Education for the Inevitable – schooling when the oil runs out

I came across this interesting book through an article in the Times Educational Supplement (End of the world as we know it ).  In the early 1970s, as a student, I was a convert to conservation, reduced consumption and The Limits to Growth.  I read the Club of Rome report avidly.  Since I was already a great fan of E F Schumacher (Small is Beautiful ) and valued Gandhi over Marx (though not by much), the report seemed to provide a scientific justification for what were essentially moral/sentimental arguments (protecting our heritage for future generations etc.).  I remember having discussions about imagined futures over coffee in the David Hume Tower basement.  ‘What would we do when the oil runs out?’ One of my friends was particularly difficult to argue with. While I maintained that the oil would run out (from memory I think the Club of Rome model suggested that ‘peak oil’ would be well before 2000), he refused to take that seriously. ‘Even if it does run out, scientists will invent something else.’  I can no longer find refuge in the moral high ground, a frequent recourse as a student and potential refuge as a lifelong member of Friends of the Earth, since I have lived a not-untypical carbon-hungry lifestyle in which I have probably put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than most of my previous ancestors put together. It seems that I lost the argument as well.  In my lifetime at least, he has been proved right, and I, believing the Limits to Growth, have been proved wrong.   Here we are in 2012 and ‘peak oil’ is still some years away.  Forty years on, the arguments focus around climate change rather than resource exhaustion.

However, the oil will run out.. just not as soon as we expected…. and there still seem to be very few people thinking about the social implications. It was therefore really interesting to see these issues explored in the context of schools and schooling. The Times Ed article gives a taster of what to expect in the book. The argument suggests that doing without oil and restoring the local community aspect to schooling (something our primary schools have not, on the whole, lost) could have some significant benefits. ‘Teachers become community leaders and pupils community workers’ (and vice versa, I would add).

This book imagines a better future.

Bring it on.


4 thoughts on “Education for the Inevitable – schooling when the oil runs out

  1. Danny, this looks like an interesting read. I would argue though that peak oil is very much on the agenda at the moment particularly amongst the ‘transition toun’ movement who argue strongly for localism and the building of community at micro level as the means to achieve sustainability. Not sure if this author discusses this particular strand of environmentalism. In addition, the thrust of the Scottish Govt strategy for education for sustainability is very much about moving towards a low carbon economy. You might be interested to have at the look at the work of the global citizenship team at Education Scotland – a small but dedicated band of eco warriors (which for a while included myself) determined to put global citizenship and sustainable development education at the heart of CfE. My colleague Ian Menzies has been in the forefront of this, engaging Scottish Government and other partners, interests, agencies in the debate and playing a big part in shaping a responsing to the documents ‘Learning for our Future’ and Learning for Change’ – Scotland’s action plans for the decade of education for sustainable development.

    As you say, bring it on!!

    • Thanks Mike. I had wondered if you were still at big ES. I’ll follow up the transition toun link – thanks. I still take an interested in the Global Citizenship agenda from ES and I know there is some fantastic work going on in some Scottish schools. Hope you are well and keeping the faith!!

  2. Pingback: When will the oil run out exactly? | Danny Murphy's Blog

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