Thursday, 4 November 2010

This blog is the forerunner for a book we are writing called Children, Citizenship and Environment: nurturing a democratic imagination in a changing world.

Children, Citizenship and Environment is written for researchers, teachers, parents and community groups who want to support children growing up in a changing environment, to learn how to make a difference democratically on issues which matter to them.

I argue that to address far-reaching, complex environmental problems effectively in the future, young citizens will need fewer lessons in turning off the lights, and more opportunities to nurture a democratic imagination.

The new, complex problems that face children as they grow up like climate change, youth unemplyment, food insecurity and growing social inequality are problems that will require new citizenship skills. To address these problems, citizens will need skills of critical thinking, reflective action, effective listening, communication, and the ability to reason about justice. To add to this daunting list, citizens who want to make difference democratically about global change will need the virtues of empathy and tolerance, co-operation, moral reasoning, determination and courage and the ability to live and act within material limits- easy isn’t it?!

Over the next few months we welcome your thoughts and ideas as we explore and share new kinds of democratic thinking that might help children growing up as democratic citizens to think about and act on environmental problems more effectively.


  1. Great topic!

    Are you guys going to touch on the engineering side of things? I went to a good talk yesterday about how people know less and less about how things actually work these days and instead are relying more and more on consumerism to provide them with all their needs. In extreme cases, why fix an alliance that is broken (problem solve the issue) when you can just buy a new one to replace it. This doesn't really foster a sustainable future.

    If we could educate people more about the role of engineers in society i.e. that they develop solutions to mitigate the effects of the complex problems mentioned in the blog, and encourage more people into the profession, then this may result in more "citizens [having] skills of critical thinking, reflective action, effective listening, communication, and the ability to reason" which are all attributes of a good engineer.

    Susan Krumdiek was my Energy Engineering lecturer when I was at Canterbury Uni. She would have some good ideas or material on this topic if you guys are interested in exploring this more?

  2. Hi from Norway,

    Thank you for an interesting blog on an important topic.

    I really look forward to following the blog and the exchange of ideas, as well as to read the Growing Greens book when it is published!

    I really feel this project is timely and critical, and hope that people engage to share their thoughts, ideas and questions on this issue. I am really interested, as I hope to explore precicely such issues and questions through a future project on Norwegian youth and their possibilities for participation and environmental citizenship, and their values and visions on resposes to climate change.

    Elin Selboe
    (researcher at the University of Oslo)

  3. Interesting and pretty daunting.
    I have some questions... :)

    what age range are you looking at?
    will dissent be allowed on the primary assumptions?
    Are the teachers capable of implementing a philosophically based educational system?
    The pupil is a 'citizen' of what exactly?
    Will environmental problems be fully defined to allow debate?
    If you are trying to get back to a more liberal arts form of education how does this strategy fit with current educational norms and policy?
    How much of this curriculum (?) will be experientially based?
    If undergraduates have problems with coming to terms with these concepts- how will you resolve this with children?

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  5. Bronwyn (as administrator) is having a few technical hitches posting a response to these great comments!! Thanks so much Kylah, Elin and Alistair-to get really great questions/feedback posted over vast geographic distances/experiences as we start, makes them very valuable-thank you. I hope many of these issues are addressed in the series of posts we've planned- but having read the questions we might change the order of the tipics -please keep the questions coming- the more challenging the better! Bronwyn

  6. Hi Bronwyn and everyone,
    Very thought provoking stuff! I am a youth worker for a group of young people interested in taking action on climate change issues. I feel it is very important for young people to express their views aswell and 'do' things about climate change. However, the points you raise about equipping young people with the skills they will need to adapt to a changing world has really broadened my pespective on the best ways to 'empower' young people around this topic. I guess the big question is how (both on the small scale of my group aswell as on a global scale!)
    Best wishes,

    Hannah from Ready or Not, York