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Relationship Between Education and Alienation of People from Their Environment

Info: 7893 words (32 pages) Dissertation
Published: 10th Dec 2019

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Tagged: Education

Assess the relationship between education and alienation of people from their environment.

The transmission of information is a fundamental component of the human disposition, at individual and cultural scales. Society is built on the discoveries and advances of generations before, individuals shaped and guided by their surrounding teachings and understandings. The human race are discussing, sharing and debating across horizons at a velocity undreamt of. This dissemination of human experience takes place, and only makes sense, within the environment. Our surroundings, natural or man-made, determine our bodily movements, senses and training; education is embodied through our environment (Ingold 2000).

Formal education is often upheld, in public health and development discourse, as fundamental to the response to social inequality and to reducing climate change. However, a historical analysis reveals education, the core tool of colonialism, as inherently responsible of these global crises. The destruction and marginalisation of traditional knowledge systems, a sovereign education in their own right, and the substitution of industrial schooling,  is key to the subjugation of indigenous people, most acutely in women, and their environments.

I will first describe the framework and definitions facilitated in this essay, so as to avoid a paradoxical argument, where our material existence obstructs the possibility of alienation from our environment. Measuring ‘alienation’, a often used but poorly defined term (Clark 1959), is also discussed. Providing an understanding of indigenous pedagogy in the Karuk Culture of Northern California (Salter 2003, Willette and Norgaard 2016) and in the Cree of Canada (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997, Salisbury 1986) demonstrates the intimate and active relationship with the environment fostered by traditional apprenticeships. Across colonised lands, industrialised and colonial education removed students from their ecology, both physically and culturally. Christian religious education, in conjunction with academics, was fundamental to the imperial mission from the 19ths century to today. However, this alienation process is not heterogeneous across people; indigenous women have suffered greater disenfranchisement than men (Hmingthanzuali and Pande 2009, Ohmagari and Berkes 1997).

The global sweep on Western values and economies means that formal education is now critical for protection and innovation within environments in the context of disease prevention and natural disasters. I will discuss the benefits of modern schooling on people’s agency in their environment. Finally, looking at the persistence of neo-colonial influence on education in the Pacific Islands, I will briefly describe how the future relationship between education and alienation from the environment may be subject to change (Scaglion 2015).


  1. ‘Natural Environments’


A tendency to conflate the terms ‘environment’ and ‘nature’ may be an artefact of European philosophy and religion, which has often purveyed an ‘otherness’ to nature, resulting in a conceptual dichotomy between culture and nature. Bourdieu and Ingold (2000) have attempted to disrupt this academic tendency, and now much of anthropology and sociology now assume the cultural construction of environmental perception; consequently, all culture is natural, and nature is cultural. This relationship is modulated through the ‘embodiment’ of human experience, much of which can be understood though the writings of Csordas.

There has been plenty of debate on the meaning of ‘nature’, and its conceptual relationship to environment and culture (Glacken 1973, Chapters 1 and 3 Ingold 2000). Particularly in industrialised, Christian societies, ‘nature’ is an environment we consider ourselves separate from. The term ‘natural environment’ places the observer as detached and objective; an individual not part of the organic environment. This understanding is historically salient in industrialised societies, typically more urbanised than indigenous groups. To consider human’s as separate from environment is counterintuitive in traditional societies, who cultivate and interact with the natural world consistently, as detailed later in cases of the Kurak, the Cree, and more.

Whilst recognising the limitations and Eurocentric connotations of the term, I will continue this essay with a conceptual framework that draws upon the idea of ‘natural environments’.  By this, I am referring to the organic biotic and abiotic elements of geographical and ecological space. Salient aspects of natural environments may include vegetation, water courses and sinks, soil types, and climate. Humanity’s role within these ‘natural environments’ will be explored further, with indigenous ecological maintenance being a core specification in traditional education systems.

While the scope of the question could promote much worthwhile consideration of people’s alienation from urban and industrialised environments (Seeman 1971, Soga and Gaston 2016), the rapid loss of pre-industrial lifestyles and communities and the associated environmental implications of this process, prioritises investigation into alienation from the ‘natural’ world.


