COP this right now: why the next generation can’t make miracles on its own

By Kathryn Coleman, Sarah Healy, George Variyan and Brad Gobby

Climate change education is becoming increasingly prominent both as a research focus and a teaching focus, with young people often being the target of climate change education initiatives. However, while efforts to build critical climate literacies with young people are important, care must be taken not to perpetuate the idea that today’s young people will miraculously solve a crisis brewing for centuries. 

Everyone has a role to play in thinking about and acting on climate change because no single group of people or technological advancement is going to save us.

The science is clear. The world is burning, quite literally. But as the world media turns its attention to COP27, icons like Greta Thunberg have argued that these conversations are ‘not working’. The future of the planet appears to be decided in ethically questionable and far-away places, often behind closed doors. Closer to home, we can feel excluded and unheard. If expectations are already low for COP27, it may be that the path to a sustainable future can only be found from the ground up. For each of us, this starts with reaching out, turning up, and getting involved. 

What might happen if those who are often left out of the debates and conversations such as artists, educators, social scientists and humanities researchers came together to talk, activate, play, create and discuss for 3 days post-COP. What might they achieve? Could their playful and artful responses lead to change? 

  • Conversations also need to be creative, artful, playful even, and include knowledges and ways of being and seeing the world that have so far been ignored.
  • even if the change is getting to grips with our anxieties over the future and helping us re-engage with this dire ecological moment.

To create space and flip the narrative on its head, we co-designed The Climate, Art, and Digital Activisms 4-day Festival of Ideas. The festival program will be held over 3 days (21-23 November) at studioFive (UNITWIN partner and UNESCO Observatory of the Arts Education) in Melbourne, with the fourth day (27 November) to be held at the University of South Australia (preceding the AARE 2022 Conference) in Adelaide. 

The festival program consists of 12 carefully curated acts which bring invited keynote speakers and practice-based facilitators into conversation with each other. Invited keynotes are purposefully paired and discussion will be facilitated by the convenors as a decolonising act. ECR and HDR are welcomed into the conversation via Pecha Kucha sessions.

We know that taking action is better than giving in to the polarising morass of misinformation and disinformation on social media.

Reports ahead of COP27 have made it clear that we are on the path to 1.5°C or worse. Pledges backed up specious action, or worse, contradictory actions, add up to political theatre, no more, no less. These faux struggles keep us hoping that our leaders will save us, or that the political class can be shamed into action, but they also leave ordinary people feeling disconnected and disenchanted. Yet, if some doors are closed, there are others open, right under our noses, where conversations can lead to change, even if the change is getting to grips with our anxieties over the future. If there is one thing that works, it’s getting in the game. So, instead of feeling sidelined by COP27, simply reaching out, turning up, and getting involved will put you on the path to something better. 

Acknowledgement: The festival is made possible by a University of Melbourne Dyason Fellowship, competitive SIG funding from Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) and Partnership Development Grant from The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). 

From left to right: Kathryn Coleman is a neurodivergent, feminist, artist, researcher and teacher who lives and works in Kulin Nation. Her work focuses on the integration of digital pedagogies and digital portfolios for sustained creative practice, assessment and warranting of evidence across education sectors. Kate’s praxis includes taking aspects of her theoretical and practical work as a/r/tographer to consider how artists, artist-teachers and artist-students use site to create place in digital and physical practice. Sarah Healy is committed to inter and intra-generational justice and is concerned with creating the conditions for reparative futures to take place. In her role as Melbourne Postdoctoral Fellow, Sarah is actively engaged in research located at the intersection of affect theory, digital childhoods, creative methods and a/r/tographic approaches to metho-pedagogy. Sarah’s expertise is underpinned by a background in art education and keen interest in close-to-practice research and teaching. George Variyan is the Course Leader for the Master of Educational Leadership in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. His background includes teaching, learning and leading in schools in Australia and overseas. George’s engagement in research is based on a critical sociology, which explores human agency in the relationship between education and society. Key interests include educational leadership, boys’ masculinities, climate activism and social justice, and ethics. Brad Gobby is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at Curtin University. His research is widely published and includes critical inquiry into education policy, educational subjectivities, and politics. Brad is co-editor of Powers of Curriculum: Sociological Aspects of Education.

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