A publication with the title Urban Environmental Education Review sounds as if it’s an academic journal, but it’s actually a book, edited by Marianne Krasny and Alex Russ at Cornell’s renowned Department of Natural Resources, and published by Cornell University Press. That said, it has the feel of a journal in that it’s a series of papers written by teams of academics and clearly intended for an academic audience. Its 30 chapters are divided into five sections: [i] urban context, [ii], theoretical underpinnings, [iii] educational settings, [iv] participants, and [v] educational approaches. There is also a helpfully extensive Introduction by the editors, commendably brief Forewords and Afterwords, a helpful list of authors, and a good index. More unusually, there is also a website where lead authors of each of the chapters present video introductions to what they have written. A number of these are well done. You can also freely read and download 10 of the chapters via the book’s website in a ‘pre-release offer’ that is still available. You will also find a few comments here on what authors have written.
This is a well-structured book, put together with care. Unsurprisingly, the largest section is the final Educational Approaches part with nine chapters. Anyone with the stamina to read the 320+ pages from cover to cover (unlikely, of course) will find themselves well-prepared when they get to these. These beginnings to the book cover a lot of ground and much of it is familiar. The theory section ranges from environmental justice and sense of place to environmental governance with climate change along the way. I’d have liked there to have been more by way of history, however, and was disappointed that Patrick Geddes didn’t even get a mention. Around 1890 in Edinburgh, Geddes dedicated himself to urban regeneration through connecting the environment and education and is widely regarded as an early environmental educator. 80 years on in the 1970s he became an inspiration for the UK’s urban studies movement. Geddes favoured a hands, heart and head approach to learning, and argued that children in contact with their environment would not only learn more effectively but also develop positive attitudes towards it. Sadly, a hundred years on, such arguments are still having to be made to policy-makers.
I have one other criticism of the book. Although it draws on ‘contributions from round the globe’, over half the authors are from North America, and Anglophone contributors are over-represented as they often are in such publications. Inevitably, given this, a lot of North American cases, contexts and examples are used to illustrate authors’ points. It would have been nice to see a more globally-balanced approach to this. Most conspicuously, perhaps, although there are six contributors (to three chapters) from Africa, all are from South Africa and the rest of the continent is left as terra incognita, academically speaking. This is despite forecasts from the UN Population Division1 that two of the top ten largest cities in 2030 will be in Africa, and that Sub-Saharan Africa will have a large majority of the world’s fastest growing cities between now and 2030. Indeed, the first chapter in the book makes similar points as it describes the phenomenon of rapid urbanization. Perhaps an expanded further edition can put this right.
Reviewed by Professor William Scott
Urban Environmental Education Review
Edited by Alex Russ and Marianne E. Krasny, 2017
Published by Cornell University Press