Sustainable Development and Learning: Framing the Issues

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

5

Humans and nature

Tensions and interdependence

Introduction: knowing what we need to know
In Chapter 1 we discussed in a preliminary way the interrelationship between human activity and the environment, discussed a number of possible competing ways of thinking about that interrelationship, and stated our own preference for a co-evolutionary view. We also noted a tendency, at least in Western societies, to inbue nature with two, contradictory, sets of characteristics. The reality is considerably more complex in both respects. First, it is worth re-iterating that the society-environment relationship (on the one hand) and the relationship between how we think about society and how we think about the environment (on the other) are, to borrow a phrase from management literature, 'loosely coupled' (Weick, 1976). Figure 5.1 will be partly familiar from our earlier discussion. The picture has been extended to suggest that learning can take place:
• By individuals, who may change their ideas about society, environment and change
• By society, as it adapts in planned and unplanned ways
• By the environment, in the sense that it too adapts in response to human activity.

Note that it is also possible for adaptations to occur in ways which entail no human learning, at least in the sense we developed that term in Chapter 4.

This is to say that the way we think about society, environment and change influences (and is in turn influenced by) environmental and social change as they occur. However, influence is one thing: linear causality is another. Since our knowledge is frequently imperfect (see Chapter 4), and is mediated through literacies, institutions and cultures (see Chapter 6), we should expect that there will be many instances in which what is really happening, and what we think is really happening, are quite different. Such instances are likely to be characterised by the existence of 'contradictory certainties' (Thompson, 1990). This is to suggest that, where we find competing social groups marshalling impressive but incompatible bodies of evidence to support entrenched views, the most rational response is not to try to adjudicate between claims, but rather to assume that all parties are likely to be both (a bit) right and (a bit) wrong.

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Sustainable Development and Learning: Framing the Issues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Authors' Introduction xiii
  • 1 - Framing the Issues 1
  • 2 - The Policy Context 12
  • 3 - Language and Meaning 23
  • 4 - Learning and Sustainable Development 31
  • 5 - Humans and Nature 44
  • 6 - Theory and Practice 56
  • 7 - Management of Learning 66
  • 8 - Curriculum and Pedagogy 78
  • 9 - Measuring Learning 87
  • 10 - Monitoring and Evaluation 97
  • 11 - Building Capacity, Developing Agency 110
  • 12 - Economic Behaviour 120
  • 13 - Globalisation and Fragmentation 133
  • 14 - What Happens Next? 143
  • References 148
  • Index 161
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