to view traditions as impediments to progress they would lack the more complex understandings essential for distinguishing between what needs to be conserved and what needs be changed. This part of the course also provided the conceptual basis for the subsequent discussion of the nature of ecological intelligence and how to reinforce it through a community-centered and historically and ecologically informed curriculum.


Before taking on this complex and radically different view of intelligence, the class was asked to read a short selection from Alvin Gouldner’s book that focused on two critically important issues: the pattern of discourse that has been accorded high-status by academics and their students, and the ways in which printbased storage and communication reinforces abstract thinking and the taken-for-granted practice of assuming that the printed word has a universal meaning. The discussion of the “culture of critical discourse” brought out not only the rules that govern speech considered by the promoters of high status knowledge to be worthy of attention, and thus the patterns of discourse that are marginalized as not legitimate—which are mostly the discourse patterns of oral cultures; but also how these rules have been the basis for cultural colonization. The discussion of privileging print-based thinking and cultural storage led, in turn, to a discussion of the difference between oral cultures and to the role of face-to-face communication in sustaining the cultural commons. The discussion of the differences, which vary from culture to culture, between print-based thinking and communication and oral based thinking and communication brought out another aspect of cultural reproduction that teachers need to understand in order to help their students become aware of the differences. These differences are of major importance, as the distinction between literacy and illiteracy has been a primary way of distinguishing between modern cultural and traditional (“backward”) cultures. This distinction, in turn, has been used to colonize and thus exploit cultures represented as backward and thus in need of modernization (“colonization”). By representing oral cultures as backward, the possibility that they have taken different approaches to developing ecological intelligence that enabled them to live within the limits and possibilities of their bioregions has been ignored. Also discussed was how the long tradition of privileging print over the spoken word has contributed to the widespread indifference to the rapid disappearance of many of the world’s languages. These languages have not only served as storehouses of intergenerational knowledge of local ecosystems but also as examples of diverse cultural approaches to exercising ecological intelligence. The next topic in the course focused on how to understand the nature and importance of ecological intelligence and how to foster it in the various community contexts in which teachers would find themselves. The earlier discussions about how the language of the curriculum carries forward earlier ecologically uninformed patterns of thinking provided the core ideas for beginning to think about the nature of ecological intelligence. The tradition of western philosophy and political/economic theories going back to Plato, and reinforced in the writings of such current philosophers as Leo Strauss, Richard Rorty, and Mark Johnson–and by educational theorists ranging from Freire to Jean Piaget and Howard Gardner– has been based on the assumption that the individual is the basic social unit. This generalization, the students were told, should not be interpreted to mean that throughout western history there has been only one way of thinking about the nature and prospects of the individual. Indeed, in the feudal era the individual was understood as a subject, and in the writings of Locke, Rousseau, and John Stuart Mill the individual was represented as having political agency. The German romantics saw the individual as a source of creativity—while many of today’s educators (particularly in North America) view individuals as oppressed if they are not constructing their own ideas and values. While few students in the class possessed this historical understanding of the different ways individualism has been understood in theWest, they nevertheless had been socialized for years to the idea that society is made up of individuals, and that their task is to contribute to the greater autonomy and thus self-direction of the student. Today, this view of the individual is taken-for-granted by vast numbers of people who possess only a surface knowledge of current political and environmental issues, and whose limited knowledge too often has been derived from media demagogues—yet assume that their judgments are beyond questioning. In spite of how widespread this phenomenon has become, the students in the class initially did not question whether promoting the idea that individuals should construct their own ideas might be contributing to undermining the democratic process itself. The class was asked to consider whether the emphasis on individual autonomy too often leads to ignoring that democratic decision making is predicated on citizens possessing a deep knowledge of the issues and a capacity to engage in a far ranging discussion that is mindful of the need to conserve previous gains in social justice and of what contributes to an ecologically sustainable future. If I teach the course again, I will use the current widespread indifference to basing political judgments on an in-depth knowledge of the issues as an example of double bind thinking, and point out that today’s anti-intellectualism and friend/enemy approach to politics cannot be accounted for in


terms of a missing or defective gene, and therefore must be accounted for in terms of the miseducation that occurs in the home, school, and the media. Laying the conceptual basis for understanding the nature of ecological intelligence, and why classroom teachers should help students recover the capacity to think of themselves in terms of the quality of their relationships with others, including the natural systems they are nested in, is one of the most difficult and unrecognized challenges facing teacher educators. I introduced the idea of ecological intelligence by having the students read a short selection from Gregory Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind and the chapter I wrote titled “Educating for Ecological Intelligence” which had been influenced by several key ideas derived from Bateson’s explanation of how both humans and non-human participants in the cultural and natural ecosystems respond to the information conveyed through the changes in the patterns that connect—ranging from the genetic level to changes in behaviors in plants, animals, and humans—even in the larger systems such as changes in the chemistry of the world’s oceans as well as the responses of plants and animals to changes in their habitats. One of Bateson’s distinctive contributions to understanding the layered and interactive nature of ecosystems of which cultures are a part, and thus to understanding the nature of ecological intelligence, was to point out that the sources of information circulating through an ecosystem and between different interacting ecosystems are the differences which make a difference. Following Bateson’s basic insight, differences were explained as basic units of information that we respond to, unless our cultural ways of thinking condition us to ignore them—such as being oriented to the importance of our subjective feelings and ideas or being cut off from what we could learn from our senses because we are engaged in texting and cell phone communication with others. The most easily understood examples include how differences in the non-verbal patterns of communication are the differences that make a real difference in how relationships are understood and responded to, and how we give attention to the differences which make a difference when driving in traffic. A quote from Gary Snyder brings out how in the natural world differences make a difference in the response of other beings: The world is watching: one cannot walk through a meadow or forest without a ripple of report spreading from one’s passage. The thrush darts back, the jay squalls, the beetle scuttles under the grasses, and the signal is passed along. The information passed through the system is intelligence. The Practice of the Wild, p. 19. What Snyder refers to as “information” are the differences which make a difference—and what he calls “intelligence” are the responses to the differences (changes in the behavior ) in the relationships that move through the system. Bateson’s point is that while we are socialized to think in terms of the Cartesian pattern that separates the individual from the world being acted upon (the mind/body separation), but in reality the differences taking place in the environment we are interacting with affect our responses—even when we continue to think that we are acting on a world that is non-intelligent (that is, incapable of responding to the information flowing through the local ecosystem). As Bateson put it, the unit of intelligence is the individual plus the environment. He goes on to explain that the unit of survival is not the rational and autonomous individual but the system as a whole. The challenge in this part of the course was to provide examples that the teachers could use in their own classrooms to help students recognize that their everyday experiences always involve relationships and the patterns that reflect how different systems are self-sustaining while being part of larger systems. I also pointed out that the emphasis on print based thinking, as well as other technologically based sources of abstract thinking, have the effect of reinforcing an attitude of indifference toward the information we receive through the senses. Our senses are especially attuned to being aware of the changes circulating throughout the cultural and natural ecosystems. I emphasized here that if the students are unaware of the multiple pathways of communication that connect them with the cultural and natural ecologies in which they are nested, they are unlikely to be aware of whether their responses have a constructive or destructive impact on the other participants in the interacting systems. In effect, being unaware is a difference that will


have an impact on the other participants and systems that make up the web of life. For example, we are just becoming aware of the consequences of our collective state of indifference to the billions of tons of carbon dioxide that have been absorbed by the world’s oceans are changing the chemistry of the water, which is a difference that is making a difference in the viability of the ocean’s food chain—which, in turn, is beginning to make a difference in the protein that people rely upon. The “ripple” effect, to use Snyder’s metaphor, will make a difference at the genetic level of the child’s physical and mental development. The following was briefly introduced as a way of helping teachers recognize how they might be obstructing or reinforcing the students’ ability to exercise ecological intelligence. (A) Ways in which ecological intelligence is undermined: 1. Reinforcing the idea that the student should seek to be more autonomous which occurs when students are encouraged to construct their own knowledge and values. 2. Reinforcing the pattern of thinking that represents plants, animals, people, events, data, and so forth as independent entities. 3. Reinforcing the idea that change is inherently progressive in nature, and that critical thinking is the engine of change. 4. Reinforcing the idea that the individual is an independent thinker, observer, and source of action on an external environment (the Cartesian mind/body separation). 5. Reinforcing the idea that traditions obstruct progress, that competition leads to the best ideas and plans of action, and that science and technology will solve all environmental problems. 6. Reinforcing the idea that words refer to real things and events, and can be universally generalized– and that there is such a thing as objective knowledge and data. (B) Ways in which the exercise of ecological intelligence is reinforced: 1. Encouraging students to recognize that life sustaining processes always involve relationships, including how ideas, values, events, behaviors, policy decisions and so forth are embedded in and influence interacting cultural and natural systems. The “difference which makes a difference” that Bateson says represents a basic unit of information is another way of saying that relationships are an inescapable aspect of life forming and sustaining processes. The nature of the relationships may also be driven by what he refers to as an ecology of bad or life destroying ideas and values. 2. Encouraging students to recognize that the language they take for granted is part of a linguistic ecology—that words have a history and that not recognizing this may lead to relying upon earlier ways of thinking that provided the conceptual basis for the Industrial Revolution that has now entered the digital phase of globalization. There is also a need to encourage students to identify culturally and ecologically informed analogs that will reframe the meaning of words and thus the students’ ability to consciously recognize the relationships that are ecologically unsustainable as well as those that are. 3. Encouraging students to recognize how abstract thinking marginalizes the need to give attention to the immediate context—and the patterns within different cultural and natural systems that connect. 4. Encouraging students to recognize that critical thinking has a role to play in the exercise of ecological intelligence. It should take into account both of what needs to be intergenerationally renewed and what needs to be radically changed. Students should be encouraged to examine how critical thinking is also used by corporations and other groups who want to advance their interests over what represents the common good. 5. Encouraging students to consider the differences between oral and print based forms of cultural storage and communication—especially how these differences take account of local cultural and natural systems contexts. 6. Encouraging students to shift from thinking of themselves as autonomous actors and observers of an external social and environmental world to basing their self-identity on how their relationships contribute to the well-being of others in both the cultural and natural ecologies they are embedded in. The point was made that the way to keep these issues in mind is to give close attention to the language in the curriculum and in classroom discussions. It was also emphasized that these two sessions on ecological


intelligence represented only an introduction, and that by giving attention to mentoring relationships they would gain a better understanding of the role that moral reciprocity plays in exercising ecological intelligence. In moving to another set of curricular and pedagogical issues, this time expanding on the earlier introduction to how the local cultural commons needs to become part of the curriculum, the focus was shifted to how to engage students in community-centered activities that represent in many instances the daily practice of ecological intelligence. This generalization is qualified by the phrase “in most instances” as there are examples of the cultural commons that carry forward prejudices and forms of exploitation. In the earlier discussions of the cultural commons the point was made that students should not be given a romanticized view that glosses over the need to exercise critical thought about which aspects of the intergenerational knowledge and skills not only meet today’s social justice standards but also reduce people’s dependence upon consumerism and the seemingly endless treadmill of trying to escape the consequences of going into debt in an era when lifetime employment can no longer be taken for granted. The readings for the next three meetings of the class included the chapter titled “The Classroom practice of Commons Education”, the chapter from Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy, and a chapter from Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. The readings focused on practical suggestions for how to integrate the local cultural commons into the curriculum—both in terms of learning about and participating in the cultural commons. Also discussed was how to understand the teacher’s mediating role in helping students become explicitly aware of the range of differences between their experiences in different cultural commons activities and their experiences in the consumer/industrial production areas of culture. Why I continually referred to the commons rather than community was clarified in the discussion of how to introduce students to the different forms of enclosure of the cultural and environmental commons. The word community is usually used in a manner that does not bring out the tension between what is shared in common and the market and ideological forces that undermine the common good. While none of the readings addressed directly the social justice issues, this was the part of the course that provided ecologically and culturally informed ways of meeting on the local level what Franklin D. Roosevelt called the Second Bill of Rights, which was presented as part of his State of the Union Address in 1944. Social justice issues largely revolve around issues of discrimination which lead to being caught in the cycle of poverty, limited opportunities in the areas of employment, housing, education, and activities related to the development of talents and skills. These limitations were what the Second Bill of Rights was intended to rectify. Given the global changes in ecosystems and corporate controlled economic/technological developments that undermine the possibility of achieving the social justice agenda outlined by President Roosevelt, the strategy that seems to have the most promise is the revitalization of the cultural and natural commons. Before engaging students in a discussion of how to integrate the cultural commons into the curriculum, it was necessary to provide an overview of the different forms of intergenerational knowledge and skills, ranging from food and healing practices to the creative arts and civil liberties (that is, all aspects of community that are less dependent upon the market economy and that meet current social justice standards). There were several points that needed special emphasis: (1) that automation and outsourcing were leading to fundamental changes in the economy that would lead to high levels of unemployment and that would make part- time employment the new norm; (2) that participating in different areas of the cultural commons leads to the development of personal skills, interests, and sense of community. This, in turn, should lead to a different understanding of wealth—thus helping to break the industrial induced addiction to consumerism and associating wealth with the amount of money that one accumulates; (3) that while there would still be a need for an income, participating in the local cultural commons would also lead to meeting needs through the less-monetized economy of the commons.; (4) that changing from a consumer-dependent to a community-centered lifestyle of mutual support and engagement would have a smaller adverse impact on the natural environment. It was also emphasized that addressing social justice issues in a way that focused on the individual and her/his need to become an equal participant in the middle class consumer lifestyle would not meet the need for community, for developing talents and skills valued by others in the community—and would certainly not slow the rate of environmental degradation already affecting hundreds of millions of lives.


The following suggestions for how to integrate the cultural commons into the curriculum were discussed. 1.






Introducing the cultural commons must include descriptions of the various local activities, how they are culturally diverse, and how they are being enclosed—which can lead to in-depth analysis of modern forces that are market oriented and driven by misconceptions and silences in the educational process. The students introduction should also be experientially based—where they are encouraged to do auto-ethnographies of their own cultural commons experiences, as well as engage in surveys of the largely non-monetized activities and relationships in the community. Participating in these groups will lead to mentoring relationships that will contribute to students acquiring many of the competencies that Rolf Jucker has identified as essential to an ecologically sustainable future. (Available at <rolf.jucker@sub-fee,ch>) The approach should be based on a phenomenological description of culturally embodied experiences rather than on print based descriptions. It is more a matter of identifying mentors, the complexity and interdependency of social networks,, as well as making explicit the student’s experience of community when involved in different areas of cultural commons. Helping students become explicitly aware of the differences in their culturally embodied experiences (including discovering interests, developing talents, participating in community supportive relationships) as they move between engagement in some area of the cultural commons and in a monetized work setting is essential to developing the language necessary for clarifying the differences and for exercising communicative competence in resisting further forms of enclosure. Teachers need to understand their mediating role in helping students become explicitly aware of the difference between their experience in the cultural commons and in monetized relationships. This involves knowing what questions to ask students about the taken-for-granted nature of their experiences. It also involves not prescribing what the students should think before the relationships and ecological impacts have been fully explored—hopefully, this may lead students to recognize aspects of the scientific/industrial culture that are making positive contributions to humankind and to living more ecologically sustainable lives. Creating close alliances with different groups engaged in sustaining different aspects of the cultural commons will help to provide mentoring relationships that will contribute to the students’ competencies.

While each of these suggestions deserved a more in-depth discussion than allowed by the time constraints of the course, special attention was given to what is involved in being a cultural mediator who helps students make explicit what is not otherwise recognized as they move seamlessly from cultural commons to market/consumer experiences. Special attention was given to how to help students recognize what they otherwise take-for-granted, and to helping them to give voice to these differences—which in turn leads to their acquiring the vocabulary necessary for exercising communicative competence in resisting various forms of enclosure. The problem of how to avoid turning the teacher’s cultural mediating role into a process of indoctrination was discussed, as were the different forms of enclosure. The enclosure (transformation) by market forces was introduced in Klein’s chapter, and the ways in which print-based thinking, and how it differs from the oral communication so central to the intergenerational renewal of the cultural commons was, introduced in the chapter from Ong’s book. In the session on how the Orwellian use of political language now dominates the American political scene began with most of the students in the class identifying themselves as liberals. They had not considered that the people widely mislabeled as conservatives are actually in the market liberal tradition that is chiefly responsible for transforming both the cultural and environmental commons into new market opportunities, and are the primary sources of resistance to addressing the ecological crisis. The reading of David Brooks’ article presented an Edmund Burke interpretation of conservatism that is consistent with the values and practices of the cultural commons, and that is also consistent with the environmental/community conservatism of Wendell Berry. Reading the key chapter in Lakoff’s book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, provided an example of how the failure to recognize that words, including political terms, have a history that can lead to confused and thus ecologically problematic thinking.


