IDEA Blog

The Challenge of Learning for a Post-Carbon Future

20/06/14

Relevant Tags: post carbon

The Challenge of Learning for a Post-Carbon Future

David Hicks, freelance educator and visiting Professor at Bath Spa University addresses this question in the guest blog below. He is the author of many books, articles and teaching resources including Educating for Hope in Troubled Times: Climate change and the transition to a post-carbon future (2014) Trentham/IOE Press and Lessons for the Future: The missing dimension in education (2006) Victoria BC: Trafford Publishing.

In this guest blog David Hicks challenges schools, and geography teachers in particular, to build the foundations and develop the skills needed to work towards a postcarbon future.

www.teaching4abetterworld. co.uk

Where are we going?

Nearly thirty years ago Rex Walford (1984, p. 207) argued that if the future is unavoidable we should at least not walk backwards into it. The future we are faced with now will not be one of inevitable ‘progress’ and growth. It cannot be ‘Business as Usual’ in the face of growing climate change, an impending energy crisis and the need to move to a post-carbon future. So do current geography teaching and research critically challenge or unthinkingly support a high carbon view of the future?

Energy matters

The fruits of contemporary civilisation depend upon an abundance of coal, oil and gas. These, and the by-products of their extraction, from chemicals and plastics to fertilisers and pesticides, have given us our ultra-mobile world. But fossil fuels now need to stay in the ground unless we want current extreme weather conditions around the world to become even more severe (Berners- Lee and Clark, 2013). What helped create the rich world’s wealth now comes directly to threaten it. However, as Lester Brown highlights in World on the Edge (2011), out of threat can also come positive opportunities for change. Fossil fuels threaten, in varying degrees, both our future and our children’s future – if we continue to use them rather than phasing them out. Nuclear energy is hailed by governments as a ‘green’ answer to these energy problems, but is high-level nuclear waste a hazard we should bequeath to future generations? The renewable family – wind, water, tide, solar and biomass, which produce no greenhouse gas emissions – has to be the principal route to a post-carbon future. As Elliot and Urry (2010) point out: In the twentieth century, powerful high-carbon, path-dependent systems were set in place, locked in through various economic and social institutions ... As the century unfolded, these lock-ins meant that the world came to be left with a high and unsustainable carbon legacy ... A ‘carbon shift’ is inevitable. (p. 132)

Both climate change and the shift to a postcarbon society are ‘wicked problems’: that is, they have no straightforward answer due to their complexity and the differing interpretations people put on them. This is why a number of observers are arguing that we face a long social and cultural transition to a post-carbon society in the years ahead. David Orr (2009), a leading writer on education for sustainability, argues that for two centuries we’ve been on a collision course with the ecological limits of the Earth, that these issues of sustainability will not be solved by this generation or the next and that this transition will require all our skill, wisdom, foresight and political creativity. Is this being alarmist, or should geographers and others at least hold these as possible, if not probable, truths?

A post-carbon future

Various commentators have begun to flesh out the parameters of a sustainable post-carbon future. Across the globe, at levels from the international and national to community and school, transition schemes have been initiated. Excellent updates can be found in The Transition Companion (Hopkins, 2012) and the Fossil Free UK website, whilst for the classroom there is Sustainable Schools, Sustainable Futures (Hicks, 2012) and Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change (Wals and Corcoran, 2012). The wider subject backdrop is set out in Morgan’s (2012) Teaching Secondary Geography as if the Planet Matters.

Clearly the notion of a post-carbon geography is still in its early stages and there is everything to play for. By definition it must be critically reflective both in relation to what we teach and how we teach. The difficulties students experience when faced with messages of ‘doom and gloom’, especially when no space is given for them to share how they feel about this, are highlighted by Kelsey and Armstrong:

We need to acknowledge the enormity of environmental problems, and share our feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, fear and hopelessness. We need to create spaces and opportunities to help kids explore and share their own feelings. We also need to move beyond the narrative of ‘doom and gloom’ toward more hopeful narratives grounded in resiliency, well-being, happiness and health (Kelsey and Armstrong, 2012, p. 190).

This is not likely to happen unless teachers can be open both to their own and their students’ hopes and fears about issues such as climate change. This is why I believe there need to be four dimensions in any investigation of such issues. These are:

1. Knowing – what do we need to know about this issue?

2. Feeling – what are our hopes and concerns in relation to this issue?

3. Choosing – what are our options?

4. Acting – what are others doing/might school want to do in relation to this issue?

Education is never merely a cognitive affair, although knowledge is central to good geography. It also has a strong affective element, since learning about people and the environment always gives rise to a range of emotional responses. To leave these unacknowledged is to only half achieve the educational task. Young people need safe spaces in which they feel able to share both their hopes and their concerns about issues. Feeling heard and supported, as against unacknowledged and dismissed, leaves one with a sense of hope – my feelings are respected, there are others who feel like me. Young people are also less fearful about an issue if they know what adults and other students are doing to help resolve things. This is where it is important to share sustainable success stories, e.g. from the Low Energy Sustainable Schools programme as well as examples of biodiversity protection or building more sustainable communities (Figure 4). Such stories from around the world show that what can seem unchangeable can be reconceptualised and acted upon (Hopkins, 2012).

An ecologically and socially active school is one which engages critically with the community in action for sustainable change. The purpose of such change is to build the foundations and develop the skills needed to work towards a postcarbon future. In the absence of such a critically reflective approach geography will merely continue to reflect the high carbon values of an inequitable world. Geography should be the lead subject in these matters. Having been a lifelong geographer I know that the subject is indeed capable of rising to this challenge.

