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From the Editorial team

Hope is the only alternative

Authors: Markus Palmén Published:

Climate change is the biggest learning challenge of our time – and perhaps also a chance to ask again what kind of life we want.

Each generation has its nightmare of the apocalypse.

For the generation of my parents it was destruction through global nuclear war. For my grandparents´ peers the world surely seemed to end in two devastating world wars. Yet earlier generations have lied awake at night tormented by end visions of a more religious stripe.

We have climate change.

But I dare to say this nightmare is more wicked, as we, the West, are fully complicit in building this apocalypse.

We know perfectly well that our lifestyle, fueled by fossil fuels and mass consumption, is unsustainable. We may even want to change our ways, but the structures are too rigid.

Money and power is at stake for too many influential groups for a real challenge for our current unecological way of life to emerge. We are on a fast track to a collapse.

It is very possible that humanity will adapt to planetary limits only through climate catastrophe, sometime during this century. Yet, I would not discredit the power of an alternative narrative.

The late Donella Meadows, pioneering environmental scientist, said in a speech* that environmentalism is often seen as just calling for great sacrifices, not offering inspiring visions. Yet, inspiration is what we desperately need.

Meadows suggests we should see the climate crisis as a tremendous learning opportunity and a chance to ask again what kind of life we want. A positive narrative tunes us into finding real solutions. A negative one about unavoidable doom and our own idiocy only makes us passive – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Journalists and storytellers have a responsibility to work towards a hopeful narrative while of course remaining rooted firmly in climate facts and science. And so do teachers and educators. Climate change is the biggest learning challenge of our time.

In this issue we approach the climate dilemma from various learning-related angles.

In the UK, climate change is conspicuously absent from formal adult education, writes Kevin Campbell-Wright. The museum sector, however, is picking it up. There is huge potential demand in climate-related education content -adult education risks missing out on this momentum.

From Sweden, Hetty Rooth’s article sees another kind of potential in the transition movement joining forces with non-formal adult education, to create a real grass-roots powerhouse of a movement.

In Portugal we look at how a traditional business – cork manufacturers – has succeeded in educating their customers on sustainable consumption.

Adult education on climate themes can be very hands-on and concrete, as in Serbia, where climate disaster resilience courses are popular.

We also hear from Finland in several articles: adult educator Erkka Laininen and researcher Anja Heikkinen ponder the nature and task of education in our era of climate change: the essence of education is moving from passing on culture to changing it.

Markus Palmén’s article on intuition turns the focus to the micro level of the individual and his/her intellectual capacities in dealing with climate change: could intelligent intuition be a game changer in tackling the wicked problem of climate?

*Donella Meadows’ 1994 speech transcripted in Costanza R., Kubiszewski, I. Eds. (2014). Creating a sustainable and desirable future. World Scientific.

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Markus Palmén (MSc) is a freelance journalist who previously worked as the editor-in-chief of Elm (until 8/2017). Contact:; Twitter: @MarkusPalmen; +358 50 3833 968. Show all articles by Markus Palmén
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