“Nobody ever rioted for austerity”: Education and the climate change debate
Alan Reid, Centre for Research in Education and the Environment, University of Bath (email@example.com)
The following represents a (marginally corrected) verbatim transcription of Alan’s presentation to the network’s Glasgow symposium, 11 February 2011. He spoke without notes, referring to a series of Powerpoint slides, the texts of which are also reproduced here. Alan attempted to provide a kind of crash course of key reference points and debates in current environmental education – so authors and titles have been highlighted in bold. This transcription seemed worth reproducing here because Alan’s ‘talking around’ the slides sets up a multi-layered sense of reflections and opinions that echoes the ‘kaleidoscopic’ intent of the presentation as a whole (see his opening remarks). Even within his monologue, then, there is a resistance to monologism – a commitment to open debate and the multiplicity of experience. He’s also very entertaining. (SB)
SALLY MACKEY (introducing): Alan works at the Centre for Research in Education and the Environment at the University of Bath and edits Environmental Education Research. He is also a consultant on the themed edition of RiDE that we’re doing on environment-alisms, and associate editor on the Journal of Curriculum Studies. His practical research interest is in education and sustainability and (I’m citing from the website now), “critically appraising and developing differing conceptions of sustainability in relation to philosophy, policy-making and practice, and how these inform both educational provision and opportunities for learning.” Your faculty has an AHRC network as well doesn’t it?
ALAN REID: Yes.
SALLY: “The Cultural Framing of Environmental Discourse.” So again, we’ve got another nice overlap between the networks and we may even hear something about it. I think in inviting Alan to speak, what Dee and I were interested in, is — it’s great that we’re thinking about site-based performance and how that can communicate matters of environment- alism to various audiences, children and older — but what is actually going on at the moment in the environmental education discipline? We felt a lack of knowledge in that area. So that’s one of the reasons why we asked Alan to come along. So it’s been quite a broad brief and kind of a bit like 101, you know? Can you give us the sort of key areas of interest at the moment in that field? So over to you Alan, you and your presentation.
ALAN: Well, it’s really good to be here. It’s a long time since I’ve been to Glasgow and been out of Bath it seems, so I’m really pleased to come up. I must apologise to all those people on the train here whose conversation I did overhear but didn’t say anything about, because I did have my earphones in most of the time and I wasn’t listening, honest! At the end of it I realised you were coming to the same place so we did share a taxi (laughter).
TITLE SLIDE: “Nobody ever rioted for austerity.”
I don’t know if you’ll recognise this quote in my title. It comes from St. George, from his Heat book [George Monbiot, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning, 2006]. Yet now it appears we are in not George’s time but [Michael] Gove time in relation to education and thinking about site-based performance, austerity, education, climate change. A few technical points. With PowerPoint most of us think it’s the linear thing. What I’m going to do is, invite you to try and imagine PowerPoint here as a kaleidoscope. I’m going to introduce a few different bits and pieces just to get you thinking about some of the connections between say, site-based performance, education, climate and so on. I’ll start with Climate change and worst case scenarios.
SLIDE CC and ‘worst case’ scenarios
Concern 1: it is abrupt – degraded and stressed ecosystems won’t be able
to adapt quickly – and will collapse
Concern 2: it is abrupt – degraded and stressed economies won’t be able to
adapt quickly – and will collapse
Concern 3: 1 and 2 are connected – prompting the question, which kind of
future is possible/probable/preferable? What can be done and undone?
Concern 4: many socio-ecological configurations already/will require
reconfiguration – to ensure and sustain justice, habitability, integrity …
Part of what I was doing last year on a sabbatical in Australia included reading Education and Climate Change , edited by [Fumiyo] Kagawa and [David] Selby. David Selby used to work at OISE and the Transformative Learning Centre and this book is probably the main book at the moment which looks at education and climate change. One of the things which kind of underpins the rationale of a text like that is a sense of concern. The world seems to be full of narratives of disaster, apocalypse, and dread when it comes to the environment. I know environmental educators from years ago who wrote that these narratives were about nature – it was only about green stuff, but now it’s about the end of the world, our world, and what are you going to do about it.
