Article collection (Special issue) of Sustainable Earth, Springer Nature
Sections on this page:
Aims & scope of host journal
Spirit of Learning Sustainability a touch of theory in a jumble of ideas
Scope of Learning Sustainability more down to Earth and less jumble
Are you a sustainability or climate change workshop facilitator?
Are you concerned or even passionate about making the Earth sustainable?
Are you learning, or do you help others to learn, about sustainability?
Do you consider that experience is an important way in which people learn?
Do you consider ethics to be important in learning (about) sustainability?
Are you an environmental educator, using participatory learning methods?
Do you have a story to tell about helping the Earth to become more sustainable?
Would you like to share your own learning experience in sustainability?
Are you a climate change or sustainability citizen scientist.
If you answered 'maybe' or 'yes' to any of those questions, you are encouraged to contribute to this article collection (special issue) of Sustainable Earth: ISSN: 2520-8748, Editors-in-Chief: Peter Newman, Curtin University, Australia & Xiaoling Zhang, City University of Hong Kong, published by Springer Nature, https://sustainableearth.biomedcentral.com/about
This interdisciplinary article collection focuses on the intersection of several areas: experiential learning,sustainability, the Earth and ethics. They can be summed up in the sentence “the role of experience and ethics in learning about the Earth and about sustainability” or “how experience helps us to learn ethically about sustainability”. Articles should tackle all areas, with the main focus on the processing of experience of sustainability and Earth to turn it into learning.
It may be approached from several angles or perspectives, with the areas intersecting in several ways, including (but not limited to):
Processing experience of the Earth and sustainability to turn it into learning
Experience and the learning (or education) of sustainability
Experiential learning (education) for sustainability
Experience and ethics in learning for a sustainable Earth
Ethical ways of learning about the Earth and sustainability
Unethical aspects of learning about sustainability
All aspects of learning sustainability are of interest, including learning the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), oceans and climate change. See this page for more examples.
A wide range of experiential learning types is covered, such as simulations, disaster experience (eg, tsunami, earthquake), Companion Modelling, role-play, internships, adventure, field trips, games, school outings, voluntary work, project work, etc. See this page for more examples.
Earth, sustainability and social scientists, and citizen scientists,
Other people (eg, ordinary citizens, NGO workers, journalists) who have learnt from their experience of the Earth (eg, through, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc) or who have helped others learn from their experience, even in informal settings, and
NB: You do not have to be an academic to submit a proposal. We welcome authors from all walks of life, especially those who have a good story to tell about their or others' experience of working for sustainability. Even hard-nosed research is findamentally a story of experiential learning, except that rteviewers, editors and others haver managed to wash away the pith and human dimensions of the research journey. A good approach is to build a co-authoring team with people from a variety of complementary backgrounds and skills, such as a citizen, an NGO worker and a scientist. For example, one of the articles being submitted is by a child activist and a university professor.
For last article proposals, before end of July 2019 if possible, but check with the Lead Guest Ed for updates - e4l.jrnl at gmail com.
For last submission of manuscripts, Autumn 2019.
Publication online, as and when articles are finalized. Thus, you do not need to wait until all authors have finished.
Please note that the expression "article collection" is the publisher's. It is, to all intents and purposes, the same as "special issue".
"Sustainability is a global challenge identified by the United Nations. There is a uniform drive in every region of the world to invest time and money into developing solutions to meet this global challenge. Consequently, sustainability research is one of the fastest growing scientific fields today. Sustainable Earth aims to address this by publishing high-quality, open access research from all topics related to this discipline. As a community-focused journal, it serves both the realms of academia and the general public and strives to strengthen the bond between them through traditional and innovativescientific communication. To further this vision, the journal will engage authors and readers in contemporary topics in the public eye or of critical socio-economic importance through the publication of thematic series.
The journal’s subtitle – ‘Science, Policy, Society’ – highlights the connectivity between core research, policy and everyday life. As such, the journal particularly welcomes articles that may influence policy or alter societal paradigms.