Given that there are many people who still deny that there is an ecological crisis, it was thought necessary to engage the class in a discussion of how a commons-approach to curriculum reform might be viewed by different groups in the community. One of the chief characteristics of participating in the cultural commons, by its very nature, limits the need to be a consumer—of fuel, processed food, the latest style of clothes, the newest computer-based technologies, drugs and medical services, commercialized sources of entertainment, and so forth. The local chamber of commerce, as well as other members of the community whose lives depend upon “growing” the local economy and who are already aware that their economic world is changing in ways they are unprepared for, may claim that integrating the cultural commons into the curriculum, helping students clarify the ecological as well as differences in personal experiences between cultural commons and consumer based experiences, are examples of socialist or even communist indoctrination. What is brought out in the chapter from the online book, Transforming Environmental Education, is that as teachers involve the mentors who carry forward various cultural commons traditions they are building an important base of community support. The people who are passing on skills and mentoring students in various activities will recognize that the commons-oriented curriculum is not a form of indoctrination to a foreign ideology. A second recommendation was also discussed, which was the need for teachers to become informed about the environmental groups in the community, including the various churches that are beginning to promote the idea of environmental stewardship and ecologically informed activities in the community. In effect, the best way for teachers to protect themselves is to establish close working relationships with community members who are actively strengthening what Robert Putnam refers to as “social capital” and which I prefer to call “cultural wealth”. As it is difficult to become aware of the traditions of culture that are a taken-for-granted aspect of daily experience, I decided it would be important for the students to read Clifford Geertz’s description of “thick description” as it addresses directly what is often missing from the teacher’s professional preparation. We discussed how difficult it is for teachers to recognize their own taken-for-granted beliefs and practices, and the pedagogical pitfalls that need to be avoided when helping students give voice to the cultural patterns they were socialized to accept as part of their taken-for-granted world. One of the points that was probably not emphasized enough is how the teacher’s mediating role needs to avoid reinforcing the idea of individual autonomy. The process of making explicit the layers of taken-for-granted cultural assumptions and linguistic reproductions of past ways of thinking provides an opportunity for the teacher to bring to the attention of students how much of their embodied experience is culturally influenced. The last segment of the course returned to the question of what teachers need to understand about the differences between orality and literacy. As the schools in which they will be employed have largely adopted computer-mediated learning as the way to improve educational “outcomes”, the class discussed the differences between orality and literacy by considering whether computer-mediated learning fosters or inhibits the development of ecological intelligence—which is dependent upon face-to-face communication rather than the abstract patterns of thinking reinforced by computers. The list of issues included the following: 1. Computer mediated thinking and communication reinforce the conduit view (the sender/receiver) view of language. Thus, computer mediated thinking makes it difficult to recognize that words are metaphors, and that they have a history rooted in specific cultural ways of thinking that can be traced to the past. The current idea being promoted in many countries is that students should use computers as the primary resource for constructing their own knowledge. This approach to educational reform ignores that the culture/metaphor/thought connections are hidden by the conduit view of language (the sender/receiver pattern of communication) that computers reinforce. 2. The educational uses of computers, as well as in other settings, involve the encounter of the user (e.g. the student) with the mind of the people who wrote the program. It is not an encounter with an objective representation of some aspect of “reality”. 3. Only explicit forms of knowledge can be digitized—and these will reflect the interpretive framework of the observer. That is, the aspects of cultural experience that are taken for granted, as well as tacit understandings and the lived context of human with human, and human relationships with the natural environment, cannot be digitized. Even videos are unable to represent personal





memory, taken for granted patterns of thinking, and other internal states of consciousness. In a twist in the Cartesian mind/body separation, the visual and audio dimensions of experience that can be digitized are limited to the aspects of embodied experience that are accessible to the outside observer, which will be influenced in turn by the assumptions that the observer brings to the relationship. What the outside observer cannot digitize are the internal states of consciousness— including the Other’s way of thinking of self-identity. Computer mediated learning and communication carries forward the gains and losses associated with the tradition of print-based storage and communication. Like other uses of print, computers reinforce abstract thinking and communication, which leads to assuming that print-based representations of reality can be generalized across cultures. Educational software programs are based on the taken for granted patterns of thinking of the people who create them—and often reinforce the assumptions that further impede the process of relational thinking that is an aspect of ecological intelligence. There are many positive ways in which computers can be used: to map green spaces in the community, represent energy and toxic flows in the environment, and connect members of the community who are engaged in sustaining the local cultural commons.

Instead of having students write a final paper, they were asked to work in groups and to develop examples of model curricula that were informed by the ideas they encountered in the readings and class discussion. Concluding Observations: What was distinctive about the course was the focus on educational reforms that begin to address the deep cultural roots of the ecological crisis—with the major focus being on how the language of the curriculum too often carries forward the earlier deep cultural assumptions and analogs that provided conceptual direction to the industrial/consumer/individualistic lifestyle that is rapidly degrading the self-renewing capacity of natural systems. The other major focus was on how the existence of the local cultural commons provides part of the answer of how to rebuild community while at the same time reducing our carbon and toxic footprint. I avoided taking the students on a tour of other approaches to curriculum reform that fail to address the connections between the ecological crises and the need to revitalize the mutual support systems within communities. A number of key ideas were introduced in ways that are likely to guide the teachers’ classroom decisions. Hopefully, the students in the class will remember the following: that the language in the curriculum is largely metaphorical and has a history, that there is a connection between individualism, consumerism, and the ecological crisis, and that promoting ecological intelligence requires becoming aware of the many ways that individualism is reinforced in the classroom and in the dominant culture generally— and that ecological intelligence involves, in part, giving close attention to interactive patterns within local contexts, I say hopefully, as the prior socialization by their professional and non-professional-oriented professors, as well as the socialization to the taken-for-granted culture of the school in which they will find themselves, have a powerful reality shaping influence. If students taking this class introduce these reform proposals into their own classes, engage other teachers in a discussion of the language, cultural commons and ecological intelligence issues, and involve members of the community in discussions about the deep cultural changes that must be undertaken then the class will have been a success. About the Author – Currently professor emeritus, Portland State University and Courtesy Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon. List of commercial and university press publications available on website, as well as the five online books that are available as part of the cultural commons.


May 9th, 2010

Catlin Gabel School—a Focus on Food By Eric Shawn and George Zaninovich The interdisciplinary study of food has emerged as a theme in sustainability education at Catlin Gabel School, an independent, co-educational school with 725 students in preschool through 12th grade in Portland, Oregon. The focus on food—a necessity for human life, and a subject of much recent thinking worldwide in terms of sustainability—touches many disciplines across the school and touches our learners from age 4 to 18. A Big Step in Thinking About Sustainability: The Natural Step Framework The school has long identified sustainability as an important direction. This direction received an important boost during the spring of 2007, when more than 45 community members participated in a series of half-day workshops on the socio-ecological principles of the Natural Step framework. Natural Step posits that in a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust, concentrations of substances produced by society, or degradation by physical means, and people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their ability to meet their needs. During the series of engaging workshops, teachers and staff members from each school division, Middle and Upper school students, parents, alumni, and trustees chose to explore one of three topics: facilities, food service, and curriculum. Food appeared as a key theme in each of these topic groups. Facilities Catlin Gabel’s current effort to achieve “Zero Waste by 2012” had its birth during the Natural Step process, in the facilities topic workshop. Right after the workshop, as a first step toward eliminating its contribution to concentrations of substances produced by society, the school started removing food waste from items sent to the landfill. By the spring of 2008, landfill contributions had fallen from 70.23 tons per year to 46.35 tons. By the spring of 2009, landfill contributions had fallen even further—to 32.49 tons—as shown in the chart below. These figures are determined by our janitors, who weigh each school division’s landfill contributions daily and record the weights on a clipboard log sheet. Data from the log sheets is transferred to an electronic spreadsheet for monthly reporting to all students, teachers, and staff members. Students participate in the Zero Waste by 2012 initiative as part of their experiential education.


Since 2006-2007 landfill contributions have trended downward. Recycling was the focus of year one. Composting was the focus of year two. Year three is focused on purchasing. Food Service Catlin Gabel began analyzing and altering its food source selections based on Natural Step principles after the food service workshop. The school began listing its food sources on the schoolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s internal website, and posting lunch menus on the external website at http://www.catlin.edu/. Current food sources include eggs and produce from a nearby small farm and fruit from Parkdale and Scio, Oregon. Organic potatoes and winter squash come from a farm in Hillsboro, Oregon. Grass-fed lamb is sourced from Canby, Oregon, and beef from Scio, Oregon. These food sources are all within 150 miles of the campus. In a big change from previous practices, the food service began using washable dinnerware instead of throwaways. In the cafeteria area, housed in a former barn (and called the Barn), students have learned to separate food waste from recyclables and the landfill contributions in a series of containers. The Barn kitchen separates out pre-consumer vegetable trimmings, which are then fed to chickens and goats. In an unusual departure from the norm, Catlin Gabel has established a small herd of goats on campus for management of invasive plants. The goats also serve as a learning tool, as students help grounds staff move the goats from area to area during campus days.

Post-consumer food waste goes into the school's hot compost system, which was designed and built by the grounds staff. Finished compost is used in raised beds at the Middle School garden.

Members of the grounds staff monitor the health of the goats. Catlin Gabel has also considered the transportation component of food deliveries and its resulting impact on local air quality. Rather than separating food-related transportation from employee commute trips, the school tracks the total number of vehicles entering campus. Students receive weekly reports estimating the carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles that come onto the campus. Employees who use alternative forms of transportation receive a $1 per day credit for food in the cafeteria. As a result, 7,426 commuters used alternative transportation in 2008-09, and 15,389 fewer vehicles entered campus than in the previous year. Curriculum Although sustainability education has been part of the curriculum for some time, the effort to publicly present sustainability education at Catlin Gabel School began with the Curriculum and Educational Program topic group during the Natural Step workshop.


Monthly emails to all students and teachers raise awareness about the comparative amount of waste that each division generatesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;which the school hopes also creates impetus for change. Throughout the 1990s, fourth grade faculty members led by example through efforts to recycle copy paper, and Middle School faculty members led Can-Dow-Ment, an endowment funded through collections of refundable bottles and cans. Winterim, the Upper School experiential learning week, often touches on themes of food, including one workshop in 2006 that explored sustainability in the city of Portland. Students and teachers toured a local food co-op, pressed apples at a farmers market, and watched an discussed the film Future of Food. They also visited Hot Lips Pizza (a model of sustainable business practices) with owner David Yudkin, a Catlin Gabel parent, as well as Zenger Farm and the Permaculture Farm & Institute. Lower School Lower School students, grades one to five, take care of worm farms, and these worms find a good life in the garden and compost pile. During the 2009-10 school year to date the Lower School generated an average of 1.08 ounces of landfill waste per person per day, which is the lowest throughout the school. First grade students start seedlings to plant in the garden later in the spring and during early summer. Fourth grade students regularly compost, recycle, and reuse food and supplies for the classroom. Teachers have purchased dishes to wash and use during classroom celebrations. Fifth grade students follow the pitchfork to plate process. Working directly with farmers and businesses, children study different planting and farming methods, view packing plants, and follow food to their plates at home. Along the way students study the consumption of energy and the social and environmental choices that must be made along this journey. Middle School During April, Middle School students study food. They compare diets of families in different countries, economies, geographies, weather, nutrition, and life experience. Student research includes obesity and diabetes, agribusiness, global food supply, local food, GMO versus organic versus conventional food, and finally the carbon footprint of food. Farmers speak to students about their lives and work. Students hold a potluck where they make a dish from scratch and write the recipe as an essay, using only fresh, local (defined as within 150 miles from Portland) and organic ingredients. The rules are that their dish should be free of trans-fats, excessive salt, or sugar. Students present their dishes, the sources, and the carbon footprints before eating the meal. Sixth grade students are studying sources of food and diets around the world. Upper School The first part of the year-long Environmental Science and Policy course looks primarily at the creation, distribution, and consumption of food, largely in the United States but within a global context. This interdisciplinary course combines natural science, economics, politics, ethics, cultural studies and anthropology, statistics, behavioral psychology, and history. Upper School students in other science courses serve as scientific advisors to Middle School students working in their garden. Student scientific advisors amend the soil to maximize yield for each particular crop without using artificial chemicals. Finished compost from the campus hot compost process is used to fill the Middle School gardenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s raised beds.


Upper School students also view sustainability and food through an urban planning lens. Catlin Gabel’s PLACE Program (Planning and Leadership Across City Environments) uses urban planning as a tool to examine sustainability in the living laboratory of Portland, Oregon. Students form a consulting firm and complete a real-world planning project for a client, after learning about all facets of sustainability, including social equity. One class is teaming with graduate students in Portland State University’s Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning to plan and design four acres at Zenger Farm, a unique urban farm within Portland’s city limits. This is a unique project because the farm is a nonprofit situated in a food insecure neighborhood with a program that caters to youth involvement and immigrant farming. Students are gaining the opportunity to work on issues relating to access to healthy food, which is imperative for a sustainable and equitable community. Summary and Conclusions In summary, the focus on food is an emerging theme in sustainability education at Catlin Gabel School. This interdisciplinary focus appears in a variety of Lower, Middle, and Upper School courses, including science, history, economics, Spanish, and French. The food theme appears to be spontaneous and takes a variety of forms as individual teachers adapt sustainability education to the circumstances of their particular disciplines. In addition, the school’s food service plays a key role in bringing better food and sustainable practices regarding food to this unique educational community. About the Authors – Dr. Eric Shawn is facilities director at Catlin Gabel School and president-elect of the Oregon School Facilities Management Association. George Zaninovich is director of the school’s PLACE program.


May 9th, 2010

Higher Education for Sustainable Consumption: Concept and Results of a Transdisciplinary Project Course By Daniel Fischer and Marco Rieckmann

Overview We introduce the notion of sustainable consumption as a transdisciplinary challenge to higher education through the presentation of a concept seminar designed as a response to this challenge. The seminar aimed to equip students with the skills and competencies needed to design informal learning settings in close collaboration with campus service-providers (e.g. coffee shops, canteen, campus vegetable stall, bike repair shop) with the goal of incorporating sustainability principles into students’ experience while obtaining or consuming those services. The student projects were informed and guided by the didactic first phase of the seminar where transdisciplinary collaboration for sustainable development, informal learning theories, consumer competence models and project management were covered. Results of the project course comprise (a) self-reported competence increase in designing and providing settings for sustainable learning on side of the participating students, (b) highly visible imprints of sustainable consumption on the entire campus and (c) an increased awareness of the principles and objectives of sustainable consumption for the participating service-provider partners. Sustainable Consumption: A Transdisciplinary Challenge to Higher Education In 1992, Agenda 21 was passed in Rio de Janeiro, emphasizing the need to change unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. In chapter 36 of Agenda 21, formal and non-formal education are regarded as “indispensable to changing people’s attitudes” and “critical for achieving environmental and ethical awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behavior consistent with sustainable development” (UNCED, 1993: 36.3). This stance has been reaffirmed by the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the consequent launch of the UN world decade on Education for Sustainable Development to span from 20052014. The decade sets out to “to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning” (UNESCO, 2005: 6) and explicitly aims to develop “knowledgeable consumers who purchase goods with low lifecycle impacts and who use their purchasing power to support corporate social and environmental responsibility and sustainable business practices” (ibid.: 29). Education for sustainable consumption has become a central theme in efforts related to education for sustainable development and the promotion of sustainable production and consumption. (Within the UN 10-year framework on sustainable production and consumption in the so-called Marrakech process a task force led by Italy on Education for Sustainable Consumption has been established.) Educational organizations have an effect on consumption in two ways. On one hand, they can contribute with educational offers related to consumption that make us reflect and render our own consumption patterns more conscious. On the other, educational organizations by themselves are places where consumption takes place, for example at the university canteen or at cafeterias on campus. Most human learning is informal learning (Conlon, 2004) implying that a great deal of consumption-related learning in educational organizations happens along the way.