This logic begs the question, how do you communicate that message to people? You end
up with concerns like the first one: it’s abrupt, degraded and stressed ecosystems that won’t be able to adapt quickly and will collapse. The next one just changes the wording. It’s
economies as well which we then worry about. Concern three brings those together saying
okay, what kind of future do we want, can we avoid, can we change, can we participate in this, can we act with good faith, what are we constrained against because of our structures or whatever? What can be done and undone, what can be learnt and unlearnt? What is it about how we are – our dispositions and so on – which we need to address? And then again, that comes through into concern number four. How also do these things intersect with other concerns like justice, habitability, integrity? In my talk, what I want to do is introduce some of the ways that people have responded to all that, taking the worst case scenario approach as a starting point.
One of the things that Sally asked me to raise is in relation to one of the papers I was
involved in writing recently. It looks at how environmental education debate proceed. Reflecting on that, I note it’s very easy for people, like myself, who came from a geography teaching and science background, to run with “we’ve got this knowledge, we just need to get other people to act on it”. That kind of assumption where debate becomes not about dialogue but about accepting the monologue, is one of the key things at risk within environmental education and I guess as well in site performance. How do
you prevent that?
One of the videos I wanted to be able to show – but I can’t today – is from Nina Simoes called rehearsingreality.org – and within that “docufragmentary”. There’s a link to their version of the Theatre of the Oppressed in the Landless Movement in Brazil, making the point about dialogue. For Augusto Boal, oppression is to do with removing the space for the dialogue, it’s about only giving a monologue and only being able to act in one way, to be only in one way.
SLIDE: Debating CC & E
a) Which models, processes and outcomes of debate are envisaged?
b) How should education and eco-, social and political priorities be linked?
… Does a ‘tipping point’ argument [2oC? 440ppm CO2e? , Point of No Return
argument, precautionary principle, or …] make a difference in this case?
c) How should the CC debate be accommodated or addressed in
education? Is it too radical / uncertain? Is there a question of curriculum
justice? Is the education system dysfunctional? Whose project is this? How
participatory and activating is it?
d) How much can and should education set out to match the public or
media’s priorities or opinions? E.g. curricula priorities versus expediencies
e) What freedoms and responsibilities should educators have in this debate,
and on what grounds, i.e. with which principles and assurances to proceed?
So the kinds of things I think are important in terms of debating climate change and education is, is a polarity avoidable? How do we negotiate that polarity when, on the one hand, you’ve got scientists who say one thing? Climate Change and Education came out before ClimateGate but there is a sense that the question is – how do we negotiate the public understanding of knowledge and science and whatever?, but on the other hand, also recognise that there might be other stories or other issues involved in climate change about habitability, about biodiversity, about species’ extinction and so on? What happens when we start using terms like tipping points, point of no return, and the precautionary principle. Are we able to represent and address those in education or do we have to just live through them as if they’re the kind of things which make our reality? And then again, how does climate change then fit into some of these other things – d and e. I’ll skip on because you can read quicker than I can talk.
SLIDE: [presents contents page of:] Education and Climate Change
Foreword: The Fatal Complacency, Desmond Tutu
So to the book. Desmond Tutu – always a good person to have to write your foreword – opens on “the fatal complacency” in education about climate change. The book, as you can see from the table of contents, covers a range of northern, western, southern perspectives around that. The first half of the book tackles that but you can see there are areas too like the public health responses, school improvement, arts-based approaches, indigenous knowledge, and so on.
SLIDE: Editors’ framework
What part has education ‘to play in helping alleviate rampant climate change and in mitigating its worst effects’?
Contributors to the volume were invited to review and reflect upon:
1. ‘social learning from and within their fields of educational expertise in
response to the concerns over climate change’,
2. ‘how its discourse, theory, and practice might in consequence change’,
3. ‘think about what might happen to the balance of provision between
formal, nonformal, and informal social learning during an
unprecedented state of prolonged turmoil’, and to
4. ‘close their piece with one or two concrete scenarios set within the
near or more distant future and depicting social learning happening
within contexts where the climate change threat is being somewhat
ameliorated, and/or anticipated impacts of runaway climate change.
