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Learning and Sustainability in Dangerous Times : The Stephen Sterling Reader - Stephen Sterling

Learning and Sustainability in Dangerous Times

The Stephen Sterling Reader

By: Stephen Sterling

Hardcover | 25 April 2024

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Stephen Sterling is a pioneer in sustainability education. This collection of his essential writings is freshly curated by the author and offers a new overview and chapter by chapter introductions that link together his thinking. Sterling's work offers a compelling and stimulating perspective on the critical issue of how learning and education can make a decisive difference to securing the future in an increasingly uncertain and threatened world. Together these essays provide a critical perspective on the historical context of the role of education and learning with respect to the possibility of securing the future against current negative trajectories. They offer a commentary on current debates on rethinking education in the light of multiple global crises and lay out the key elements of educational thinking and practice based on ecological and relational principles that offer a way forward. These essays inform the growing and urgent debate on the role and nature of education appropriate for these unprecedented times and are essential reading for educationalists and sustainability advocates.

About the Author

Stephen Sterling is Emeritus Professor of Sustainability Education at the Sustainable Earth Institute, University of Plymouth.
Industry Reviews

Education is at a watershed: either we drift along with today's mechanistic, maladapted status quo, tweaking the curriculum here and there as we head towards an ecological abyss, or we work with active agents of change to transform the entire educational system. Stephen Sterling has been at the heart of this debate for 50 years, and has become the go-to philosopher and thought leader for everyone who cares about the future of education and of life on Earth.

-- Jonathon Porritt, Forum for the Future

Unlike typical works addressing the imperative to reimagine higher education in the face of contemporary challenges, this book presents a unique opportunity to delve into the profound insights of an inspiring sustainability thinker, researcher and educator. By reading these essays, one understands how best to connect critical thinking, vision and design to develop the kind of education that will provide the next generation with the ability to respond to today's dangerous times and make the positive difference they are determined to make to their future.

-- Hilligje van't land, Secretary General, International Association of Universities

Stephen Sterling's book distills the wisdom of a lifetime of sustained effort, careful reflection, and drive to communicate and inspire action on these most important of contemporary issues. Whilst stimulating and challenging, his argument is anchored in care for and indeed love of our planet and all human and non-human life. The message, that education can and must change, not 'just' to support a transition towards a sustainable future, but because we need to develop education systems capable of self-reflection and evolution is an urgent one. Consequently, this engaging and inspiring book is not 'just' for those involved in 'sustainability education' but needs to be read and acted upon by anyone involved in formal education at all levels, and perhaps most pressingly by those involved in policy and curricular development. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

-- Peter Higgins, Professor of Outdoor Environmental & Sustainability Education, University of Edinburgh

Stephen Sterling has been a crucial contributor to the global discourse on sustainability within education as we know it today. He is a critical advocate for more holistic and transformative education approaches. This book is both a compilation of his perspectives, reflecting on a lifetime of integrating sustainability principles into all aspects of education and a thoughtfully curated, future-oriented, and inspiring read. It will serve those interested or involved in embedding sustainability throughout all aspects of formal and non-formal education to address today's multilayered challenges and to be well-prepared for yet unknown futures.

-- Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability, York University, Toronto

Through this well-crafted anthology of his own writings, Stephen Sterling displays all the characteristics of the critically reflective scholar-practitioner that he has long been. This a very powerful and significantly provocative narrative. Yes, he argues, the world is indeed a dangerous place, but as a self-confessed 'possibilist' he argues the case for what he refers to as sustainable education as an empowering movement. His call is for the transformation of the prevailing culture of education itself that far transcends the conventional pedagogical interpretations of education for sustainability and sustainability education. It is a call that urgently deserves our considered attention and one which I strongly endorse.

