Introducing SF Associate Member, Steve Garlick, Australia

What have been the key milestones on your environmental/sustainability education journey so far?

The key understanding I have reached with regard to environmental sustainability and education is that we need to more seriously consider knowledge from non-traditional and yet to be recognized sources.  Many of our universities are guilty of reinforcing the myth that formal learning and human exceptionalism is the only knowledge necessary to solve the critical issues facing the planet. The reality is that university trained humans are at the forefront of creating many of the environmental catastrophes we currently face such as loss of biodiversity and habitat on land and in the sea, and climate change.

University-trained solutions to significant environmental issues of the day are frequently predicated on a diet of managerialism, funding demands, competitive ratings, institutional instrumentalism, and path-dependent curricula based on a 'good-at’ pedagogy rather than one that enhances human capability according to ‘good-for’ criteria. The ‘good-at’ formula to learning and knowledge acquisition has proven spectacularly disastrous in dealing with critical environmental concerns. A ‘good-for’ formula to learning and knowledge acquisition on the other hand embraces an ethic of care, without a requirement for mutuality or reciprocity from the cared-for,  and in this relationism it appreciates the interdependence of the energy of each aspect of the environment with its broader context. Such environmental learning sees the scholar in this field not only as erudite in knowledge; but also as activist and advocate, as politician, as carer, as rehabilitator and as listener.

Q. How do you see the environmental/sustainability education landscape at this point in time?

My sense is that it is time for environmental education to give greater consideration to the notion of cognitive justice in our learning about how to address the more intractable questions of sustainability. The environmental education landscape will need to embrace the innate and experiential knowledge of others such as communities of practice, first nation peoples, and wildlife.  In its application to the environment, cognitive justice is an ethical principle that equally values diverse sources of knowledge (knowers) without drawing conclusions about relative knowledge superiority.  Cognitive justice argues for a plurality of knowledge sources and processes to offset the straightjacketed disciplinary culture of traditional human science analysis.

Q. What likely and desired future directions do you envisage, and what do you see as the implications for your own work?

My own work at the moment in relation to environmental sustainability focusses on sources of knowledge, the ethical role of the university, the ‘ecoversity’ as a mechanism for knowledge-based relationism, and communicating with wildlife through affective emotional behaviour about environmental considerations.  I see these interests being directly relevant to expanding our learning horizons about how we might deal with environmental sustainability more effectively.

Q. How do you envisage your engagement with SF developing?

To try and have universities and communities engage to focus their learning needs and products about environmental sustainability in ways that embrace a variety of sources of knowledge, including non-traditional and yet to be recognised, and to seek to achieve environmental outcomes that are ethical and good for all inhabitants including wild animals in particular.

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