Socio-ecological adult learning toward real communities : two case studies : Venezuela (1977-1990) and New Zealand (1984-1990).
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis is a quest for a theory of change towards a non- hierarchical society were People could live in harmony with themselves, with others and with Nature. The quest involves the integration of a theory of adult learning with a theory of change, guided by ecological consciousness and wisdom. The conceptual integration will be named "Real Ecology Adult Learning" or REAL. Two main justifications for the above articulation, are : firstly, there is a need for the communities to challenge and to halt the hierarchical roots of social oppression and the destruction of the Eco-sphere (the thin layer surrounding the Earth which sustains the totality of Life in the planet). Secondly, there is a need for a "down to earth" theory useful to people engaged in adult and community education which confronts the difficulties of identifying and selecting an appropriate theory of change. The difficulties arise from the current confusion between the two major conceptual frameworks: the "Environmental Theory" and the "Ecological Theory" . This thesis (centered on gender analysis of hierarchy) scrutinizes their conceptual differences within the global context of the "hierarchy of nations" based on the sexual International Division of Labour. The "Introduction" examines the nature of REAL. It explains the reasons why it is necessary to conceive a theory on social, cultural and ethical change guided by eco-feminist knowledge, consciousness and wisdom. It identifies the difficulties of conceptual discrimination between multiple theories and enables the selection of a theory that goes beyond the reformist constraints of "Environmentalist Theory" and the internal contradictions of "Ecological Theory". The first chapter describes a case-study of ecological adult learning in a Third World Country: Venezuela (1977 - 1990). There, theory and practice are being incorporated by the community to meet basic needs in an environment of scarcity. The second chapter evaluates a case study in the environment of abundance and over-consumption of a First World country - New Zealand ( 1982-1990) - under the rule of the Fourth Labour Government. It focuses on the transition: from a welfare state into a competitive free-market society manipulated by the neo-liberal financial New Right. In both case-studies, the achievements as well as the constraints and difficulties encountered at ideological and practical levels, are described . Chapter Three follows the development of a theory of change. Grounded on the practical experiences of the 1970's and the 1980's, it attempts to find new conceptual guidelines for future educational work and action in the community. Firstly, it highlights the differences between two major theories that tend to be confused: "Environmental Theory" (which goals for change are low) and "Ecological Theory" which aims to a total transformation guided by ecological wisdom. The first one is the context of "Adult Environmental Education" (AEE). The development of REAL theory continues with the analysis of three conceptual frameworks: the first two are studied in the context of the "Environmental Theory". They are: the "Free-Market Environmentalism" of the Neoliberal New Right, and the Neo-Marxist "Post-Industrial Environmentalism". The third framework of "Eco-feminism" is examined in the context of the "Ecological Theory". To analyse the three conceptual frameworks, their values, assumptions and main arguments, they are compared to try to identify similarities and differences between them and to establish their internal contradictions and ambiguities. Eventually, one framework is selected and integrated with a particular theory of Adult Learning, to become REAL. Finally, Chapter Four offers guidelines for the practical implementation of REAL. These guidelines, organized as a programme, are based on a theory grounded on evaluation of past experiences which is integrated with other significant key theories. Real Ecology Adult Learning aims to challenge and to change the hierarchical roots of exploitation, domination and manipulation of People and Nature in 1990 and beyond, towards the new millennia.