Today’s post is by Arjen Wals, the well-known international environmental educator and researcher who writes:

“Last month I attended the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in Hamburg.  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 to be one of the plenary keynote speakers.

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 the Planet in mind to become eco-subjectification, eco-socialization and eco-qualification.”

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.

If you want to know more, you can watch the full lecture here