Cecilia Lundholm is Researcher at the Department of Education & Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and also Director of a new Centre for Teaching & Learning in the Social Sciences. Her research interest concerns communication and learning about environmental and sustainability issues. In particular, her interest focuses on people’s conceptions and learning about nature, society and the individual and the relationship between these. ‘People’ refers to students in higher education, as well as to fishermen and foresters managing their resources, and to citizens and their perceptions and actions relating to these issues. Lundholm participated in the Research Council's public debate in April 2010 on Climate Change and Sustainability.
In this interview Cecilia Lundholm, from the Department of Education, Stockholm University & Stockholm Resilience Centre, explains that one of the goals of higher education is to help students to understand how society works and which is the toolkit that they can use to deal with the environmental problems.
How do you link the resilience concept with education?
In a recent special issue named resilience in social-ecological systems arose of education and learning, idea that many colleagues are trying explore how this resilience concept has emerged in different disciplines and interestingly it emerged in the seventieth both in psychology and ecology. So if you think in ecological terms it means that we have some kind of ecosystem that still is able to maintain functions and so on although there’s disturbance. And resilience is the same idea within psychology if you are studying drama and children. But I think this special issue makes it clear that it is a very difficult concept to try to… just in fair and use in the social side or the human wild domain. The way I see it is that I would like, I could use the word resilience when we are talking about countries can meet climate change, and I would like to see that there is aware of citizens really understanding, but institutions and politics. Is really not wanted to take hard decisions, we need the support of citizens, and this is the kind of catch 22 situation. So you could see resilience at a society level where citizens and politicians are working together and this would be a kind of attribute of resilience society I think.
How could HE teach a sense of belonging to a global community?
I think here again is about what I said. Is really to understand we are a) dependent on nature, b) dependent on others and c) dependent on these institutions. So a planetary community belonging I think is a challenge from my… as a psychologist we know that we tend to, we tend to try to gain our own personal goals. 00.02.39’’ But I think that is the goal of higher education, to helps students understand how society works and which is the toolkit that we can use to try to get us out of this situation and deal with the environmental problems.
Which are the main barriers to change environmental learning and what changes need to be introduced for transforming the way we learn?
I think this is a very interesting question. I come from the field of educational psychology, so actually I am very interested in, yes how individuals learn. Research now is beginning to inform us that is a very complex process, it takes time. And actually, so my first point would be to say that either curricula from kinder garden and upwards is really not design according to learning theories. Because we are demanding that students today learn very complex stuff, very difficult, cognitively difficult things. And also we are talking about climate change and so on they are emotionally charging to. So I call for an interest in learning also by policy makers, to have that twelve years and beyond kind of lifespan and get to the core issues. If we speak for example about systems understanding, which is both in natural science and in social science, and for example I am doing a project on fisherman’s ecosystems understanding, it is just difficult. And I would be fascinated to see any policy maker school trying to see how to build something in twelve years time, and not maybe stick to bits and pieces. Kind of longer scope with theory in mind.
What are some of your current projects that you are working on?
I mentioned perhaps social science also from your questions, I would like to see more social sciences get on board. Is absolutely crucial that we are getting more and more detailed information about planetary system how it works and we need social scientists, economist, political scientist, psychologists and others to contribute here. And I am in different kind of projects, some related to natural resources management and communication and learning within, so fishery co-management for example, where I just summarized a five years initiative taken by the Swedish government getting scientist and fisherman on board and it is interesting to see that it does create better governance and that is kind of regional level. I am not talking about the big boats on the rolling bands of the ocean here. I think that is another level for governance and institutional frameworks. And I also do projects on economics, how students understand the concept of price, and the concept of externalities. Which can be seen as positive or negative, but when it comes to environment is usually seen as a negative effect which is not included in the price. So price itself is a complex concept to be understood for students to grasp. So there is a lake of being very much into the disciplines and cognitive aspect but also my projects try to understand how students actually understand the environmental aspects and importantly, are they ready to pay for it?. So I am very interested if citizens can see that in their everyday life there are choices made, and have been so for the fifty years and have the negative impact and I think it would be interesting to see if that kind of socio-economic knowledge would help them to understand new policies like carbon taxes and so on as a way to get out of this trap.
*This is not an exact transcript of the interview done with Cecilia Lundholm, but rather a version that complements such an interview.