Articles of varying length may be submitted to Sustainable Earth, so long as they communicate novel findings effectively, or provide consensus or direction in the context of existing sustainability research. In addition to research- and review-style articles, Sustainable Earth invites articles that provide ‘Guidelines’, which offer direct suggestions for policy implementation or change. Papers that include images, graphics and videos or otherwise summarise research in a creative way are of particular interest. Authors are also encouraged to attach data sets to their articles and make them available in open access repositories."
3. Spirit of Learning Sustainability a touch of theory in a jumble of ideas
Somewhat random thoughts, which need tying together. These may form the basis of an editorial. If you have useful comments to contribute, please be in touch with David Please also read a general rational here: https://e4l-jrnl.weebly.com/cfp-se-short.html
Sustainability issues are becoming increasingly urgent, especially that of climate change. Earth cannot become sustainable with a climate system that is out of whack and common pool resources depleted or destroyed. This article collection (special issue) examines the myriad ways in which communities learn to become sustainable, especially through experience of various kinds.
Objective The objective of this collection is to examine and improve the learning of sustainability; it is to build, as it were, the forgotten dimension or pillar of sustainability, which is learning. We wish to examine how people and communities typically learn about sustainability, learn to become and be sustainable, and even to teach sustainability. That is, we wish to examine and improve what it is to learn sustainability – as a way of life, as second nature, just as we learn language, maths and culture. The idea of sustainable development or sustainability is often conceptualized in a Venn diagram of three overlapping areas: social, environmental and economic – see diagram.
Learning However, one fundamental dimension is missing in many conceptualizations of sustainability (and reflected in the above diagram). This is learning. Sustainability is impossible without learning, just as the existence and richness of culture need learning. Both sustainability and culture depend crucially on learning. This fact is often ignored or forgotten in much work in both areas.
People who are focused on the ‘hard’ and visible aspects of sustainability tend not to see the invisible dimensions, just as we fail to do in culture, until, that is, we move to a new culture, when suddenly we detect them because we transgress an unwritten (invisible) rule for behaviour. A similar situation holds for sustainability; few people realize that humanity has transgressed its planetary boundaries, that is, that passengers weigh heavier than the carrying capacity of its Earth vessel.
Thus we need to highlight the 'invisible', but crucial, element of learning, and add it to the traditional conceptualization of sustainable development. Indeed, once it has been made visible, it is fairly obvious that the very basis of sustainability is learning. Although the learning element may appear obvious, it seems to have remained invisible. We often do not see what is obvious. It cannot be characterized as being willfully blind, at least not consciously, even if we are blind to our blindness. However, we can ignore the obvious at our peril, especially in the learning of sustainability.
This new idea and dimension of sustainability might be illustrated in a diagram such as this [redo diagram, with learning at the centre].
. Learning sustainability through experience This article collection (special issue) examines the myriad ways in which communities and people learn to become sustainable, especially through experience of various kinds.
The objective of this collection is to examine and improve the learning of sustainability; it is to build, as it were, the forgotten or hitherto unseen dimension or pillar of sustainability, which is learning. We wish to examine how people and communities typically learn about sustainability, learn to become and be sustainable, and even to train sustainability. That is, we wish to examine and improve what it is to learn sustainability – as a way of life, as second nature, just as we learn language, maths and culture.
SDGs In 2016, the UN strategic plan for 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, aims to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Goal 4 is “Quality education”.
Achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, to eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to a quality higher education.
This goal, in a nutshell, is to provide better education for more people, to teach them a wide range of skills, such as maths, language, science, technology, etc.
Learning of sustainability The objective of this article collection is not SDG4 at all. The objective is to examine and improve the learning of sustainability itself – for all 17 SDGs, indeed all aspects of sustainability, including climate change. SDG4 focuses on education and vocation in general, whereas this article collection focuses on the process of learning sustainability – learning to become, to be sustainable. It is making the sustainability sustainable – through the greatest tool that humanity and animals naturally and instinctively use for their sustainability – that is learning. It is about understanding that process, about improving it and about making it more effective – for the sustainability of all. One might say that we should ask not what sustainability can do for you, but what you can do for sustainability.
