The catastrophic bushfires in Australia (December 2019-January 2020) erased whole communities, destroyed over 15 million acres of ecosystems, killed over 1.25 million animals. More than one year on, intense concern about anthropogenic climate change continues to escalate, expressed in children’s protests and global politics. The coronavirus pandemic has added to awareness that something is radically out of balance with the planet’s ecosystems. Our focus is to collaboratively develop an educational research response with international colleagues and local Aboriginal participants. We ask: How do humans of all ages learn in this context, and how can we contribute to building a different future for planetary wellbeing?

The program will explore the question of what research methodologies, curriculum and pedagogies can be developed in response to the current planetary crises of climate change and the global pandemic? The aim of the Planetary wellbeing and human learning program is to build capacity in research methodologies, educational research, and curriculum development for planetary wellbeing in collaboration with external partners. The program will draw on the response to the catastrophic bushfires of 2019, 2020, the coronavirus pandemic, and the need for community regeneration where community is understood to include climate, weather, fires, plants, animals, and humans as part of an integrated system. The research program is also closely linked to the HDR student cohort of the same name at Western Sydney University, and there will be reciprocal capacity building in relation to the following HDR projects: Multispecies ethnography; Death in the Anthropocene; Teaching and learning eastern philosophies at Lakshimi Ashram, India; Indigenous connections to Country, and Indigenous knowledges in relation to climate change.

This research proposal directly contributes to our global commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, global rankings and leadership. It will also deliver on a new proposed Sustainability and Resilience Decadal Strategy which has a priority focus on Planetary Health. The proposal specifically supports the delivery of SDG4 –Quality Education, SDG13 – Climate Action and SDG 15 – Life on Land. SDG4.10 states: ‘It is vital to give a central place to strengthening education’s contribution to the fulfilment of human rights, peace and responsible citizenship from local to global levels, gender equality, sustainable development and health. The content of such education must be relevant, with a focus on both cognitive and non-cognitive aspects of learning.’

The international literature that addresses the complex learning challenges of 21C education in schools around the world offers many innovative concepts, theories, and methodologies. While these have been liberally applied in early childhood education (Somerville, 2019), the ‘Global Education Reform Movement’ is identified as narrowly refocussing school teachers and students on disciplinary oriented learning outcomes (Sahlberg, 2011). Canadian Marcelina Piotrowski proposes thinking alongside an ‘elemental Deleuze’ in which “subjectification includes the classical elements of air, water, earth, fire”(2019, p.9). David Rousell (UK), offers the pedagogical potential of little justices “to produce the conditions under which immanent ethical understandings might emerge, for those interested in thinking animals, rivers, mountains, etc. with students and exploring the speculative possibilities of life, politics, sociality, and experience beyond the human”(2018, p.13). Greg Mannion (Scotland), suggests assemblage pedagogies“that use problems to create openings that allow for new relations among people and place so that more sustainable ways of life might emerge”(2019, p.11). There is a proliferation of innovative ideas, theories and methodologies in educational literature to address the imperative of 21C curriculum, but it is almost entirely aspirational and visionary, with a striking absence of their application in empirical research. As Monroe et al. recommend in their review of climate change education, the task is to seize “the learning moment to think about what really and profoundly matters, to collectively envision a better future, and then to become practical visionaries in realizing that future”(2017, p.17). The research program addresses this provocation to become practical visionaries in producing a better future for the planet…

The “planetary wellbeing and human learning group” are connected to IIRA through an interest in the Anthropocene and in working in interdisciplinary modes. There is no one way to make a difference in terms of planetary wellbeing, what it at stake here, is the opportunity to explore these differences in new and exciting manners.

Planetary wellbeing and human learning members:
Margaret Somerville (leader)
David R. Cole (deputy)
Jen Dollin
Susanne Gannon
Susan Germein
Rachael Jacobs
Jorge Knijnik
Tessa McGavock
Loshini Naidoo
Anne Power
Annette Sartor
Michael Singh
Dorian Stoilescu
Eva Vass
David Wright
Affiliates: Chris Woodrow, Kerry Staples,
Jocelyn Howden 
Barry Calvert
Lisa Lewis
Angie Atkinson
Abigail Hackett
Jayne Osgood
Karin Murris
David Carlson
David Rousell
Angela Foley
Sarah Powell
David Russell.