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GA Annual Conference 2013 David Hicks Visiting Professor Bath Spa University A Geography of Hope.

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Presentation on theme: "GA Annual Conference 2013 David Hicks Visiting Professor Bath Spa University A Geography of Hope."— Presentation transcript:

1 GA Annual Conference 2013 David Hicks Visiting Professor Bath Spa University A Geography of Hope

2 1. GLOBAL WARNINGS Professor John Beddington, UK Governments Chief Scientific Adviser has warned there may be trouble ahead. He cautions that A perfect storm of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources threatens to unleash public unrest, cross- border conflicts and mass migration as people flee the worst affected regions... We head into a perfect storm in 2030, because all these things are operating on the same time frame... The Guardian, 18 March 2009 Q: What should the role of Geography be in the face of such hazards?

3 Climate change: here to stay Climate change – here to stay What is scientifically known Global average temperature increased by 0.8C in last century due to CO2 emissions – world will get hotter – sea levels will rise – floods and droughts more common What is yet to be clarified How high CO2 emissions will be –how much warmer it will get – how much sea levels will rise – impact on different regions – impact of different tipping points New Scientist, 2 Oct 2011 Scepticism and denial Oreskes & Conway, Merchants of Doubt (2010): long history of denial in relation to issues – e.g. smoking and cancer, acid rain, climate change – not a search for scientific truth – small group, mostly in US, who have long opposed any research that they feel threatens free market principles – often now funded by fossil fuel companies Geography should now focus on issues of mitigation/adaptation. Mitigation: ways of reducing impact of global warming (e.g. Ashden Awards for school initiatives on renewable energy). Adaptation: planning how homes, buildings, agriculture, transport need to change in the face of extreme weather conditions (flood, drought, snow).

4 Source: ASPO Newsletter, December 2008 Have we reached peak oil?

5 The end of easy oil Discovery and production Discovery of oil peaked in late 60s – production started to plateau in 80s – no more big oil fields to be discovered – looming energy crisis – see: Geoforum, 41 (2010) - increased market turbulence From easy to difficult oil Oil obtained from tar sands or through fracking takes more energy to produce and can cause severe environmental damage Central to daily life Not just as fuel and for heating but also fertilisers, herbicides, chemicals, plastics and wide range of materials – The Great Addiction of the C20th - BUT unless oil/fossil fuels left in ground higher CO2 emissions will lead to greater global warming – urgent need to move towards a low carbon or zero carbon future Learners need to understand the advantages/disadvantages of different energy sources: fossil fuels (highly problematic), nuclear (no CO2 but dangerous waste legacy for future generations), renewable (low carbon: solar/wind/water/biomass)

6 In the twentieth century, powerful, high-carbon, path- dependent systems were set in place, locked in through various economic and social institutions... As the century unfolded, these lock-ins meant that the world came to be left with a high and unsustainable carbon legacy... A carbon shift is inevitable. Elliot & Urry, Mobile Lives, Routledge Carbon shift inevitable

7 Limits to growth Limits to Growth (1972): first global computer simulation to explore the possible future impacts of global trends – however run showed unsustainable future in C21st - attacked by free-market economists Economics v. ecology: economists see growth as a prerequisite to human well-being, whilst ecologists recognise the finiteness of the biosphere – should humans learn to live within the ecological limits or try to transcend them? Ecological Overshoot Day: date each year on which human demand exceeds planets ability to replenish – 17 Sept in 2011, 2 Aug in 2012 – notion developed by New Economics Foundation Addicted to stuff: identity in the rich world increasingly tied to rampant consumerism and individualism of neoliberal ideology – leading to emphasis in society on self-interest rather than the common good See: Education Scotland Treading Lightly on the Planet, an activity to help schools map their ecological footprint (resources consumed/waste created)

8 2. FACING THE FUTURE Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. Much of what appears natural... dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth creation, the cult of privatisation and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric which accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless growth. Tony Judt (2010) Ill Fares the Land (Allen Lane) These are the values of dominant neoliberal ideology which believes in privatising all aspects of society. Over the last thirty years this has led to growing inequality in society and fragmentation of the education system.

9 A long transition... In the light of the above many commentators are arguing that the world is about to change dramatically in the years ahead, particularly as a result of climate change and the depletion of easy oil The availability of cheap oil in twentieth century encouraged economic and industrial growth on a scale never seen before in history The decline of conventional oil reserves and problems of non-conventional production will eventually mean a leaner energy future Since climate change demands a zero carbon future the transition will be one of energy descent and thus a rough ride Jurgen Randers, in 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, says the choice is between societal collapse or a managed descent. Geography has a crucial role to play in preparing young people for the coming shift to a low carbon society. Should it come about by default or by active and thoughtful preparation?