  1. On Measuring Alienation

To fully investigate the variables in question, it is appropriate to first consider how we identify and measure them. Education manifests in many forms, and I will later discuss how traditional, indigenous systems challenge formalised, Eurocentric ideas of teaching (Section 3). Alienation is more of an abstract entity, and so demands more consideration of its conceptual boundaries.

In sociology and psychology, alienation has been described often as the presence of powerlessness, self-estrangement and anomia (Kaldenberg and Woodman 1985) in relation to an institution or social sphere, or more generally with the world at large. Karl Marx also wrote of ‘estrangement’ and alienation within capitalist systems, where individuals are separated from the products of their labour, and so become commodified themselves (Marx 1884). Other axes such as normlessness (Dodder 1969), meaninglessness and feelings of manipulation (Clark 195) are also cited.  For this essay, the word ‘alienation’ will be used as an abbreviation of the psychological states in italics, in reference to the environment, as well as the physical removal of individuals or generations from an environment.

Measuring such a subjective and personal state of mind is a whole new task. Various ‘alienation scales’ were developed, addressing these three axes in modern populations;  Clarks Social System Alienation scale (1959), Dean’s 1961 Alienation Scale (Dodder 1969), Burbach’s Student Alienation Scale (1972) are just three examples. The axes and adjectives used in these scales and their accompanying questionnaires, can certainly be found within people’s experiences of the environment. Applying these survey-style analyses of alienation to an environmental context could be an interesting route in measuring people’s detachment from, and lack of agency within, their environment[1]. However, many authors, including Marx, have questioned the validity of ‘alienation’ as a psychological state; as alienation is the product of the gulf between one’s actual agency and power and one’s perceived potential agency, which cannot be objectively measured (Archibald 1978).

People’s perceptions of their relationship with the environment could be limited in giving insight into the actual degree of alienation. Your perception of the environment is limited by the values and beliefs you attach to it throughout life, per ‘embodiment’ theory; if an individual was alienated, and always had been, they may not perceive it as a negative or abnormal relationship. Quantitative analyses could give a more objective measure of alienation from the environment. Atran et al (2009) tested their ‘devolution hypothesis’ which predicted that modernisation, which is often associated with education, leads to a deterioration of knowledge of the ‘natural world’. When looking for cultural support for the tree life-form within the Oxford English Dictionary ‘folk’ quotations (non-scientific references to natural forms), they found that there has been a huge reduction in genus terms, and further levels of taxonomic organisation (Figure 2.1, Atran et al 2009). Similarly, reference to birds also declined.

There are various issues with this method of analysis, including biases within OED’s quotation use, and multiplicity of natural terms (Atran et al 2009). However, if we were to extrapolate from the findings, using a historical ecological framework, we may be able to identify causal mechanisms for the fluctuation and decline in ‘natural knowledge’. Access to education was revolutionised during these 200 years in Britain, and could be a causal factor’ but many other facets of modern society also emerged, such as industrialization and urbanization of the population. These could all contribute to the ‘devolution’ of cultural support for and alienation from natural forms.OED quotations.png

Cross-cultural and sub-cultural comparisons of environmental classification and knowledge could also be useful for measuring relative alienation from the natural world. All human societie’s have some sort of taxonomic system to categorize and lineate the natural world (Atran et al 2009, Ingold 2000), but some may be more exhaustive than others. Boster and Shipman (2008) found that Itzaj Maya experts, and US taxonomists share huge parallels in both the organisation of their ecological knowledge, and the depth of knowledge, when compared to US students with no taxonomical training. The students could ‘recall few trees’ and low levels of accurate identification (Boster and Shipman 2008). The very distinct and divergent origins of the two experts, and their fundamentally different educations, still resulted in a convergence of environmental appreciation. While the US students shared the physical environment with the US taxonomists, their ability to classify this shared ecology was entirely different; this may indicate a certain environmental alienation, due to a lack of ecological education. Boster and Shipman (2008) put the student’s shortcomings down to a lack of interaction and engagement with the ‘natural world’, and so could be used to support the theory of an embodied education of environment. It is also indicative of a ‘extinction of experience’ in industrialised communities, who have little exposure or interaction with the natural world, resulting in alienation (Nabhan 2016, Nabhan 1996).