Learning sustainability experientially The objective of this article collection is to build, as it were, the forgotten dimension of sustainability – learning. We wish to examine how people typically learn about sustainability, learn to be sustainable, teach sustainability – that is, to learn sustainability, as a way of life, as second nature, just as we learn language and culture. Without language and culture, civilization as we know it could not exist; likewise, without sustainability, humanity could not develop and thrive.
Most of what we learn of value in life, such as language and culture, we learn from experience. For example, we learn to walk, to speak, to ride a bike, to say thank you, to acquire, express and defend our values, to smile, to use and follow cultural norms, to do so many things, but we do not learn them in classrooms. We learn them in everyday life, through or from experience and imitation (which some might consider to be a form of experience), and from feedback during the thick of multiple social interactions.
Assumptions & values The sustainability of communities, of nature, of biodiversity and of Earth is being shaped by the assumptions and values of people involved in sustainability. For example, scientists, educators, industrialists, governments, farmers and ‘ordinary’ people in the way they live and interact with their social and natural environments all embed assumptions and values about the world, about life and social life, and about sustainability (although, many do not, yet, think in terms of sustainability).
These assumptions and values underpin and shape all aspects of sustainability, for example, democratically elected governments are the best way to organize a nation and enable citizens to live equitably, or authoritarian governments can best ensure the equitable sharing of common pool resources, or the Earth has rights and needs to be treated with respect, or humanity cannot survive on a degrading plant, or resources must be shared according to clear equitable principles.
Experience These assumptions and values are learned essentially through experience and feedback on experience, as indicated above. Experience in itself does not necessarily teach us the difference between good and bad, useful and wasteful, behaviours. They have to be learned through the transformation of experience – experiential learning.
Experiential learning is an approach that is being used increasingly in sustainability education, training and planning, as well as in professional interventions of all kinds, such as in urban planning, stakeholder negotiation, policy development and community dispute resolution.
In life, the vast majority of what we learn – skills, know how, knowledge, values, cultural norms, etc – we learn through experience, not in classrooms or formal education. Experiential learning (including imitation) is the most common and natural form of learn that humans and animals know. In the history of learning, classrooms developed relatively recently, phylogenetically and ontogenetically.
Our sustainability assumptions and values are learned mostly from experience, formal or informal. In more formal situations, where the learning experience has been designed in some way, the values are shaped and influenced both by the assumptions of those responsible for the learning and by the assumptions embedded in experiential learning methods themselves (sometimes called a hidden agenda).
Some of the people at the front line of more formal forms of sustainability education are teachers, trainers, consultants, planners. These people sometimes use experiential methods, that is, ways and means that are derived from, based on or embedded in human experience.
Assumptions & values about sustainability In turn, assumptions about what constitutes sustainability, what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sustainability, and for whom, shape the content and form of experiential learning approaches. For example, some assert that providing food for everyone must take precedence over environmental problems; some insist that we must tackle climate change before being able to make the Earth and humanity sustainable; some say that we can reach the SDGs, while others argue that civilization has now become unsustainable. All such points of view derive from assumptions about the world and about sustainability, most of which have been learned or ‘pick up’ informally, through some kind of experience or imitation (for example, conforming with friends’ views).
Experiential learning methods Experiential learning methods (ELMs) are varied, and include such techniques as simulation, role-play, games, Companion Modelling, internships, adventure, film, fieldwork, debriefing, everyday experience, disasters, discussion & debate, geoscientific research (often, though not always, experiential), mountain walking, project work, team work and exploration. ELMs tend to be used by the more enlightened organizations and educational establishments. In aviation, extensive training in simulators is legally mandatory in order to become a pilot. In some countries, we have a similar exigency for doctors and nurses. Many delegates sent to international sustainability conferences are trained using experiential methods. Ordinary citizens, stakeholders in their communities, are able to get training and solve their local disputes through experiential methods. For a list of ELMs, see this page.
The following notes will give you an idea of the scope of the collection (special issue). The scope brings together four areas in a nexus of:
sustainability of the Earth and humanity, including the SDGs,
experience (of all kinds),
learning, including experiential learning, and
* Note that the ethics of sustainability is not the focus of this collection; another collection of SE will work on that. The ethics for this collection must be ethics related to learning about sustainability.
