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The Firm and Shaky Ground of Education for Sustainable Development

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This paper employs academic and parable forms to evaluate critically the strengths and weaknesses, potentials and lacunae of education for sustainable development (ESD) and other sustainability-related educations. The meteoric rise to prominence of ESD is first briefly reviewed, as is the firm ground it now stands upon as an international and national educational priority. The remainder of the paper explores the shaky ground of ESD: the field's reliance on a goal, sustainable development, which, in its by-and-large continued embrace of the growth principle, is a myopic response to the Earth condition; the field's embrace of an instrumentalist conception of nature when such a conception itself feeds unsustainability; the overly skills/training orientation of ESD and its stunted engagement with a range of key aspects of the human-nature relationship; the failure of ESD to realize its original breadth and promise in its marginalization of the voice of peace, social justice, anti-discriminatory, indigenous and futures educators as well as that of sustainability educators in the South; its adoption of an anachronistic ‘steady state' conception of nature. Finally, it is suggested that sustainability-related education would be enriched and enlivened by fomenting a dynamic complementarity between notions of transience and sustainability
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Keywords: Education for sustainable development; environmental education; environmental ethics; mechanistic worldview; sustainability literacy; transience

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Plymouth, UK

Publication date: 2006-07-01

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