What the editors asked people to do in inviting contributions to this book was based on their notion of social learning. I don’t know how familiar you are with that term. I’ll give a very quick summary of it in a second but what they were interested in here was how within different fields of education and expertise, social learning responses were being used to address climate change. It was to get us away from just thinking about the individual and filling the individual head, to more the kind of collective, community-based, non- formal/informal type settings and responses which are possible. Then again, one of the things which I think is important in the book is number three and number four, where they ask the authors to imagine other scenarios, not just business as usual. Unfortunately, most of those scenarios end up being the end of the world type, just like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Sort of, what are we going to live like after The Road has happened? Some people do actually have a kind of ‘code green’ utopia but there are other ways of thinking about those things. Again, I guess with performance and time and how we think about those things, we can consider that in the next few days.
SLIDE: Social learning – Howard Glasser’s view
! Passive learning – reliant on received wisdom and unquestioning embrace of orthodox assumptions and paradigms
! Active learning – interactive, participatory, challenging and risky, and harbors richer potential for emergence and transformation
! May take place in conversation, socratic dialogue, dance, community meeting, symphony practice, in open participatory review process … [pp.51-52]
Q: when is SL conservative and when transformative?
So on social learning, I note [Glasser’s chapter in] Social Learning Towards a Sustainable World, edited by Arjen Wals in 2007. Within that, there’s also a huge emphasis on a distinction between passive and active learning, the participatory, the challenging, the risky. That which harbours richer potential for emergence and transformation, as opposed to just passing on the facts: getting past the kind of scenarios of whether it is 350 CO2 ppm equivalent or is it 360 CO2 ppm equivalent, and it’s plumbing in that we need. Howard Glasser asks, how do we engage in other ways of learning and again, including those that make sense to a theatre and other types of performance audience, as in the material on page 51 and 52. Environmental educators do recognise that there are other forms of education out there! Again, I’m not too sure about whether this book is really helpful in the sense that it goes beyond expressing what people’s ideals are but there is a kind of a dialogue going on about that at the moment.
Another way of looking at this that might make more sense is the JISC model of perspectives, assumptions and associated pedagogies. Then again it might not, looking at your faces! I apologise for including such a detailed table in a presentation [too detailed to reproduce on this web page!], but the point here with the perspectives is just to emphasise when we think about learning, we quite often only ever focus on the conceptual development-type aspects, and ignore some of the constructivist or situative perspectives – the kind of communities of practice idea, thinking about what else we are trying to engage people with when we say we’re learning. We can ask, who is the expert here? Is it the ‘sage on the stage’ or is it someone else? Does it come out of a process of engaging with people including things like dialogue, conversation and social practice and so on? Or does thinking about climate change and education revert to that top row again?
SLIDE: “Typical” CC & E inquiry
1. Extent and sophistication of knowledge of CC, causes and consequences
2. Sources of ideas, identification of ‘mis’-[conceptions and understandings]
3. Range of actions participants might take – self-reported or prompted
Widely documented in such journals as International Journal of Science Education, Journal of Science Education and Technology, Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, Environmental Education Research, Environment and Behavior, Research in Science Education …
Here is another thing to fiddle around with, with your kaleidoscope of slides. It is to ask, what kinds of education do we really want? The bad news is that these bullet points tend to be what most climate change and education seems to look like. It is simply things like testing out people’s knowledge – whether they understand the greenhouse effect,
whether they understand whether they’re going to be flooded or not, whether a catastrophe’s going to happen and dealing with things like that – and research to do with misconceptions and misunderstandings.
I edit one of these journals. We get lots of papers which are to do with the kind of lamentable stuff where it is assumed you could just ask kids enough and they will tell you and eventually, if ‘we’ correct that for them, then they will have the right understanding and the knowledge to act – that kind of very linear knowledge, attitude, understanding, behaviour-type model. Again, there are those kinds of things which go on, and what you also get is messages like the following coming from government as a public performance of this approach.
“Life depends on warmth of the sun being trapped by a layer of gases that surround the earth. We now produce so much of these gases that the layer’s getting thicker, heating the world, changing our climate and threatening our way of life. As the world gets hotter, the climate will change and some of the extreme effects we have witnessed will become more frequent, making our planet a more hostile place to live. 100 degrees Fahrenheit is the hottest day ever recorded in Britain. If we could see the gases, the cause of the problem would be obvious to everyone and if you could see the effects we are having on our planet, you’d do something about it. The solutions exist and it’s not too late to make a difference but we have to act now, today. Government, industry and individuals acting together to tackle the problem. For more information on how to get involved visit planetchallenge.gov.uk. Tomorrow’s climate is today’s challenge.”
