From the Guest Editor
We hope that this first issue of the Journal of Sustainability Education (JSE) is the beginning of something that will last for decades to come. We believe that the human systems and institutions currently operating are often at odds with long term health of our planet. The social justice and environmental movements have long recognized that change is necessary in order to improve the common good, but exactly how such change should occur, and how one might educate others regarding the necessity for change, has not been well understood.
The primary strategy employed by most of us involved in helping to create opportunities for change has been to produce information and facts. The underlying rationale is that if people really understood and had adequate information about the outcomes of their decisions, then right behavior would follow. We are now at a point where this strategy can be graded a C- in terms of effectiveness. We don’t need any more information about the hazards of smoking and yet increasing numbers of young women are picking up this habit. Similarly, we know the value of diet and exercise and yet obesity increases at an alarming rate. Something more potent than information and fact-telling is needed if we are to move toward more rational behavior.
This Journal is an attempt to highlight techniques that have been successful in educating people regarding the problems and opportunities associated with complex human behavior. The authors assembled here are trying to understand and comment upon how people learn about sustainability. Rather than a series of articles that offer techniques for the installation of solar panels or rain catchments JSE examines how to teach the need for these techniques.
The other defining characteristic of the Journal is that we are using the terms sustainable and education in the broadest context. Although sustainability has been largely claimed by the environmental movement, one should look at a range of behaviors and institutions through the lens of sustainability. Are the assumptions underlying various institutions or cultural structures—financial, health care, family, religion, education, to name just a few—sustainable? You will find articles in our inaugural edition that seek successful approaches to teaching sustainability within the folds of many existing constructs, and beyond into informal settings that defy definition.
These articles have been carefully selected for their potential to make us think and reflect upon our own underlying beliefs. We hope the Journal will encourage deep reflection and lead to action. We will be paving the road ahead just as we are driving down that very same road. As we launch this inaugural edition, we have no way of knowing the exact path the Journal will follow, but the purpose and need for JSE is certain. If we are to take full advantage of our potential to create a balanced global lifestyle and learn to teach others how to live in a sustainable fashion we need to share our best educational practices.
We hope you enjoy this first edition of the Journal for Sustainability Education and we welcome your thoughtful comments and suggestions.
President of Prescott College