BINK is a German acronym for educational institutions and sustainable consumption; the project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (2008 – 2011). For further details, please consult the BINK website under www.consumerculture.eu Against this background, the research and development project BINK explores ways to transform universities into places that promote a more sustainable lifestyle among young adults by systematically aligning formal and informal learning processes. Using a transdisciplinary process, a team of interdisciplinary researchers and educational practitioners is developing a set of interventions and an accompanying empirical design to initiate, stabilize and evaluate change processes towards a “culture of sustainable consumption” in the participating educational organizations. The Leuphana University of Lüneburg is one of the six partner organizations in the project and the course case study presented here uses the BINK set of interventions. The project course was conceptualized to explore how consumption settings in the university context can be shaped and designed in order to stimulate informal learning processes on sustainable consumption. Such engagement with the “real world” calls for close collaboration between students, research supervisors and practitioners from the non-academic world. Not surprisingly, UNESCO’s 1998 working paper on putting ESD into practice was subtitled “a transdisciplinary vision for concerted action” (UNESCO, 1998). Transdisciplinarity can be distinguished from traditional forms of (action) research through a distinct perspective on the relation between research and praxis. In the concept of transdisciplinarity, any form of research demands “the inclusion of non-scientific actors into the processes of knowledge generation and implementation” (Luks & Siebenhüner, 2007: 419). Although transdisciplinarity research marks a “fuzzy and contested field” (Hirsch Hadorn et al., 2008: 27), four distinct concerns of transdisciplinarity can be distinguished: “First the focus on life-world problems; second the transcending and integrating of disciplinary paradigms; third participatory research; and fourth the search for unity of knowledge beyond disciplines.” (ibid.: 29)


Figure One: Model for transdisciplinary research processes (according to Bergmann & Jahn, 2008: 98) The process of transdisciplinary research (Figure 1) can be regarded as a cyclical and circular movement: the central initial stage is the formation of a common problem and the formation of a team. In the course of joint action, new knowledge is produced that relates to the practical problem of the life-world and to scientific research questions. Importantly, both strands impact their respective discourses and might again lead to the formation of new problems. Thus, a transdisciplinary approach is needed not just for operational and pragmatic, but for epistemological reasons as well. A strategic intervention in consumption settings requires addressing life-world problems, interests and references on the one hand as well as interdisciplinary scientific problems, interests and references on the other. Project Course Design The overarching objective of the project course was to enable students to plan and design informal learning settings that promote the acquisition of sustainable consumer competence. During the seminar, students conducted small research and development projects in close collaboration with partners in practice. The core feature of the projects involved developing, field testing and evaluating interventions that trigger informal learning processes leading to more sustainable consumption among the recipients. Table One: Characteristics of the project seminar Name of the course

“Education for Sustainable Consumption”


Daniel Fischer, Marco Rieckmann, Institute for Environmental and Sustainability Communication

Study program / area

Leuphana Bachelor, Major Environmental Sciences, 3rd semester


Winter term 2009/2010

Total number of students


Student home countries/sex

Ecuador (3), Germany (29) / female (18), male (14)

Course language


The seminar inputs were thoroughly designed and the seminar chronology carefully tuned in advance. Considerable effort was invested in acquiring financial resources and partners on campus for the students’ group work in the project phase of the seminar. For the results to become visible on campus, the selection criterion for cooperating partners was that the students be able to conduct their projects on campus together with providers of consumption-related offers (partners in practice).. This ensured that the divergent goals of the students’ projects were situated in and connected by the common framework of the university’s consumption premises. Special emphasis was given to the fields of “nutrition” and “mobility” that are also the main foci of intervention in the BINK project. These comprehensive preparations allowed third semester students to accomplish the complex and ambitious tasks within the given time frame.


Figure Two: Structure and chronology of the project course (PP = Partners in Practice, P1-7 = Student Projects, Organizing Responsibility: green = lecturers / yellow = students) The architecture of the seminar was structured in the three phases of input, project work and presentation and reflection (figure 2). In the first session, the seminar concept was presented and discussed with the students. Special emphasis was given to the clarification of the principles of transdisciplinary collaboration (figure 1) and project groups were formed. The project workshop in session five served as a first milestone in the project course. Here, the student groups presented their project ideas to the other groups and discussed these in class together with their partner in practice who had been invited to join this session by the lecturers. The inputs of the second, third and fourth session were designed as offers to support the genesis and further advancement of project ideas in the groups. While the input in session two provided an introductory orientation in the complex seminar field of sustainable consumption (Fischer, 2010a), the input in the third session focused on consumer competence and introduced a potential educational target figure for the construction of learning settings for sustainable consumption (Barth & Fischer, 2010). After the questions of “what” and “whereto” had been addressed, the input in the fourth session explored the question of “how” in the sense of potential ways to accomplish learning objectives. In this session, concepts of different learning theories and a typology of intervention techniques from environmental psychology were discussed. These interdisciplinary inputs supplied the students with instruments and orientational knowledge to further develop their project idea. Projects Seven students groups conducted separate projects to design informal learning settings for sustainable consumption. The projects are briefly portrayed below. Campus Vegetable Stall


This project group cooperated with a provider of regional, certified organic vegetables, who has her stall on campus every Tuesday. The project targeted two groups. On the one hand, the project sought to equip regular customers of the stall with orientational knowledge (Abel, 2008: 13) regarding regional and seasonal nutrition and to increase their readiness to experiment with and try out new recipes and alimentary practices.

Illustration 1: Food samples and personal communication On the other hand, it was purposed to raise non-customers’ awareness of regional, seasonal and organic food offers on campus and to remedy existing concerns or reservations about sustainable nutrition.

Illustration 2: Sustainable nutrition promotion day The student group designed measures of intervention and conducted a special promotion day at the vegetable stall. To stimulate non-personally transmitted knowledge acquisition, a seasonal calendar and product-related background information were provided. In addition to this, experience-driven techniques were applied. Samples of regional and seasonal food as well as give-aways (vegetables and fruit in a paper bag with imprinted slogans and catchy facts) were prepared and offered at the stall to raise both customers’ and non-customers’ awareness of sustainable alternatives to their usual dietary practices. In personal communication situations, individual barriers, as well as potential incentives, to following sustainable nutrition and food consumption were addressed. University Campus Canteen This project group cooperated with the caterer of the main canteen on campus. The project set out to tackle a communication problem that was mentioned by the catering staff based on the results of a survey in which customers of the canteen had been asked for their food preferences (Adomßent et al., 2007).


Illustration 3: Prompt at the self-service point issuing paper tissues and cups (translation: “3, 2, 1 – mine! Only take as much as you really need!” The communication problem lay in the fact that available options for sustainable consumption in the canteen are mostly unknown to the customers. The project also sought to address non-sustainable consumption practices observed in the main dining room, including low consumption of organic and vegetarian dishes and over-use of paper tissues and paper coffee cups. The main goals of this project, then, were to point out options for more sustainable consumption practices at the canteen and to communicate incentives for respective changes in other life spheres beyond the campus life (i.e. to trigger “spill-over”-effects).

Illustration 4: Promotion Leaflet for the “Veggie-Day” As part of their intervention, the student group conducted a special promotion day for vegetarian food (“Veggie-Day”) at the canteen. Posters, information leaflets and visual presentations were prepared to communicate options for more sustainable and less meat-based consumption at the canteen. To help reduce the high level of consumption of paper tissues and cups, short cues (“prompts”) were installed at the respective self-service points (“3, 2, 1, – mine! Only take as much as you really need”, illustration 4). A short survey combined with a lottery was conducted at the exit of the canteen to evaluate the perception and acceptance of the campaign among canteen users.

Bike Self-Repair Workshop KonRad

Illustration 5: Mobilizing cyclist KonRad is a student-run bike self-repair workshop on campus. The KonRad-group conducted the only project in the field of mobility. The project idea emerged from the group members’ diagnosis that cars are driven onto campus with no awareness of alternatives. The project pursued two goals: first, it sought to raise car-users’ awareness and knowledge of alternative mobility options and the advantages of more sustainable forms of moving to, on and from the campus site; second, to strengthen existing sustainable mobility practices, the project also targeted bike-riders on campus.


Illustration 6: “Service rather than sell” – Self-Repair Bike Workshop For the first target group the project group attached small information leaflets (in the form of bookmarks) onto the door handles of parked cars on campus. The leaflets contained information on carbon dioxide reduction and monetary savings that would result from switching to a bike. In a second intervention, leaflets were placed on the handlebars of parked bikes on campus, promoting and inviting to a free workshop day at the self-service bike-workshop on campus. The bike-owners were called on to bring their bikes and learn how to repair and service them. Food-Coop “KoKo” The KoKo-group cooperated with the student-run food cooperative “Corn Connection” (KoKo) on campus. Illustration 7: The new KoKo logo Two goals were pursued in the project. First of all, the project set out to inform students about the format of a food cooperative as an option for sustainable consumption. The second goal sought to raise the food cooperative members’ awareness in order to enable them to consider sustainability as a criterion in their purchasing decisions. For the first target group the project conducted a survey to examine the members’ knowledge of different sustainability issues. Based on the results, posters were designed and placed in the salesroom of the cooperative. In order to improve the external communications, a friendlier, more inviting and recognizable logo was designed. Illustration 8: The Koko Blog The visibility and accessibility of KoKo was increased by means of a public website (http://kornkonnection.wordpress.com) that allowed for interaction with potential new users. Nutrition-Coach “FoodYa” The FoodYa-group targeted the student-run web-portal “foodya” (http://www.foodya.de) in their project. The web-portal includes a “personal nutrition coach” directed at the student age-group. Illustration 9: Provocative CityCard “I only like German…” promoting regional and seasonal carrots It provides nutrition-related information and analyzes the users’ eating and activity-related behaviors from a health promotion perspective. More than 300 users are registered. The project aimed to incorporate the theme of sustainable nutrition into the web-portal. In order to trigger informal learning processes, short informational texts (e.g. on sustainability labels) and catchy facts (e.g. “Did you already know…”prompts) were placed on the homepage of the web-portal. In addition to this, the information on food


products, vegetables and fruits in the website’s database were supplemented by information on their seasonal and regional availability.

“Offline” target groups were approached with posters and postcards (gratis “city cards”) that conveyed provocative and startling messages. Campus Café 9 The Cafeteria-group pursued the goal of communicating and promoting sustainable consumption practices at the campus cafeteria “9”. This student group developed a label for sustainable products that was attached to shelves where seasonal, resource-saving, certified organic and fair trade products were offered for sale in the cafeteria. The label was launched with an awareness week in which students used demonstration and experience-based techniques (e.g. free food samples) while they informed customers on the label in personal conversations. Illustration 11: Sustainable Product Label. To raise consumers’ awareness of (un)sustainable consumption practices, a sign was placed in front of the paper cup stack which served to keep patrons from automatically grabbing a disposable coffee cup, thereby disrupting routine unsustainable actions. Illustration 12 : Prompt in front of the one-way paper. The sign provided information on potential savings of scarce resources that can be achieved by simply choosing reusable glass cups. During the awareness week, a reusable thermo-cup was offered for sale at a discount price.

Swap-Shop “The Onion” This student group cooperated with the student-run cafeteria on a smaller campus of the Leuphana University of Lüneburg.


Illustration 13: Students rebuilding the shop The room opposite to the cafeteria premises was formerly used as an office by the student council. Since the council had moved to the main campus, the room was abandoned. The project group received approval to use the room as a space for swapping and sharing consumer products, exempt from any charges, thereby dematerializing consumption Illustration 14: The grand opening of the swap-sho At the end of the project phase of the seminar, the first swap shop in LĂźneburg opened its doors. With great personal commitment and dedication the project group refurbished the room and equipped it with shelves and clothes racks. The grand opening party was advertized on campus and students were invited to bring things from home that they did not need anymore, but that still functioned perfectly. The swap shop is connected to the cafeteria and is open during the cafeteriaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s opening hours. Evaluation and Outlook A written evaluation was conducted as part of the regular course evaluation at the end of the term. Special attention was given to the self-reported acquisition of competencies among the participating students (figure 3). The results of the evaluation indicate that the seminar was successful in applying theoretical knowledge in practice and in equipping students with the skills and experiences needed to design and implement informal learning settings for sustainable consumption. The high score in the second reported item suggests that the extended periods of self-dependent project work have given rise to a high level of commitment and ownership among the students. The fact that students from the seminar joined the local steering committee of the project BINK at the Leuphana University strengthens this suggestion. The high score could also point to the transdisciplinary character of the work that involved considerable social and communicative efforts and thus led to a clearer understanding of the issue among the students (cf. Bergmann & Jahn, 2008).

The feedback from the participating partners points to an increase in the providersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; awareness of the principles and objectives of sustainable consumption. It is hoped that this growing awareness and the


highly visible imprints of sustainable consumption that have been generated on the entire campus will ensure that the seminar has a prolonged and sustainable impact of the seminar on the university’s “culture of consumption”. References Abel, G. (2008). Forms of Knowledge: Problems, Projects, Perspectives. In P. Meusburger, M. Welker, & E. Wunder (Eds.), Knowledge and Space: Vol. 1. Clashes of Knowledge. Orthodoxies and Heterodoxies in Science and Religion (pp. 11–33). Dordrecht: Springer. Adomßent, M., Albrecht, P., Barth, M., Burandt, S., Franz-Balsen, A., Godemann, J., et al. (2007). Sustainable University – eine Bestandsaufnahme. Lüneburg: Institut für Umweltkommunikation (INFU), Universität Lüneburg [available at: http://www.leuphana.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Forschungseinrichtungen/infu/files/pdf/infureihe/34_07.pdf (last retrieved: 02.03.2010)] Barth, M. & Fischer, D. (2010, forthcoming). Gestaltungskompetenz im Handlungsfeld Konsum: Entwicklung einer pädagogischen Zielgröße für Maßnahmen zur Förderung nachhaltigen Konsums Bergmann, M., & Jahn, T. (2008). CITY:mobil: A Model for Integration in Sustainability Research. In G. Hirsch Hadorn, H. Hoffmann-Riem, S. Biber-Klemm, W. Grossenbacher-Mansuy, D. Joye & C. Pohl, et al. (Eds.), Handbook of transdisciplinary research, Handbook of transdisciplinary research (pp. 89–102). Berlin: Springer. Conlon, T. J. (2004). A review of informal learning literature, theory and implications for practice in developing global professional competence. Journal of European Industrial Training, 28(2/3/4), 283–295. doi: 10.1108/03090590410527663 Fischer, D. (2010a, forthcoming). Sustainable Consumption – Mapping the Terrain: Contested Themes and their Representation in Consumer Education. The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, 6. Fischer, D. (2010b, forthcoming). Transdisciplinarity: A New Perspective for Partnership in Education? The Case of Cultural Change Towards Sustainable Consumption in Educational Organizations. In P. Masson, V. Baumfield, K. Otrel-Cass, & M. Pilo (Eds.), (Re)thinking Partnership in Education / (Re)penser le partenariat en Education (bilingual publishing). Lille: Book Edition. Hirsch Hadorn, G., Biber-Klemm, S., Grossenbacher-Mansuy, W., Hoffmann-Riem, H., Joye, D., & Pohl, C., et al. (2008). The Emergence of Transdisciplinarity as a Form of Research. In G. Hirsch Hadorn, H. Hoffmann-Riem, S. Biber-Klemm, W. Grossenbacher-Mansuy, D. Joye & C. Pohl, et al. (Eds.), Handbook of transdisciplinary research (pp. 19–39). Berlin: Springer. Luks, F., & Siebenhüner, B. (2007). Transdisciplinarity for social learning? The contribution of the German socio-ecological research initiative to sustainability governance. Ecological Economics, 63(2-3), 418–426. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2006.11.007 UNCED – United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1993). Agenda 21: Programme of action for sustainable development, Rio declaration on environment and development; statement of forest principles. the final text of agreements negotiated by governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), 3-14 June 1992, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. New York: UN Department of Public Inf. [available at: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/documents/agenda21/english/Agenda21.pdf (last retrieved: 01.02.2010)]


UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (1998). Educating for a Sustainable Future: A Transdiciplinary Vision for Concerted Action. Paris. [available at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0011/001106/110686eo.pdf (last retrieved: 01.02.2010)] UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2005). International Implementation Scheme: United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). Paris. [available at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001403/140372e.pdf (last retrieved: 01.02.2010)] About the Authors –Daniel Fischer is a trained school teacher, holds a masters degree in “Education Management and School Development” and works as a research fellow at the Institute of Environmental and Sustainability Communication (INFU) of the Leuphana University of Lüneburg. Daniel is coordinating the transdisciplinary research and development project BINK (Educational Institutions and Sustainable Consumption, http://www.consumerculture.eu). In the project and in his PhD research in the social sciences he is facilitating and studying organizational change processes towards a culture of sustainable consumption in educational organizations. Daniel teaches and does research in the fields of education for sustainable development, sustainable consumption and sustainable school development and school/university culture. Marco Rieckmann is an environmental scientist and works as a research fellow at the Institute of Environmental and Sustainability Communication (INFU) of the Leuphana University of Lüneburg. In his PhD research he is exploring “The Global Perspective of Education for Sustainable Development – An Intercultural Delphi Study about Key Competencies for Thinking and Acting Globally in the World Society”. Marco teaches and does research in the fields of education for sustainable development/global education, sustainability in the academic context, sustainability in the north-south-dialogue, informal learning and development theories and policy.


