This 5 minute video was recorded at WEEC 2022 in Prague by Alex Kudryavtsev – a research associate at Cornell University for the “Environmental Education & Community Engagement” online course by Cornell and NAAEE. I introduce transdisciplinary, transgressive and transformative learning in the context of citizens monitoring air pollution s a form of citizen science. I use the city of Rotterdam in The Netherlands as an example (althoughI do some justice to the city of Rotterdam as my example is somewhat dated:. it is a short video and much more is to be said about Rotterdam as the city government now pro-actively works with citizens in an air quality monitoring network. ‘Luchtbrug’ see: https://www.themayor.eu/en/a/view/rotterdam-citizens-concerned-with-air-quality-form-a-club-8089
I feel very privileged to be part of one of the two major International River Research projects led by Wageningen UR colleague Prof. Rutgerd Boelens: Riverhood and RiverCommons. Riverhood and River Commons are both 5-year research projects that focus on enlivening rivers, river co-governance initiatives, and new water justice movements.
Riverhood is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) (Grant Agreement No 101002921) and aims to build groundbreaking transdisciplinary concepts and methodological tools to analyze and support new water justice movements’ institutions, strategies and practices for equitable and sustainable water governance. It does so through comparing initiatives in Latin America (Ecuador and Colombia) and Europe (Netherlands and Spain). The focus will be on movements promoting novel concepts and practices such as Rights of Nature, new water cultures or nature-inclusive hydraulics, to name just a few.
RiverCommons is funded by Wageningen University’s Interdisciplinary Research and Education Fund (INREF) and unites chair groups from the social and natural sciences, as well as partners worldwide. Its objective is to develop transdisciplinary concepts and methods for research, education, and multi-stakeholder interactions to understand and support river co-governance initiatives and sustainable socio-ecological river systems in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.
While each of the projects has its specific objectives, activities, regions, and partners, there is immense potential for synergies and cross-pollination. Riverhood and River Commons will therefore be integrated in multiple ways, to together build a diverse and wide network of river scholars, activists, and institutions that commonly aim to understand and strengthen river co-governance around the world.
Both projects are united by a common framework that illuminates the different facets and complexities of river systems. The framework encompasses four dimensions: River-as-Ecosociety, River-as-Territory, River-as-Subject, and River-as-Movement. You can find more information about it in Concepts.
Another important component of both projects is the development of Environmental Justice Labs (Riverhood) and River Co-governance Labs (River Commons) to be organized in the case study sites to co-create knowledge and mobilize and exchange ideas for change.
One exciting immediate prospect and possibility for PhD’s from around the world is our Summer School “River Lives and Living Rivers: Towards a transdisciplinary conceptualization”
Here is the short introduction to the course:
World’s rivers are fundamental to social and natural well-being but profoundly affected by mega-damming and pollution. In response to top-down and technocratic approaches, in many places riverine communities practice forms of ‘river co-governance’, integrating ecological, cultural, political, economic and technological dimensions. In addition, new water justice movements (NWJMs) have emerged worldwide to creatively transform local ideas for ‘enlivening rivers’ into global action and vice versa. The Summer School aims to provide PhD students who conduct research on these ‘river commons’ and NWJMs with transdisciplinary concepts and approaches for studying their emerging ideas, concepts, proposals and strategies. The training thereby focuses on conceptualizing river systems in all senses, and capacity-building for (understanding and supporting) river knowledge co-creation and democratisation from the bottom up.
Ecologies for Learning and Practice edited by Ronald Barnett and Andrew Jackson, provides the first systematic account of the ideas of learning ecologies and ecologies of practice and locates the two concepts within the context of our contemporary world. It focuses on how individuals and society are being presented with all manner of learning challenges arising from fluidities and disruptions, which extend across all domains of life. This book examines emerging ways of understanding and living purposively in these new fluidities and provides fresh perspectives on the way we learn and achieve in such dynamic contexts.
Providing an insight into the research of a range of internationally renowned contributors, this book explores diverse topics from the higher education and adult learning worlds. These include:
- The challenges faced by education systems today
- The concept of ecologies for learning and practice
- The role and responsibility of higher education institutions in advancing ecological approaches to learning
- The different eco-social systems of the world—local and global, economic, cultural, practical, technological, and ethical
- How adult learners might create and manage their own ecologies for learning and practice in order to sustain themselves and flourish
With its proposals for individual and institutional learning in the 21st century and concerns for our sustainability in a fragile world, Ecologies for Learning and Practice is an essential guide for all who seek to encourage and facilitate learning in a world that is fundamentally ecological in nature.