Okay, so that’s not the answer is it? With that clip, I want to raise the point that it’s how we represent this issue, it’s how we define who’s the scope within it. Governments, business, individuals – it’s simply things like turning off lights. We have the solutions. That’s their message. It can be done another way – and that’s obviously my point with a lot of this. So what I want to emphasise in the second part of this presentation, is you can reframe this and engage people on other ground, in other places. I was tempted earlier to say about non-places [Marc Auge]. We all know the supermarket, the airport lounge, perhaps the train, and I was thinking earlier about Michel de Certeau’s comments in The Practice of Everyday Life about the view from the World Trade Centre, when you looked down on as opposed to walking through lower Manhattan. The impossible view now, of course, but a pertinent point about how we map, understand and experience place in difference ways – viewed from above or in the thick of the dérive. Also, he makes a comment about when you’re sitting on a train, our illusion of personal movement. You’re usually staying still for most of the journey, it’s just the images which pass by – so what actually goes on in videos like that, what actually happens when we view that?
SLIDE: Reframing the debate?
“Climate change is an ethical issue, because it involves the distribution
of a scarce resource – the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb our waste gases without producing consequences that no one wants.”- Peter Singer (2006, p. 415)
Peter Singer, known from his animal ethics work, tries to re-jig the whole debate in another way, into something which is to do with ethics. Be that the ethics of space, the ethics of place, the ethics of relation, these are all things we which can work with here.
If you remember the End of Nature book by Bill McKibben ; he’s written quite a lot on nature and our intractable relationship with it such that there is no such thing as an externalised nature anymore. Our footprints and our fingerprints can be traced everywhere. The 350 Campaign he’s involved with is one of those public action campaigns which is trying to change this into something which isn’t about calamity but rather about well-being and living well.
SLIDE: Cf. Critical Pedagogy … of Place
! “At the most general level … a critical pedagogy must be a pedagogy of place, that is, it must address the specificities of the experiences, problems, languages, and histories that communities rely upon to construct a narrative of collective identity and possible transformation.” – McClaren & Giroux, 1990, p.163
! David Greenwood: CPP as decolonisation and reinhabitation – a cultural-ecological work, not to a mythical past or utopia, yet memories and wisdoms are key?
[See “The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place”, online at http://www.pieducators.com/files/Critical-Pedagogy-of-Place.pdf ]
What I wanted to shift towards the end of this is talking about critical pedagogies of place to build on this reframing. A couple of years ago, we published an issue of Environmental
Education Research (14, 3) where David Greenwood or Gruenewald as he was then, talked
about critical pedagogies of place. Chet Bowers basically says it’s an oxymoron. It doesn’t
make sense. The reason is, Bowers doesn’t agree with McClaren’s statement. He doesn’t
think there’s anything in that because he sees that as about abstraction. He sees it as about
denying the wisdom of the elders or the community, or knowing the stories of the places we live and work in and the spaces we occupy. David Greenwood responds saying actually, you’ve missed the point. What I’m interested in is things like decolonisation and re-inhabitation. Also, we can broaden this out. It’s not just about non-places or hyperplaces. One of the things that I quipped about in the editorial to that particular issue is whether we need a critical pedagogy of the suburbs, not just of the rural or the urban, but to recognise most people live in the suburbs. Living in Australia for six months, you get a real sense of how fringe-dwelling people can be, in the liminal spaces around the edge of the country – how those affect people’s lives and lifeworlds. My own body has this vivid memory of floating in neoprene trying to learn to surf on the south coast. It’s the kind of thing that is really evocative to me about places, but I seldom see those covered in education, but perhaps there are spaces for that?
SLIDE: Chet Bowers
! Not just what needs to be changed/transformed but what needs to be conserved or renewed?
! Never have a context-free language or universal practice, cf. the role of traditions and habits, habitus and dispositions?
! Place-based education as rooted in empathetic experience – as residents or dwellers or drifters?
