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The fierce urgency of now: Navigating paradoxes in sustainability education

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Canterbury Christ Church University

North Holmes Road Campus

North Holmes Road

Canterbury

CT1 1QU

United Kingdom

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Sustainability in Higher Education (SHE) Conference

About this Event

Register here for this free conference. Details below.

This is also a call for papers. Find out where to send abstracts below.

Today we face multiple challenges – social, economic and environmental – and a growing sense of urgency to act to address these. This was powerfully emphasised recently by Greta Thunberg when speaking at the World Economic Forum.

“I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you act as if the house is on fire, because it is." (2019)

Her words sit against a background of extensive evidence provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reports, which emphasise the need for radical and immediate change to avert environmental crisis. Those working within the context of higher education, are faced with the paradoxical challenge of addressing the urgent global crisis using the “the slow way[s]…” of education (Biesta, 2013:3)

A second challenge relates to the extent to which it is possible (or even desirable) to accept structural and systemic boundaries or whether as Biesta (2015) and others argue, educators have a “duty to resist.” Universities themselves need to change; to push back against “dominant ideologies” of neoliberalism which increasingly drive professional practice (Barnett, 2018:1). This raises questions about the extent to which drivers such as employability, quality, student experience and ranking offer useful opportunities to embed sustainability within university systems and structures or whether they need to be resisted.

These two challenges can be understood as paradoxes (fast/slow; alignment/resistance), which those working in sustainability in higher education must constantly navigate. We must act quickly in an environment that is slow to respond; we must challenge and change the very structures we are working within. We propose a model in the form of a compass focused on these paradoxes. Its aim is to guide decision-making and identify when a particular type of response might be most appropriate. We argue that within the context of global crisis, professional wisdom is an increasingly essential virtue if universities are to be effective leaders in sustainability.

Invitation to participate

We would like to invite you to submit an abstract of no more than 250 words for inclusion in the conference programme. Your paper can be on any aspect of sustainability in higher education but you should indicate which quadrant of the model, you think your paper fits into (slow alignment, slow resistance, fast resistance, fast alignment, individual or societal change/scope). It is intended that there should be a clear outcome to the conference and we plan to collect data in relation to the model from delegates during the day. The ‘paradox model’ will be the subject of a focused discussion at the end of the day and will form the basis for a paper that will be written collaboratively by the conference team after the event.

Abstracts should be sent to adriana.consorte-mccrea@canterbury.ac.uk by 28th February 2020.

Contributors will receive notifications by the end of March. Papers which are accepted for the conference will also be eligible to be considered for a special issue of the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education (IJSHE) https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/ijshe.htm.

After the conference, authors will be invited to develop a 6000-8000 words paper based on their presentations for the IJSHE special issue.

Date and Time

Location

Canterbury Christ Church University

North Holmes Road Campus

North Holmes Road

Canterbury

CT1 1QU

United Kingdom

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