Learning with the rest of nature

Violeta Orlovic reviews Clover, Jayme, Hall & Follen's The Nature of Transformation - Environmental Adult Education

24.09.2013

Darlene E. Clover, Bruno de O. Jayme, Budd L. Hall, Shirley Follen

The Nature of Transformation – Environmental Adult Education

Sense Publishers (2013)
ISBN: 978-94-6209-146-7
pp.128

 

“Environmental adult education respects and nurtures patterns of knowing that
are rooted in the spirit and the land; provide opportunities to critique, reflect
and experience. It encourages hope, imagination, creativity and action.”

Darlene E. Clover and Lilian Hill, 2003

If one would try to encapsulate the approach and underlying beliefs of the authors of the book The Nature of Transformation, it might be done through the above definition of Environmental Adult Education. However, the book is rather a call for a unique and exciting journey from a theoretical background, through praxis, case studies, towards lessons learned and resources provided.

On environmental education concept and its origin

Starting from socio-environmental and critical premises, the authors believe that our focus should shift from “individual problematic behaviour” to understanding of socio-political forces contributing to complex developments on the Earth today. In other words, the authors want to see a shift of responsibility from individuals to collective entities – learning should be collective experience.

The introductory chapter contains a brief elaboration of two other underlying premises of the Nature of Transformation: the collective learning and power it brings to the process of socio-environmental change, as well as the importance of sharing information on environmental issues between a community and experts.

For a deeper understanding of “where they stand” and why it is so, in the second chapter the authors briefly present some of the key educational theories they’ve been guided by: adult education, gender difference discourse and feminist adult education, arts -based adult education, outdoor-experiential learning, and anti-racist adult education.

The chapter ends with a discussion on the concept and goals of environmental adult education, seen as the process of transformation of relations between humans and the Earth. It is especially emphasized that development of Environmental Adult Education is not about “…simply adding environmental issues to adult education or adults to outdoors experiential education- and stirring”. Rather, it is about creation of “…an amalgam of methods, analytic practices, theoretical perspectives, discursive lenses and epistemological technologies”.

“Re-connecting” to the rest of nature

The authors qualify this complex and interactive process as “hopeful”, referring to the shift from “catastrophic” views on the human contribution to degradation of the Planet, towards a critical  approach to social, environmental and economic roots of the crisis and the increasing power needed to solve problems and bring about social and political change.

Another important point for involving adults in this change process is that they are not “disconnected” from the rest of nature and that a careful combination of theoretical knowledge, methods and processes can help “re-connection” for the sake of all aspects of inter-related life on Earth. Based on such an approach, as well as on years of experience in providing environmental workshops for adults around the Globe, the authors offer their insights and views in the third chapter on preconditions and dimensions of what they see as successful community facilitation. Such a process is based on” respect for common knowledge” – experts respecting knowledge of the community – as well as oriented towards creation, fun, imagination and the ability to change.

Through the practice and lessons learned

The way the concept of the workshops is reflected in the authors’ praxis is illustrated in the fourth chapter, with a detailed review of design, process and variations of the workshops as applied in different groups and countries. Another useful look at practical experience follows in the fifth chapter, with best practice stories from Canada and other countries.

Other valuable sources of learning about challenges and experiences are provided in the sixth chapter, where lessons learned are generously shared with the reader and other potentially interested educators. For those who want more, in the final chapter there is list of references, cited and used by the authors; there are also some suggestions for further reading, categorized by theories presented in the second chapter.
In the short history of environmental adult education, the authors of this book have made a unique contribution. Their theoretical views, coupled with rich practical experience, provide a valuable source of learning not only for adult educators, but also for community activists, artists, students and teachers interested in environmental issues and improving their teaching practice.

The book’s comprehensive structure and lucid writing should inspire and educate, as well as possibly motivate us to action; or at least  provoke intense discussion, even though we may not all start from the same viewpoint and possibly even prefer a different approach to teaching or community praxis.

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