10 Collision course For two centuries we have been on a collision course with the limits of the Earth The effects of climate change will be far more difficult than weve been led to believe We will be faced with severe social, economic and political trauma in the years ahead. This long emergency represents the ultimate challenge to our political creativity, skill, wisdom and foresight The multiple problems of sustainability will not be solved by this generation or even the next Orr, D. (2009) Down to the Wire: Confronting climate collapse, Oxford University Press Is this being alarmist? Or should geographers at least hold these as possible truths - if not probable...

11 Post-carbon scenarios Business as Usual – Continued economic growth seen as best way forward with the emphasis on continuing use of fossil fuels. Society is consequently unprepared for the effects of global warming and energy descent. Techno-stability – Move towards a low carbon society encouraged by significant expansion of green technologies in all areas of life. A technological solution but one which still largely ignored the limits to growth. Energy crash – No clear lead given over climate change or a move away from fossil fuels. The effects of climate change escalate and power black-outs become increasingly common. Serious fragmentation of society. Sustainable transition – All sectors work towards a more resilient society based on effective mitigation and adaptation, renewable sources of energy and living within the ecological limits to growth. Scenarios are used to prompt discussion and debate about the future. What would need to happen for each of these to some about? Which seems the most probable and why? Which feels the most preferable? What would need to be done to help bring it about?

12 Impact on health and well-being These issues All of the issues considered here have a major emotional impact and one might hope they will go away – denial is an understandable response to such matters but self-defeating – fears and concerns need to be acknowledged/shared before one can respond actively to such challenges Official studies Authoritative reports from the Australian Psychological Society and from US sources both highlight the increasing psychological distress that will be caused by climate change related events It is important in Geography to acknowledge the hopes and fears that learners have in relation to such issues. Four strands need to be present in such learning: Knowing (What do we need to know about this issue?) Feeling (What do we feel about this issue?) Choosing (What are the options we are faced with here?) Acting (What are others doing/might we want to do in relation to this issue?)

13 3. A JOURNEY OF HOPE One of the tasks of the progressive educator…is to unveil opportunities for hope, no matter what the obstacles might be. Paulo Freire (1994) A Pedagogy of Hope, Continuum There is an important difference between hoping that something will happen and the radical or active hope needed in really difficult circum- stances. Such hope lies at the heart of human being: it is what we draw on when faced by the worst that life can offer.

14 Identifying sources of hope The natural world – a source of beauty, wonder and inspiration which ever renews itself and ever refreshes the heart and mind Collective struggles – groups in the past and present who have fought to achieve the equality and justice that is rightfully theirs Visionaries – those who offer visions of an earth transformed and who work to help bring this about in different ways Relationships – being loved by partners, friends and family, which nourishes and sustains us in our lives Humour - seeing the funny side of things, being able to laugh in adversity, having fun, celebrating together Roots – links with the past, history, previous generations, ancestors, the need to honour continuity Hicks, D. (2006) Stories of hope, in: Lessons for the Future, Trafford These sources of hope emerged over the course of a residential weekend run for a group of interested educators

15 Providing emotional support We need to acknowledge the enormity of environmental problems, and share our feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, fear and hopelessness. We need to create spaces and opportunities to help kids explore and share their own feelings. We also need to move beyond the narrative of doom and gloom toward more hopeful narratives grounded in resiliency, well-being, happiness and health. Kelsey & Armstong (2012) Finding hope in a world of environmental catastrophe, chapter 11 in: Wals & Corcoran (eds) Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change, Wageningen Academic This book is an excellent and exciting resource on all aspects of education for sustainability

16 Sharing success stories Success stories Stories are central to human life and can often be about wisdom and hope – success stories of sustainability in action offer imagery and inspiration for becoming involved in action for change – such stories help learners to build models of how and why things need to change Incredible Edible Todmorden, a small town in West Yorkshire, has embarked on a mission to transform every bit of green space into a communal larder. Its schools and public parks are bursting with vegetable plots, theres a 200-tree orchard in the town centre and crops are even sprouting in the towns cemetery. Residents can harvest this public produce for free. Todmorden hopes to be fully self-sufficient in fruit, vegetables and eggs by It has inspired many other communities to become more resilient over the sourcing of their food. This story shows how what is seen as normal and fixed can be challenged and changed. Many more stories are needed on renewable energy projects, protecting biodiversity, building sustainable communities and working together for change. If others can do this what might we do in our own school and community?

