We have to act now for climate justice!

“No Greening without Adult Learning and Education!” was an associated event with the Stockholm+50 conference of the United Nations.

MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen opened the webinar with a powerful message to the audience:

We are in a major paradigm shift. We need to understand that we are part of nature and totally dependent on it. We need to understand that this new way of living means a better future for all of us. We need better ecological skills. The change we need to initiate is a Copernican change.

MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen addressed the audience with the powerful message that we need to act now.

She stressed the need for urgent action for climate justice and sustainable development:

We cannot wait another twenty to thirty years for a new well-educated, enlightened generation to pave the way towards sustainable development. We need to act now!

Transformative learning is needed to develop an understanding of the causes of the climate crisis, and to empower people around the world to act together

Katarina Popovic, Secretary-General of the International Council for Adult Education, introduced the topic of adult education and greening. Referring to a recent message of António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, she stressed the urgency of the issue:

We need transformative learning when we talk about greening!

She emphasised that transformative adult learning and education (ALE) is not only about responding to and mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis, but also about developing an understanding of the causes of the crisis and the global political architecture. ALE can empower people around the world to have a voice and act together:

For many people in the world, their fight against the climate is a matter of existence, and often the decisions are in the hands of others. In these cases, greening becomes active citizen action. For this, we need new approaches and new methods.

Jannie Staffansson from the Sami community in Northern Finland and Sweden emphasised the need for a holistic approach and practical solutions to climate change.

In short, thought-provoking statements, speakers from Colombia, the Sami people and South Africa told webinar participants about the impacts of climate change in their regions and about actions for climate justice through ALE. They agreed that it is essential that we listen to indigenous peoples and other disadvantaged communities and their struggle to continue their lives and livelihoods within the changing environment and climate, reiterating that we should take a holistic approach to our actions.

Connecting people with nature for collective action

In the roundtable discussion with key experts on climate-related learning, transformative action and ALE, Nevenka Bogataj from the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education said:

ALE has the power to connect people with nature and the wisdom of the past with the community of the future. This should be the mission of ALE today.

She acknowledged, however, that there are a lot of problems to solve at the same time and that some problem-solving approaches get in the way of others or are the opposite of them altogether.

A roundtable discussion, moderated by former Swedish Minister for Education Gustav Fridolin, brought together Assistant Professor Fergal Finnegan, Maynooth University, Dr Nevenka Bogataj, Slovenian Institute for Adult Education, and former Finnish President, Tarja Halonen.

Fergal Finnegan, Assistant Professor at Maynooth University, said that lifelong learning has a unique potential to address the challenges of the ecological transition. ALE can trigger collective, democratic action to make this planet livable for all:

Climate learning is about agency, that is, personal and political agency: reading the world and acting on it.

Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland, said that the active role of adult citizens is too often neglected and that ALE plays a crucial role in equipping all citizens with attitudes, competencies and skills for climate-resilient development. She said that Finland is working on the implementation of a national roadmap for the 2030 Agenda:

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are like a house with 17 doors. ALE can open all the doors.

Holistic approach needed to address the multiple crises

In a discussion with the audience, moderated by Gustav Fridolin, former Swedish Minister for Education, the participants agreed that adult educators have a very important role to play in raising awareness about the climate crisis and climate justice. One of the participants also argued that the war in Ukraine and the related energy crisis in Europe should not be an excuse for the political level to turn away from environmental goals again. Instead, environmental education must be linked to reconstruction and peace education. Education for climate justice needs to look closely at general injustices and understand sustainable environmental development in a wider context.

Shirley Walters, Professor at University of Western Cape South-Africa, shared with all participants information on the South African Climate Justice Charter, which was developed with civil society over a 5-year period and offers a holistic view of climate justice. This resource is free to use.