May 9th, 2010

Un Nuevo Concept Dentro Del Derech Ambiental: “Los Derechos de la Naturaleza” By Carla Cardenas A nivel del derecho ambiental y su evolución vale la pena analizar un salto cuántico que ha dado la Constitución ecuatoriana. Es el hecho de otorgar, como un hecho sui generis, derechos a un bien y ya no solamente a una persona. Es así que el art. 71 de la nueva constitución ecuatoriana aprobada en el 2008, establece derechos para la naturaleza de la siguiente manera: “La naturaleza o Pacha Mama donde se produce y realiza la vida, tiene derecho a que se respete integralmente su existencia y el mantenimiento y regeneración de sus ciclos vitales, estructura, funciones y procesos evolutivos”. Además establece la exigibilidad del cumplimiento de estos derechos a toda persona, comunidad, pueblo o nacionalidad y recurre a los principios ambientales para que se puedan aplicar los mencionados derechos. La historia de los derechos nos llevan a comprender las grandes eras de la aparición de los mismos: la primera en la que se generaron los derechos humanos producto de la lucha de toda una generación para que se reconozcan presupuestos mínimos de respeto a las personas como tales, a su integridad física, psicológica y a su ser. Posteriormente la historia nos revela la lucha por el reconocimiento de los derechos básicos para una vida con dignidad de las personas, como la educación, la salud, los derechos laborales, entre otros de suma importancia para que un individuo, hombre o mujer viva con dignidad; estos son los llamados Derechos Económicos y Sociales (DESCS). Después vemos que la humanidad consigue pasar de ese reconocimiento que recae en el individuo hacia el reconocimiento de derechos colectivos, es decir establecidos para un grupo de personas o para una colectividad, que se basan en el hecho de que si le afectan a uno le afectan a todos-as; dentro de éstos están los derechos ambientales, o los derechos de los Pueblos y Nacionalidades Indígenas. Este era hasta hace poco el mayor avance en el campo de los derechos, y como se puede apreciar eran reconocidos a favor de personas, hombres, mujeres, niños y niñas que por su sola existencia los “hacía nacer”, que por su solo hecho de ser seres humanos los generaba como tales. Los estados deben protegerlos y son irrenunciables. A nivel internacional se avanzó con los varios convenios internacionales en establecer principios para el derecho ambiental, de extrema importancia pues han logrado marcar los objetivos de la legislación ambiental e influir en los sistemas jurídicos nacionales. Principios como los de “precaución”, “prevención”, “el que contamina paga” son ahora parte de la mayoría de ordenamientos jurídicos de nuestros países.


Es así que las varias constituciones de Latinoamérica recogen los principios y derechos ambientales, pero ninguna llega a establecer derechos para la naturaleza, veamos varias de las constituciones de Latinoamérica para reflexionar sobre su alcance: Bolivia reconoce en el Art. 33 el derecho a un ambiente saludable, protegido y equilibrado; manifiesta que es deber del Estado conservar, proteger y aprovechar de manera sustentable los recursos naturales y la biodiversidad, así como mantener el equilibrio del medio ambiente. En el Art. 347 hace énfasis en evitar, minimizar, mitigar, remediar, reparar y resarcir los daños al ambiente (Art. 347) y al aprovechamiento sustentable de los recursos naturales (Art. 380). Es importante mencionar que los recursos naturales en Bolivia son de propiedad y administración exclusiva del Estado. Bolivia además dedica capítulos especiales para los temas de la amazonía, biodiversidad, áreas protegidas, tierras forestales. Dentro de los derechos de Pueblos Indígenas se establece el derecho a la administración de los recursos naturales y a vivir en un ambiente sano con un manejo adecuado de los ecosistemas. (Art. 30) Es interesante la Constitución pues menciona a los bosques como recursos estratégicos para el desarrollo. Perú, en el Art. 2 de la Constitución establece el derecho a un ambiente sano y equilibrado. Reconoce como patrimonio de la nación a los recursos naturales y establece los derechos de aprovechamiento de éstos para los particulares, de acuerdo a la legislación nacional. (Art. 66).Establece como obligación del Estado la de proteger la diversidad biológica y las áreas protegidas naturales. (Art. 68). Colombia, establece el derecho de todas las personas a vivir en un ambiente sano (Art, 79) y establece como un deber del Estado el de proteger la diversidad e integridad del ambiente, conservar las áreas de especial importancia ecológica y fomentar la educación para el logro de sus fines. Obliga también al Estado a planificar y manejar el aprovechamiento sustentable de los recursos naturales y prevenir y controlar los factores de deterioro ambiental. (Art. 80). Venezuela en su Constitución, Art. 127, establece como derecho el de disfrutar de una vida y de un ambiente seguro, sano y ecológicamente equilibrado; así mismo establece como obligación de las personas la de proteger y mantener el ambiente. Obliga al Estado a proteger el ambiente, la diversidad biológica, los recursos genéticos, los procesos ecológicos, los parques nacionales y monumentos naturales y demás áreas de especial importancia ecológica. Chile, en el Art. 19 numeral 8, establece el derecho a vivir en un ambiente libre de contaminación. Establece como un deber del Estado velar para que este derecho no sea afectado y tutelar la preservación de la naturaleza. Argentina, en su art. 41 establece el derecho de los ciudadanos de acceder a un ambiente sano, ecológicamente equilibrado, apto para el desarrollo humano. Señala que hay una obligación de recomponer los ecosistemas afectados por el daño ambiental y obliga al Estado a proteger este derecho; además lo obliga a promover el uso racional de los recursos naturales, preservar el patrimonio natural y la diversidad biológica, la educación y acceso a la información ambiental. Como se puede apreciar las diversas constituciones marcan un claro enfoque sobre el derecho “de las personas” a un ambiente sano. A pesar de que se hace énfasis en las obligaciones de restitución, protección, conservación de los ecosistemas, ninguna concede derechos a la naturaleza. Es así que los derechos de la


naturaleza, en sí y conceptualmente corresponden a un avance significativo en la historia del derecho ambiental, que aunque rompiendo esquemas han marcado un gran paso para la conservación. Analizando un poco más a fondo el tema, señalaremos que el sujeto de éste derecho, ya no es una persona si no una cosa, bien, objeto por llamar así a la naturaleza. Por primera vez el concepto de “derecho” se establece para un objeto haciendo un merecido reconocimiento a la importancia que tiene la naturaleza para el mantenimiento de la vida humana. Otra cosa distinta es quien hace exigible el derecho, por supuesto que una persona lo tendrá que hacer en determinado momento. En derecho penal se habla mucho de los “bienes jurídicamente protegidos”, pues el derecho penal busca proteger estos bienes en función de que la sociedad se desenvuelva armónicamente; por ejemplo, protege la vida, la libertad, la intimidad. El derecho penal ambiental protege la salud de personas, animales, y la conservación de los ecosistemas. Es la máxima y enérgica expresión para poder asegurar la armónica relación en una sociedad y el respeto a la naturaleza. Pero, incluso ese derecho penal ambiental tiene una razón de ser en los derechos de las personas, de la salud, de evitar pérdidas de vidas por la contaminación, de evitar acciones en contra de los ecosistemas. No ha estado basado en las cosas, si no en las personas. Un derecho debe ser de aplicación directa e inmediata, no cabe la excusa de inexistencia de norma para aplicarla y, en caso de dudas lo que prima es la vigencia del derecho. El Estado está obligado a garantizar la vigencia y respeto de los derechos, usando la institucionalidad, los sistemas jurídicos y la justicia en este cometido. El reto está ahora en la aplicabilidad, pues de lo contrario quedarán los derechos de la naturaleza en un mero enunciado, sin que tenga aplicación efectiva y sentará precedentes para que ningún otro país se atreva a asumirlos. Las Leyes que se elaboren en lo posterior deberán tratar de “cuidar a toda costa la vigencia de este derecho”. (Mucho se ha criticado a la Constitución ecuatoriana en cuanto al hecho de que en un capítulo se ha establecido los derechos de la naturaleza y en otro se establece por ejemplo la posibilidad de explotación de petróleo y minería en áreas protegidas, en el caso de que sean proyectos de interés nacional. Este hecho pone a nivel constitucional, un conflicto y debate entre los derechos de la naturaleza y el interés nacional, y además le resta importancia al hecho de haber establecido derechos para la misma.) Por lo tanto tienen que llegar a definirse a mediano plazo varios temas como los siguientes: • En caso de conflictos entre derechos, ¿cuál primaría?. • ¿Cuáles son los procedimientos para garantizar la vigencia de los derechos de la naturaleza?. ¿Cómo van a actuar Jueces y magistrados?. • ¿Qué legislación, normas deben eliminarse o adecuarse para la correcta vigencia del derecho?. Se trata de algunos aspectos a los que habrá que ir dando respuesta en el camino y en el que el Ecuador es un actor protagónico. About the Author – Carla Cárdenas, es Doctora en Jurisprudencia, Magister en Manejo Comunitario de Recursos Naturales y Máster en Bioética y Derecho, Docente del Instituto de Potsgrado en Ciencias Internacionales de la Universidad Central del Ecuador. Ha trabajado por varios años en temas de derecho ambiental y ha liderado la Red Latinoamericana de Derecho Forestal y Ambiental; actualmente es Directora Ejecutiva de la Sociedad Ecuatoriana de Derecho Forestal y Ambiental, y; Coordinadora Nacional de la Iniciativa Nacional del FSC en el Ecuador.


May 9th, 2010

Sustainability and Schools: Educating for Interconnection, Adaptability, and Resilience By Greg Smith In my home state of Oregon it’s impossible to pick up the daily paper and not encounter some article that deals with concerns about environmental or social sustainability. With climate change, dramatically increasing energy costs, economic instability, and growing worries about the availability and cost of food, journalists and the public are at last paying attention to issues that for decades were pushed to the margins of the nation’s collective consciousness. This shift in public awareness has yet to have much impact on American schools where a preoccupation with testing remains the central concern of the day. This should not surprise us. Education tends to follow social trends rather than initiate them. Given the rapidity with which changes are occurring in the environment and the economy, however, schools may need to take a more active role in preparing young people to address challenges posed by a warmer and oilstrapped world. All of our futures could well depend on their capacity to respond to these new conditions with intelligence and a spirit of generosity and compassion. Fortunately, some educators are now adopting teaching approaches that promise to help young people grapple with the dilemmas of civic involvement and problem solving. Few teachers explicitly address climate change, rising fuel prices, or food shortages head-on; what they do instead is create learning experiences that engage students in community issues while preparing them to become actors more than consumers or victims. I believe that these educators are laying the foundations of an education for sustainability and equity. What I find reassuring is the frequency with which I encounter these educational innovators. In the first few months of 2008, I heard stories about three schools where students are being drawn into experiences that demonstrate young people’s capacity to problem solve and act. They represent the possible and demonstrate what thoughtful educators can accomplish despite funding dilemmas or the constraints of No Child Left Behind. The first is from the Oregon City School for Service Learning, at the end of the Oregon Trail just south of Portland.[1] Students had been complaining about the awful taste of the drinking water at the school. Interested in creating service learning opportunities that didn’t require transportation dollars, teachers encouraged them to do something about it. The Oregon City students contacted the South Fork Water Board and asked for their help in conducting a variety of water tests. To their surprise, they discovered that the water contained high levels of copper—safe but unpleasant to drink. They assumed that the source of the copper was old plumbing in the building. Students then investigated possible solutions, including retrofitting the building with new pipes. Conversations with district officials convinced them that this latter option was prohibitively expensive, so


they suggested that one of the drinking fountains be dedicated to include a water purification unit. Students researched costs for installing and replenishing a Brita filtration system and presented their project to the School Board, requesting its support. The Board and superintendent agreed with this solution, and the students no longer had to drink copper-laced water. Reflecting on this experience, one student noted, “I had always been told that one person could ‘make a difference’ but never really understood what this meant. Now I do, and I know that if I have a problem, and if I apply serious research to it and collect my facts along the way, that I will be taken seriously, and I can make a difference!” I heard the second story from a middle school principal in Winnetka, Illinois while attending a conference north of Chicago.[2] He had brought a group of eighth-grade students to the North Dakota Study Group’s annual meeting to make a presentation about a project they had been involved with the year before. In their social studies class, they learned that in 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr. had delivered a speech about ending housing discrimination to approximately 10,000 people on the Winnetka Village Green. After conducting a search, however, they could find no written documents about the speech in any libraries or on-line sources. Working with their teacher, Cecilia Gigiolio, they developed a proposal to construct a historical marker at one corner of the Village Green to commemorate the speech. They met with other civic groups to seek their support before presenting their ideas to the Winnetka Village Council. After the council accepted their proposal, an unobtrusive monument was designed, funds were raised, and the monument installed. Now future generations in Winnetka will be reminded about King’s speech every time they pass that corner of the Village Green. Their teacher observed that this was one of the most powerful learning experiences she had ever orchestrated. The third story is again from Oregon, this time in Cottage Grove in the southern Willamette Valley. Earlier that year, I had a chance to spend an afternoon at the Kennedy School, a program that works with students who are credit deficient and in danger of dropping out. Under the leadership of a young principal, Tom Horn, the school has gone through a transformation over the past couple of years, partly as a result of Horn’s efforts to reach out to families of his students, and partly because of the way teachers at the school are linking student learning to the needs of the community. Students work in crews of 15 along with a teacher and are involved in a range of different projects. In the spring of 2008, the school embarked on the development of a number of comprehensive garden sites around Cottage Grove, including the three trailer parks where many students live. The locally-owned Territorial Seeds Company provided seeds, and students planted about 1,000 a week as starts in the school’s greenhouse. These were then transplanted into garden sites as the weather warmed. Another project involves working with the City of Cottage Grove to initiate wetlands mitigation efforts on industrial sites. Students use native plants they propagate themselves, and the school receives compensation for their efforts. This money is then used to pay for school trips to places like Utah where students engage in biological field studies. The school’s work is resulting in regular press coverage and extensive public support as well as real engagement and excitement on the part of the school’s students. I take a number of things from these stories that will weave throughout the remainder of this article. The first is that the learning experiences they describe reflect issues that are important to students or important to their communities. Second, in each of the stories, students were given the chance to develop competencies clearly transferable to the work of adults: research skills, communication skills, gardening skills, environmental restoration skills. The answer to the question, “Why are we learning this?” was directly in front of students’ eyes. Third, these experiences gave students the opportunity to learn how to work collaboratively as members of a team for important shared goals. This kind of collective endeavor is what often inspires people to continue to seek out similar opportunities for community involvement when they become adults. Finally, these projects proved to the involved students that they could make a difference, that they had voice and power, and that their lives mattered.