Finally, a very indirect method of measuring human alienation from environment could be environment degradation itself. For generations, over millennia, much human activity has taken place within, and pursuing the maintenance of, an ecological equilibrium. While there have been many historical cases of human destruction of environment, such as seen in Easter Island (Diamond 2005, Hunt and Lipo 2010) and the extinction of large fauna in Australia, the contemporary rates of global biodiversity loss, deforestation and climate change (with anthropogenic causes??) suggest the average human relationship to the environment has shifted. The loss of indigenous cultivators and their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) systems, through mechanisms discussed in section 4, also destroys their long established active environmental management. While detailing the consequences of the recruitment of indigenous people into the capitalist economy, at the expense of traditional lifestyles, women’s empowerment and nature, we can give a qualitative assessment of the alienation of people from their ancestral environments.

Measuring alienation is therefore a controversial and complicated endeavour, as is the relationship with education. Using environmental change and loss as an indicator, alongside ethnographies of indigenous people themselves, I will give an account of the devastating effects of colonial educational policy (Van Krieken 1999), and other associated processes, upon the environment and indigenous understandings of it. It will become clear that alienation is an inherently gendered and heterogenous process, inflicting more suffering and marginalisation upon women and children, than the rest of society (Hmingthanzuali and Pande 2009, Talbot and Muigai 1998).


  1. Indigenous Pedagogy

To understand the dramatic and often tragic impact of industrialized education around the world, and the equally powerful implications of environmental degradation, we must first understand the previous forms of education that have been, and continue to be, usurped and subordinated.

Not all education takes place in a classroom or lecture theatre, and the teaching environment is not always as passive. For hundreds of thousands of years, the most critical teaching was delivered through apprenticeships of the environment and ecology. Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) facilitated survival within ‘natural’ environments, transmitted with generations of practice, spiritual importance and cultural reproduction.

The Karuk culture, indigenous to the Klamath river basin of Northern California, is fundamentally entwined with the environment. It is thought that the Paleo-Indian ancestors of the Karuk first established themselves in the rich basin around 6,000 years ago, in the Archaic period (Salter 2003). Now, their cultural identity and lifestyle is reliant on and conducted through exhaustive land management practices; harvesting techniques, fish stocks and forest regulation are highly ritualised and preserved to ‘a fine science’ (Salter 2003, Willette and Norgaard 2016). Their whole worldview is framed by their ecology; their kinship understandings stretch to encompass species of acorn and salmon (Willette and Norgaard 2016).  Salmon fishing and other ecological expertise in the Karuk people were integral to social roles, responsibilities and status, and so environmental pedagogy holds a lot of cultural and social value. Over three-quarters of culturally important species are enhanced in abundance using controlled fires.

The family is central to the training and dissemination of TEK (Willette and Norgaard 2016). Granddaughters learn how to weave baskets from their grandmothers, and sharing meals is considered the ‘glue’ that kept families close, allowing greater cultural reproduction (Willette and Norgaard 2016). ‘Intergenerational continuity’ is maintained through material practices and actual time spent observing and imitating parent’s skills, whilst engaging and participating with the environment. This type of education brings indigenous pupils into regular, sustained contact with the environment, as well as fostering intimate social ties; this traditional education promotes agency within and connection to the environment, quite in contrast to alienation.

