Education in the Age of Ecological Crisis

In the age of peak oil, climate change, and ecological crises, educational institutions must change. That's the gist coming from a growing number of people. College presidents are signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, they are hiring sustainability officers to help manage the waste and energy from operations, research into renewable and alternative energy grows, and there's a growing field called sustainability studies in academia. Last week on Sustainability Now we talked to Dr. David Reilly (PSU Center for Sustainability) and Steve Maruszewski (PSU Office of Physical Plant) people doing such things at Penn State. There is a lot of agreement for change.

"Jump!" they say.

"How high?" people ask.

Richard Kahn is a professor at Antioch University in Los Angeles. He's an anarchist educator who studies social movements and challenges the way dominant institutions - corporations, government, medicine, and industry hinder "greater planetary freedom, peace, and happiness." Over the last several years, Kahn has created a broad critique of modern industrial life. It is not just negative, but also a vision of future life liberated from denigrating practices and belief structures like racism, sexism, speciesism, and the corporatized consumerism literally consuming us and the planet. A high bar to jump over.

One of his most potent formulations of this critique and vision came in his 2010 book Critical Pedagogy, Ecoliteracy, and Planetary Crisis. In it, he writes for "ecopedagogy." He describes it as,
a movement concerned with the cosmological, technological, and organizational dimensions of social life, that seeks to achieve victory through its ability to:
1. provide openings for the radicalization and proliferation of ecoliteracy [see Orr, 1992] programs both within schools and society;
2. create liberatory opportunities for building alliances of praxis between scholars and the public (especially activists) on ecopedagogical interests; and
3. foment critical dialogue and self-reflective solidarity across the multitude of groups that make up the educational left during an extraordinary time of extremely dangerous planetary crisis (page 56).
Unlike some university professors, Kahn refuses to shy away from political positions.

We will talk with Kahn about ecopedagogy and our educational future. Sustainability, radical sustainability, needs to be front and center. Maybe in jumping, we can take flight.

Listen in today at 4 pm on The Lion 90.7. Call in (814) 865-9577.

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