How do we get people to learn effectively about, and become responsible for, existentially important aspects of Earth and social system, such as are discussed in Meadows, in Steffan et al and in Meyer & Newman (see below)? How do we get leaders of all kinds to learn about this stuff; how do we get people to learn enough to vote for leaders who act according to what the science says? How do we get Earth citizens to learn to make their planet and society sustainable? How? Those are a few of the fundamental questions that this article collection will strive to address.
Each of these areas is outlined separately below, but please remember that your article should focus on the nexus of the areas as outlined above.
Limits & boundaries Despite these and other momentous events, reports and initiatives, we do not seem to have made progress at anywhere near expectations. Just a few examples will illustrate the looming tragedy: the gap between rich and poor has doubled (see Oxfam report and many other sources ,); the amount of CO2 has been rising (accelerating) steadily over the last 60 years, passing 410 ppm (January 2019), whereas the safe upper limit is 350 ppm . Temperatures are increasing at an accelerating pace; some scientists have criticized some of the ICCP reports for underestimating certain mechanisms in climate change (such as reinforcing feedback loops, eg, CH4 being released from permafrost).
In a recent article, Meyer and Newman remind us that
Human impacts on the environment are so great that we are at risk of changing the state of the planet from one that is hospitable to one that is hostile to humanity. Scientists have proposed nine Planetary Boundaries, global environmental limits within which the risk of changing the state of the planet is low, but already, four have been exceeded. … The Planetary Accounting Framework shows how individual actions, strategies by firms, city level infrastructure, and national policies can be expressed in terms of the Planetary Boundaries. Decisions can now be made at different levels or sectors regarding policy, planning, technology, business operations, legislation, and behaviour in the context of global environmental limits. It enables the practical application and communication of the Planetary Boundaries to different scales of human activity. 
People & democracy The above mentioned meetings, such as the IPCC, based on swathes of solid science, are wonderful things. Never before the last decade or so has humanity convened so globally to discuss their common predicament. However, the question remains as to how all that good stuff, crucial to life on our planet, filters down to ordinary people on the ground, the very people whose task it is to make crucial choices about their future through the ballot box. Democracy is hardly democracy if its ‘demos’ are ill equipped to make informed choices about their ‘cracy’, especially when that ‘cracy’ is then reduced, even eliminated, by power politics and institutional strangleholds. A recent article in Le Monde (2018, 7 Dec) boldly affirmed that
Environmental problems are born of a deficit of democracy, not the reverse. Only the reinvention of the democratic purpose at the level of citizens will allow us to go beyond the powerlessness of elites and states to face the climate challenge.
Le problème environnemental est né d’un déficit de démocratie, et non l’inverse. Seule la réinvention de processus démocratique à l’échelle des citoyens permettra de dépasser l’impuissance des élites et des Etats à affronter le défi climatique. 
Here and there, pockets of well-informed people, often young, make a show of strength in regard to sustainability issues, including climate change, for example, through associations, demonstrations, petitions, town hall meetings and related activities. This is encouraging, but the question is how long will it take for people to turn out for climate change in masses as large as they do for political campaigns or for football matches. The recent demonstrations and student climate strikes in various parts of the world give hope. An article on the learning in there would be great.
The reasons may be complex as to why people delude themselves by going to political meetings, thinking that it will make their future brighter. One factor surely must be that they have not yet learned that their influence on their long-term future through voting for climate politicians and demonstrating massively to fight climate change may be far bigger than attending a political rally. They have not yet learned that a more sustainable Earth will come from voting with one’s brain, rather than with one’s feet. I recently received an email with the bold subject line: “11,729 papers on Academia discuss ‘Sustainable Development’”. How many of the world’s seven billion people are even aware of such papers, and how many understand the notion well enough to be able to decide what to do and how to vote? This article collection hopes to be a small step in that direction.
