Geographical inquiry as a transcultural vehicle for education in sustainable development: the centrality of a new vision

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


    Early debates around the concept of sustainable development were defined by discussion around the degree to which both natural and human environments were included. At the 1987 World Commission on Environment and Development, it was decided that the natural environment should be seen as an integral part of human existence, and not some entity that was related, yet divorced, from it. However, more recently, the idea of sustainable development has tended to be centred mainly around its natural environmental applications at the expense of the human, framed within the context that the world's natural environments, along with their associated resources, need to be used and managed in such a way as to make them available for future generations. Educational approaches that emphasise this prevailing, one-sided, largely dehumanised notion of sustainable development have consequently tended to be more scientific in nature, revolving around an understanding of the mutual dependence between the four spheres of the natural environment: the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. The existence of people as a key aspect of the equation has been lost or diminished, as exemplified in the argued negation of climate change as an issue by various conservative political forces around the world. This paper argues that the decline in the teaching of school geography as a discipline in countries such as Australia has contributed greatly to this distortion of education of sustainable development. It contends that the features of the geographical approach to inquiry, particularly in its wider conceptualisation of fieldwork (Kidman & Casinader, 2017), and centred on human-physical interaction within places, provides a much more effective means of developing a sustainable development education, one that is more cogniscent of the deeper aspects of the concept. The transcultural context that is enabled by a geographical approach enables learnings about human interactions with the natural environment to be seen, diminishing or minimising the elements of contemporary cultural imperialism that have continued to affect the sustainable development debate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)49-61
    Number of pages13
    JournalGlobal Comparative Education
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


    • transcultural education
    • geography education
    • education for sustainable development

    Cite this