What is sustainability? So, what does all of this have to do with the creation of more sustainable communities? Doesn’t sustainability mostly have to do with recycling and using less energy and fewer resources? Of buying locally and organically? Of building green schools and driving hybrids? Of installing solar panels or purchasing green power? Yes, sustainability has to do with all of these things, and all of these responses will need to come into play if we hope to reduce humanity’s ecological footprint and forestall some of the consequences associated with climate change, water and food shortages, or wars over diminishing resources like oil and natural gas. But people seeking to grapple with these challenges are now arguing that more will need to be done than adopt different production methods and technologies. We will also need to change the way that we interact with one another and the planet as well as—to borrow Einstein’s phrase–the way we think. What I’d like to move on to next is a brief discussion about sustainability and then an exploration of an approach to curriculum development that focuses on giving students access to the kinds of experiences described above, learning experiences that I’ll argue may underlie changes in attitudes, beliefs, and dispositions related to what may be necessary to forge more sustainable societies. The term sustainability began to be used with reference to the environment and society in the 1980s. The most commonly cited definition is from a United Nations report published in 1987 entitled Our Common Future. The authors of this report said that a sustainable society is one that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”[3] The initial concept of sustainability is very similar to the concept of sustainable yield from the field of forestry. If a forest is managed sustainably, its long-term productivity over generations is never threatened by current cutting practices or levels. If a society were to become sustainable, the same idea would be applied to all resources. More recently, the notion of sustainability has been extended beyond resource use, itself, to the impact of industrial and agricultural production on people and the land. In the late-1990s, British writer John Elkington introduced the concept of the triple bottom line, which asserts that when businesses assess their own activities they need to look not only at the financial bottom line but also at their impact on the environment and the human communities in which they operate.[4] This attention to economy, environment, and equity—the triple bottom line–has come to dominate most contemporary discussions about sustainability. The primary advantage of this formulation is that it links the economy to the environment rather than setting these domains in opposition to one another. Over the past decade, many major corporations and a number of European states have bought into this perspective, something that Toyota’s recent advertising campaign about its green practices demonstrates.[5] In the Pacific Northwest, a program developed by a Swedish oncologist, Karl-Henrik Robert, has been especially influential in business and public discussions about sustainability.[6] Called the Natural Step, it provides a more specific way to think about the impact of economic activities on the environment and human communities. Working with a broad range of Swedish scientists, Robert articulated four system conditions necessary to achieve a sustainable society. These are: (1) No accumulation of toxic or potentially toxic materials from the earth’s crust (2) No accumulation of toxic or potentially toxic human-made materials (3) No destruction of habitat in ways that threaten species diversity or natural services (4) Equitable distribution of resources to all human beings[7] The Natural Step has found a North American home in Oregon where scores of corporations, architectural and engineering firms, and public agencies have adopted elements of Robert’s agenda. These include nationally known firms such as Nike, Norm Thompson, Hewlett Packard as well as locally-focused


Portland General Electric and TriMet (public transportation). Although few of these organizations have truly embraced all of the system conditions, especially the fourth about equity, many are in other ways attempting to reduce the use of resources as well as pollution associated with their activities. Their efforts are one of the main reasons that Oregon is on the global sustainability map. Most mainstream discussions about sustainability focus on the economy and the kinds of technological and production changes mentioned earlier. Other activists, however, share Einstein’s perspective about needing to change our way of thinking, especially our allegiance to an economy predicated on endless material growth and rising standards of living. These are the people who argue that not only must we produce things in a more environmentally conscious way and distribute them equitably, we also need to consume less and organize our communities to assure that despite having less, the basic needs of a greater proportion of the world’s population are better met than they are today.[8] These spokespeople argue that the planet simply does not contain enough trees or oil or fish or water to allow everyone to achieve the same standard of living as people in the United States, Europe, Japan, or the upper classes in China, India, and other parts of the developed world; residents of industrialized and industrializing nations will need to reduce the amount they consume and find other sources of meaning and security while being willing to share equitably the remaining resources that do exist. Attempting to grapple with this dilemma may seem virtually impossible, but the advocates of this position suggest that if the basic needs of all are not met, human beings risk the creation of a fortress society in which a decreasing number of groups enjoy economic privileges which must be defended against a growing majority of impoverished and disenfranchised people—a situation that in many respects uncomfortably resembles our current circumstances.[9] So what are humanity’s options? This is where my initial stories come in. My suspicion is that because contemporary conditions lie so far outside the ways of thinking that have created modern institutions and the expectations associated with them, humanity is going to need to invent or reclaim ways of being with one another and the Earth predicated on a recognition of planetary limits, our fundamental dependence on natural systems and other people, and a willingness to participate in the shaping of more sustainable cultures. This transition seems unlikely to happen in Washington, D.C. or Tokyo or Brussels or Beijing. People who have risen to positions of political and economic power in these global cities have done so because of their allegiance to systems that are now proving themselves to be unworkable. These leaders also are showing less and less willingness to invest in the needs of common citizens. The fact that people in New Orleans lived for years in formaldehyde-off-gassing FEMA trailers is a grim indicator of this possibility. I suspect that if real change is going to happen it will be enacted by growing numbers of people acting locally like the students in Oregon City and Winnetka and Cottage Grove. Climate change activist Ross Gelbspan—a former editor of the Boston Globe—says much the same thing. Writing in the web-based environmental journal, Grist, he argues in an article entitled “Beyond the Point of No Return” that humanity’s response to climate change will necessarily have to be largely local—this is where human adaptations happen, and that if we wish to avoid descent into a world in which the wealthy are protected and supported by the Blackwaters and Haliburtons of the world, we must, to quote Gelbspan, “reorganize our social structures to reflect our most humane collective aspirations.”[10] This, I think, is the task that educators concerned about sustainability must take on: to surface those “most humane collective aspirations” and prepare students to reinvigorate our community and democratic processes while enacting the innovations required by changing planetary and social conditions. What kind of people will be needed to move society in the direction of sustainability? OK. How might this be done? This is where I’d like to turn to the subtitle of this article: “Educating for Interconnection, Adaptability, and Resilience.” What do I mean? First, the experience of interconnection seems to lie at the heart of ethical and caring behavior. When people grasp the degree to which their own physical and psychic welfare is dependent on the welfare of others or the health of natural systems, they become much more likely to behave responsibly towards them and to take steps to protect them from harm. Humanity’s higher aspirations tend to reflect this sense of interconnection and the desire to preserve


and extend it. The root of the word, religion, for example, means to bind together. Absent that sense of being bound together, anything can go. This is one of the reasons that nature writer Robert Michael Pyle worries about what he calls the “extinction of experience,” the fact that many children growing up today have such limited contact with the natural world.[11] Without that contact, Pyle fears that they will demonstrate little interest in preserving it. The same could be said of children’s diminished contact with their communities. What will lead them to care for those communities if most of their lives are spent in isolation from them—as they play video games, watch TV, or are safely sequestered in the aural cocoons of their i-Pods? One thing educators can do to acquaint students with those higher collective aspirations is to make sure that students are given a chance to know their own communities and places well. Second, human adaptability has been the characteristic that has allowed our species to populate the planet and survive as well as we have without the kinds of physical protections that permit other animals to successfully navigate the world. The ability to adapt, however, depends on our ability to perceive what is happening around us accurately and to respond appropriately. This is where awareness and intelligence come into play as well as the willingness to task risks and try new things. People in the future will need to be able to observe, problem solve, and act in order to adapt to the challenges posed by climate change, resource exhaustion, an unstable economy, and the forms of social instability likely to accompany such events. To prepare young people today for these challenges, they can be given opportunities to participate in efforts to address issues in their own schools and communities in an attempt to make them better places for everyone. Finally, the difficulties students are likely to encounter in coming decades are almost certain to be daunting. Dealing with them will require resilience, persistence, and determination. Resilience is tied into the ability to keep coming back despite challenges, failure, or even the threat of failure. Studies of resilience in children often point to their relationship to at least one person who has faith in their capacity to succeed and do well; that faith then contributes to their own self-efficacy.[12] A classic psychological exploration of resilience, Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, argues that Nazi concentration camp survivors tended to be people who saw their personal experiences as linked to the experiences of others and a broader sense of meaning.[13] They were people whose own individual stories were folded into the stories of their communities and of life, itself. Engaging young people in learning activities that connect them to others and that give them an opportunity to address challenges to their community could potentially foster in them such resilience as well as a deep understanding of the satisfaction and sense of personal wellbeing that come with purposeful action in the company of others. What contribution could educators make to the development of interconnection, adaptability, and resilience? I can almost hear readers thinking, “Nice words, but what does this look like?” Fortunately, I’ve spent a share of the past decade or so visiting schools and collecting stories that demonstrate how this kind of education might happen. Although not all of the schools where this work is occurring would necessarily say they are directly confronting issues of sustainability or cultural change, they are in different ways cultivating interconnection, adaptability, and resilience. They are doing this by incorporating curriculum and instruction characterized by a focus on local and regional issues, oftentimes coupling this with opportunities for students to engage in projects that have value for the broader school or community. Called place- or community-based education, this approach is aimed at developing in children a sense of relatedness to their own regions, familiarity with important local knowledge and issues, the capacity to act collectively with fellow students and outside-of-school partners to address community concerns, and a commitment to participatory citizenship and stewardship. An additional benefit in our era of accountability and standards is the way these experiences are often associated with higher levels of academic engagement and achievement.[14] In talking about place- or community-based education, I do not mean to suggest that all of a students’ school experience should focus on local knowledge or issues, but enough to draw them into a sense of community membership and connection to the natural world. I am furthermore not suggesting that these


kinds of educational experiences on their own will be a panacea for the challenges humanity will face in coming decades. I believe, however, that adults who recognize their connectedness to others and the world, have learned how to adapt to changing conditions, and who possess the resilience needed to turn difficulties into opportunities will have a better chance of creating a sustainable society than people who have not developed these attributes or skills. Nurturing interconnection. Now it’s time for more stories. Boston’s Young Achievers Science and Mathematics Pilot School models how connectedness can be cultivated in an urban setting. In addition to focusing on math and science, the Young Achievers School also places social justice and environmental issues front and center in its curriculum development efforts. During the 2007-2008 academic year, second graders invested much of their energy in an investigation of important community issues. Students explored the experience of people living in Boston’s Chinatown, air quality issues and asthma rates, the role of public art murals and community health, and space needs at their own school. In the spring, they shared their findings on WBUR’s weekly Saturday night radio show, Con Salsa, a public presentation that required high quality written work and speaking skills. This experience provided both an incentive to develop literacy abilities as well as a self-esteem boost for all participants.[15] I saw similar efforts to connect students to their places in Montgomery, Alabama, during a 2005 convocation of the Program for Academic and Cultural Excellence in Rural Schools (PACERS).[16] PACERS is a project that has been addressing educational and community development issues in rural Alabama since the 1990s. Central to its efforts have been strategies to engage students in their communities in meaningful ways. An especially powerful initiative involved giving students the skills and resources needed to become community journalists. Throughout Alabama as well as other rural regions of the United States, small town papers have become a thing of the past. Newspapers published in larger population centers rarely carry news of anything other than crimes or scores from athletic contests in outlying villages and towns. It is difficult for citizens to get information about local issues that require their attention. High school students in 21 communities took on the task of informing their families and neighbors about these issues and in the process developed both the skills of budding journalists and a sense of belonging to communities where their energy and attention and voices were listened to by adults. One former student at the convocation—now a graphic designer for the daily paper in Montgomery—observed that when he was in high school three things were central to his world: God, family, and PACERS. At the Wells Community School in Harrisville, New Hampshire, a second grade teacher has adopted an even simpler approach to connect her students to their place. After moving to a new classroom, she noticed a stand of Eastern white pine two dozen yards away. She decided to focus on nature observations throughout the year and thanks to a small grant bought kid-friendly field guides, binoculars, and a digital camera to help out with the project. Students became eager participants, carefully keeping track of birds or other animals that passed by over the course of the year. Following up on students’ suggestions, they built a brush pile and put out feeders to attract wildlife. They then shared their findings with students in Italy and Brazil who were keeping similar records of animals and plants they encountered in their schoolyards through the web-based service provided by www.epals.com. In each of these examples, educators provided opportunities for students to immerse themselves in the human and other-than-human life of their communities and places. By doing so, they created a space where students can develop the relationships that undergird both citizenship and stewardship. Research conducted by the Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative over the past six years points to the positive impact that learning experiences grounded in community issues and the natural world can have on students’ civic involvement, environmental awareness, and achievement.[17] Cultivating adaptability. Cultivating adaptability can be more challenging. Nurturing a sense of interconnection is generally non-threatening. Problem-solving, innovation, and action can potentially lead to conflict and must be handled with thoughtfulness and tact. Demands related to their discovery of high levels of copper in their school’s water supply in Oregon City, for example, could have alienated district officials if students hadn’t learned how to negotiate and been willing to consider multiple solutions to the


problem they had identified. Dealing with challenging issues both now and in the future requires such abilities. A program called Promoting Resolutions with Integrity for a Sustainable Molokai (PRISM) is giving upper elementary and middle school students in Hawaii a chance to learn how to do this.[18] Created in the mid1990s by two fifth- and sixth-grade teachers at the Kualapuu School, PRISM uses a process developed at the University of Southern Illinois called Investigating and Evaluating Environmental Issues and Actions.[19] The process requires students to identify all of the important groups concerned about a particular issue, uncovering their beliefs and values, and articulating their proposed solutions. After gaining this knowledge and investigating the dimensions of an issue, students then begin to develop their own suggestions and the actions that follow from these. At the beginning of the school year, teachers work with students to choose a topic that will be the focus of their inquiry for the next several months. Students have studied and developed proposals about solid waste disposal at the school and on the island, the impact on native habitats of an expansion of the airport runway and ecotourism developments, the restoration of traditional Hawaiian fishponds, and emergency preparedness. Students interview resource professionals, read technical documents and plans, and then create presentations for a two-day meeting generally held in the spring. Parents and community members are invited to attend these. Students’ work has come to influence adult involvement in these topics, leading family members who might not have seen themselves as activists to begin contributing their energy to the issues students have investigated. Students also develop action plans. They initiated a recycling program at the school that subsequently grew into an island-wide recycling program. They wrote a bottle bill that was introduced but defeated in the Hawaii State Assembly. They have engaged in the restoration of traditional fishponds and regularly write columns about their research in the island newspaper. Students in other schools have taken on economic as well as environmental concerns, an issue that will be especially important when communities grapple with what it means to transition to a post-fossil fuel economy. Howard, South Dakota, is located in the southeastern quadrant of the state. Like many Midwestern communities, it has experienced a steady drop in population and job opportunities for decades. In the mid-1990s, Randy Parry, a business teacher at the local high school, joined up with faculty at a local state college to write a grant to the Annenberg Rural Challenge aimed at creating more economic opportunities while doing so in ways that preserved the integrity of natural systems. Awarded the grant, Perry proceeded to involve his students in their community’s economic life.[20] One of their first projects involved surveying county residents about where they spent their money—in local businesses or in the nearest big towns of Mitchell or Sioux Falls. They found that half of their respondents did most of their buying out of the county, depriving businesses of the multiplier effect that occurs when money is re-circulated locally. They also asked survey respondents about what kinds of changes would lead them to spend more of their earnings in Howard’s businesses. They learned that placing an ATM machine close to the stores would make a difference. After tallying the data, students let county residents know that if they spent only 10% more of their disposable income close to home, seven million additional dollars would be added to the regional economy and more sales tax revenue would be available for local government. People listened, and over the next year, taxable sales in Miner County increased by $15.6 million–and then gradually stabilized at this level. Through students’ collection of data and their development of plans and proposals, they are helping their community adapt to changing circumstances in ways that are allowing it to survive. Similarly, on Molokai, students involved in the PRISM project are gaining the tools needed to make thoughtful decisions about how their island home can respond to development pressure from outside forces in ways that preserve the beauty and integrity of local ecosystems.