Women are integral to indigenous pedagogy and the reproduction of TEK. In the Western James Bay area of Canada, the Omushkego Cree women played an active role in hunting and fishing trips, whilst also cultivating bushkills, such as basket weaving, fishnet and snare preparation and fire making (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997.) Tolerating 200-240 cm of snowfall, and poor soil due to glacial conditions until ~10,000 years ago, hunting and gathering in the wetland region demands specialist localised knowledge. These skills were integral to survival in the sub-arctic conditions, with fishing and hunting providing around 100g of protein per adult a day. 53% of the skills studied by Ohmagari and Berkes were learned through kinaesthetic practice, going through several stages of apprenticeship with their mothers and other skilled women in the community. Cree informants insist that ecological skills are learnt informally and from very young ages (2-3 years old (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997).  After a year in the bush, a young couple can begin the bush education of their children (Salisbury 1986); elders recalled girls being fully equipped with bush skills by the age of 14 or 15 years old.

The everyday practice of TEK and ritualised interaction with nature, trains the indigenous body into an embodied understanding and perception of the environment (Ingold 2000). Interaction with the environment and cultural support for its maintenance, such as the use of controlled fires in the Klamath river basin, harbour huge cultural support and significance. The indigenous people’s perception of the environment is tactile, olfactory and practical, rather than the decontextualized and objectified ‘nature’ presented in many Biology textbooks and classrooms.

As ‘nature’ is the subject, as well as the learning environment, in indigenous education systems, comprehensive and holistic indigenous education requires a pristine and complete environment. Upon destruction and contamination, indigenous education cannot be completed with satisfaction, and industrial lifestyles may be adopted. Hence, there is an exacerbating cycle between the spread and imposition of industrial-style education and environmental degradation, which is mediated through the marginalisation of indigenous lifestyles, and feminine experiences, in particular.

  1. The Alienating Mechanisms of Colonial Educational Policy

The ‘civilising’ of indigenous cultures, and the recruitment of their ecological and human resources into the global capitalist system, is consistently a coercive, violent and imperious process.  The subjugation of indigenous peoples engages with many tactics, from mass genocide, slavery, war, indirect rule to prejudice. Education is also included in the imperial guidebook; forcefully removing children from their families, culture and environment lead to the end of many traditional ways of life in Australia and the Pacific Islands (Van Krieken 1999, Scaglion 2015). This ‘barbaric’ strategy was first exercised by missionary schooling, then by colonial governments and persists in the reliance on imported models of education in ex-colonies (Scaglion 2015). The direct causal mechanisms between colonial education and alienation include: physical removal from family and environment; time demands; language loss. The indirect causal links between the two include: a shift in cultural values; new occupations; ecological devastation. Eclectic examples from various indigenous groups can illustrate how these processes propagate environmental alienation.

The ancestors of Australian aboriginals first colonised their indigenous land more than 60,000 years ago. Initial violence and slaughter evolved into more ‘civilised’ ways of eradicating the indigenous peoples; education is a perpetuator of colonial structural violence (Van Krieken 1999, Maddison 2013). From 1905, the British colonial government was made the legal guardian of all Australian Aboriginal children, and by 1930, around ⅔ of part-descent children were extracted from their families and deposited into boarding schools, missionary institutions or into a white family (Van Krieken 1999). Alongside the emotional trauma that this inflicted on Aboriginal communities, the policy physically removed children and teenagers from their ‘natural environment’- perhaps the clearest manifestation of alienation. Children and their parents had no agency or choice in these displacements, and inevitably suffered huge feelings of powerlessness and manipulation.  POVERTY CONSEQUENCES!

Similar policies in Fort Albany, Ontario, supported residential schools until 1972, isolating Cree children from their natural environments and cultural heritage (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997). The time spent in euro-style education overwhelmed that spent by the Cree youth in indigenous education apprenticeships, especially with long commute times between smaller villages and the schools in the south of Canada. With less exposure to the ecology itself, and their families, Cree children were ‘recruited to another culture’, alienating them from the traditional lifestyles, bush skills and environment of their ancestors.

