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Transcript RECOGNISING THE MIRAGE John Foster j

John Foster
[email protected]
• In a sustainable world, … society would celebrate
cultural diversity and increase the biological
diversity and complexity of the ecosystems on which
we all depend. Simultaneously, we would have
stabilized population and resource consumption at a
level that is within the carrying capacity of Earth's
ecosystems. A sustained, long-term effort to
transform education at all levels is critical to the
change in mindset necessary to achieve this vision.
(Second Nature)
• The overall goal [of the United Nations Decade of
Education for Sustainable Development] is to
integrate the principles, values, and practices of
sustainable development into all aspects of
education and learning. This educational effort will
encourage changes in behaviour that will create a
more sustainable future in terms of environmental
integrity, economic viability, and a just society for
present and future generations.
• We are facing major and unprecedented challenges
to moderate our previously unsustainable patterns
of development. Climate change is the most urgent
and pressing example of this. Scotland will not be
able to meet these challenges unless people whatever their age, status, occupation and lifestyle have the necessary knowledge, awareness,
understanding and skills to play their part.
(Intro to Choosing our future: Scotland's sustainable
development strategy)
• Education is an essential tool for achieving
sustainability. People around the world recognize
that current economic development trends are not
sustainable and that public awareness, education,
and training are key to moving society toward
(Intro to Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit
developed by Dr. Rosalyn McKeown, University of
Tennessee Energy, Environment and Resources
• Stephen Sterling Sustainable Education: Revisioning Learning and Change (Dartington:
Green Books, 2001)
• Sterling, S, (2005) Whole Systems Thinking
as a Basis for Paradigm Change in
Education: Explorations in the Context of
Sustainability, (PhD thesis), Centre for
Research in Education and the Environment,
University of Bath,
The Sustainability Mirage: Illusion and Reality in the
Coming War on Climate Change (London: Earthscan,
forthcoming Autumn 2008)
“Sustainable development thinking got
environmental issues onto the agenda but it may
now be stopping us from taking serious action on
climate change and other crucial planetary issues.
Sustainable development's attempted deal between
present and future will always collapse under the
pressure of 'now' because the needs of the present
always win out. Inevitably, this means floating
standards, movable targets and action that will
always fall short of what we need. Ultimately,
sustainable development is the pursuit of a mirage,
the politics of never getting there.”
• First-order : adaptive learning , takes place
within accepted boundaries – leaves basic
values and beliefs unchanged.
• Second-order: critically reflective learning,
when we examine the assumptions
according to which we proceed in first-order
• Third-order: when this reflective examination
leads to a transformative perspective-shift.
(Sterling, op.cit.)
“Negative Capability, that is when a
man is capable of being in
uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts
without any irritable reaching after
facts and reason…”
John Keats, letter to George and Thomas Keats
dated Sunday, 22 December 1817
“We come quite fresh to the different
stages of life, and in each of them
we are usually quite inexperienced,
no matter how old we are.”
La Rochefoucauld, Maxims
Negative capability – the strength to not be
what we are
The learning virtues are those which support
our capacity to not be, but always to become.
“People cannot live in the world as it
is…They have always been incapable of just
reproducing what is given and of accepting
their place within it…they have tilted their
imagination against the oppressive
givenness of the present…”
Bill Williamson, Lifeworlds and Learning (Leicester:
National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, 1998)
“the strength to not be what we are”
• honesty of self-appraisal / self-critique: to
stand back from what one is and recognise
that it is lacking / inadequate / needing to be
changed and developed;
• courage of commitment : the leap from a
familiar towards an unfamiliar self, or aspect
of self, that nevertheless calls one onward;
• strength for uncertainty : for living in
possibility, enduring the uncompleted
transition to what we are becoming.
“A congressional mandate permits the
United States Forest Service to cut no more
lumber than is renewed by annual growth.
Since that law was put into effect, growth
rates have been greatly enhanced, at least in
the Forest Service accounts, by new
herbicides, pesticides and tree varieties.”
Theodore Porter, Trust in Numbers: the Pursuit of
Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995)
Contraction and Convergence
“…global greenhouse emissions need to be reduced by 60% in
less than a hundred years.
When governments agree to be bound by such a target, the
diminishing amount of carbon dioxide and the other
greenhouse gases that the world could release while staying
within the target can be calculated for each year in the coming
century. This is the contraction part of the process.
The convergence part is that each year’s tranche of this global
emissions budget gets shared out among the nations of the
world in a way that ensures that every country converges on
the same allocation per inhabitant by, say, 2030…Countries
unable to manage within their allocation would, within limits, be
able to buy the unused parts of the allocations of other, more
frugal countries.”
Aubrey Meyer, Contraction and Convergence: the Global Solution
to Climate Change (Totnes: Green Books, 2000).