As Jim Hansen said during his 1988 testimony to the US Congress (yes, over 30 years ago!), "It seems that we as a people, and probably peoples all over the world, are very skeptical to move in areas such as this until we either have a disaster or we have absolute concrete proof"  That is the challenge of sustainability and of learning about sustainability. At the moment, humanity seems hell bent on the path of disaster, partly because a few politically powerful deniers have pontificated that we do not have concrete proof (usually because ‘lack of proof’ is in their own short-term self-interest, to the detriment of the masses), partly because of power structures and government institutions and partly because few people really understand enough to be able to act, even, it is as simple as voting for responsible people.
Le Monde. (2018, 7 Dec) “Le problème environnemental est né d’un déficit de démocratie, et non l’inverse. Seule la réinvention de processus démocratique à l’échelle des citoyens permettra de dépasser l’impuissance des élites et des Etats à affronter le défi climatique.”  Reported in A Climate Hero: The Testimony. http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5790
Next step: Learning The Planetary Accounting Framework is certainly a major advance, and indicates how human activity can be squared with Limits to Growth and Planetary Boundaries. However, it does not (and did not intend to) make explicit the myriad ways in which individuals can learn about how their activities (can be made to) fit in with (fall within) Planetary Boundaries. It does not directly help people learn to make individual decisions regarding their activity in relation to Planetary Boundaries. It does not constitute a practical or everyday guide on how people may learn to undertake their civic responsibilities, most notably how they are to choose their representatives, or how to put pressure on decision makers to steer the right course, and even less how they are to resist deniers. Those processes fall under the canopy of learning sustainability – or, if you wish, sustainability literacy.
Education systems (such as ministries of education) seem to have failed miserably in their responsibility to help young people to make the right choices concerning their future. An indication is the young people's climate strikes. Indeed some governments seem to prevent people from making the planet a better place to live on. However, in the last few years or so, some valiant, yet relatively timid, attempts have been made to inject some general educational programmes with climate learning and sustainability elements (for example, the Shift Project in France, the IPCC Office for Climate Education, UNESCO, UNEP edu efforts - find refs). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42055-018-0004-3
Learning sustainability literacy Learning about and for sustainability is relatively new, despite a growing number of specialized programmes and courses, especially at tertiary level education systems. Some excellent publications have appeared in sustainability science, such as de Vries, but most are aimed at a specialist audience (researchers, professors, masters students) already well versed in sustainability. Thus, vast numbers of people are left behind in the excruciatingly slow march towards sustainability literacy. One crucial question in my mind is: Will enough people learn enough about sustainability in time before lack of sustainability takers the planet and its citizens beyond points of no return, thus effectively preventing knowledge of sustainability from actually correcting things before they go off the edge of the cusp?  De Vries, BJM. (2013). Sustainability Science. CUP.
We can take courage from being able to draw from a range of methods that help people to learn – mostly by providing people with meaningful experience. Too many people already experience the terrors of unsustainability, mostly in poorer areas. However, that experience does not always result in useful learning, and usually happens when it is too late.
For sustainability to become sustainable, huge numbers of people need to learn both what it is and how to do it. At the moment, it tends to be done on piecemeal basis. Ministries of education round the world need to add sustainability to the well-worn three R’s. Every child in school round the world can easily learn sustainability as their core subject, with reading, writing and mathematics learned as ingredients in sustainability lessons. Without a radical sea change in education, and especially in the methods we use and the strategies we adopt to help people learn, the looming sustainability crisis is unlikely to abate, and we could well be facing the sixth extinction, which some scientists affirm has already begun.
Experiential learning One of the most effective learning paradigms, especially for the learning of complex, dynamic, multi-dimensional and interconnected areas, is learning from (or through, or by, or with) experience. Experiential learning has been developing over the last 40 or so years, especially in the wake of the publication of Dave Kolb’s influential opus Experiential learning and sequel The Experiential Educator . One of David C’s favourite quotes is “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (p.38).  Kolb, DA. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. | Kolb, AY & Kolb DA* (2018). The Experiential Educator: Principles and Practices of Experiential Learning, HI: EBLS Press * David Kolb is a Guest Editor, of this Article Collection.