The loss of the indigenous language also restricts bush skills from transmission and their rich ancestral and spiritual context.  Residential schools in Canada and missionary colleges in Papua New Guinea and Hawaii both used English as the primary language of instruction, often punishing those who used indigenous language or local creole, such as Tok Pisin in the north and Hiri Motu in the south of Papua New Guinea (Scaglion 2015). In the larger villages of Fort Albany, English has become the primary language in many young families (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997). The physical linguistic inability of communication between the young and old, exacerbates the generation gap between indigenous elders and youth; the former hold the TEK skills to instruct and engage youth with the localised environment, while the youth lack the indigenous language to access it.

Indirect mechanisms through which colonial education policy diminished indigenous relationships with the environment are reliant on changing cultural norms and values. The academic content of school’s syllabi would teach the western dichotomy of nature versus man (rather than the integrated reality to salient in indigenous understandings) and the decontextualization of species from olfactory, textural, symbiotic and many other dimensions TEK prioritizes (Atran et al 2009). However, the ‘hidden curricula’ of the colonial education institutes prioritised assimilation and civilisation of the native people (Illich 1971). Indigenous student’s begin to prioritise academic gains, the English language, Western fashion and ideology. The patience and diligence that TEK apprenticeship demanded was lost, alongside respect for elders, also exacerbating the generation divide (Salisbury 1986, Ohmagari and Berkes 1997). Ohmagari and Berkes (1997) report a glamorisation and preference for office work in the younger Cree generations, a loss of taste for traditional foods, and the financial prioritisation of vacations over equipment for bush skills. Trapping for fur, and other fur skills became unattractive, and fur trade culture has diminished (Pugh 1972).

Some traditional practices have been preserved; traditional Cree handicrafts are in high market demand, and so enjoy 87% and 95% transmission in indigenous women of the Moose Factory and Peawanuck villages respectively (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997). There are also some accounts of indigenous cultural ‘renaissances’ where the youth engage with ‘Pan-Indian’ music genres and there is community wide scrupulous monitoring of the decline in cultural appreciation (Salisbury 1986). While this awareness is key to the persistence of an indigenous identity and empowerment in a North-American dominated world, they do not prioritise interaction with the environment as camping, dog handling and fur skills, which see less transmission in Cree women (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997). Salisbury (1986) cites the transition in the Cree from seven, isolated villages (bands), to considering themselves as part of one united Cree ‘homeland’. This unification and salience of cultural identity may bring their existence into a political dimension, and out of their local realities and environment. Hence, this cultural ‘renaissance’ could be considered superficial when discussing the Cree’s relationship to their environment.

The industrial values and market demands promoted through formal education mean that environmental maintenance and care are generally also disregarded. The status of the natural learning environment is vital for traditional pedagogy. The Karuk people cite the loss of salmon stocks, and other organic materials for basket weaving and traditional foods, as fundamental to the decline in traditional lifestyles in the younger generation. The restrictions on controlled burning have led to these shortages. Salmon, lamprey and steelhead species have declined in last 20 years due to the building of dams and hydro-electric projects (REFERENCE). ‘You’ve got to have fish to teach them how to fish…’ is a cogent statement from one of the elders in Willette and Noorgard’s research (2016). With 90% of spawning habitats blocked by dams, the regeneration of salmon stocks is prevented, and with it, the reproduction of cultural salience, use and value of salmon in the Karuk culture. Environmental degradation exacerbates alienation in future generations, who will inherit a neglected and dilapidated environment, non-conducive to TEK apprenticeships.

From these geographically diverse examples, we can see how indigenous groups were detached and disempowered from their ancestral environments across the globe. However, these implications were not heterogeneous; structural biases and stratification exacerbated feminine marginalisation.

A rich source of ecological knowledge can be found in the Mizo women of North-East India (Hmingthanzuali and Pande 2009). The intimate and fruitful feminine relationship with the environment fosters respect in traditional economies. This respect was often ritualised and preserved in oral histories, detailing the feminine spirituality of nature (Hmingthanzuali and Pande 2009). Rituals and reverence for female deities such as Lasis and Pi Kawli ensured the cultural salience of the Mizo woman’s importance in environmental integrity and productivity. The mother God, Khuanu, made all that is in the universe, cares and nurtures it, in traditional Mizo understanding (Ralte 2008). Religious education was critical to the domination of Christianity in North-East India, resulting in a decline of reverence for female goddesses, women, and the spiritual mandate to protect the environment.

