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A word that is being adopted by corporations in order to sustain the illusion that their practices are environmentally sustainable, when what the word really means is that their profits are sustainable; within the context of thinking about educational reforms that address ecojustice and revitalization of the commons, sustainability refers to cultural practices that do not degrade the ability of natural systems to renew themselves; the emphasis on not degrading the prospects for the future thus encompasses both cultural and natural systems.
A word that can be used interchangeably with those aspects of culture that have been passed along over four generations; traditions include patterns of thinking (root metaphors) built environments, gains in social justice, ceremonies, moral values, knowledge systems that underlie the development and use of technologies, and so forth; traditions may also include beliefs and practices that oppress others, degrade the environment, and limit human possibilities; a tradition of Enlightenment thinking carried forward by educational reformers is to regard all traditions as restricting progress and human freedom—which is just one example of how the misunderstandings of the past can themselves become a tradition; understanding the commons requires a more complex understanding of the nature of traditions; traditions that sustain the commons are the basis for resisting the spread of a money economy—which is a competing tradition that enriches a few while forcing more people further into poverty; some traditions are highly useful in some areas of life, but can be destructive when introduced into other areas—for example, the tradition of critical reflection is highly useful in certain cultural contexts but is destructive and colonizing when it is represented as the only approach to knowledge; the complex nature of traditions, with some changing too slowly while others should not have been started in the first place while still others disappear before their importance is fully recognized, means that from an ecojustice perspective that traditions need to be considered in terms of their impact on the viability of the commons—including their impact on the commons of other cultures and bioregions.
What separates the traditionalist thinker from the person who has a culturally grounded understanding of tradition is that the former views traditions as unchanging—and is even willing to force the present to fit the supposedly unchanging traditions that existed thousands of years ago; the person with a cultural understanding of tradition recognizes that traditions change, that they are like a plant with often hidden roots deep in the past (with some dying while new roots are emerging) and that the part of the plant (traditions) we can see also has vital elements along with elements that need to be pruned away; traditionalists are, in effect, extremists in that reject the importance of recognizing the continuities and changes going on around them; people who reify an ideology, such as classical liberalism and a one-true approach to emancipatory knowledge, share many of the characteristics that are found among religious traditionalists; traditionalism is totally incompatible with an ecological way of thinking that involves learning from the patterns that connect and are the source of life sustaining interdependencies.
- Tragedy of the Commons
A widely held way of understanding the tragedy of the commons can be traced back to the writing of William Foster Lloyd (1832) and more recently to Garrett Hardin (1968) who explained the tragedy of the commons as rooted in the inability of the commons (forests, pastures, water, fisheries, etc.) being able to remain viable in the face of individuals whose use of the commons is driven by the desire to maximizing practices that are motivated by self-interest; unrecognized in the writings on how the pursuit of private interests makes the commons unsustainable is that the examples are of Western traditions of thinking where the assumptions about private property, the primacy of individual self-interest, and progress guided by the “invisible hand” that ensures that the most competitive survive and benefit the entire society, transforms the commons into an arena of rapid exploitation; many cultures have developed in accordance with different assumptions that have enable them to live in sustainable commons for hundreds, even thousands of years—thus the tragedy of the commons should not be understood as a natural and inevitable outcome of human/Nature relationships; challenge for ecojustice inspired educational reforms is to help students understand the short and long term consequences of privatizing and monetizing the commons, the culture assumptions that lead to private (and corporate interests) prevailing over commons interests, and to connect students with the cultural practices within their own communities that develop their skills, talents, and sense of membership within a larger community; learning about the cultural sources of the tragedy of the commons has implications for fundamental reforms in the university and public school curricula.
- Transformative Learning
A widely held way of thinking about the central purpose of educational reform—which is now being promoted on a global scale; tradition of thinking that can be traced by to progressive and emancipatory educational reformers whose thinking is based on the same Enlightenment cultural assumptions that gave conceptual direction and moral legitimacy to the past and current phases of the industrial revolution; these assumptions include equating change with progress, viewing nature as an exploitable resource or simply as the background that is irrelevant to the development of human freedom, recognizing that there is only one-true approach to knowledge—and that it should be adopted by all the world’s cultures; “philosophic” justification for viewing individual life as an ongoing process of transformation can be found in the writings of John Dewey, Alfred North Whitehead, and Paulo Freire; the scientific justification can be found in chaos theory and the theory of evolution—which are both expressions of scientism that has become an ideology; all proponents of transformative learning are ethnocentric thinkers who do not recognize that there are other cultural ways of knowing; as the metaphor suggests, transformative learning is supposed to overturn all traditions by freeing the creativity of individuals to construct their own knowledge and to determine their own values—a way of thinking that helps to undermine the forms of intergenerational knowledge that provides for living less consumer dependent lives; transformative learning is the Trojan Horse of the industrial culture that requires a rootless, unskilled, autonomous form of individualism.
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