An argument for SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION

| February 9, 2010

The CIES field should use a model with three components: one, it must be based on the historical foundations five epistemological fields identified above and use a collaborative attitude with each of them; two, use the specific and proper use of language identified above, and three, focus not only on Education for Sustainable Development with its limitations, but more broadly on ‘Sustainability Education’ which has rarely been touched – focusing on the longevity of education programs that teach social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

The implications of this include both expanding the field of who will be a part of this new emerging field, while also limiting the improper use of language to describe the field itself.  Two recent articles support the above argument, but only within the field of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).  Paden and Chhokar (2007) established the most recent account of an attempt to identify priority areas for ESD for practitioners of environmental education and researchers in the development field.  They define these priorities as not only about knowledge but also advocating a change to sustainable living.  Wheeler (2007) likewise places emphasis on change for ESD practitioners.  What is especially necessary in this article is the acknowledgement that there is a “system of fragmentation or specialization … [that] has fragmented knowledge into silos in which specialists work in isolation without communication across specializations” (p.47).

‘Sustainability Education’ is a better conceptualization than others in our field due to the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability.  Similarly to our field, sustainability is based on economic, environmental and social pillars of society.  Our field is based on many of these same things but includes more epistemological variations of sociology, conflict resolution (peace), anthropology, economics, practitioners, scholars, policy makers/advocates, and experts at bridging the gaps of those fields who prefer to remain separate.  Therefore it is the responsibility of our field to expand and distinguish education for sustainable development from that of sustainability education, each with their own implications for international and comparative education.

‘Sustainability Education’ transcends environmental based science education to include ethical teachings from wise societies.  It transcends the development paradigm with its contraindications, oxymorons, and other negative connotations to include people for the environmental activist point of view that has largely been excluded by the field.   Transcends the confusion definitions to both include definitions from each field but give new meaning to those words that have lost their clarity due to overuse.

Sustainability education will look critically both at current curriculum in formal settings as well as how informal education has been taught for a long time plus helping fill gaps in countries where sustainability formal education is lacking.