Cultural Pedagogies of Sustainability

This project is led by Associate Professor Ruth Barcan and conducted in conjunction with the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies and the Sydney Environment Institute.

The project examines sustainability education in three Sydney-based contexts: local council environment and lifestyle programs; advocacy and not-for-profit organisations; and commercial operations with an environmental education/outreach program (e.g. resource recovery sites).

It emerges out of the recognition that environmentalism is no longer the province only of radical politics. Over recent decades, in response to a widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics and the perceived failure or inadequacy of global and national environmental initiatives, environmental action has transformed, diversified and emerged in new contexts, forming what Schlosberg and Coles call “a pluralistic mosaic” (2016: 161). Environmental theorists argue that “remaking the world really is a commonplace desire” (Loftus 2012: ix) and the more optimistic among them see households as “crucial sites for experimentation with what kind of ‘common world’ we wish to create and inhabit” (Hawkins 2011: 72). For this reason, environmental scholarship has begun to turn its attention to “small acts of environmental stewardship” that can be embedded in, and enabled by, “common, often mundane routines of everyday life” (Maniates 2012: 121) and to the affects – hope, excitement, pleasure – that are crucial to the success of this remaking.

Ruth’s project focuses on a number of ways in which “ordinary people” are enlisted into pro-environmental behaviour, and explores the role of different kinds of institutions in this process. It aims to be a study of new forms of environmental activity, drawing on an expansive idea of pedagogy as teaching and learning in a cultural sense, beyond formal classrooms.