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Walking my talk and theory in
Peta WhiteResearch Proposal PresentationMarch 2007
How dominant discourses (re)inscribe and therefore prescribe (prohibit) sustainable living practice?
Why, if we (environmental educators) are (potentially) some of the most informed about environmental issues, are we NOT walking our talk by living as sustainably as possible?
The contextAfter 10 years of practicing as an environmental educator,
I wonder… have I been successful?
Are current environmental education programs actually educating for a different (better) future or are they reinscibing dominant discourses and
offering students more of the same.
If we always do what we have always donewe will always get what we have always got!
Are environmental education programs supporting individuals topractice sustainable living by inscribing alternative dominant discourses?
It seems that the majority of western societies are aware of the devastating effects humans have on all aspects of
ecology and the environment, globally. It also seems that we accept that we need to change more than just our
behaviour and practice… our dominant discourses, in order to empower citizens for positive ecological change and the
success of humanity.
We need to be the change we want to see!
What do I actually want from this research?
Time to stop, to get off the employment treadmill, to reflect, and to piece together how I came to be here…
Questions asked and potential responses pondered in a supportive environment and using theoretical lenses that I previously did not have access to and by using a new language (post-structuralism) to reframe my questions so that I can perceive more valuable responses.
Understanding developed over time, that is inscribed within my body, providing a new ontology and epistemology facilitating more appropriate future work.
SO WHAT?: I want to have embodied knowing and conscious actions ready to implement upon my return to Western Australia in my next step in life…
Using a theoretical exploration of post-structuralism and narrative inquiry, articulate and embody my ontology, epistemology, multiple subjectivities and dominant discourses storying my construction and re-construction as
passionate environmental activist/educator.
WalkingWithin a narrative epistemology, using story telling, essays, cartooning, photography, blogging and video journaling to
communicate my findings and experiences, I will take myself on an auto-ethnographic action research project investigating how I practice living sustainably.
Walking my talk in personal sustainable living.
I need to know what can be (reasonably) practiced in western society… I need to experience this personally to
develop appropriate expectations.
I need to experience the “old” discourses that attempt to reinscribe my body, troubling the new
ontological position I am choosing to adopt, in order to have hope for our ecology.
Ideas for investigation… in walking
• Oil and gas addictions - consciousness of the implications/side-effects
• Consumption – every cent I spend is casting a vote for the kind of environment I want value
• Waste minimalisation – reduce, reuse, recycle - IN THAT ORDER!
• Endangered and invasive species/habitats – valuing the non-human others
• Ecological footprint (12.6 currently – RSM calculator)
– Housing and household practice (energy use, cleaning practice and product)
– Transport (carbon offset programs for air travel)
– Food (organic, local/seasonal, unprocessed/packaged, non-animal products)
– Consumption (energy, products)
Ideas for investigation… in walking (cont)
Walking into Teaching• The culture of education…
– The discourse of assessment– The embodiment of teacher
• What is learning anyway?• How do I influence others…
– Modeling (walking the talk)– Discourse (talking the walk)
• Walking at multiple levels (graduate, undergraduate, K-12, community)
• Using pedagogy that walks its talk eg: action research
Ideas for investigation… in walking (cont)
Walking into HealthI have recently realized that linking sustainable living discourse with the potential benefit an individuals health creates the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) required for many people to consider their practice.
A discourse of personal health necessarily leads to a healthy environment – as this is imperative to an individuals health.
What if we are in control of our own bodies to the extent that we can control our health? What if we choose to be ill as a physical expression of emotional/social problems? What if we choose to be ill to demonstrate how ill our environment is becoming?
What if we are subconsciously poisoning ourselves?
Action Research: walking with others
So what if I can make choices just for me… inscribe new discourses.
I am interested in why others might choose to make similar choices and how they go about implementing these choices.
I would like to conduct action research projects with small groups of people to see how they implement sustainable living practices. I will be conscious of the language I can (and can not) use in reflecting on their ability to inscribe discourse change.
One action I am interested in (post phd) is the possibility of developing a consultancy supporting families to practice
sustainable living and thus inscribe new discourses.
What is quality of life anyway…???
Possibly the greatest discourse around practicing sustainability is the perceived
reduction in quality of life.
Society now has awareness of environmental problems…
we even have knowledge about what to do about it…
(steps required to action living sustainably)we just need to start doing it…
but it is just not that easy – is it!
“Sustainability is responsibility”(Micro-project Interviewee, 2006)
The new ontology? A discourse of embodied being, knowing and
Choice, choices, choosing… conscious living… voluntary simplicity!
Walking as a metaphor.A journey not a destination.
