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Toward an SDG 4.7 Roadmap for Systems Change
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The world is on a track to true climate catastrophe, with unprecedented heat, floods, wildfires, and storms setting new records almost weekly. To avoid a climate disaster, we need rapid, transformative, and sustained action as well as a major shift in our thinking—a shift strong enough to make the climate crisis a center of our social, political, economic, personal, and educational life.

Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action is one of the best scorecards in comparative education for keeping track of this drama as it unfolds, shedding light on the global climate crisis like no other education writing today. This book turns to our curricula, our education systems, and our communities for a response on how to effectively achieve Target 4.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Universal Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), and Global Citizenship Education (GCED). The message from key stakeholders, including students, educators, and leaders of civil society, is driven home with passion and uncommon clarity: We can and must stave off the worst of climate change by building climate action into the world’s pandemic recovery.
Chapter 10 A Call for Transformative Learning in Southern Africa

Abstract

People in Southern Africa face escalating levels of risk and uncertainty, and consequent vulnerability, because of multiple stresses, including climate change, environmental degradation, HIV/AIDS, poverty, and political instability. Considerable and sustained efforts in education for sustainable development (ESD) are noteworthy in helping communities to tackle these problems and to endeavor to become more sustainable. In Southern Africa, many factors make realizing action-oriented and transformative learning an immense challenge. First, historical antecedents have resulted in a curriculum that reflects the colonial past and thus impinges on the framing and internalization of curriculum reforms inspired by an ESD frame of reference. Second, the region faces roadblocks similar to those identified by , impeding the development of transformative learning for climate action. In this chapter, we probe these challenges in light of revised curriculum frameworks in Zambia and Zimbabwe. We use teacher and student voices from a baseline study conducted in 2015 to show gaps in curriculum implementation. The chapter suggests that the adoption of a pedagogy inspired by an Afrocentric philosophy, Ubuntu, is a way to transform learning in the direction of sustainability and of thinking and taking action to address climate change.

Open Access
In: Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action
Chapter 6 Climate Change as Quality Education

Abstract

Climate change has been the defining global issue of the past decades. Owing to its wide-ranging and often catastrophic consequences, it is arguably the cause of the 21st century, around which every other issue revolves. Climate change is not only a challenge as to sustainable development, but it is also a human rights issue, because its effects compromise the dignity of those driven out of their homes by rising sea levels or desertification. In short, it is what German education philosopher would classify as a key issue of our era. In this chapter, we argue that, as such, it must be included in what constitutes quality education, and that we need educational approaches that prepare future generations to address climate change as an issue of human rights and environmental injustice. This conceptual analysis is based on an understanding of Global Citizenship Education (GCED) as a foundation for necessary changes, and it advocates for particular steps in teacher education to support these changes.

Open Access
In: Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action
Open Access
In: Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action
Chapter 12 Eco-Conscious Community Development in Non-Formal Education

Abstract

Youth and Women Empowerment (YOWE), based in Ghana’s Eastern Region, is a community-based NGO that has been working since 2000 to support empowerment of vulnerable groups and improve their quality of life through community initiatives, adult learning, and advocacy. In 2018, YOWE partnered with the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University (CSD) to design and implement a series of training initiatives aiming, through a series of non-formal environmental education sessions, to increase women’s skills relevant to eco-friendly livelihoods and to raise community awareness of eco-friendly lifestyle choices. The chapter begins with a discussion of YOWE’s programmatic history of weaving eco-conscious practices into their various programs, drawing on literature as well as YOWE’s own experience to consider the main barriers to facilitating behavioral change amidst a landscape of poverty and lack of access to government services. The chapter continues with an overview of the project partnership with CSD, and a presentation of project findings, looking at changes in lifestyle choices and perceptions of how those choices impact the environment. The chapter close with a discussion of lessons learned and implications for how NGOs can integrate environmental education into various program priorities.

Open Access
In: Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action
Chapter 11 Ecology-Based Curriculum Design for Transformative Times

Abstract

This chapter describes the innovative, context-responsive approach to integrated, ecology-based curriculum design used by the author with a sustainability-focused pre-K–12 school in Guatemala. A participatory methodology was implemented to aggregate and democratically reflect the viewpoints of multiple stakeholders – including students, teachers, and families directly involved in the school, as well as actors in environmental regeneration and conservation-driven change in Guatemala, a national environmental education policy, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The result is a leading example of teacher-empowered, ecology-based curriculum that responds to the local context of the school and is therefore inherently more sustainable.

