30 SES 06 B, Student Voices in ESE
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is widely recognized as the current global framework for addressing climate and environmental change through education (Jickling and Wals 2008). ESD embodies a particular ideological and pedagogical approach to understanding climate and environmental change, centered on the individual to ensure that future generations can navigate and steer processes of globalization, preventing undesirable outcomes and avoiding catastrophes (Rost 2002). Analyzing the ESD framework provides important insights into the shifting global rationales that underpin current international development logics concerning the causes of and appropriate responses to climate and environmental change. This paper presents a content analysis of the UNESCO Learning Objectives for Sustainable Development (2017) that was conducted to examine the kinds of messages about human-earth relationships, environmental change, and responsibilities for mitigation postulated by the UNESCO’s ESD framework. Employing a political ecology analytic lens made clear that climate change is portrayed as anthropogenic, yet the UNESCO learning objectives carry a rather abstract notion of individual responsibility. Individuals/ communities/ community leaders/ governments and global humanity are all constructed as actants in a complex global system. It is assumed that knowledge of the system’s complexity will empower individual learners to act at local/national/global levels in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change while maintaining socially just growth. Students in turn are assumed to have the ability and agency to act as ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ global citizens and consumers, and are tasked with the moral responsibility to secure the future of the planet. The “hyper” focus in the UNESCO learning objectives on the enlightened and educated individual actor disappears the conflicts and structural power imbalances that undergird climate change, and erases the potential for legitimate struggle in response to, for example, resource grabs of previously shared common goods like water. It is assumed that individuals, properly empowered by education, can reverse climate change through participatory and peaceful processes. This bottom-up approach to sustainability assumes that people live in well-functioning democracies and that they have access to safe forms of protest. It assumes that activism is always and everywhere possible without risking one’s life or imprisonment. It also does not recognize the different circumstances for female or Indigenous activism. The UNESCO learning objectives decontextualize and depoliticize sustainable development and make it into a moralizing project that becomes impossible to resist and without ever being able to shift accountability where it belongs (Ideland and Malmberg 2014).
Jickling, Bob, and Arjen E. J. Wals. 2008. “Globalization and Environmental Education: Looking beyond Sustainable Development.” Journal of Curriculum Studies 40 (1): 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220270701684667. Ideland, Malin, and Claes Malmberg. "Governing ‘eco-certified children’through pastoral power: critical perspectives on education for sustainable development." Environmental Education Research 21, no. 2 (2015): 173-182. Rost, Jürgen. 2002. “Umweltbildung-Bildung Für Nachhaltige Entwicklung. Was Macht Den Unterschied?” ZEP: Zeitschrift Für Internationale Bildungsforschung Und Entwicklungspädagogik 25 (1): 7–12.
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