I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Studies in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia. I have a PhD in Sociology. My research expertise is in sustainability and the related areas of social movements and capacity building.
My research is rooted in an abiding interest in human action and social change. My work has been especially influenced by the social movement theories of resource mobilization, new social movement, and frame alignment as well as efforts in social psychology to link attitudes, beliefs, and context to behaviour change. Most recently, the social philosophies of pragmatism and practice theory are beginning to inform important pedagogical gaps, which I try to address in designing socially conscious classrooms. I conduct research on the substantive use of the above ideas in understanding sustainability as a global social movement. This conceptualization assumes meaningful partnerships among classrooms, communities, and citizens. I am convinced that such collaborations will succeed if new thoughts, new situations, new ways of acting, and new rewards can coalesce into individual and collective action for a better society.
I grew up on a farm in Ontario, viewing first-hand its metamorphosis to single crops, chemicals, and mechanization. My father worked two jobs, my mom at least that many. They worked tirelessly for the good of our family, but realizing their dream necessitated the kind of familial diaspora that is too often the story these days. I left for college hoping that I could find a different way to make a living; healing the Earth's wounds is a kind of personal transformation that keeps me in the past and the future. And if it could be said that I presently perform this trick, I wanted to show other people how to do it as well.
Formal schooling went on for a long time, eventually I learned that if we want people to live in harmony with each other and the earth, then we need to change how we educate people. We have to get outside the classroom and into the real world where the real problems are. But this required a radical departure from other aspects of normal classroom instruction and design.
Until recently, my ideas about the formal classroom were at odds with the higher ups, who proclaimed them as, at best, unfeasible if not an affront to the academy. Fortunately, I had confidence in my ideas as I did not learn them alone. Alongside me have always been some thoughtful and active people who inspired me to keep moving forward.
Our culture is changing. The higher-ups now agree with the parents, indigenous peoples, and researchers that all life on earth is important and that to preserve it we need to educate humans differently. And this is what Education for Sustainability is and how my own program was born.
For the last 4 years, I have been working shoulder-to-shoulder with graduate students who have stepped outside the classroom to get involved in sustainability projects with the city of Vancouver and different constituencies. It's been a roller coaster ride of real-world problems and solutions. If you're reading this and at a cross roads in your own life... if you are want to make positive change in your own community then I urge you to join us.
“Indeed the future has already broken into the present. We each live in many times. The present of one is the past of another, and the future of yet another. We are called to live, knowing and showing that the future exists and that each one of us can call it in, when we are willing, to redress the balance of the past.”
– Ivan Illich, Celebration of awareness (1970)