The lessons learned from this unique experience can inform impending education projects that engage a similar form of research-design-implementation-feedback-adaptation feedback loop of community-informed, context-responsive engagement. The chapter elaborates on the importance of local experiences, and on the need for increased knowledge-sharing and connection across regional ground-level contexts as well as vertically between practitioners of local implementation of teaching and learning for sustainability and their political and academic counterparts.

Open Access
In: Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action
Chapter 14 The “Ecosystem” of Education, Engagement, and Environmental Action in Higher Education

Abstract

As a rising sophomore at Columbia University (as of the summer of 2020), my engagement with climate and environmental education spans multiple community settings, each with its challenges. Having committed myself to environmental stewardship and science communication, I am learning how to adapt to different audiences. The most important lesson I’ve learned is that climate action education must be made personal: students themselves must reach a critical understanding that their lives are inextricably tied to the state of the planet. We can become more powerful as agents of change by providing students with sustainable development as a framework, so that they may, through experiential learning, integrate climate issues with their respective academic interests. For the sake of increasing resiliency, quality undergraduate education must be reoriented to incorporate climate literacy and systems thinking across all academic disciplines. The radical simplicity and effectiveness of this approach further supports the growth of “translational” competencies; that is, the approach empowers and catalyzes students to move radical change beyond the classroom, even as they transition to virtual schooling. My self-driven approach to learning has opened many doors for translating education into action beyond the classroom. In this essay, I highlight the key points in my journey so far with sustainable development education.

Open Access
In: Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action
Chapter 17 Educators’ Perspectives on Environmental Education in India
Authors: and

Abstract

This chapter documents the perspective of educators on the ability to teach environmental education (EE) in formal and non-formal education settings. It aims to answer the question “How should educators be prepared so that EE is effective and meaningful for the learner?”

Based on interviews with a school principal, a schoolteacher, and facilitators at two community vocational and life-long learning centers, the chapter highlights perspectives on EE, training and implementation challenges, and successes in integrating EE into overall learning and training programs.

We discuss the existing fragmented approach to EE; although it increases environmental awareness and activities overall, the increase comes with only limited understanding of the depth and linkages of environmental issues. Three approaches show promise in improving current EE delivery: offering teacher training that conveys more environmental knowledge, especially in relation to global and local carbon footprints; giving systemic priority to EE and offering incentives to teach it; and engaging learners through inquiry-based learning.

Open Access
In: Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action
Chapter 7 The Elephant in the Room

Abstract

A transformative approach to addressing complex social-environmental problems warrants reexamining our most fundamental assumptions about sustainability and progress, including the entrenched imperative for limitless economic growth. Our global resource footprint has grown in lockstep with GDP since the industrial revolution, spawning the climate and ecological crises. Faith that technology will eventually decouple resource use from GDP growth is pervasive, despite there being practically no empirical evidence of decoupling in any country. We argue that complete long-term decoupling is, in fact, well-nigh impossible for fundamental physical, mathematical, logical, pragmatic, and behavioral reasons. We suggest that a crucial first step toward a transformative education is to acknowledge this incompatibility, and to provide examples of where, and how, our arguments may be incorporated in education. More broadly, we propose that foregrounding SDG 12 with a functional definition of sustainability, and educating and upskilling students to this end, must be a necessary minimum goal of any transformative approach to sustainability education. Our aim is to provide a conceptual scaffolding around which learning frameworks may be developed to make room for diverse alternative paths to truly sustainable social-ecological cultures.

Open Access
In: Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action
Chapter 19 Empowerment, Resilience, and Stewardship as Learning Outcomes

Abstract

For the teaching profession, 2020 has become an inflection point, with profound disruptions serving as opportunities to redefine teaching philosophies and pedagogies. In this chapter, I share the mindsets and practices that have helped me as a high school teacher nurture emotional resilience, academic growth, and civic responsibility, and I identify tactics that fellow educators can use to empower students for success in an uncertain future, including a sense of ownership over their community, a feeling of stewardship toward the global environment, and the drive to connect and partner with experts.

Open Access
In: Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action