! If education doesn’t promote the well-being of places, what is it for?
Returning from my aside, a key point to say about Bowers is that he’s invested in education as conservation and renewal, not just change and transformation. We don’t have context-free language, it comes from somewhere, it’s rooted in something. It may be disconnected these days but his emphasis is on that, the root metaphors that govern our language, culture and thinking. For example, if we see ourselves as residents or dwellers in spaces, then that might change the kind of educational practices which are going on. In a sense, we’ll not do what ‘London’ wants all the time, what the ‘London curriculum’ says. We’re doing what the ‘Glasgow curriculum’ might demand of us, the spaces and the communities which we’ve come from or relate to here. So as in his final point, that if education doesn’t promote the well-being of places, then what the hell is it for? That’s the kind of challenge he raises.
SLIDE: Phil Payne
! ‘Slow pedagogy’ and socioecological theory
! Embodiment and experiential learning
! The technics of education (real – irreal)
! Augmented reality – non-places for learning
! critical phenomenology of the body and timespace – Critical ecological ontology
! family as a site of environmental ethics/ politics education
So if we consider some of the ways that people have addressed this challenge, let’s take the work of Phil Payne, from Monash University, as an example I can talk about from personal
experience. Phil talks about slow pedagogy. You’re probably familiar with the slow food movement – this is about seeing how that translates into what education might be about and explore what that might lead to. It is saying, in one sense, let’s think about the range of diets we could have as education, the kind of convivialities which could be involved if we think that through, particularly by taking seriously notions of embodiment and experiential learning. Most of the learning which our three children are involved in tends to be largely disembodied or head-embodied. That’s it. That’s where they’re learning. There’s nothing here (points to body), there’s nothing here (points to heart) in a sense.
One of the things related to this that Phil and I talked about in another recent issue of
Environmental Education Research (Vol 16, 3-4) was on experiencing environment and place through children’s literature. We focused on this slide of sorts between the real and the irreal in that literature and it’s interesting that it’s been raised here today too. If you go to Geelong in Victoria, for example, there’s a site along the coast that looks out towards the big Ford factory with a plaque noting where people found some golden keys from 500 years ago. Who put them there? How did they get there? Robert Ingpen, the storywriter, uses that instance to tell the Poppykettle series of stories. These are about the Peruvian gnomes who journeyed across the Pacific in a kettle, landed in Australia, the “unchosen land”, and then became inhabitants there along with all of the beasts and the other things which were there which they couldn’t make sense of. He talks about this, uses that as a story for that, which we tease out in relation to the real and irreal.
Again, an interesting thing there with Bob Ingpen, for me – you might laugh – is when I met him, that he now lives on Reid Street. It’s a random connection. His publisher is based in Bath too; and he gave my daughter a postcard with an illustration which comes from a local Norton Saint Philip pub which he used most recently as an illustration for Wind in the Willows. All of these type of connections can be made somewhere along the line, I wonder how many we miss!
A couple of final things in relation to that slide, again reworking this title, are the kinds of
techno realities and the augmented realities which we have. I think Chris [Philo], when you were talking earlier about who does the research – quite often children are blogging themselves now. They’re using Facebook, they are telling their own stories and again, sometimes it’s not what we decide for them, it’s what they want to tell us which can come through some of these things. When I did speak at the network event in September for the other AHRC network, the day before I spoke, my seven year old daughter and her friend across the road decided that they would make a film called The Story of Ghosts in our garden. Again, it was real and irreal. The climbing frame became the gateway to heaven and if you were violent, you were translated into this heavenly real but you could return as a ghost to warn others. It was rooted in all sorts of different spaces and stories which they’d been hearing in Australia and in their schoolwork.
This kind of working with non-places for learning and thinking leads me to questions about the phenomenology of the body, what Phil Payne talks about, those critically important ‘critical ecological ontologies’. These are a way of perhaps throwing out some of the shackles of education at the moment and how it’s currently understood. One of the things Payne sees as particularly important within that, is seeing ‘family’ – whether it’s the nuclear, the extended, the non-traditional, whatever – as a site for environmental ethics and political education and environmental education. Again, one of the things which I’ve heard a lot about so far today is using those families as perhaps the vehicles for engaging in sites and places and so on. The thing I just wanted to finish with is that, in environmental education, there’s a lot of interest in the north – what it’s like to live in Northern Canada, for example. Whose knowledge counts within these spaces?