Developing resilience. In many respects, resilience could simply be one of the outcomes of educational experiences that connect children to others and their place and that give them the opportunity to use their lives and energies in activities that win them the respect and appreciation of their families and neighbors. A final example, however, demonstrates how an exploration of local history in Montana affirmed for students their ability to deal with difficulties and contribute to the improvement of their communities. In the mid-1990s Jeff Gruber, a Libby High School social studies teacher invited his students to participate in a community study aimed at surfacing information that might help them to figure out how to make good decisions about its future. Libby at the time was experiencing even more challenging forms of economic disruption than Howard. As in many places, conflicts and fears ran so deep that civic leaders avoided calling a public meeting to explore these issues. Gruber and his students did what others could not. They began a conversation about who Libby residents are, why they stay in Libby, what cultural resources they possess, and how they could make life better.[21] Students then embarked on an investigation that continued for a number of years. One of their first projects involved collecting thousands of photographs from Libby and assembling them as an extended photo essay about the town’s future. Other projects took students to the local plywood plant where they interviewed millworkers about their jobs and learned first hand about the steps that transform trees into wood products. They wrote a pamphlet about what they learned, which to their and the millworkers’ surprise became an historical document, itself, when the mill was closed by Stimson Lumber in 2003. Now deeply committed to their place, students were not prepared to take this event sitting down. With their teacher, they prepared a presentation summarizing what they had learned about their community and took it to the headquarters of the Stimson and Plum Creek Lumber Companies in Portland. As writer Michael Umphrey observes: “. . . the kids did not imagine villains—their game was understanding. In that spirit, they wanted the corporate officers to understand the sometimes devastating impact their actions had on the local community. They were beginning to understand that one reason for learning was to find their voice.”[22] Students also developed a deeper understanding about the factors that had contributed to Libby’s continued survival. As they reported in their presentation, “We looked to Libby’s past for answers to our current troubles. But we didn’t find answers. What we found was that life had always been difficult, but that our grandparents and great-grandparents had always found a way to help each other and get along. And so will we.”[23] In Libby and other Montana communities, young people have begun to realize that their success and wellbeing are intimately tied to the success and well-being of others, a story that is not regularly conveyed by the mainstream media. From this story they are gaining a sense of resilience essential to the creation of more sustainable societies. This story of mutual support and collective identity is exactly what Libby and other small towns like it will need if their current residents are to weather the storms of economic globalization and a declining natural resource base. Stepping up to the plate and making it happen In conclusion, I’d like to share one more story about the work of a high school teacher that has become a model for community regeneration worldwide. It again points to the possible and serves as an exemplar of what educators concerned about the welfare of their communities and the planet can accomplish. In the 1950s, Ari Ariyaratne taught in a high school in Colombo, Sri Lanka where he worked primarily with children of the upper class. He realized that many of his students would become business or political leaders of the country, but that few of them had any personal knowledge about how most of their fellow citizens lived. He started a community service program that involved taking students out to rural villages where they would ask people to brainstorm projects whose completion would make everyone’s lives better. Not uncommonly, villagers would go to a file drawer and pull out requests that had been submitted to government officials but never addressed.[24]


Ariyaratne and his students would ask the villagers what resources they needed to complete projects— things like building cisterns or constructing a simple school or community center—and how many people would be required to do the job. The students would then help them organize the event. These schoolbased efforts eventually became an organization called Sarvodaya Shramadana that has operated in over 15,000 villages in Sri Lanka and has touched the lives of 11 million people.[25] A rough translation of sarvodaya shramadana is lifting everyone through the gift of labor. What is especially significant about this program is its emphasis on uncovering community assets and cultivating participants’ faith in their own capacity to take positive action. A central tenet of the program is that everyday people have the capacity to govern themselves and respond appropriately to the conditions of their lives when given the support and encouragement to do so. After the tsunami in 2004, for example, people who had participated in Sarvodaya were not uncommonly those who created make-shift emergency kitchens or organized efforts to contribute clothing and other household items to people who had lost everything.[26] It is this kind of leadership that the coming decades with all of their projected economic and environmental uncertainty will demand of all communities. As educators, I would suggest that the world now requires us to find ways to prepare our students for the roles they will need to play as citizens and stewards responsible for imagining and then creating new social and economics structures as well as technologies that truly represent humanity’s highest aspirations. This is the way people will be able to grow cultures that are sustainable both ecologically and socially, cultures that will be worthy of our children for many generations to come.

file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref1I heard this story from Susan Abravanel, the education director of SOLV, an Oregon non-profit heavily involved in environmental restoration and service learning projects. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref2Dan Schwartz is a regular at the North Dakota Study Group meetings. I heard this story from him in February, 2008 and later spoke with Cecilia Gigiolio, the teacher who saw this project through. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref3The text of Our Common Future can be accessed online at http://www.un-documnts.net/ocf-02.htm#1, retrieved on June 3, 2008. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref4John Elkington, Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Press, 1998. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref5See the March 31, 2008 issue of Time Magazine for an example of this. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref6Karl-Henrik Robert, The Natural Step Story: Seeding a Quiet Revolution, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, 2002. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref7Retrieved from http://www.ortns.org/framework.htm on July 12, 2008.


file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref8See Wendell Berry’s article entitled “Faustian Economics: Hell Hath No Limits” in the May, 2008 Harpers Magazine (pp. 35-42) for a cogent and passionate presentation of this position as well as Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, New York: Holt, 2008. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref9Allen Hammond, Which World? Scenarios for the 21st Century, Washington, DC: Island Press, 1998. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref10Ross Gelbspan, “Beyond the Point of No Return,” Gristmill, December 11, 2007, paragraph 47, retrieved on June 4, 2008 from http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/12/10/165845/92. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref11Robert Michael Pyle, The Thunder Tree: Lessons from an Urban Wildland, New York: Lyons Press, 1993. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref12Reginald Clark, Family Life and School Achievement: Why Poor Black Children Succeed or Fail, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref13Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, New York: Washington Square Press. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref14See David Sobel’s Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms to Communities, Great Barrington, Mass.: Orion Press, 2004, and Gregory Smith’s “Place-Based Education: Learning to Be Where We Are,” Kappan, April 2003, for more complete descriptions of this approach and its possibilities. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref15Robert Hoppin, personal communication (e-mail), June 5, 2008. Hoppin is a place-based education coordinator at the Young Achievers School. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref16John Shelton’s book, Consequential Learning, Montgomery: NewSouth Press, 2005, provides a description of many PACERS projects and the spirit that undergirds these file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref17See http://www.peecworks.org/index , retrieved on July 3, 2008, for a full listing of research reports written by this organization. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref18Marie Cheak, Trudi Volk, and Harold Hungerford, Molokai: An Investment in Children, the Community, and the Environment, Champaign, Ill.: Stipes Publishing, 2002. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref19John Ramsey, Harold


Hungerford, and Trudi Volk, “A Technique for Analyzing Environmental Issues,” in Harold Hungerford, William Blumm, Trudi Volk, and John Ramsey (editors), Essential Readings in Environmental Education Champaign, Ill.: Stipes Pubishing), pp. 190-195. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref20Rural School and Community Trust President Rachel Tompkins provides a history of this project in “Overlooked Opportunity: Students, Educators, and Education Advocates Contributing to Community and Economic Development,” a chapter in David Gruenewald and Gregory Smith’s (editors), Place-Based Education in the Global Age: Local Diversity (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2008), pp. 173-196. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref21This story is drawn from Michael Umphrey’s volume, The Power of Community-Centered Education: Teaching as a Craft of Place, Rowman and Littlefield, 2007. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref22Umphrey, p. 6. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref23Umphrey, p. 8. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref24Joanna Macy, Dharma and Development: Religion as Resource in the Sarvodaya Self-Help Movement, West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press, 1983. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref25See http://www.sarvodaya.org/ for more information. Retrieved on July 12, 2008. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GregSmithSustainabilitySchoolsEssay.doc.doc - _ftnref26Sharif Abdullah, personal communication. Abdullah is an American social activist and writer who has acted as a consultant to the Sarvodaya organization for more than a decade. About the Author – Greg Smith is completing his 17th year as a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Counseling at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He is the author or editor of Place- and Community-based Education in Schools (with David Sobel), Place-based Education in the Global Age: Local Diversity (with David Gruenewald), Ecological Action in Action (with Dilafruz Williams), Public Schools That Work: Creating Community, Education and the Environment: Learning to Live with Limits, and Reducing the Risk: Schools as Communities of Support (with Gary Wehlage, Robert Rutter, Nancy Lesko, and Ricardo Fernandez).


May 9th, 2010

Education for Sustainability in Washington State: A Whole Systems Approach By Victor Nolet and Gilda Wheeler It can be difficult to imagine that which we have never seen. However, as the great philosopher Pogo said “if it exists, it’s possible.” The children who begin school this coming fall will encounter unprecedented opportunities and challenges by the time they reach young adulthood at mid-century. They will share the planet with nearly 9 billion other humans and during the years they are in school, ideas of diversity will change tremendously as the demographics of the northern hemisphere increasingly resemble those of the south. Technology and the adoption of English as the de-facto world language will continue to “flatten” the planet and they will have finger-tip access to the entirety of all human knowledge. World economies and governments will continue to be inextricably linked and interdependent; the idea of global citizenship will no longer be an ideal but rather a fact of daily life. At the same time, the natural systems that these 9 billion humans must depend upon for their very existence will continue to be at tremendous risk. Biodiversity will continue to decline around the planet. Water will become an increasingly scarce and contested commodity, and the effects and implications of global climate disruption will be evident even in the temperate zones. At no time in human history has it been more important for individuals to understand and come to terms with the inextricable interconnectedness of the planet’s many systems. Education for Sustainability (EfS) is an approach to teaching and learning that addresses interconnectedness. It focuses particularly on the interdependence of ecological, social, and economic systems. EfS is a solution-based, data-based, and intergenerational approach that provides individuals with practical strategies for making individual as well as public decisions. It involves learning about the separate and interconnected ecological, social justice, and economic systems and it involves learning how these systems interact to create a whole larger than the parts. The goal of EfS is for individuals to find ways to meet the needs of people alive today while at the same time ensuring that future generations can meet their needs. Education for Sustainability represents a new paradigm for teaching and learning. It does not replace the existing curriculum but it does entail a new way of thinking about the curriculum. EfS implies learning that is focused on authentic problems, personal behaviors, and decision-making in complex, ill-structured problem spaces. It implies new knowledge and skills for teachers and a new way of thinking about school outcomes. Beginning in 2005, Washington State developed and implemented a number of policies and initiatives to articulate and support sustainability education in K-12 and Teacher Education programs. This paper provides a brief overview of these policies and initiatives and their implications for 21st century teaching and learning. Statewide Sustainability Education Policies and Initiatives Education for Environment and Sustainability Office: An Evolution from Environmental Education to Sustainability Education The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has had a statewide environmental education program since 1948 with dedicated federal funding and state staff for the program


from 1967 until 2002. In 1990, the State Board of Education created a rule defining environmental education as part of Basic Education and mandating its instruction in public school at all grade levels in all subject matters. WAC 392-410-115, Subsection (6) reads, “Pursuant to RCW 28A.230.020, instruction about conservation, natural resources, and the environment shall be provided at all grade levels in an interdisciplinary manner through science, the social studies, the humanities, and other appropriate areas with an emphasis on solving the problems of human adaptation to the environment.” Funding for the environmental education program was cut in 2002 at which time OSPI conducted a study to assess the educational needs for such a program in light of state and federal requirements, as well as the expressed needs of the students, educators, businesses, and communities throughout the state. Based on this research, in 2005, the state legislature funded the establishment of a smaller and more integrated program at OSPI which was called “Education for Environment and Sustainability. The mission of the OSPI Education for Environment and Sustainability program is to support academic success and life-long learning, and develop a responsible citizenry capable of applying knowledge of ecological, economic, and socio-cultural systems to meet current and future needs. The program coordinates statutory and regulatory obligations mandating instruction about the environment; participates in overall efforts to improve student achievement through engaging them in meaningful instruction which enable students to develop deep understanding of the total environment and their place in it; complements efforts to ensure all students achieve at high levels, and inspires the practice of sound principles of stewardship and sustainability in communities throughout the state Although sustainability education may be implied from the 1990 legislation, an explicit reference to sustainability first appears in the 2005-07 Biennial Operating Budget, which funded OSPI to “… provide direct services and support to schools around an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to instruction in conservation, natural resources, sustainability [emphasis added], and human adaptation to the environment.” Sustainability Education in Teacher Preparation Programs Washington State recently approved two policies focused on the teaching of sustainability concepts that have the potential for transformational implications in the preparation of new teachers and the continuing professional development of existing teachers. These policies are described below. Residency Certification -The Preparation of All New Teachers When we think about the challenges and opportunities humanity faces today, it is clear that engaged citizenship will require some level of sustainability literacy. Therefore, to the extent that public schools are charged with the job of educating for citizenship, the work of creating sustainability literate citizens falls on teacher education programs that must attend directly to the preparation of sustainability literate teachers. Washington, like many states, has a two-tiered teacher licensure process. Teachers earn the Residency Certification during the pre-service phase of their professional preparation. They then continue to engage in professional development work to earn the Professional Certification around their 5th year of contracted teaching. In addition to the Residency Certification, teachers also acquire one or more endorsements that address their grade range or content discipline specialization. In 2007 the Washington Professional Educator Standards Board, which has oversight of teacher licensure, passed a new program approval standard pertaining to teacher knowledge and skills. This new standard requires teacher preparation programs to provide evidence that beginning teachers are able to prepare K-12 students “to be responsible citizens for an environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society”. Furthermore, according to the new standard, beginning teachers in Washington are now expected to “consider student learning in the context of social, political, environmental, and economic systems.”[1] Following passage in 2007, the new program approval standard was revised to better facilitate implementation in pre-service teacher education programs and the Standards Board reasserted its support for the language focused on preparing sustainability literate teachers in January, 2010. Environment and Sustainability Education Endorsement


In 2009, the Washington State Professional Educators Standards Board approved a new Specialty Area Teaching Endorsement in Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) for K-12 teachers. The passage of the ESE Specialty Endorsement is the outcome of multi-sector support for environmental and sustainability education in Washington state. The endorsement, developed by a broad-based committee of formal and community educators, consists of three main categories (Content, Instructional Methodology, and Professional Competencies) containing 32 competencies. The committee worked to be consistent with principles of sustainability and systems, aiming to keep the list of competences to the essentials.[2] The specialty endorsement in ESE is intended to create new roles and leadership opportunities for teachers; offer students new opportunities for learning; (e.g., senior projects related to ESE); and encourage interdisciplinary teaching. Now that the endorsement is approved, colleges of education are in the process of developing programs that meet these competencies. Several programs have submitted proposals to the Standards Board and it is expected that the endorsement will be available statewide in 2011. Sustainability Education in K-12 Classrooms Washington State recently developed policies and programs to integrate sustainability into K-12 standards, curriculum, assessment, and campus facilities. K-12 Integrated Environmental and Sustainability Education Standards In 2009, OSPI approved K-12 Integrated Environmental and Sustainability Education Learning Standards[3]. These standards describe what all students should know and be able to do in the area of Environmental and Sustainability Education. Consistent with the intent of the law governing environmental and sustainability education in Washington State, these standards are intended to be integrated into core content areas and across all grade levels. The process for developing these standards involved a review of existing state, national, and international environmental and sustainability education standards. The review and report was provided by an independent consultant, Facing the Future, a national non-profit global sustainability education organization located in Seattle. A draft document, the Environmental and Sustainability Education Learning Standards, was developed by a committee of teachers, administrators, higher education faculty, and community educators. Following review by various stakeholder groups and national and state content experts, the standards were approved by the state superintendent of public instruction in 2009. In developing the Environmental and Sustainability Education Learning Standards, Washington identified three broad overarching standards that are specific to Environmental and Sustainability Education. Standard 1: Ecological, Social, and Economic Systems Students develop knowledge of the interconnections and interdependency of ecological, social, and economic systems. They demonstrate understanding of how the health of these systems determines the sustainability of natural and human communities at local, regional, national, and global levels. Standard 2: The Natural and Built Environment Students engage in inquiry and systems thinking and use information gained through learning experiences in, about, and for the environment to understand the structure, components, and processes of natural and human-built environments. Standard 3: Sustainability and Civic Responsibility Students develop and apply the knowledge, perspective, vision, skills, and habits of mind necessary to make personal and collective decisions and take actions that promote sustainability. The document includes an alignment with Washington K-12 science and social studies standards at each grade band. These new standards also serve as a meaningful and engaging context for mathematics, reading, writing, communications, the arts, health and fitness, and world languages.