17 Teaching in a spirit of optimism Children need supportive contexts in which they feel able to share their environmental concerns It is vital to give equal consideration to both head and heart; whatever they feel is valid Talk in terms of exciting change that they can be involved in rather than problems to be faced Share success stories of sustainability that will inspire and motivate different age groups Engage in practical sustainability activities which are fun, communal and challenging Sustainability is good for both people & planet! Ashden Awards (for sustainable energy projects) Food for Life Partnership (growing, preparing, eating, organic farming)

18 4. POST-CARBON GEOG Nothing less than a major reorientation of Geography as taught and learned in schools is required if students are to gain a realistic understanding of contemporary environmental challenges. The commonly taught subjects in the geography curriculum are capable of being taught in order to accommodate the challenge of post- carbon era. Matthewman, S. & Morgan, J. (2013) The post-carbon challenge for curriculum subjects, Oxford Review of Education (forthcoming) What the authors are arguing for here, I believe, is the new frontier for

19 Re-thinking citizenship There is widespread unease that children of the market may have internalised neoliberal lessons to the extent that they now equate good citizenship with habits of private responsibility and ethical consumption in ways that leave underlying drivers of environmental and social problems unchallenged. A curriculum that focuses attention on agency as a personal responsibility deflects attention from exercising our collective agency to address systematic injustice... a poor substitute for the democratic freedom and capability to envisage new forms of collective cooperation to achieve a common purpose. Hayward, B. (2012) Children, Citizenship and Environment, Routledge Geography has a crucial role to play in supporting a more socially just and ecological view of citizenship which is both democratic and collective in nature.

20 The Transition Network Transition initiatives: begin when people come together locally to share concerns about climate change and the energy crisis Interest groups: are then formed based on peoples particular concerns, such as energy, food, transport, biodiversity Overall goal: making communities more self-reliant and therefore more resilient in times of difficult change Local action: the drawing up and implementing of plans which will help create a low or post-carbon community See: also /support/education/ Much can be learnt from local Transition initiatives across the world that would enrich a post-carbon Geography curriculum

21 Part I – Learning for tomorrow 1.Unsustainable times 2.The global dimension 3.A futures perspective 4.Sustainable schools 5.A time of transition Part II – Stories from the future 6. Food and farming 7.Energy and water 8.Travel and transport 9.Consuming and wasting 10.Buildings and biodiversity 11.Inclusion and participation 12.Local well-being 13.Global connections Part III – A journey of hope 14.Towards a sustainable future 15.Teaching in a spirit of optimism

22 Instruction Look carefully at this scenario of what a more sustainable local future might look like. Imagine you are visiting this future with a group of friends to gather information about it (futures fieldwork). You can look around to see how things are different and also listen to what people are saying about life in this future. Questions 1.What are the first three things you notice about this future? 2.In what ways is this future different from today? 3.What are people doing and saying that is different from today? 4.What are the advantages of living in this future? 5.What questions do you have about this future? Pt II ~ Stories from the future

23 Some questions for geographers In what ways does your teaching: 1.Analyse the nature and impact of unsustainable/sustainable practices? 2. Imply that continued economic growth will always be the norm? 3.Assume that there will always be a ready supply of fossil fuels for use? 4.Explore the nature and importance of renewable energy sources? 5. Help learners explore the nature of/need for a more sustainable future? 6. Foster capabilities needed for the transition to a post-carbon society?

24 David Hicks Teaching for a Better World

25 Useful reading Barry, J. (2012) The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability: Human flourishing in a climate- changed, carbon-restrained world, Oxford University Press Gray, J. (2009) False Dawn: The delusions of global capitalism, Granta Hayward, B. (2012) Children, Citizenship and Environment: Nurturing a democratic imagination in a changing world, Earthscan/Routledge Heinberg, R. & Lerch, D. (eds) (2010) The Post-Carbon Reader: Managing the 21 st centurys sustainability crises, Clairview Books Hopkins, R. (2011) The Transition Companion: Making your community more resilient in uncertain times, Green Books Kemp, M. & Wexler, J. (2010) Zero Carbon Britain: A new energy strategy, Centre for Alternative Technology Oreskes, M. & Conway, E. (2010) Merchants of Doubt: How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, Bloomsbury Orr, D. (2009) Down to the Wire: Confronting climate collapse, Oxford University Press Randers, J. (2013) 2052: A global forecast for the next forty years, Chelsea Green Simms, A. (2013) Cancel the Apocalypse: The new path to prosperity, Little Brown Urry, J. (2011) Climate Change and Society, Polity Wals, A. & Corcoran, P. (eds) Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change, Wageningen Press World Watch Institute (2013) State of the World 2013: Is sustainability still possible? World Watch Institute

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