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Environmental education after sustainability: hope in the midst of tragedy

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ABSTRACT

In this article, I discuss the challenge posed to environmental education (EE; and education for sustainable development) by the thinkers who see the situation of the world as so severe that ‘sustainability’ is an outdated concept.

My approach is interdisciplinary and I discuss especially the connections between EE and eco-psychology. Based on psychological research, I argue that the wide-scale unconscious anxiety, which people experience, should be taken very seriously in EE. My discussion thus contributes in a new kind of way to a long-standing key issue in EE, the gap between people’s values and the perceived action.

Scholars of eco-anxiety have argued that instead of not caring, many people in fact care too much, and have to resort to psychological defenses of denial and disavowal. Thus, the question in EE is not anymore whether EE should deal with anxiety, for anxiety is already there. The prevailing attitude in EE writing is right in emphasizing positive matters and empowerment, but the relation between hope and optimism must be carefully thought about and a certain sense of tragedy must be included. Therefore, my article participates in the discussion about the role of ‘fear appeals’ in EE.

My discussion is directed to anyone who wants to understand the reasons for inaction and the ways in which these may be overcome.
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Keywords: Environmental education; conservation psychology; ecopsychology; education for sustainable development; environmental ethics; hope and optimism; sustainability education; tragedy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 2017

More about this publication?
  • Global Discourse is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented journal of applied contemporary thought operating at the intersection of politics, international relations, sociology and social policy. The Journal's scope is broad, encouraging interrogation of current affairs with regard to core questions of distributive justice, wellbeing, cultural diversity, autonomy, sovereignty, security and recognition. All issues are themed and aimed at addressing pressing issues as they emerge. Rejecting the notion that publication is the final stage in the research process, Global Discourse seeks to foster discussion and debate between often artificially isolated disciplines and paradigms, with responses to articles encouraged and conversations continued across issues.

    The Journal features a mix of full-length articles, each accompanied by one or more replies, policy papers commissioned by organizations and institutions and book review symposia, typically consisting of three reviews and a reply by the author(s). With an international advisory editorial board consisting of experienced, highly-cited academics, Global Discourse publishes themed issues on topics as they emerge. Authors are encouraged to explore the international dimensions and implications of their work.

    All research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening and double-blind peer review. All submissions must be in response to a specific call for papers.

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