The Sustainable Design Project: A Curriculum Model for Integrating Sustainability into K-12 Classrooms The Sustainable Design Project is a public-private partnership led by OSPI, the Environmental Education Association of Washington, and Puget Sound Energy with the goal of engaging students in designing solutions to real world issues within the context of systems and sustainability. The project addresses two overarching and critical issues: 1) unprecedented environmental, social, and economic challenges; and 2) a growing academic achievement gap for disadvantaged students. It is predicated on the belief that every student should benefit from the rich learning and developmental opportunities inherent in creating a healthy environment, equitable society, and a vibrant economy. The Sustainable Design Project provides the structure and support to connect businesses, industry, higher education, and community organizations to the K-12 learning process. It provides a system, structure, and resources to bring community expertise into the classroom and to bring students outside the classroom in a meaningful and coherent way. By offering students the chance to solve real-world problems through interdisciplinary project-based learning, the Sustainable Design Project captures and builds upon the imagination and creativity of students, teachers, and community members. In providing resources and tools linking active, hands-on learning to core content standards, it allows students to work together with experts in their communities to solve these problems and become active participants in creating a positive, sustainable future. Key principles guiding Sustainable Design Projects include: • Consideration of whole systems, addressing the interconnections between ecology, economy, and society • Authentic student engagement and cooperative group learning • Alignment with core content standards (e.g. science, social studies, language arts, etc) • Connection with community resources and stakeholders’ perspectives • Design of a solution to a real-world challenge • A plan to implement the design solution and, if feasible, the actual development of the product or service • Sharing of the project • Evaluation and assessment of student and project impacts Through partnerships with the federal Learn and Serve America grant program and an EPA regional grant, a cohort of lead teachers and administrators from across the state are using the Sustainable Design Project framework with their students while also engaging other teachers in their school and district in this curriculum. CTE Green Sustainable Design and Technology Course In 2008, OSPI’s Career and Technology Education division developed a year-long middle and high school course called “Green Sustainable Design and Technology.”[4] The purpose of this exploratory course is to expose students to career opportunities in the new green economy. Exploratory courses are described as “a little bit about a lot” in other words broad exposure to a range of career opportunities. Preparatory courses, on the other hand, are designed to be “a lot about a little bit’ in other words the deeper knowledge and skills a student needs to attain a high level of expertise in the chosen career path. The Green Sustainable Design and Technology course content includes: • Principles of Sustainability • Impact of Human Activities on Sustainability • Standard: Sustainable Transportation Technology and Systems • Sustainable Power Generation Technology and Systems • Standard: Sustainable Resource, Materials, and Waste Management • Sustainable Agricultural Systems • Sustainable Ecosystem Management • Sustainable Design and Construction • Sustainable Manufacturing Practices


• • • •

Healthy Homes and Communities Sustainability in the Work Place Students’ Role in Building Sustainable Communities Career Paths in Sustainability – Postsecondary Options

The course was approved by the CTE director and can now be offered in districts across the state. 2009 was the first year of the course and there are currently 11 districts offering it. In addition to this exploratory course, the CTE division has redesigned several preparatory courses to include a green sustainability focus. Sustainability in School Facilities and Operations In 2006, the state adopted the Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol.[5] The protocol mandates certain requirements for all new school construction and major remodels to adhere to a set of sustainability design features. From construction materials to energy efficiency, the protocol provides detailed requirements for all state funded school construction projects with a goal of sustainable school facilities and operations. Sustainability Education Summer Institute The first Sustainability Education Summer Institute (SESI) was held in 2009 at Islandwood, a LEED designed environmental learning center on Bainbridge Island, in the Puget Sound region of the state. SESI was designed through a collaboration of Western Washington University, Islandwood, and OSPI. The three day institute brought together sustainability experts, K-12 educators, college of education faculty, and students with the goal of deepening the knowledge and skills around effectively integrating sustainability into schools. SESI 2010, again to be held at Islandwood, will continue to build a learning community around sustainability with a focus on the socio-cultural sphere of sustainability, as well as curriculum design and appropriate assessment strategies. There have been several positive outcomes resulting from the summer institute. Two of these outcomes are of special note. One is the development of the ‘WA Sustainability Education” NING social network site that continues to grow and provide a forum for discussion and exchange of ideas, and the other is the formation of a “Diversity and Sustainability Education Coalition” with the purpose of “developing strategies and action plans to promote the intentional inclusion of people of color in the work of sustainability education in Washington State.” The Sustainability Education Summer Institute provided a meaningful learning opportunity which we expect to continue to flourish in the coming years. Governor’s Proclamation on Sustainability Education Week In November of 2009, the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development launched the first Sustainability Education Week. Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire was the first governor to sign a proclamation recognizing the week and calling for students, teachers, schools, colleges of education, and community members to participate in sustainability education learning opportunities during the week of November 9-13 and continue throughout the school year. The proclamation reads in part: “Whereas, sustainability education helps students learn skills, perspectives, and values that can guide and motivate them to seek sustainable livelihoods, fully participate in a democratic society, and live in a sustainable manner.” Conclusion – Going to Scale Washington is a leader in development of EfS policy initiatives in the pre K-12 sector but it is not alone. Initiatives are emerging around the country as educators are recognizing the need to reorient education systems to meet the opportunities and challenges of this century. In St. Louis, the St. Louis Sustainability Network includes a partnership among public and private schools, teacher education programs, and the Missouri Botanical Garden to develop curriculum and professional development for teachers. This project is addressing the needs of schools in very distressed and diverse communities through development of school-wide initiatives and strong strategic partnerships. In Connecticut, the Connecticut Partnership for Education for Sustainability is bringing together teacher educators from public and private teacher education programs around the state for professional development sessions, resource sharing, and policy initiatives. This project is associated with the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, which is a multi-sector initiative focused on development of a national strategy for EfS. The Washington


model exemplifies the idea that “if it exists, it’s possible”. As Education for Sustainability goes to scale in the US, the work underway in Washington can serve as an “off-the-shelf” template for other states and education organizations. file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GildaWheelerEfSinWashingtonState.doc.doc - _ftnref1PESB, Program Approval Standards, 2007 file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GildaWheelerEfSinWashingtonState.doc.doc - _ftnref2PESB, ESE Specialty Area Endorsement, 2009 file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GildaWheelerEfSinWashingtonState.doc.doc - _ftnref3OSPI ESE Standards, 2009 file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GildaWheelerEfSinWashingtonState.doc.doc - _ftnref4OSPI CTE Division Green Sustainable Design and Technology Framework, 2008 file://localhost/C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Pikachu/My%20Documents/JSEToPrint/ProofDownloa dsToWordPress/GildaWheelerEfSinWashingtonState.doc.doc - _ftnref5OSPI Facilities Division, Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol: Criteria for High Performance Schools, FINAL DRAFT January 15, 2006 About the Authors – Victor Nolet is a professor in the Secondary Education Department in the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University in Bellingham Washington. Victor earned his PhD from the University of Oregon in 1992 and his M.Ed. in 1981 and B.A. in 1977 from the University of Maine. Victor is involved in a variety of state and national research and policy initiatives focusing on the inclusion of Education for Sustainability in the professional development of teachers. He serves on the steering committee for the US Partnership for the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development and led the US Delegation to the UNESCO UNDESD Reorienting Teacher Education Symposium in Paris in May, 2010. Victor has published and presented extensively on topics related to education for sustainability in teacher education as well as on topics pertaining to standards-based assessment and classroom-based assessment strategies. Gilda Wheeler is the Program Supervisor for Environmental and Sustainability Education at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. She holds a BA in Geography and a MEd from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Gilda serves on a number of state and national boards and committees including the national K-12 Sector of the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) EdSteps Global Competency work group, and the CCSSO Statewide Science Collaborative. She is co-author of Facing the Future's student textbook, “It's All Connected: A Comprehensive Guide to Global issues and Sustainable Solutions.”


May 9th, 2010

Teaching Sustainability As If Your Life Depended on It: A Photo Essay of Fort Lewis College’s Ecology and Society Field School By Rebecca Clausen The purpose of education, according to some Native Americans, is to ensure the survival of people, -Gary Holthaus, Learning Native Wisdom In his many years living in rural Alaska, Gary Holthaus learned important differences between how indigenous cultures and modern cultures understand sustainability, subsistence and spirituality. In part, these differences stem from worldviews on the purpose of education. As the quote above suggests, Holthaus learned that the Koyukon Indians of the Koyukuk River use traditional stories as a way to “teach us how to be human.” In contrast, present day academia prioritizes education as a way to get a job and make the U.S. the global economic powerhouse. In a time when scientific evidence makes it terrifyingly clear that we can no longer continue to consume and degrade the world’s limited resources, we must reconsider the purpose of education with specific regards to sustainability. We must teach sustainability as if our lives, and the lives of many other species, depended on it. We must teach sustainability to ensure the survival of people. What could this model of sustainability education look like? The following photo essay of Fort Lewis College’s “Ecology and Society Field School” gives us a glimpse of how one summer course can offer a new purpose for education. Visionary teachers Dr. Kalin Grigg and Dr. Jim Fitzgerald of Fort Lewis College (Durango, CO) created this model fifteen years ago; its achievement over the years is a testament to the value it offers to a variety of learners. In 2009, I had the privilege of co-teaching the “Ecology and Society Field School” with Dr. Grigg, and the experience has transformed my expectations and understandings of sustainability education. I witnessed four themes that I feel contribute to the life-long accomplishments that arise from this 5-week course. I will briefly describe each theme below, accompanied by photos of the incredible students of the 2009 Ecology and Society Field School. I. Sustainability In Action In addition to teaching about the theories and concepts of sustainability, we have a responsibility to teach how it is achieved in our communities. Rather than simply defining sustainability, we aim to recognize it on the ground. The Ecology and Society Field School travelled to 5 different communities in Southwest Colorado, actively engaging in projects that involved local food production, sustainable building, watershed organizing, and cultural connections to landscapes. In this way, the object of study became the medium of study. Although action learning and experiential education are not new pedagogical concepts, they are particularly important in the context of sustainability. First, we become empowered when we are actively learning practical skills to sustain our community. So often, students and scholars alike succumb to feelings of helplessness and apathy after a semester long course discussing our environmental crisis. Social structural forces seem to outweigh individual agency, and we forget that we are all historical agents of change. Learning how to transplant seedlings or ‘double-dig’ a garden bed combines muscle and mind, reaffirming that through our labor and ideas we can achieve meaningful results. Albers (2008) explains how the cycle of experience, reflection, collaboration, and action reinforces the belief that teaching


sustainability cannot be achieved through the reduction and examination of component parts. Rather, it must be understood as a process in which we can actively contribute our labor.

Transplanting seedlings in a greenhouse at Tomten Fam (Telluride, CO) where food is grown at 10,000 feet elevation throughout the year.

The permaculture technique of “double-digging” a garden bed involves loosening the soil more than 12” down and creates conditions for plants’ roots to thrive. This method was learned and practiced at a Community Supported Agriculture farm in Bayfield, CO. II. Reclaim production Teaching sustainability ‘as if your life depended on it’ must address hyper-consumption and the alienation resulting from our disconnection with the basic skills of production. Dr. Brian Obach, environmental sociologist, explains, “Popular presentations of environmental issues often avoid discussion of the significance of excessive consumption. To the extent that consumption is raised in connection with these issues, we are often told how switching to different types of consumption (not reducing consumption) can help to achieve ecological sustainability.” The Ecology and Society Field School requires students to move out of their consumption role and begin to reclaim production. Students use home-grown food to prepare home-made meals, learn to card and spin wool, milk cows, make cheese — skills that might have seemed ‘quaint’ a decade or two ago, but are now gaining the respect they deserve as the realities and limitations of our fossil-fuel dependent system become apparent. If we are going to critique “green consumerism” as a superficial fix, we must provide needed instruction on how to go beyond it and produce for ourselves. While the Field School cannot accomplish this entirely within 5 weeks, it can introduce students to the satisfaction and immense ability inherent in each of them to reclaim production in the service of sustainability.

Learning to spin wool at the Fitzgerald homestead in Bayfield, CO creates relationships between food, fiber, and clothing.


Understanding the benefits and obstacles to small-scale milk production included lessons of political economy of diary industry as well as reclaiming individual health. III. Communal Labor and Democracy What do a labyrinth garden and a tipi have in common? Aside from their round shape, both are incredibly difficult to set up by one person acting alone. Without any prior experience, students were asked by community leaders to accomplish both of these tasks during the 2009 Field School. Both the labyrinth garden and the tipi serve practical purposes of proving food and shelter, but they also demonstrate a larger theme of the course: the benefits of communal labor and collective decision-making. Sustainability education goes beyond learning practices that we should or should not do, and includes forming social processes to address complex problems. Democracy is at the core of sustainability education because it values the equality of voices and perspectives to collectively solve problems facing our society. Dr. Richard Norgaard, ecological economist, poses the following question: Acknowledging that understanding complex problems is necessarily a social process compounds existing tensions between science and democracy. If knowing is necessarily a social process, then how should it operate vis-à-vis democracy? Should the process be open to all or limited to those with PhDs in relevant areas? The Ecology and Society Field School emphasizes that we do not need ‘experts’ to get us out of environmental problems; rather, we need collective learning and knowing. In the tasks at hand, neither of the instructors could offer any guidance in labyrinth design or tipi construction – we were just as stumped as the students! Students are rarely asked to engage in physical labor for a common purpose, and often the dominant mode of education is to treat all students as isolated individuals competing against one another. We have difficulty thinking about sustainable communities because we have had so little practice through formal education. The association of democracy, collective knowing, and sustainability is put into practice during the Field School, and the results renew our optimism for achieving social and ecological justice. Visioning and implementing the labyrinth garden was a democratic process including representation of all voices and collective decision-making. IV. Reconstructing the Human Role in Environment Many courses that address sustainability rightly focus on the anthropogenic causes of the environmental crisis, introducing students to the profound impact that societies and civilizations have had and continue to have on the natural world. We as educators introduce the underlying social causes of environmental degradation such as economic systems and social inequality. I feel strongly that this should be a part of all sustainability education. However, the Field School experiences presented an alternative and important consideration for myself and for the students: reconstructing the role of humans as providing possible benefits to natural conditions. The view that humans are a plague to the planet has some traction in many circles. As a sociologist, though, I challenge that this is not an inherent trait of humans but rather a product of historical circumstances such as capitalism and the modern world-system. The Field School presents alternative social and cultural


situations where humans can have positive impacts to the natural world. During our visit to Chicano farming systems in San Luis, CO, we heard from 7th generation farmers that continue to provide habitat for diverse species amidst their agriculture practices. Students read an article by Dr. Devon Peña, accomplished scholar and our trip leader for that week, which explained: The agroecology of the Chicano farming systems promotes biodiversity through a variety of practices: acequia irrigation ditches create biological corridors and vital habitat; the riparian long-lot preserves multiple life zones and ecotones; and the conservation and use of native land races as family heirlooms preserves the genetic diversity of rare and endangered crops. That an alternative cultural connection to the landscape can have a positive impact on ecological function is a new concept for many students of sustainability. Reconstructing the role of human impact on the environment goes well beyond the idea that one person should change a light bulb or drive a hybrid, and introduces students to the potential for radical transformation that is so desperately needed right now.

Students camp on the property of a century-old Chicano farm that continually strives to work within and improve ecological functions.

Dr. Kalin Grigg, co-founder of the Ecology and Society Field School, shares with students his passion and knowledge of beekeeping. His life-long dedication to preserving the pollinators demonstrates to students the potential for humans to positively impact their local surroundings.

References Albers, S. 2008. “Improving Pedagogy through Action Learning and Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.” Teaching Sociology 36(1):87-94. Holthaus, G. 2008. Learning Native Wisdom: What traditional cultures teach us about Subsistence, Sustainability, and Spirituality. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. Norgaard, R. 1994. Development Betrayed: the end of progress and a coevolutionary revisioning of the future. New York: Routledge. Obach, B. 2009. “Consumption, Ecological Footprints and Global Inequality: A Lesson in Individual and Structural Components of Environmental Problems.” Teaching Sociology 37(3): 294.


Peña, Devon G. 1999. “Cultural Landscapes and Biodiversity: The Ethnoecology of a Watershed Commons in the Upper Rio Grande” Pp 241-271 in La Gente: Hispano History and Life in Colorado, ed. Vincent Cabeza de Baca. Denver: Colorado Historical Society. About the Author – Rebecca Clausen (clausen_r@fortlewis.edu) teaches Sociology and Environmental Studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. She looks forward to teaching the Ecology and Society Field School for many years to come. Many thanks to Kalin Grigg and the 2009 Field School students for an incredible experience.