SLIDE: Whose voices? Whose priorities?
! Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change
! The Inuit Circumpolar Council hosted April 20-24, 2009 in Anchorage, Alaska, a Global Summit on Climate Change that brought together indigenous delegates and observers.
I want to end with this kind of minute-long clip from a film produced by Canadians for
Canadians who are Inuit, about climate change and their knowledge. So hopefully this will just sum up some of the points there.
Transcript of video clip: [Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change – Zacharias Kunuk, 2010, 54mins – isuma tv]
“They woke us up early in the morning as children. It was so we would know how to survive in life. The father would go outside in the evening, prior to sleeping. Sometimes you would go with your father. I didn’t realize it was educational. My father would look at the sky, it seemed he was looking at nothing. But he was observing the environment, that was what he was doing.”
ALAN: Is that okay?
SALLY: Yes, thank you very much (applause). Can we have some questions for Alan? None at all? No? Okay. Oh go on JD.
JD DEWSBURY: What does Payne mean by critical ecological ontology?
ALAN: Everyone likes to ask that question! Phil’s background is partly in phenomenology and it’s a kind of postphenomenological approach drawing on Gadamer and Merleau-Ponty and the like. Basically it’s to reclaim a space for experience in education, an experiential education of sorts. What Phil tried to do in his doctoral and post-doc work is use things like whether you smoke, the jewellery that you wear, cleaning your teeth, you might add whether you get a tattoo, as a site for exploring environmental themes. What does that link you to, for example, locally through to globally, and vice versa? And so the critical ecological ontology is a way of raising questions about your ‘process of being’ within that. Then taking that and spiralling it out into ecological questions which aren’t usually asked in education and then looking at the critical aspects of that. So again, linking that to say, Maclaren and Giroux: looking at a typically critical theory perspective but drawing out some of the other ecological aspects – whether it’s a capitalist ontology in effect which you’re living through, the space which has been created for you and how you resist that, those kinds of things. Also, it could be something like, just as a practical example, when you go kayaking, one of the terms I didn’t mention there was to do with Payne’s paper on the technics of environmental education, but depending on how you kayak, you are still largely in a mastery relationship to nature, even though you’re supposed to be getting in touch with nature. What he would argue is something like try that in an inflatable tyre. That will change your relation from the experience of that. Again, when we talk about things like wild swimming or natural swimming in the UK, try doing that in the creeks and rivers
of Northern Queensland. Okay, it’s not de-contextualised but there are layers to this and
foldings within this which can be re-surfaced in terms of risk, culture, nature, nature-culture.
BAZ KERSHAW: Going back to starting points and the question of tipping points. Running through a lot of what you were saying, if I understood you right, is how do we kind of get past that in education or own it sometimes? You know, how do we kind of use it in education in order to use it in a kind of positive sense? Have you come across anything which deals with that question of – like the personal effects say, or tipping points or personal individual understandings of concepts of that kind?
ALAN: Yes, in a way, and the thing which just immediately comes to mind is the kind of ‘pedagogy of terror’, or the ‘tactics of terror’ which some teachers use! So I don’t know how many of you know of kids who have been told kind of on a Friday morning, oh, we’re going to do a lesson on your carbon footprint and by the end of the lesson, they know how many planets their lifestyle requires. And then they go on to Double French and Science, whatever. It’s that kind of, “we’ve got to get the message out”. “We’ve got to get people understanding the implications of this.” But it doesn’t fit at all with the rest of their curriculum experience, the ethos of the school, what the community might be doing about this, whether the community would want to challenge this as appropriate pedagogy. So what is the learning which goes on there? Is it basically to make you feel guilty for the rest of your life and that you cannot change things or are there other ways of doing it?
SLIDE: Question of degree(s)
! Kwigillingok is a small Yup’ik fishing village on the coast of the Bering Sea in western Alaska
! Permafrost melting … Housing and other structures in the village sink … Invasive species take root – effects on migratory patterns of big game such as musk ox … Fish camps are relocated due to warming trend … [+ ‘carbon’ release?]