In the chapter I contributed I argue that the current sustainability crisis demands a radical re-orientation of the way we learn. I consider sustainability to be an emergent property of an ecology of learning that is reflexive purposeful cocktail of actors, perspectives, forms or learning, connections and support mechanisms, driven by an ethical concern for the wellbeing of people and planet both now and in the future. Sustainability-oriented learning then becomes an organic and relational process of continuous framing, reframing, tuning and fine-tuning, disruption and accommodation, and action and reflection, which is guided by a moral compass inspired by an ethic of care. Such learning implies or even demands a certain freedom to explore alternative paths of development and new ways of thinking, valuing and doing.
The chapter introduces sustainability-oriented ecologies of learning as a blended learning space where multiple actors, often having different backgrounds, co-create sustainability organically using a variety of tools, relations, and forms of learning. The concept of whole school or whole institution approaches is introduced as a way to enact such ecologies of learning in a systemic way (see the figure below from the 2016 Global Education Monitor Report published by UNESCO).
Full reference: Wals, A.E.J. (2019) Sustainability-oriented Ecologies of Learning as a response to systemic global dysfunction In: Learning Ecologies: Sightings, possibilities, and emerging practices Ronald Barnett and Norman Jackson (Eds.), London: Taylor & Francis. p. xx-xxx
Here is a link to the book on the publisher’s website!
An ecology of learning created by a whole school approach to sustainability (source Global Education Monitoring Report, UNESCO, 2016)
Last month I attended the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER in Hamburg this year. Around 3000 participants from over 60 countries attended the conference. Since the overall theme was ‘Education in an Era of Risk – the Role of Educational Research for the Future’ I had the honor of being asked as one of the plenary keynote speakers, as was my good colleague and friend Heila Lotz-Sisitka from Rhodes University in South Africa who, like myself, is a member of ECER/EERA’s subnetwork on Environmental and Sustainability Education (Network 30), one of the youngest and rapidly expanding networks.
The title of my talk was: Should and Can Education Save the Planet? In the talk I outlined the current global sustainability challenges form a learning perspective and I introduced the concept of sustainability-oriented ecologies of learning. I also introduced the notion of sustainability Bildung in which Biesta’s three tasks of education are reconfigured with Planet in mind to become eco-subjectification, eco-socialization and eco-qualification.
You can watch the full keynote here (also understandable for the deaf and hearing impaired as the talk was kindly supported with sign language).
Here is the official ECER2019 abstract of the keynote.
Education unwillingly has become a key mechanism for fostering economic development, innovation and growth. In the meantime, humanity is facing a range of sustainability issues that include: rising inequity, loss of democracy, runaway climate change and mass extinction. These issues can be so overwhelming that they can easily lead to apathy and despair which will only make them bigger. We appear to be at a tipping point where the decisions we make about how to live together will be crucial for the future of our planet. There is no better time than now to ask: What is education for? What if education would serve people and planet rather than just or mainly economic interests? Is this a role education should play? And, if so, what does such an education look like?
Based on emerging research and practices from around the world, I will sketch forms of education and learning that are: responsive, responsible and transformative in light of global sustainability challenges. Sustainability here is not seen as another subject to be added to an overcrowded curriculum, but rather as a continuous quest for finding ways to live more equitably, meaningfully and healthier on the Earth without compromising planetary boundaries and the futures of the coming generations. Such a quest requires a more relational pedagogy that can help establish deeper connections with people, places and other species. Such a pedagogy not only invites reflection on values and ethics, and the utilization of diversity, but also the critiquing and transgressing of the structures and systems that make living unsustainably easy and living sustainably hard.
(note the cover page above is not the one of the current issue).
Together with good friends and colleagues, Justin Dillon and Bob Stevenson I was given the opportunity to edit a Special Section for one of the key journals in the field of Biology and Nature Conservation – ‘Conservation Biology’ – on Citizen Science.
We were invited to do so shortly after our paper on using sustainability and citizen science as a bridge between science education and environmental education that was published in Science (see: ScienceWalsetall2014) well over a year ago. In the paper we use a heuristic that Bob Jickling and myself developed a while ago to position different strands of citizen science – from more science-driven ones to more policy-driven ones to more transition-driven ones. The later strands we refer to as CIVIC Science, rather than Citizen Science. The Special Section included 11 interesting papers from authors and places from around the world. What is clear is that the Civic Science, transition-driven strands are rare but represent a very important niche that is likely to grow in the years to come. Here’s the link:
Some of the papers are open-access for all to down-load – but some you may need to pay for or get through your library. Our introductory paper presently is not listed as open-access but we trust that the publisher Wiley will make this open-access shortly. UPDATE: WILEY HAS DONE SO NOW! YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE PDF FOR FREE NOW FOR PERSONAL USE.
Feel free to share with interested colleagues – also those working in conservation.