Other learning scientists have influenced the ways in which we learn and help others to learn, to name only a few: Boud (get ref), Piaget (get ref), Bredo (1994, get ref), Dewey (get ref), Feire (get ref), Guetzkow (get ref), Duke (get ref ), Greenblat (get ref), Thiagarajan (get ref), Holec (get ref), get more?. An influential book in the 1970s was Teaching as Subversive Activity; it encouraged learning through various forms of experience, especially with simulation/gaming, still then in in its early days, pioneered by leading academics like Harold Guetzkow (with his INS, Inter Nation Simulation).
Experiential learning methods Much of what we learn in life that is significant we learn from some kind of experience or activity. Growing numbers of educational establishments are encouraging their learners to go out into the wide world and learn there ‘in the thick of it’, rather than sit in classrooms. Field work is a classic example; increasing numbers of students are embarking on a gap year before enrolling in formal study; greater numbers of young people are going on adventures; many are enrolling in volunteer programmes; many university courses require students to do an internship, sometimes of up to six months duration. Here, on another page, are some, such as internships, role-play, etc.
A great number of different types of activities, methods and endeavours provide learning experience, either informally or institutionally. They can happen in workshops, classes, associations, conferences, individual initiative, spontaneously, socially, privately, secretly, publicly, privately and so on.
The major downside to some of these programs and activities is that they are not always designed or organized in ways that make them propitious to bringing out the learning, for example, through debriefing during and after the activity.Many forms of experiential learning methods, such as simulation, games and role-play include debriefing as part of their procedure. Other forms tend not to use debriefing, but could benefit from doing so. It is in the debriefing that the greatest or most significant learning tends to occur. Without debriefing the learning power of some methods is diminished. Some notes on debriefing are provided on another page.
Several labels have, over the decades, been applied to or inspired various strands of learning, such as constructivism, active learning, discovery learning, knowledge building, social learning, transformative learning, learner-centred learning, learner autonomy and others. For this article collection, it would be useful for articles to situate the work within a theoretical framework if it helps the reader. However, some experiential learning activities may be difficult to situate neatly, or they are simply situated in the experiential learning paradigme, or indeed they may not need to be situated for readers to understand fully. In any case, reference to the literature in learning is important.
Issues Humanity is facing a great many issues in its struggle to achieve sustainable Earth. Some have been touched on above. Here, on another page, is a non-exhaustive list of issues, topics and approaches. Please remember that your article should be about learning about these issues, about about how experience can be transformed into learning about them..
Ethics & learning Ethics is a vast area, and touches (or should touch) every sentient human being. Probably the best way to delineate geoethics is to refer to the IAPG (International Association for Promoting Geoethics), the notes on this page are adapted from their website, http://www.geoethics.org:
You will find some excellent material about GeoEthics in relation to leaning at the SERC (Science Education Resource Center), Carleton College, USA, https://serc.carleton.edu/geoethics/.
Ethics are relevant to the methods that trainers and facilitators use to help people learn. For example, should we, and how deeply should we, debrief participants in an emotionally challenging learning experience? Should we use or can we adapt critical incident stress debriefing during/after disasters or after other emotionally-charged learning events, and how much do they contribute to learning sustainability? How do we manage the ethics of field workers who encounter difficult situations, especially if they are at the behest of their seniors?
Mind joggers: The list of imaginary article titles, on this page, is intended to give a concrete idea of the sort of article that you might wish to consider. Remember these are just bits and bobs of ideas, intended to jog your mind. Other publications: As time goes by, on the resources page, I will post articles or references to already published articles, ones that could probably have been published in this collection. If you have articles that you have published, and you would like to share them or their reference here, please be in touch with David.
Authors The current article collection invites people from all walks of life, not just academics, to contribute articles that will help others in helping people to learn about sustainability. For example, an NGO representative who lived through the horrendous earthquake in Nepal may pair up with co-authors in seismology and disaster relief to tell about the experience, and discuss the ways in which it helped them to learn and how their leanings my help future sustainability in the event of earthquakes.
Criteria for acceptance The two main criteria for acceptance are
quality of content and writing (both are equally important) and
relevance to the theme of the collection.
Articles should, if at all possible, bring in all four areas of sustainability, learning, experience and ethics. If it is not possible to include one of the topics, then it would be a good idea to mention briefly how the ‘missing’ topic is relevant to your article.