May 9th, 2010

Celebrating their watershed: A stormwater education project on Oahu, Hawai‘i By John Cusick The goal of this project was to introduce students, their families, and teachers at public schools to stormwaterrelated environmental problems. The project culminated in the development of reusable science education exhibits and a public event held at one of the participating schools. The exhibits were designed to increase awareness of drainage basin processes and stormwater-related sources of pollution. The exhibits demonstrated negative impacts and ways the public can mitigate these impacts to improve water quality while introducing concepts related to best management practices. The University of Hawai‘i at Manoa Environmental Center collaborated with Bishop Museum in Honolulu to determine relevant and effective stormwater education materials and curriculum activities. A review of National Science Education Standards (National Research Council 1996) and State of Hawai‘i Content Standards for Science (Department of Education 2005) was used for project development. Bishop Museum science educators developed a WaterWorks Festival that included 13 interactive exhibits, a slide presentation of historic and contemporary photographs of Central Oahu where the participating schools are located on U.S. military installations, and a Hawaiian cultural specialist who gave storytelling performances. The underlying educational message was to suggest behavioral changes that will eventually make measurable differences in environmental quality. Bishop Museum science educators and Environmental Center staff reviewed existing social and natural science curricula related to watershed education in elementary and secondary schools with the assistance of the State of Hawai‘i Department of Education content specialists. The collection and analysis of relevant research materials for the Central Oahu watersheds was incorporated in the development of exhibits prepared by Bishop Museum. A Focus on Watersheds Approximately 60 students and their families from participating public elementary and middle schools attended the Festival. The Festival was a three-hour event in an open house format i.e. drop-in, selfexploration. It was held in a school cafeteria and engaged visitors in a diverse array of hands-on science, engineering, and cultural activities designed for multi-generational, interactive learning. The topics presented in the Festival included watershed boundaries and topography, the water cycle, aquatic ecosystems and biota, soil erosion, water quality and management, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, stormwater and drinking water systems, avoidance of pollution, and cultural resources (Table 1). Table 1: Example text (a) and activity (b) from Festival exhibits.


a. Ahupua‘a is the Hawaiian word that comes closest to the meaning of watershed. The Hawaiians were masters of land and resource management through their concept of the ahupua‘a – generally a pie-shaped division that starts mauka (at the top of a watershed) and ends makai (at the sea). The ahupua‘a limit is the reef where near shore waters were an important food source. Some ahupua‘a principles that may be transferred to watershed planning and management include access to a complete resource base, reverence for water and respect for all living things, Runoff and erosion can carry some of the applied phosphorus to nearby water bodies. Phosphates test 1. Put on the goggles. 2. Take a test strip. 3. Dip the test strip into the water sample. Hold for 3 seconds. 4. Did the test strip turn Blue or White? >5. Find your test site on your map and circle the results. 6. Healthy = White Not Healthy = Blue 7. Throw the used test paper away.cooperation, and intergenerational learning in support of ‘ohana (members of an extended family). b. Our streams have too much algae. Someone poured chemicals called “phosphates” in the water and it is making the algae grow too fast. The fish and other animals cannot live with so much algae. Please help us find the source. An increase in phosphorus can set off accelerated plant growth, algae blooms, low dissolved oxygen, and the death of certain fish, invertebrates, and other aquatic animals. Phosphorus is found in soil and rocks, wastewater treatment plants, runoff from fertilized lawns and cropland, failing septic systems, runoff from animal manure storage areas, disturbed land areas, drained wetlands, water treatment, and commercial cleaning preparations. Phosphorus is rarely found in concentrations high enough to be toxic to higher organisms. Manure and fertilizers increase the level of available phosphorus in the soil. Participants in the Festival were challenged to consider what can be done on an individual basis and to consider the “big picture” in terms of what an institution, whether the military or the school system, can do to make a difference. Scenarios required students to decide what to do with grease left in a cooking pan, as well as demonstrated the effectiveness of silt socks filled with different materials in a scaled-down version of a construction site. These two scenarios linked how decisions made at home or work can make a difference on stream, estuary, and coastal ecosystem health. A station simulated a car wash over permeable (grass) and non-permeable (paved) surfaces to see first hand how much dirt gets washed into storm drains. Students learned how vehicles can be washed using recycled water in a catchment system that prevents mud and oils from entering the storm drain system. At another station, students pumped water from 10 different depths to comprehend the level of penetration that fertilizers and pesticides have in a groundwater model. Students poured water through three different cups with holes poked in the bottom to highlight the damage of feral pigs on native forests in Hawai‘i. The first cup contained wood chips that simulated a forest floor, the second was filled with vegetation and soil simulating an area damaged by feral pig activity, and the third with packed soil to create conditions similar to an urban landscape. A general reaction by participants was surprise that a natural forest floor acted as a filter whereas an area degraded by feral pigs creates extensive erosion of valuable topsoil. The Festival developed an awareness and understanding of stormwater-related problems in the watersheds of central Oahu, particularly that of Waikele Stream, which is identified as a watershed at risk by the State of Hawai‘i. Although a quantitative evaluation of the Festival was not conducted, the materials are frequently requested by schools under the auspices of the Bishop Museum Holoholo Science outreach program that allows the exhibits to be presented at events throughout the State of Hawai‘i.


Implementing a watershed curriculum in the schools The project’s initial scope of work was to develop grades 5-8 curriculum for a complete academic year. A primary motivator for this effort was to avoid the “rhetoric-reality gap” of public education’s attention to environmental education (Stevenson 2007). As originally intended, environmental education is the promotion of nature and outdoor study, but due to No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) demands for performance in standardized exams, opportunities for intimate experiences with the natural environment are few and are often perceived as luxuries by school administrators (Gruenewald and Manteaw 2007, Stevenson 2007). The planned curriculum was to situate the school campus in the watersheds of central Oahu with considerable time spent conducting field site visits for exploration, observation and monitoring of the physical, biological, and cultural environments. The basis for the idea of an outdoor classroom provides “educational experiences where students soak up all manner of lessons in animal and plant sciences without realizing they remain rooted in an environment of learning” (Flannery 2006:32). Curriculum designed to involve students in the learning of their place in the watershed can highlight the importance of protecting water resources and preserving habitat, as demonstrated in case studies as diverse as the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Bengal. These same curricula can be used to meet National Science Education Standards (Miner and Elshof 2007, Sarkar et al. 2007, Shepardson et al. 2007). However, a series of school visits and meetings conducted during the planning phase made evident how difficult it would be to accomplish the original scope of work in pursuit of objectives as identified in the original proposal. The schools and teachers were unable to participate in the proposed project primarily due to time and curriculum limitations as a result of mandates associated with NCLB. This situation is not unique to the target schools on Oahu, and confirmed that NCLB mandates leave few opportunities for additional activities in teaching schedules. “Environmental education continues to be marginalized, misunderstood as mainly about science, and in many places totally neglected” (Gruenewald and Manteaw 2007:173). There was general agreement on the merits of the project, but school administrators showed reluctance to distract teachers from focusing on existing lesson preparation, class time, and additional faculty responsibilities. Alternatively, a teacher workshop and curriculum were proposed and discussed in planning meetings and in subsequent conversations and emails with school administrators and teachers over a period of several months. These included substituting class teachers with project content specialists trained in the curriculum and its connection to national and state education standards, and scaling back the curriculum to focus on fewer grades and class subjects. The stormwater curriculum for Grades 5 and 7 as originally proposed was to be designed for a six to eight week period in the Fall and Spring semesters. The curriculum would be “place-based”, meaning that it be tailored to the environmental context of the participating schools. Smith (2007:190) suggests that a placebased approach “can be distinguished from much conventional environmental education by the attention its practicioners direct toward social and natural environments.” His article includes a case study from the island of Moloka‘i in the State of Hawai‘i that engaged fifth and sixth graders academically in important community issues. The project site on urban Oahu did not involve the same demographic as on rural Moloka‘i, but school administrators and teachers suggested that participating schools confront equal challenges related to discipline problems, lower performance, and at risk of school failure. In fact, administrators indicated that field studies, whether to field sites on school campuses, or for field trips to Bishop Museum, would not be possible due to student conduct violations on previous excursions. A discussion among project members ensued as to what other options might accommodate the needs of schools and teachers while still addressing project objectives. A school event based on the concept of a Science Fair, an event that would be a “celebration of their watershed” to encourage an ethic of environmental stewardship was suggested. This was the preferred option to pursue because it allowed for accommodation of the constraints on teachers while ensuring a learning opportunity to address stormwater education. Bishop Museum staff suggested this format based on prior experience with the design of exhibits for use in a one-day event.


The exhibit materials are currently archived and made accessible for future use. According to the Bishop Museum 2007 Education Guide to Outreach Programs, the traveling exhibits bring “exciting, hands-on science to your school. Students have the opportunity to think and act like scientists, and connect to what they are learning in the classroom. Each session is designed to support student achievement of national and state content and performance standards. Presented by dynamic science educators and scientists, the programs encourage inquiry and exploration” (Bishop Museum 2007:4). As indicated, the objective of this project was to develop stormwater education materials targeted for elementary and middle public school students, their families, and staff. The initial challenge was considered to be curriculum development, but instead became a matter of addressing school administrator and teacher concerns as how to accommodate the addition of stormwater-related concepts into existing curriculum. The original intent was to develop content that would be incorporated into existing curriculum during the course of the school year. However, the evident reluctance on the part of school administrators to overload their teaching staff indicated that a compromise solution was necessary to achieve the project objective. The compromise was to conduct the Festival and to develop the exhibits for continued use by Bishop Museum. Summary In summary, the project developed stormwater education materials as proposed and presented these to students and their families. The resulting science education exhibits are now available for future use and available as part of the Bishop Museum Holoholo Science outreach program. Although not measured formally, the success of the Festival was reported by local media, “Watching the excited faces of the students as they ran from one station to the next, making sure not to miss anything in between, it appeared that the event was a success. However, the true measure of success won’t come until later – when the children grow into active members of the community” (Gardin 2007:B1). Acknowledgements This project was funded by the U.S. Geologic Survey Agreement No. 05HQGR0171. The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Bishop Museum science education staff Kay Fullerton, Nancy Ali, Leon Geschwind, Amber Inwood, Heidi Lennstrom; University of Hawai‘i graduate assistant Pam Hagan; and Russell Leong and Daina Auger, U.S. Army Garrison, Hawai‘i Directorate of Public Works, Environmental Division. References Bishop Museum (2007). Education Guide to Outreach Programs. Department of Education (2005). Hawaii Content and Performance Standards for Science. Honolulu: State of Hawaii. Flanner, M. (2006). Seeds of learning: lessons take root in an outdoor classroom, where fresh air leads to new thinking. National Education Association Today 24(5), 32-33. Gardin, Stefanie (2007). WaterWorks Festival: Collaborative efforts help keep young student’s knowledge of water flowing and growing. Hawaii Army Weekly, Friday, March 16, B1, B4-5. Gruenewald, D. and B. Manteaw (2007). Oil and water still: how No Child Left Behind limits and distorts environmental education in US schools. Environmental Education Research 13(2), 171-188. Minor, J. and L. Elshof (2007). Empowering youth. Science Teacher 74(4), 24-26. National Research Council (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.


Sarkar, S., M. Saha, H. Takada, A. Bhattacharya, P. Mishra, B. Battacharya (2007). Water quality management in the lower stretch of the river Ganges, east coast of India: an approach through environmental education. Journal of Cleaner Production 15(16), 1559-1567. Shepardson, D., B. Wee, M. Priddy, L. Schedllenberger, J. Harbor (2007). What is a watershed? Implications of student conceptions for environmental science education and the National Science Education Standards. Science Education 91(4), 554-578. Stevenson, R. (2007). Schooling and environmental education: contradictions in purpose and practice. Environmental Education Research 13(2), 139-153. About the Author â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Dr. Cusick coordinates the Environmental Studies undergraduate degree and certificate program at the University of Hawaiâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;i at Manoa and is faculty advisor for the Ecology Club, which is supported by the Ecological Society of America Strategies for Ecology Education, Development, and Sustainability (SEED) program.


May 9th, 2010

At Home in Prescott: Confluence of Streams in my Journey as an Interdisciplinary Sustainability Educator By Pramod Parajuli Welcome to my auto-ethnographic journey, as I take you through the confluence of ten streams of thoughts, and lifepaths. These ten have shaped my evolutionary path towards an interdisciplinary sustainability educator. Because it is the inaugural issue of the Journal of Sustainability Education, I thought of offering some reflections on the interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, or postdisciplinary (whatever we may want to call it) nature of the discipline of sustainability education. I wondered: why not revisit my own zigzag trajectory as an scholar/educator of sustainability to illustrate that? Here it is. Rather unique for a person of Nepalese origin, my journey spans vast bio-geographies, as well as academic disciplines. Geographically, I moved from a small village in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal to Kathmandu–the capital city of Nepal–and then to the United States. I have traveled extensively all over the globe – from India to Indiana, from Cusco, Peru to California, from Oaxaca, Mexico, to Christchurch,New Zealand, from the southern tip of Cornwall,England to Fairbanks,Alaska, from the Blackforest in Germany to Jajarkot District of remote Nepal. I have traveled many places in between. But somehow, the three bio-geographies –the Himalayas, the Salmon Nation of the US Pacific Northwest, and the Sonoran desert and the Colorado plateau—seem to have the deepest chord in me. I will be intimately engaged in these three places in the future. One may consider my pathways as interdisciplinary, post-disciplinary, or even trans-disciplinary. My scholarship and teaching builds on what I have learned in four disciplines of ecology (political ecology, sustainable food systems, agroecology), culture (political and ecological anthropology, peasant and indigenous cultures), learning (theories of learning, critical pedagogy, ecological education), and leadership (theories of state, social movements, grassroots and civil society formations). While teaching as well as designing and implementing interdisciplinary graduate programs, I look for curricular content and a process of learning, such that we can adequately prepare a new generation of educators and leaders who are well equipped to provide leadership for the emergent social and economic formations. Those could span from green economy and green jobs to conservation economy, from biophilic designs to social equity and bioregional mappings. I do so by connecting and integrating the ecosphere (the earth’s household) with the ethnosphere (the human household)—perhaps the two most complex systems in this earth. Then I uniquely blend the two households with the learning and leadership spheres–the way we learn and engage in inquiry and transformation. As a systems thinker, my goal is to increase synergy between these three spheres. As you will read below, I have had plenty of fruitful results in creating, what I call the “synergestic gymnastics” within the learning environments, as well as the social environments. To start with, let me offer a working definition of learning sustainability. For me, learning sustainability is “an art and a process that could reorient human beings to become a beneficial member of an abundant biosphere.” One may think I assembled a bunch of words and ideas in this definition. Please notice some distinct features in the way I am defining sustainability and learning sustainability. First, I


consider learning sustainability as an art and a process. Second, the intent of this art and process is to reorient humans from one mindset/worldview to another that will then lead to new visions, dreams, and designs that help realize those visions. Third, what humans do and how they live their lives do not necessarily have to be detrimental to ecosystemic or biospheric health. Instead, humans can be beneficial members of the biosphere. There is plenty of evidence that the human needs and that of the health of the biosphere do and can be mutually fulfilling and enhancing. Fourth, the biosphere is abundant. Based on that, we can create foundations for an abundant as well as equitable human life. Fifth, as an educator, I am confident that we can prepare the next generation of people, who can not only be beneficial members but who can also make the biosphere abundant. In a similar note, author Andres Edwards observes that as our goal, we need to shift from merely achieving sustainability to what he calls, achieving thriveability. He comments: While the word sustainable is derived from roots meaning “to uphold,” the origin of thriveable comes from “to grasp to oneself.” Sustainability separates us from nature and envisions us “getting by” by limiting our negative environmental impacts over the long term. Sustaining involved scarcity and minimalism; by contrast thriving involves abundance and enrichment. Sustainability is shortsighted and ignores the very qualities that make us human: our passion, enthusiasm, adaptability, vision and love. Thriveability celebrates us as part of nature. We “grasp” the ability of the human spirit to prosper and flourish when we are integrated into the web of life (Edwards, 2010: 149). When we aim towards abundance or thriveability, a “quantum jump” in our possibilities can be realized by building synergy between the work of biospheric regeneration with healing the human wounds inflicted by race, gender, class, and geographic cleavages. I work on the premise that restoring ecological health is not only an urgent obligation and responsibility for humanity, but it is also the site for healing our own human wounds (See my online article, The Blessed Moment: Promise for Preparing Integrative Learners and Leaders” (2009). In essence, there are two overlapping tasks we as future generations of educators and leaders could learn. First, we could learn how to stop “doing harm” to ourselves and the earth. Second, we could learn how to actually “do good.” In my model, there is not a linear progression from the first to the second; both could be simultaneously learned and actualized. Coming Home to Prescott College Joining the Prescott College as a graduate faculty and director of sustainability education since May 2008 has been like “home coming” for me. Immediately, my attention has gone towards cultivating a sense of place and purpose for being here in the US Southwest–the bioregions of the Colorado Plateau, and the Sonoran desert. I have focused on getting to know this bioregion through visits to both sides of the USMexico border, including the Navajo and the Hopi Nations, the Sky Islands, the Kino Bay, including the indigenous Lands of the Seri people by the Gulf of California. I already like to live here. I am looking to buy a passive solar home which has some acres around it. In that land, I have plans to hone my skills in permaculture design, solar energy, and food production. Obviously, I have not even scratched the surface here in the US Southwest. I have yet to learn so much more about this biogeography, which ethno-biologist and a food educator, Gary Nabhan, calls a “Chilli-Pepper” Nation. It could equally be a Nation of Mesquite and Prickley Pear Cactus. For me, food is the deepest and the most delicious gateway to know new people and places. As I elaborate in the ninth confluence of streams below, food and gardens can even initiate deep and delicious social conversations, engagements, and transformations. I have begun my culinary immersion here in Prescott by cooking and testing several bioregional menus, including the legendary mesquite pancake with ogave and prickly pear syrup. Getting to know our legendary chef Molly Beverly at the Crossroads Café of Prescott College and being a member of the community supported agriculture (CSA) since my arrival here has opened my taste buds for the seasonal flavors and bounties of the desert. Those bounties include goat milk from Ms. Irish’s or Liz and Will’s farms. My CSA bag on the week of March April 26-30 consisted of


potatoes, carrots, redbor kale, nopales, I’itoi onions, and sprouts . Let me introduce a bit about the Nopales—one of the desert foods in this region and northern Mexico. A email note to subscribers from CSA coordinator Erin Lingo reads: NOPALES are the traditional name for the edible prickly pear cactus pads. Native to Mexico and the southwest US, they play an important role in Mexican and New Mexican cuisine, like nopalitos and huevos con nopales. They have a slight sour taste, much like green beans, and a mucilaginous texture. They are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins A, C and K, and magnesium, potassium and manganese, and low in carbohydrates. The addition of nopales to a meal also helps reduce the glycemic affect, making them a good food for diabetics. This is the way the CSA food movement is trying to chang