-----

This blog is adapted from a longer article, entitled, A Post-Carbon Geography published in Teaching Geography in Summer 2013. It was produced for IDEA’s 2014 Annual Conference, What to Learn NOW for the Future We Want. The Conference aims to question and emphasise the role of education on creating a more just and sustainable future.


Similarly Tagged Articles


Comments:

Tag Cloud

youth groups, youth, young people, workshops, workshop, working together, women, webinars, volunteers, volunteering, vision, vacancy, vacancies, universality in action, united nations, training, teachers, teacher training, tax, sustainability, strategy, strategic plan, sse, social and solidarity economy, sdgs, scholarship, resources, reports, report, quality and impact, quality, publication, primary school teachers, primary school, policy, policies, partnerships, nyci, national council, members, member, media, measure impact, maynooth university, lycs, latin america, lasc, justice, jobs, jobfairy, job, irish aid, internship, guantanamo, governance, good practice, good pra, globalctc, global learning, global citizenship education, g, funding, finance, film, events, event, eu, education, dóchas, discussion, development education, deve, deeep, dear call, conversation circle, consultant, conference, compassion in education, collaboration, codes of good practice, co-operatives, climate change, civil society, challengingthecrisis, challenging the crisis, capacity development, campaigning, campaign, budgeting, best practice, application, annual grants round, annual grants, annual conference, amnesty international, agm, advocacy, advoc, adults, adult and community,


blog latest

19/05/17

Combating Islamaphobia: 11 May, 2017

16/05/17

WorldWise Global Schools Conference: Meaningful Action: Croke Park, April 2017

10/05/16

Development Education: where we’ve been; where we need to go: This blog was written by Colm Regan to stimulate discussion at an IDEA Conversation Circle in Dublin, 04 May 2016

16/07/15

Learning about the ‘Co’ in Ecovillage!:

05/07/15

Youth are the Agents of Change: Rebecca Amet,Young Global advocate with Challenging the Crisis, on the UN Youth Delegate Programme Launch

18/09/14

Closing Time on the “Double Irish”: Opinion piece on the OECD's recent announcement about global tax regulation

20/06/14

The Challenge of Learning for a Post-Carbon Future: David Hicks, freelance educator and visiting Professor at Bath Spa University addresses this question in the guest blog below. articles and teaching resources.

20/06/14

What to Learn NOW: How to Make Schools more caring, inclusive places: Dr Gerry Jeffers, lecturer in the education department in NUI Maynooth responds to our question: what should we be learning now to create the future we want?

05/03/14

Together We Stand; Together We Learn: Last weekend, Joe Costello TD revealed in an interview with the Sunday Business Post that Ireland will not meet its 0.7% of GNP target

30/07/13

Citizens of the World? Building global justice perspectives in challenging times: The 2013 IDEA Annual Conference focused on the theme of “Global Citizenship” and considered how we can harness the energy of new social movements.

24/06/13

Development Education - Responding to the Global Crisis?: The DEEEP Seminar “Development Education: Responding to the Crisis?” took place in Dublin bringing together over 100 development education practitioners


members' activities

25/09/17

LYCS: GLOBALISATION AND INEQUALITY Workshop: Thursday, 16 November 10am-4pm, Carmelite Community Centre, Dublin

14/09/17

WOWC: Social Saturday: Saturday, 23 September, 12.00 - 5.00pm

12/09/17

#LASCWeds talk: Another Brick in “The Wall”: The United States in Central America from Truman to Trump

12/09/17

Trócaire: Action for a Just World: Trócaire Seeks Youth Groups to take part in Action for a Just World

04/09/17

DICE Project and Irish Aid: Consultant: Deadline for application is 15 September

31/08/17

LASC: Education Coordinator and Office Manager: Deadline for application is Monday, 04 September

20/07/17

CIT Crawford College of Art and Design: Creativity & Change Programme: Level 9 CIT Special Purpose Award offered over 8 weekends, Sept. - May

13/07/17

Suas: Facilitators for the Irish Aid Centre: Deadline for application 25 July

12/07/17

Development Perspectives: #SDGchallenge Goal 16 Workshop: 01 August, University College Cork

03/07/17

Global Centre for Education: Policy and Practice: Call for Contributors

22/06/17

Centre for Global Education: New Report: Report on Psycho-Social and Educational Support Programme delivered in the Gaza Strip

22/06/17

ActionAid: FGM Documentary Premiere: Sunday, 25 June, 4:00pm, Filmbase, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

24/05/17

Centre for Global Education: Education toward Social Change: Wednesday, 14 June, The Senate Room, Queen’s University Belfast, 1.00pm – 4.00pm

24/05/17

LYCS: Globalisation & Inequality Workshop: 27 June, 10:00am-4:00pm, Dublin City Centre

10/05/17

Cultivate: Art of Facilitation Course: 10am - 5pm, Tuesday 23 May, Cloughjordan Ecovillage, Tipperary.

08/05/17

ECO-UNESCO: Young Environmentalist Awards Showcase and Ceremony: 23 May, The Round Room of the Mansion House, Dublin 2

04/05/17

Afri: 30th Famine Walk: Saturday, 20 May, Louisburgh, Co Mayo,

06/04/17

Comhlámh: Passion4Solidarity Campaign: A one-stop-shop for all education and health workers thinking about overseas volunteering

07/03/17

Plan International: Teachers Handbook and Interactive Student Resources: Resources for Primary Schools

02/02/17

ECO-UNESCO’s Youth Leadership Training: Deadline for application is 06 February