30 SES 14, The Opportunities and Limitations of ESD/GCE/ESE Monitoring Approaches - Knowledge production within and beside standardization
In this conceptual paper, we wish to argue that the commitment to transitions for sustainability has implications regarding the way knowledge is seen. Sustainability fundamentally implies a recognition of the interconnectedness of phenomena across sectors, disciplines and geographical locations (Avery & Nordén, 2017), as well as responsible decision-making linked to democracy and power distribution (Fine et al., 2012). All of these points have relevance to the connections between policy and research. The metaphor for truth in academia has long been one of disembodied contemplation of an absolute state of existence. By contrast, ’knowing-for-sustainable action’ is based on how the human and the societal relates to our modes of producing knowledge and competence, both with respect to what we need to know something about, and what we can do about it. This not only concerns questions of ontology and epistemology for individual studies, but also refers to how we collectively organise academic institutions (Aikens et al., 2016; Lysgaard et al., 2016; Payne, 2016; Avery & Nordén, 2017) and as societies, to develop the know-how needed for planetary survival (Lotz-Sisitka et al., 2017). By defining economic objectives independently of sustainability and letting non-sustainable conceptualisations of economics determine policies of research and education, we have condemned sustainability to function as an add-on to business as usual. Even more worryingly, when sustainability agendas do take the forefront in policy discourse, proposed solutions may be those pushed by powerful industrial lobbies (Peck et al., 2012). Another challenge is posed by fragmented aims underlying sustainability education, and supported by similar fragmentation in SDGs, or European climate commitments for instance (cf. COP23 Bonn). Although each goal is certainly important, the combined effect is to foster a belief that transition to sustainability can be achieved through incremental changes and without reconsidering the overall structures or drivers. Understanding is siloed into existing disciplinary framings (Mochizuki & Yarime, 2016). Measurement coupled with accountability has in many cases had impacts on administrative routines and structures. One the one side measurement has valuable functions in documenting a status quo, raising visibility of sustainability dimensions and providing a starting point for discussions across national borders. But on the other side, it has limited potential on its own to drive transformative changes and there is a real risk that it can lock our understanding into uncontroversial expressions of the problems at stake, preventing strategic long-term reflection.
Aikens, K., McKenzie, M., & Vaughter, P. (2016). Environmental and sustainability education policy research: A systematic review of methodological and thematic trends. Environmental Education Research, 22(3), 333-359. Avery, H. & Nordén, B. (2017). Working with the divides. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 18(5), 666-680. Fine, M., Ayala, J., & Zaal, M. (2012). Public science and participatory policy development: Reclaiming policy as a democratic project. Journal of Education Policy, 27(5), 685-692. Lotz-Sisitka, H., Wals A. E. J., Kronlid, D. & McGarry, D. (2017). Transformative, transgressive social learning: rethinking higher education pedagogy in times of systemic global dysfunction. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2015 (16), 73-80. Lysgaard, J. A., Reid, A., & Van Poeck, K. (2016). The roots and routes of environmental and sustainability education policy research. Environmental Education Research, 22(3), 319-332. Mochizuki, Y. & Yarime, M. (2016). Education for sustainable development and sustainability science. In Routledge Handbook of Higher Education for Sustainable Development, 11-24. London and New York: Routledge. Peck, J., Theodore, N., & Brenner, N. (2012). Neoliberalism resurgent? Market rule after the great recession. South Atlantic Quarterly, 111(2), 265–288. Payne, P. G. (2016). The politics of environmental education. The Journal of Environmental Education, 47(2), 69-76.
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