Abstract image of people looking at a laptop

Education, sustainability and global futures

Image created by Dall-E 2 (with input from Punya Mishra)

Future focused research question

What education policies, practices, research, and pedagogies are necessary to reverse the ecological catastrophe trajectory and begin rebuilding resilient and sustainable futures for all?


Efforts stemming from the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, schools and higher education institutions continue to perpetuate the status quo by reproducing the logic of human exceptionalism, liberal individualism, and the hierarchical “man over nature” relationship, fueling infinite economic growth on a finite planet. This Learning Futures Collaborative aims to reimagine and reconfigure education toward the future survival of the planet and people.


Education and Sustainability

Unesco has issued several reports on education & sustainability, outlining the critical need to improve access to education as well as approach education more holistically by carefully balancing three interrelated dimensions of learning – cognitive, socioemotional, and behavioral – to achieve any transformational effects. The following are examples:

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2016). Global Education Monitoring Report Summary 2016: Education for People and Planet: Creating Sustainable Futures for All. https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/taxonomy/term/198

UNESCO. (2020). Education for Sustainable Development: A Roadmap. ISBN: 978-92-3-100394-3

UNICEF (2021). Climate crisis is a child rights crisis: Introducing the children’s climate risk index. New York. United Nations Children’s Fund. https://www.unicef.nl/files/UNICEF-climate-crisis-child-rights-crisis.pdf

Pedagogies/Trans Learning for Sustainability Learning and Action

Solís, P., & Zeballos, M. (2023). Open Mapping towards Sustainable Development Goals: Voices of YouthMappers on Community Engaged Scholarship. Springer Nature.

Tannock, S. (2021). Educating for Radical Social Transformation in the Climate Crisis (pp. 227-258). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-83000-7

Description: The central aim of this book is to “[bring] together climate change education and radical education to understand how education can be used to support radical social change.” (p. 1)

Jickling, B., & Sterling, S. (Eds.). (2017). Post-sustainability and environmental education: Remaking education for the future. Springer. ISBN: 978-3-319-51322-5

Description: A series of essays that push the reader to (re)consider education for the future, with relevance well beyond its focus on environmental education.

Stetsenko, A. (2016). The transformative mind: Expanding Vygotsky’s approach to development and education. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9780511843044

Description: Stetsenko calls for the development of a transformative activist stance that results in deliberate and goal-directed action toward sought-after futures alongside a commitment to social transformation.

Higher Education and Sustainability

Description: The following focus on higher education institutions, illuminating systemic and structural barriers to achieving transformation and offering advice on how to position higher education institutions to take a prominent role in grappling with and addressing the world’s pressing issues. McCowan (2020) offers a framework for understanding the impacts of higher education institutions on climate change.

Binagwaho, A., Bonciani Nader, H., Brown Burkins, M., Davies, A., Hessen, D. O., Mbow, C., … & Tong, S. (2022). Knowledge-driven actions: Transforming higher education for global sustainability: Independent Expert Group on the Universities and the 2030 Agenda. UNESCO Publishing. ISBN:978-92-3-100505-3

McCowan, Tristan (2020) The impact of universities on climate change: a theoretical framework. Transforming Universities for a Changing Climate, Working Paper Series No. 1 Institute of Education, UCL https://www.researchcghe.org/perch/resources/publications/final-working-paper-55.pdf

Gardner, C. J., Thierry, A., Rowlandson, W., & Steinberger, J. K. (2021). From publications to public actions: the role of universities in facilitating academic advocacy and activism in the climate and ecological emergency. Frontiers in Sustainability, 42. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frsus.2021.679019/full


Dilraba Anayatova
PhD student, MLFTC

Katja Brundiers
Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Sustainability

Molly Cashion
Senior Program Manager, School of Sustainability

Carlos Casanova
Assistant Professor, MLFTC

Cala Coats
Assistant Professor, School of Art

Alejandra Enriquez-Gates

Gustavo Fischman
Professor, MLFTC

Jana Goebel
Assistant Professor, School of Sustainability

Somaly Jaramillo
PhD Student, School of Sustainability

Adriene Jenik
Professor, School of Art

Jieyu Jiang
PhD student, MLFTC

Michelle Jordan
Associate Professor, MLFTC

Jordan King
PhD Candidate, School of Sustainability

Carrie Karsgaard
Postdoctoral fellow with MLFTC

Ann Nielsen

Lizzie Quigley
Undergraduate Student, Sustainability (BA) and Supply Chain Management (BS), Intern at the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Teachers’ Academy

Iveta Silova
Associate Dean and Professor, MLFTC

Daniel Schugurensky
Professor, School of Public Affairs

Charlotte Simunek
Visiting Professor at ASU

Molina Walters
Clinical Professor, MLFTC

Andrea Weinberg
Assistant Professor, MLFTC

Ruth Wylie

Steve Zuiker
Associate Professor, MLFTC