Further demarcation of women was a product of Mizo gendered labour division and the patriarchal industrialisation. The feminine-eco relationship was cultivated through the gathering of food, fuel, leaves and water. Detailed and comprehensive understanding of jhum seed collection, handling and storage was maintained across generations through mother-daughter transmission. Feminine work within the Mizo was severely impeded by government restrictions on land available for gathering and soaring firewood prices. This causes women to bring their daughters out of education to help them in the arduous treks for collection of firewood. This early withdrawal from education is seem primarily in girls, as education is more valued and required for industrial masculine occupations. Women are therefore overworked within the environment, which does not provide the same lucrative timber due to bans of fire management. Due to the patriarchal organisation of Mizo society (supplemented by the incoming patriarchal missionary teachings), they are prevented from taking part in government led forums for indigenous opinions, leading to further political marginalisation (Ralte 2008).

Returning to the Cree culture, we can see further feminine misfortune in colonial processes. They have seen greater settlement in villages such as Moose Factory and Peawanuck, which contrast to their previously nomadic band distribution, due to compulsory education and integration policies. Instead of whole family hunting parties, where women and children accompanied men to gather bush products, women have been increasingly domesticated. To invest in snow mobiles, expensive new technology which makes harvesting across snow-scapes more efficient, men must spend more time away from their families, whilst women stay at home (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997). This means Cree women are immobilised away from the bush and children spend less time in the presence of a comprehensive milieu of ancestral skills, where both feminine and masculine roles are demonstrated. Hence, the associated market demands that come with sedentary living and education, cause restriction of feminine engagement with the environment.

Indigenous women had visceral and essential relationship with their environments, predisposing them to vulnerability in new industrial education systems, which did not recognise this embodied knowledge. The adoption of Christian values, with a masculine deity, was critical to embodying spirituality from nature, while colonial social biases inflicted structural violence on women through domestication and immobilisation, deprioritizing their education and dilapidating their environment. Gender differentiates educational and industrial experiences, and the resulting actuality of alienation is equally diverged.

  1. Benefits of Industrial Education in People’s Relationship to the Environment

Alienation from the natural environment can have catastrophic consequences, through social marginalisation, cultural decline and environmental disaster. However, the ‘natural environment’ harbours many dangers and resistance to human existence; education may buffer against these risks.

A conspicuous benefit of education includes the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Aiello and Coulbourn et al (2008) conducted a meta-analysis on the practice of hand-hygiene on gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses. They found that the occurrence of gastrointestinal illnesses was reduced by 30% across hand hygiene interventions; the greatest effect seen with the intervention of antibacterial soap combined with hand-hygiene education, preventing 39% of cases. In respiratory illness, an even more dramatic effect was seen, with a reduction of occurrence by 51% in a study by Luby et al. The effect was greater in less developed countries than in more developed countries (Aiello and Coulbourn et al 2008). Hand hygiene practices may be a manifestation of a changing relationship between alienation and environmental perception; people have greater power and agency in avoiding microbial threats when educated.

Education can also influence human vulnerability to natural disasters. Expanding and developing human capacity, through education, may result in greater resilience to disaster, both directly and indirectly. Figure 3 summarises the benefits of education in natural disasters. These skills may enable people’s ability to engage with a wrecked environment in an adaptive and productive way, reducing alienation and vulnerability (Muttarak and Lutz 2014). In the context of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, education was associated with long-term wellbeing post-disaster (Frankenberg et al 2013). However, this effect association is impossible to disentangle from the financial and social benefits of education, which could allow greater agency and flexibility in catastrophe. It is probable the associated survivorship of the educated in the context of tsunami is due to their financial and social capital, rather than cognitive functioning.

