Shirley Walters, Astrid von Kotze, Shauna Butterwick
Ethical adult educators cannot continue to provide the same old curricula as if the very existence of the planet were not in peril: we have a “response-ability” (Sterling and Martin, 2019) to contribute to the struggle for climate justice. One of the many pressing questions we face is how do we unpick the false assumptions about the separation of humans from the more-than-human world – and why does it matter? In this bulletin we open up conversations on these complex issues.
There is general agreement that the climate crises demand that scholars and practitioners work across disciplines and geographical regions, to address many of the intractable problems. It is clear that we educators need a range of new skills, expertise and commitments – all enhanced through processes of learning. Adult educators, and all other educators have extremely important roles to play – both as citizens and in our professional capacities – we all need a more profound understanding of the climate crisis so we can act urgently ‘as if all of our houses are on fire’!
Many adult educators, like us, have been brought up within the Western world view of hierarchical dualisms. As feminists we know from personal experience how hard it is to challenge some of the dualisms even in our own lives where we have to unlearn and relearn deeply embedded worldviews. We enter these difficult conversations with humility, with a willingness to learn from one another, rather than claiming to be right. Building trust amongst co-learners and creating learning spaces to explore new ways of seeing and relating are critically important.
With this broad understanding of the situation, with no financial resources at hand, in 2019 PIMA decided to ‘do something’ to encourage adult educators, scholars and activists to become engaged in the praxis of climate justice education across geographical regions, across the political ‘south’ and ‘north’. And so, a modest ‘Climate Justice and ALE’ webinar series was born. We formed a working group of PIMA members, who are located across geographical regions, and invited other adult education networks to co-host with PIMA. The PIMA Bulletin has been used to disseminate reports of the webinars and a special edition of the bulletin was distributed in time for the COP26 meeting in Glasgow in 2021.
The current bulletin builds on the previous one (PIMA November 2021) which we were delighted to learn has been used as a resource in various university programmes. See https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cWLBy65p3bl300Gqskv64pQE-qyvbkvT/view?usp=share_link
In this bulletin we recognise the deep shifts taking place which demand of us all to unlearn, relearn, and learn new ways of being and living, with a sense of urgency, using every opportunity for deeply transformative praxis.
Unpicking the false assumptions that prop up the unsustainable and abusive relationship with social and ecological systems is a pressing task for educators. This very much includes humans’ separateness from the more-than-human. How can these belief systems, grown and nurtured over centuries, be transformed?
In a series of short articles, Shirley Walters, Denise Nadeau, and Elizabeth Lange (re)envision relations between humans and the `more-than-humans` world from different vantage points. They recognise that these are complex and wide-ranging issues. Shirley situates the separation within the historical contexts of colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy, and racism. Denise addresses the question of unlearning embodied colonialism by learning to listen with and act with the more-than-human. She provides introductory activities to deepen awareness of our interconnectedness. Elizabeth describes the new stories that carry basic understandings and assumptions about reality which demand deep transformation of all aspects of life. She argues that we are the transitional generations who will experience the long climate emergency but also have opportunities as educators to find ways into the emerging story of Relationality.
Across the world in 2022, there have been unprecedented heatwaves, floods, droughts, fires. As extreme weather events have worsened, insecurity has fed the insurgence of armed conflicts and increased depths of poverty, inequality and gender-based-violence.
In response to the extended period of instability and insecurity, `permacrisis` has been chosen as the Collins Dictionary's word of the year. It sums up just how awful 2022 has been for so many people. As reflected in language, understanding the world to be in a permanent state of crisis is becoming `normal`. Shifts in use of language amongst scientists is also reflecting the gravity of the situation – there is a move from discussion of climate change, to climate crisis, to climate emergency, to climate catastrophe.
Shauna Butterwick argues in her article that language is an active creator of meaning with consequences for how people understand and act. She questions what language(s) best capture the complexity of the ecological problems and ways forward. Framing the stories we share and the words we use influences how we think about the climate crisis, how we believe it should be tackled and what we can personally do to help. This is Elin Kelsey’s (2020) argument in her book Hope matters: Why changing the way we think is critical to solving the environmental crisis.
The time for Climate Justice is NOW! This is the call from the Women’s Climate Assembly held in the Niger Delta from 17-20 October 2022. It was the largest women’s climate gathering in Africa bringing together well over 100 women activists from 11 countries across West and Central Africa. The ground-breaking event co-hosted by leading women’s movements and local community organisations hosted women community leaders and social movement activists from Guinea Conakry, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria. These are the women who shoulder the worsening impacts of climate disasters in their daily lives despite having contributed little to the growing climate crisis. This meeting represents the start of a permanent assembly of African women for climate and development justice.
The example of the Women’s Climate Assembly is significant for several reasons. It captures the urgency of the situation by women who are on the front lines of the climate disasters, who have contributed least to the crisis. It exemplifies the fact that everyone has a responsibility to act – people are not waiting for governments to lead. It is an example of several meetings held in Africa before the 27th edition of the Conference of the Party (COP) held in Egypt, both to try to influence the outcomes of COP27, and to provide an alternative oppositional voice to the lack of commitment to the pledges undertaken in previous COP meetings.
In this Bulletin there are wonderful, disparate, examples of Everyone/Everywhere. Claudia Diaz addresses the question of why we need to talk to children about climate justice, and how we can get ready to do such work. Astrid von Kotze emphases the importance of imagining alternative futures through use of stories, popular theatre, literature, music and craftwork – which provide hopeful impulses. Art is an experimental space for playing, for trying out other options, for linking what has been severed, for constructing what could be. Sarah van Borek’s commitment to producing a multimedia PhD thesis, inclusive of audio and visual materials, led to the making of a music video which illustrates how creative production and presentation of doctoral studies can enhance possibilities for climate justice. Darlene Clover highlights innovative climate justice work in museums, institutions often associated with the past. Colette February focuses on intergenerational learning opportunities in an adult education classroom.
Using every opportunity for all of us to engage learning/teaching for climate justice, resonates with the call from the World Scientists Warning of a Climate Emergency 2022. As they say, we need ‘all hands-on deck’ to act quickly together to take necessary actions to avoid the worst effects of rapid climate change and simultaneously imagine life giving alternatives. We look forward to learning, unlearning and re-learning with you during the coming year. But before we do this, take time to listen to the moving remake of the 1960s protest song, Eve of Destruction, by Anneli Kamfer https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/eve-of-destruction/
Kelsey, E. (2020). Hope matters: Why changing the way we think is critical to solving the environmental crisis. Greystone Books.
Sterling, S. & Martin, S. (2019, November 16). Climate crisis and the response-ability of universities. Times Higher Education. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/climate-crisis-and-response-ability-universities