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Webinar: Higher Education for Sustainability after the Sh*t Hits the Fan

September 9, 2020 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDT


This webinar will engage participants in deep dialogue and a thought experiment aimed at articulating transformational climate initiatives and generating momentum for overcoming barriers to action. The science tells us we have ten years to radically transform society and make the transition. Our collective conundrum is that despite significant progress and even “award winning” accomplishments, higher education has not yet made the kinds of fundamental transformations needed to address the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. In the eyes of critics, it all amounts to ‘business as usual . . . with a little less carbon’. To address this conundrum head on, I will first engage participants in honest and open dialogue around a two-part question: First, what are the real and perceived barriers to making fundamental, paradigm shifting change in our institutions? Psychological, cultural, bureaucratic, financial? Second, what would have to happen to loosen or dissolve these barriers? In other words, what could shake us out of ‘business as usual . . . with a little less carbon’? At this point, I will invite participants to engage in a thought experiment provocatively titled, “Envisioning Climate Leadership after the Sh*t Hits the Fan”. The starting point is evidence presented in recent climate reports that warn of imminent disaster. It is becoming increasingly likely that there will be an incident or series of events that make it starkly clear that our climate emergency is not only real, but urgent and existential. The sh*t will have hit the fan. At that pivotal moment, obstacles to action will melt away, and we in the sustainability community will be called on to present our plans for rapidly transforming the purposes and practices of higher education. Having introduced this thought experiment, participants will be asked to generate a list of priorities (transformational initiatives) and then evaluate them with a series of questions: Do the proposals match the scale and urgency of the crisis or are they business as usual with a patina of transformation? What major changes do we fear most and why? Finally, and most importantly, how do our current initiatives compare to what we imagine we would do if barriers to action were dissolved? If there are major gaps, how can we individually and collectively generate the momentum needed to move our visions from the margins to center before the sh*t hits the fan? The session will conclude with an invitation to commit to more ambitious climate action in line with what we know about the scope and scale of the crisis.

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Paul Morgan

Paul Morgan, Professor, West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Paul Morgan is a Professor in the Department of Educational Foundations and Policy Studies at West Chester University of Pennsylvania (WCU). He is the founder and director WCU’s certificate programs in Education for Sustainability (EFS) and from 2011 to 2014 served as the University’s Sustainability Coordinator. Dr. Morgan chairs the board of ACEER (Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research) and is a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops related to sustainability and education. He earned a BA from the University of Illinois (1985) and a Ph.D. from Columbia University (1998).



September 9, 2020
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDT
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