09th August 2021

Book in Focus

Intergenerational Education for Adolescents towards Liveable Futures

By Kathryn Paige, David Lloyd and Richard Smith

For most of the last century, our models of economic growth have assumed an uncontested abundance of natural resources. We mined our way to growth and burned our way to prosperity, and now we are in the middle of a pandemic. Activities and projects implemented by humans have had some measurable eco-social benefits, but humans need to do a lot more to stabilise stretched environmental boundaries. As such, although inadvertently—and under pressure from a life form as ‘primitive’ as a virus—we’ve seen evidence of what a reduction in fossil-fuelled travel and other acts of mindless consumption—of the Earth’s resources, not ours—could mean for us and our fellow Earth-travellers.

However, most of the signs from government and business ‘leaders’ are that they can’t wait to get back to where we were pre-COVID, despite the notion that “Insanity is doing something damaging over and over again and rationalising the results”. The Earth will be changed to the disadvantage of current life-affirming ecosystems, including human societies. Fortunately, humans, although the problem, can also be the solution to this. On this evidence, all societies must move towards more sustainable human living and valuing the welfare of all species and ecosystems, a pursuit at the heart of our book, Intergenerational Education for Adolescents towards Liveable Futures.

The book, now available in paperback, provides suggestions for educators to adopt a set of ecojustice principles to construct a transdisciplinary, futures-thinking, culturally responsive and activist curriculum—an education for a life worth living and an education for a world worth living in. There needs to be fairness and equity between species, between generations and within generations. As educators, we need to work with students’ interests, needs and concerns, and in local communities, so students can experience as many different dimensions of the natural world as possible and take action to make small differences and experience hope. For our grandchildren, we need to change how we live. Actions are a way of taking small but significant steps to reaching personal visions. Each chapter in the book provides opportunities to challenge teachers and teacher educators to be brave and creative in curriculum planning and implementation. Our book promotes a pedagogy that:

  • Emphasises sufficiency of material goods (low consumption), connection to place (a spiritual attribute), appreciation of the aesthetics of place, and the development of wellbeing/happiness;
  • Employs a transdisciplinary/integral, issues-based curriculum;
  • Focuses on sustainable living, futures orientations and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curricula through a critical lens;
  • Is informed by a set of eco-social justice principles for one world with healthy evolving ecosystems.

Young people’s concern for the environment is not a recent finding. This book came as a response to this concern motivated by studies of young people’s visions of the liveable futures—the most important enterprise for human culture. The issue for humans—all of us—and the eco-anxiety many of us have, is to remind ourselves that climate change and other damaging systems changes are not something that can only be solved by collaboration and continuous effort. We can all make a difference, no matter how small, in order to ensure the long-term survival of the planet. We must become an ethical, connected (spiritual) and responsive species, continually learning and acting to maintain viable ecosystems supportive of species on Earth. Students, children and adults will need to acquire not simply new skills, but new ways of behaving, informed by eyes, ears, touch and smell and a spiritual connection to their home, Earth. Our take on ‘liveable futures’ is about appreciating human agency, both in the diminution of Earth-opportunity that we are offering our grandchildren, and in the ‘regenerative’ capacity of education. An action-oriented curriculum such as we propose has the power to change ‘things’—and humans—for the better.

Clark and her source conclude: “The time for change is here, and it starts by valuing our natural planet.” We agree! Indeed, present argument and evidence that co-learners can experience enhancement of their perception of place, and an appreciation both of place-improvement (an increase in eco-social equity!) and of their efficacy as Earth-citizens. We argue that long-term survival of the planet will depend on the emergence of a learning culture “consistent with a sustainable global future - not just through your eyes, or your ears” (Ball 1999), but also touch and smell.


"Kathy Paige, David Lloyd and Richard Smith have managed to write a superb book which can qualify as the Greta Thunberg equivalent for environmental educators. Greta is rightly famous because she has told the world to stop talking and start acting in a serious way. The three South Australian educators hold up a similar mirror to educators. We have all known for a long time that traditional educational practice is for various reasons totally incapable of rising to the challenges which humankind faces today. However, a solid body of theoretical work and educational practice have grown over the last decades which enable teachers and learners to become communities of change, contributing to the transition to an eco-just future. The authors of this book, based on their long experience as educators, truly go for the core stuff, those things which are often demanded but rarely put into practice: transdisciplinarity, co-creation of real-life change through educational practice, building and imagining a futures perspective, and engaging in learning without losing the overall systemic understanding. That's the kind of reflective practitioner's stuff we need to push our own practice beyond new boundaries. [It is] way more useful than anything I have read for a long time."
Dr Rolf Jucker

Director, Swiss Foundation for Learning in and with Nature

"This book challenges educators to be brave and include the principles of eco-justice “in their own classrooms and in communities that connect to their local place”. It beautifully weaves together several educational strands, the affective and the cognitive, giving practical activities as well as a broad philosophy. Its coherent approach will really help teachers to make a difference, as we face an ecological crisis that demands a new approach."
Professor Ian Lowe
Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society; former Head of the School of Science at Griffith University, Australia

"The authors assume a critical stance concerning our idea of knowledge, calling into question the what, why and how of knowledge-building processes. In this respect, they present readers with a critique of school learning as conventionally divided into subject disciplines in order to advance a placebased, transdisciplinary approach to both planning and learning processes. Such an approach is not only learner and learning-centred, but also life-centred."
Laura Colucci-Gray
Interdisciplinary Research Institute on Sustainability, University of Torino, Italy
Martin Dodman
School of Education, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

"Can you look an earthworm in the eye and say: "I did the best for you?" This question captures the essence of this book. It will pique your curiosity to understand how we can support students to be prepared to thrive in the Anthropocene. “This book provides science and environmental educators with a conceptual framework to design transdisciplinary STEM learning knowledge, skills, capabilities and attitudes towards a more eco-social justice and sustainable world"
Katrina Elliott
Department for Education Strategic Design Project Officer STEM, South Australia

“It was a refreshing delight to be able to read this book. I wish I had this in my earlier days as a beginning environmental education and science teacher. Accordingly, it is without reservation that I recommend this text to its intended audience, and particularly for the many thousands of people who begin a teaching career each year. The principles that Paige et al. (2019) advocate are of the upmost importance, made even more so by recent announcements of yet another ‘review’ of teacher education (EducationHQ News Team, 2021)—one that almost certainly promises that the ability for teachers to do the type of curriculum making called for by Paige et al. (2019) would be placed under even greater threat.
Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Intergenerational Education for Adolescents towards Liveable Futures is available now in Hardback and Paperback at a 25% discount. Enter PROMO25 at the checkout to redeem.

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