-- Richard Bawden, Professor Emeritus, Western Sydney University and co-author of Coming to Critical Engagement

This anthology is a masterclass in exploring how education could and should play a substantive role in achieving a sustainable and equitable society on this more than human-ecological world. Stephen Sterling's authentic and authoritative deliberative analysis clearly and succinctly addresses the causes and the necessary transformational changes we need in our education systems - urgently and at scale. And he advocates a convincing case for developing a deeper understanding of the internal ecology of human beings to secure a wider social planetary consciousness through collective learning.

-- Stephen Martin, Honorary Professor in Learning for Sustainability, Universities of Nottingham and Worcester

Drawing on fifty years of experience, scholarship and dedication, this book compellingly names the educational dysfunction that has brought us to the brink of ecological catastrophe. The urgency is palpable: education systems must be reworked to contribute to the learning shifts required during these perilous times. Yet this is a book of hope. Stephen Sterling is writing to the vast middle ground of those who are open-minded and willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work. The possibilities are exciting; as Sterling argues, cultural shifts are already happening. This book is essential reading for all those in the education community that are committed to rethinking, reimagining and remaking education. And it is for those rebels that wonder, 'what if we just try this another way ...?'.

-- Bob Jickling, Professor Emeritus, Lakehead University, Ontario

If there is one person who stands out as having made the most significant and sustained contribution to how we ought to view the role of education, particularly higher education, at a time when planetary systems are under acute and dangerous stress, it is Stephen Sterling. Over many years, both as a consultant and as a university academic, he has provided both theoretical and practical insights into how education might be re-thought and re-configured to help usher in a more sustainable world. Readers new to his work will find much richness and inspiration here; those familiar with it will likely find additional insights in the chapters that constitute new material. This is an important scholarly output and it deserves to be read widely, especially by those responsible for policy and leadership whose main contribution currently seems to be one which, as Stephen Sterling puts it, 'sustains unsustainability'.

-- William Scott, Professor Emeritus, University of Bath

We are living in a time of existential threat and rapid change and this needs to be reflected in our learning and teaching practice. For several decades, Stephen Sterling has led the movement for transformative education based on changing our consciousness so that our knowledge and practice are embedded in wider social and ecological systems. Educators who want to prepare their students for the world that is coming would be well advised to read this powerful and inspiring book.

-- Molly Scott Cato, Professor Emerita of Green Economics, Roehampton University and former Green MEP

In this collection, Stephen Sterling zones in on the shifts of paradigm and purpose we need, to reframe learning in favour of sustainability. A critical reminder that sustainability education is still easily neutralised inside existing systems, if it lacks the ambition of higher order learning. This is a timely restatement of the depth of vision required, for an education that truly powers system change for sustainability.

-- Alex Ryan, Sustainability Director and UK National Teaching Fellow in Education for Sustainability

Stephen Sterling is clear, deliberate and persuasive in his quest to redesign and reposition education in a world that is threatened and dangerous but also systemically connected. This synoptic text takes a deep dive into the consequences of these turbulent times for learning; it brings together a cogent vision for education that has been constructed over decades of reflection, challenge and influence. The proposal is that relational and ecological principles guide the transformative changes sought. Will this book change (how we see) education? It certainly has the potential to and our future may well depend on it.

-- Professor Daniella Tilbury, Honorary Fellow, St Catharine's College, Cambridge

In a precarious and ever more interconnected world, with escalating conflict, mounting environmental problems, and new hurdles around separating fantasy from reality, Stephen Sterling gifts us nothing short of a guidebook for thinking about learning - and learning to think - about how to match the scale and character of the challenges before us to our proposed solutions for creating visionary and realistic life-affirming species-scale transformative change.

-- Harold Glasser, Professor Emeritus, Western Michigan University

From a passionate environmental advocate five decades ago to a prominent academic today, Stephen Sterling has devoted his life to exploring the nexus of education and planetary futures. Learning and Sustainability in Dangerous Times sums up his life's work with a resounding conclusion - our survival depends on our capacity to shift the dominant education paradigm from a modernist/mechanistic worldview toward an ecological/relational one. A clarion call for change.

-- Iveta Silova, Professor and Associate Dean of Global Engagement, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University

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