Sunday, November 16, 2014
I like it when finally the words come out just right:
Underpinning my choice of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainability as an environmental history research topic is this idea: that past and future are not so much distant points on a linear time scale as they are reflections of one another. When environmental history is approached in this way, it becomes clear that the “farsighted understanding” it provides about the present moment is crucial to sustainability efforts, and to educating future generations of leaders. The global and temporal scales of the DESD makes this point all the more salient. An additional assumption in this writing is that the Decade did not simply begin with a declaration; it stirred in the minds of world stakeholders long before 2005, and it took shape around a vision that may or may not have considered the lessons of environmental history, at least not to their fullest. The DESD imagines “a world where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from quality education and learn the values, behaviour and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation.” Yet these values, behaviors and lifestyles are rooted in cultural, lingual, and physical terrains that are far older than a human or administrative lifespan. This research seeks to engage environmental history as not only a record of events but a lens, a tool for “active engagement with the present.” It explores aspects of environmental history that might employ critical theory and an orientation to social justice in scholarly research. The intent behind this paper is not to attack or even correct the path forged by the DESD, but to offer up environmental history as an asset in our understanding of where we are going.