Can the experience of a natural disaster such as the recent Colorado flood help individuals to confront the risks associated with climate change? Can dramatic experiences initiate a major learning experience or even a life transition? Based on the literature of sustainable education, levels of learning and transformative learning, a powerful disorienting experience can be (and often is necessary as) a catalyst for deep, transformative learning. For these reasons, natural disasters are an excellent opportunity to reflect on the risks we are taking as a civilization – and consider what we can do about about these risks.
This is a blog about strong emotions and how these impact our actions. I was inspired to write it by my encounter with ecopsychologist, Buddhist scholar and activist Joanna Macy – a woman who has pioneered working with despair since the 1970s. Despair in this blog will refer to a combination of feelings including grief, anger, powerlessness and fear. Continue reading
I was confronted with another exclusively male panel this week. It was at the RSA (again). Unfortunately, the RSA is not alone. Ellie Mae O’Hagan wrote this week ‘on misogyny and female columnists‘ in the New Statesman. Many activists communities often replicate the same man on the podium women as supporter, organiser and helper model. I blogged about the problem at a “Radical” Communication Festival (and received 57 comments). In my experience this problem is evident in the Transition movement. I have heard stories about it being a problem in Uk-Uncut and I am aware that women have been organising to address the problem in the Dark Mountain community. Women tell me that it bothers them but they would not like to consider themselves the kind of woman who publicly challenges these all male line ups. Why not? How did womankind slip into such passivity only a couple decades after our mothers’ demanded that they were heard and granted the rights we now enjoy. How come our historical memory is so short? Continue reading
I was the woman who asked the exclusively male panel at Memefest’s Festival of Radical Communications ‘Inspiration day‘ why there were no women presenters. I think it’s worth unpacking this topic a little with the intention of helping Memefest develop into an network with strong input from women and other marginalised voices. Diversity of representation should by now be standard practice in any international network, but is especially critical for one that aspires to represent a radical tradition.
Endeavors to create conditions that will develop an awareness of context, political consciousness and the potential for social action have a long history in adult education. The remarkable shifts in women’s rights in the late twentieth century were the results of over a century’s worth of struggle by feminists, a struggle that became institutionalised in universities in the 1970s with the emergence of women’s studies. This radical education transformed the daily lives and political realities of thousands of women.
In a 1975 American nation-wide study of women’s education Jack Mezirow identified ten phases often encountered during consciousness-raising process within women’s education and developed the theory and practice of transformative learning. Transformative learning has now been developed into a practice that helps learners critically examine assumptions and as well as develop social capacities to put new perspectives into practice. This practice is a powerful tool with the potential to help learners cross the infamous value / action gap in environmental education. I recently presented a slideshow on transformative learning at the Design Research Society’s SkinDeep 2011 conference on experiential knowledge and multi-sensory communication. Continue reading
Response to Channel 4
Last night’s ‘What the Green Movement Got Wrong’ documentary launched a Twitter storm of protests to the one-sided misinformation calculated to discredit traditional green values and political projects. The debate on Twitter was entertaining yet unfortunately most viewers will not have been sitting at their computers and will have been subjected less critically to the one-sided polemic that hit the airwaves. Towards the end of the two-part programme the dismal lack of female voices on the Channel Four documentary became apparent and a new sub-theme emerged on Twitter regarding the exclusion of women from the debate.
Channel Four editors claim they could not find any women and that those that they asked refused. I can certainly understand why a woman would refuse to allow herself to have her position misrepresented, ruthlessly discredited through biased, severely selective, and ill-informed journalism. If women environmentalists were enabled to make a document about ‘What the Green Movement Got Right’ we would have a fair platform. Unfortunately, what Channel Four wanted was a few environmentalists to argue their positions in a mosh-pit debate in a little post-documentary forum. By fabricating an illusion of fairness they attempt to escape properly presenting the green arguments. Although some debaters did an excellent job at debunking Channel Four’s corporate green spin – the show still managed to disseminate some deeply anti-green ideas as described by George Monbiot this morning in this blog post ‘Deep Peace in Techno-Utopia.’
The women vs. men issue is not about tick boxing. It is about presenting powerful and dominant political positions as the only perspective in town. It’s about recognizing that power inequalities exist due to historical exclusion of women’s voices from public debate. Ultimately, the environment is a feminist issue.