Q: Cause/effect chains?
Q: Authentic stories and connections?
Again, one of the things which I skipped over before getting to the video clip is there’s an approach, particularly I find in Alaska and Canada, where they try to link communities up
through the internet, to tell stories of each other and how do we represent ourselves to you? How do you represent yourselves to us? Because the clip where that Inuit bit comes from, the rest of the film is about colonisation and how these people now are trying to decolonise themselves but using the ‘master’s tools’ in effect. So again, one of the things to say is: ideas are very powerful. Which ideas do we want students, adults to engage with around notions like tipping points? Does ‘tipping point’ only mean that way, or can it also rock back? Have we passed the point of no return? Is it all about adaptation not mitigation now etc, etc? And again, spinning those things out, it’s easy to be terrorised in a classroom. An experience to relate, just as a kind of final round up on that, is about my eldest son, Tom, aged 11 at the time. When he got to Australia, he was taught by a teacher from Brighton who said “in today’s lesson, we’re going to watch An Inconvenient Truth.” He put it on, and then at the end of the lesson turned it off. No discussion. I was ashamed! But to go back to Chris’s point too, I do kind of use my children as research subjects. They collect data for me. I had a very lengthy discussion with Tom about what was that telling you? What does that tell you about what school is for? It wasn’t just simply about environmental stuff. I wanted to know what he imagined. Okay, it was great being in Australia going surfing most days etc. but if this is the message coming from school and this school is supposed to be better than your school experience at home, how do we make comparisons here? What kind of curriculum discussions should we be having about such matters? So I’ll kind of leave that with you if that’s okay?
SALLY: Phil, quick question?
PHIL SMITH: No, it’s kind of gone.
SALLY: Okay, David?
DAVID HARRADINE: A quick one. As you were talking, I remembered another project when I’d asked a group of children who I think were eight or nine to tell me where in the world they most wanted to go to and eight nine-year-old boys said Iceland, which really baffled me, thinking about the north and the landscape. ‘Why do you want to go to Iceland?’ ‘Because of the ice cream.’ And he meant the supermarket, Iceland. And I remembered it when you said about non-places and you cited supermarkets as an example of a non-place. I want to ask you what you mean by non-place because I think to that child, that place was a place.
ALAN: Yes, it is clearly a place. Phil, JD, would you like to comment on this, the non-place? I mean I know there are geographers in the room.
SALLY: It was an academic, Marc Augé, a French anthropologist who’s written about the notion of non-place being a place where you don’t dwell over time – they’re generic, they’re service stations, they’re railway stations, they’re airports [Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, 1995]. But it’s also contested. There are also people who would argue against that and say actually, they have a particular quality of place however temporary and so on.
ALAN: But the way that that can be flipped in to now is with a slow pedagogy example. The experience of that for me, was a trip with a group of 20-year-old university students doing a degree in sports and outdoor recreation at a place called Bear Gully. It is on the Victoria Coast overlooking Wilson’s Prom. Wilson’s Prom is this spectacular, pristine, amazing, natural place which people want to go to, you have to wait for two years to get a permit to go there, that kind of thing — whereas Bear Gully is pretty much a rundown campsite by comparison where at the weekend, everyone can come – with their barbies and their dogs. We went there for our fieldtrip. We slept under a tarpaulin and had a 100-kilometre diet, no mobile phones, and no one was allowed more than a kilometre away from the site. Remember, this is for some students who would love to kayak from Bear Gully to Wilson’s Prom! The cognitive dissonance of all that was something which again emerged around pedagogy too: for example, saying “okay, this morning’s activity might be this. Let’s see how you go with that. Come back when you’re hungry.” In this case it was the pattern or the pace of the pedagogy, it was not something which they’re all used to.
I think the slow pedagogy idea is very powerful in turning what you might overlook as a place into something actually very rich. So those ‘non-places’ yes, are pejoratively termed
sometimes but actually, they can work just like suburbs – most people are familiar with them and their relationship with those places, and thus those places as sites and the performances which can go on there. All this could be actually something which, if we just go down the catastrophe kind of line, we completely miss as powerful for education.
SALLY: We’re going to have to pause I’m afraid because we’ve run out of time. Thank you Alan. Thank you very much indeed.