Dr Beth Christie is a Lecturer in Education in the Outdoor and Environmental Education Section of the Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. She is Programme Director for the MSc Learning for Sustainability, and a member of the Childhood and Youth Studies research group. Beth has a particular interest in climate justice and researches and writes about this. This is a link to a recent blog post (written with Dr Callum McGregor) on Education for Climate Justice in Scotland. This is how it begins:

“Climate justice is a concept that prioritises the theories and politics of social justice in debates over climate action. As such, it is an increasingly ubiquitous concept in policy and activist discourse worldwide, including Scotland. Despite this, it remains an underdeveloped and poorly grasped concept in Scottish education. Yet Scotland has an internationally unique sustainability education approach termed Learning for Sustainability (LfS), which requires that all learners should have an entitlement to learning for sustainability and that all teachers and education professionals address Learning for Sustainability in their practice.

LfS can be understood as “an approach to life and learning. It enables learners, educators, schools and their wider communities to build a socially-just, sustainable and equitable society. An effective whole school and community approach to LfS weaves together global citizenship, sustainable development education, outdoor learning and children’s rights to create coherent, rewarding and transformative learning experiences. (Vision 2030+ Learning for Sustainability National implementation Group 2016).”

Ostensibly, climate justice education can be accommodated in this educational imperative yet we argue that this ‘housing’ is problematic in a context where young people are both demanding climate justice and questioning their own educational experience. Furthermore, we suggest that it is fruitful to think of youth climate activism as educative in its own right, as young people learn to express their collective agency as citizens.

Since 2017, we have conducted exploratory qualitative research with a range of stakeholders, including teachers from across Scotland who are engaged with professional development in LfS, activists and advocacy workers. We gathered qualitative data in order to address three broad aims:

– to consider the ways in which different stakeholders conceptualise climate justice

– to examine how teachers and activists perceive challenges to, and opportunities for, developing climate justice education

– to explore the potential for recognising young peoples’ activism and civic engagement as an educational process

The rationale for our project was borne of our shared conviction that education fit for addressing the climate crisis must move away from a vague discourse of undifferentiated responsibility and agency. It is very difficult to generate political momentum for radical climate action if swathes of the population either feel excluded from such action or, even worse, recognise the obviously disproportionate impact that climate action would have on their own material living conditions. Climate justice is arguably a bridging concept because it introduces the possibility that in tackling climate change we can also tackle social injustice, rather than seeing the two as being at odds. It suggests that efficacious climate action must take account of different forms of social power and inequality. …”

The post goes on to explore why addressing climate justice in education is difficult; for example, because of the complex interaction of social injustice and climate change, and because of the complexity of the idea of justice itself. The authors argue that climate justice needs to be explored through educational processes rather than simply assumed. You can read the rest of the blog and see the citations here.

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