At the end of the action research the final reflection will use findings from this
research to narrate a potential story (a story without limitation by current
discourse) about what my future could look/feel/be like…
“How best to support environmental education in
This method is called backcasting. A vision for the future is set and then the
pathway to get there is planned and enacted. Similarities exist with the practice
of intention setting.
Using Critical Discourse Analysis what is currently being said in, for and about environmental education?
1. Reflect on some documents about environmental education. Specifically policy and program documents from the United Nations, National governments and organizations (Canada and Australia), State/Provincial including government departments (education and beyond), businesses, community groups.
2. Following on from the research conducted in my Churchill Fellowship 2004/5 and my micro-project research conducted in Australia July/August 2006 I hope to participate in conversations (as opposed to interviews) with strategic individuals and groups. Recording these conversations and then applying CDA will support me to become adept at observing dominant discourses (both limiting and enabling).
…excerpt from my University application – statement of intent
When leaving Australia I was of the opinion that the Government of Western Australia, and the
Department of Education and Training specifically, should be the lead agency for environmental education support to schools. My opinion has
shifted, significantly. While I remain confident that politically the Western Australian Government is
aware of the issues and is attempting to take strategic action, I now question the ability of
governmental bureaucracy to adequately implement it. I have researched many alternative practices
that would result in more strategic support and be delivered in a more timely manner resulting in
greater sustainability for all.
With critical discourse analysis I feel able to see the opportunities that before, I could only
Look for the spaces.What is between the saidand is therefore not said.
Why is it not said?
What discourses do they bring?
• Teton Science School (exciting model for three tiered organization: K-12 journey school, graduate program, expedition program)
• Prairie Learning Centre – Val Marie• Lakehead University – Dr. Ken Deacon, Dr. Connie Russell, Dr. Bob Stephens• Calgary Board of Education – retrofitting program – Dr. Jeff Reading• Alberta Committee for Environmental Education – Gareth Thomson• Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation – Joe Milligan• Regina School Board Environmental and Outdoor Education Branch – Rory
O’Hagan, Lori Milligan• Royal Saskatchewan Museum – Glenn Sutter• UN University – Chuck Hopkins• North American Association for Environmental Education – Martha Monroe and
other members• Australian Research Institute in Education for Sustainability – Dr. Daniella Tilbury• Australian Sustainable Schools Program• Australian Association for Environmental Education – board and members• Deakin University – Environmental education program• Tasmania’s – Up2me program• Woodbury Boston Environmental School – Albany, Western Australia• Key Australian environmental education practitioners (Phil Smith, Grahame
Collier, Syd Smith, Dr. Amy Cutter Mackenzie, Dr. John Fien, Dr. Noel Gough, Dr. Annette Greenall Gough, Dr. Ian Rowbottom, Dr. Sandra Wooltorton, Dr. Jennifer Pearson, Cam Mackenzie, South Australian representatives)
Things to consider…
• The power of Iconography (Steve Irwin, David Suzuki…???)
• The opportunity and need for education Extension• Why “behaviour change” is such a dirty phrase• The issue of naming environmental education
(ESD, EcoLiteracy, EfS, Sustainable Learning etc)• Rural and community decline• Biodiversity loss… the human/nature divide• Multiple intelligences (Naturalistic) (Gardner) is
this similar to other ways of knowing• Ecological Identity (Thomashow)• Sense of place
Explore the following theories looking for looking for enabling discourses and new ways of seeing, being, knowing, and doing environmental education.
• Education and curriculum• Eco-feminism• Systems Theory• Social Learning Theory• Complexity Theory• Environmental Ethics• Environmental Sociology
Paul Hart – Supervisor
Carol SchickWarren WesselChristine Crowe
Comprehensive questionsWalkingExplore auto-ethnographic action research as
methodology for reflecting on self sustainable practice.
TalkingExplore critical discourse analysis. What do dominant
discourses “look like, feel like, and sound like” in environmental education?
TheoryExplore the theories of Eco-feminism, Social Learning
Theory, Complexity Theory, and Environmental Ethics looking for enabling discourses and new ways of seeing, being, knowing, and doing environmental education.
TimelineMarch – September 2007• Finish course work (1 elective still to complete – Environmental
Ethics))• Write and defend comprehensive exams• Prepare detailed research proposalSeptember – October 2007• Holiday with my parents… YAYOctober - November 2007• Visit web designer who has agreed to support my project (California)• Present proposal at NAAEE conference and conversations with key
practitionersNovember 2007 – March 2008• Action research investigations in Canada and conversations with key
practitionersApril – May 2008• Teton Science School – 2 month internshipJune 2008 – January 2009• Australia…January – June 2009• Regina… writing, editing, finishing, defending, convocating!!