Sustainable Development and Learning: Framing the Issues

By Neil Chalmers; William Scott et al. | Go to book overview

4

Learning and sustainable development

Making the linkages

Introduction: literacies and learning
At the beginning of Chapter 1 we noted that it is perfectly possible in practice to have a central concern with sustainable development without paying any attention at all to what anyone learns at any stage of their lives. Even if, perhaps among our more education-minded readers, there are those who were initially surprised by this then they may be less so now. Our observation in Chapter 3, that there exists a range of different literacies by means of which people 'read' their environment, offers a clear explanation why this may be so. For the trained educator, whilst lack of learning is likely to feature prominently in definitions of environmental problems, and learning itself is likely to be seen as integral to many solutions, much will depend, in this view, on how people think. For the economist, on the other hand, how people think is normally taken as given, consistent and expressed through the choices they make. For the conservation biologist, however, how people think may not merit much, or any, attention if it is held that there is an externally determined rational standard which enables judgements to be made about what they should think, particularly in relation to conservation. Note how fundamental these differences really are, depending ultimately on whether 'environmental problems' are seen as something people have, or something ecosystems have. This means that even if there is agreement about, say, the need to protect biodiversity in a particular area of wetland, which has economic value to local people and is also potentially attractive to tourists, there is unlikely to be agreement about whether it is best to achieve this by, for example:
Engaging stakeholders in a mediated learning process through which the value of the wetland and the alternatives for its management are explored and internalised
Controlling economic activity through the use of traded permits, supported by incentives in favour of particular alternatives
Banning access and perhaps building a perimeter fence.

Of course, these are not the only possible literacies which might be brought to bear and therefore not the only possible solutions that might be offered. However, taking an overview of this very simple hypothetical example enables us to make the following propositions about it:

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