Poverty increases vulnerability to natural disasters; the history of colonial policy has been a force for the marginalising and poverty of many indigenous peoples. Not receiving the same quality of private teaching, indigenous people are structurally disadvantaged in education, and are most disempowered within a catastrophe. The environmental dilapidation associated with the loss of TEK, and subsequent global industrialisation, upon educational policy, is a major driver of deforestation, CO2 emissions and pollution. These factors, and more, are popularly recognised by academics and activists as the source of the contemporary global warming trend (Polyak et al 2010, Santer et al 2003, Houghton et al 1993) and hence, at the core of many climatic catastrophes, such as flooding, droughts and high mortality disasters in coastal areas, such as tsunamis (Muttarak and Lutz 2014). In addition, industrialisation and urbanisation (facilitated by education) have created much of the costs associated with natural disasters. Large buildings, energy and nuclear plants pose significant dangers, including injury, pollution and toxic contamination, whereas the smaller constructions and natural economy of pre-industrial living were less precarious and perilous in the context of a disaster.

Education’s effect Evidence Response to disaster
Changing synoptic brain structure, enhancing literacy, numeracy, abstract reasoning and information processing Kandel 2007

Neisser et al 1996

Nisbett 2009

Reynolds et al 2010

Better understanding and cognitive capacity to assess risks, opportunities and innovations to reduce impact of a natural disaster
Improved problem solving skills Moll 1994

Ishiwaka and Ryan 2002

Capabilities to respond and proactively act upon an event
Acquisition of knowledge Thomas et al 1991 Nutrition and health knowledge will promote recovery in individuals and their families
Risk perception Ainuddin et al 2013 Will be aware of risks, and can prepare for them.
Increases earnings Psacharopoulos 1994

Pscharopoulos and Patrinos 2002

Individuals can purchase disaster insurance, live in low risk areas, and quality housing.
Communication networks and information access Cotten and Gupta 2004

Wen et al 2011

Neuenschwander et al 2012

Individuals may be able to access weather information, news reports and disaster relief updates.
Social capital Department for Business Innovation and Skills 2013 Large friend networks exposes you to earlier informal warnings, s well as opportunities to relocate and recover.
Figure 3: Summary of Muttarak and Lutz (2014) benefits of education in natural disasters

These considerations demand recognition of the historical relationship between education and disempowerment within the environment. The sweep of industrialisation across the globe has fostered a new environmental context, where education doesn’t just spread and reinforce imperial rule, but is often absolute necessity for success, prosperity and even survival.

These historical relationships have created the structural context for this modern relationship between alienation and education. The hegemonic stratification of educational experiences, as indigenous people have less access to and success within industrial education (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997, Scaglion 2015) STAT HERE ABOUT INDIGENOU EPRFORMANCE IN SCHOOLS causes greater vulnerability and disempowerment in indigenous individuals, the contemporary solution, paradoxically, may be educational also. The future of the relationship between education and alienation from the environment may see marked change, due to sensitive progression in educational policy.


  1. The Future of the Relationship in Question


  • INDIGENOUS PEOPLE now have literate, educated representatives in many cases (e.g. megan bang)
  • Rewilding and natural education
  • Decolonising education

The dramatic shift from traditional education systems, based on apprenticeship and embodied understanding with the environment, to the enforced assimilation-oriented schooling of colonial history, demonstrates the dynamic and flexible ontology of education around the world. Industrialisation and globalisation have changed environments and cultural value systems so significantly that the revisal of traditional knowledge system, as historically documented in the Karuk, the Cree or the Mizo cultures, is wholly unlikely. However, integrating industrialised and indigenous education could prevent ‘extinction of experience’ both in the developed and the developing world (Nabhan 2016, Soga and Gaston 2016).

Returning to Scaglion’s work (2015), I will illustrate how the repatriation of education curriculums and models in Papua New Guinea and Hawaii can foster decolonised and localised educational experiences in the indigenous population.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Hawaii have presented divergent problems and obstacles for European missionaries, colonialists and educationalists since the 18th century. PNG holds huge linguistic and cultural diversity, due to its heterogenous and isolating topography, that catalysed the formation of many culturally distinct populations. This has lead to difficulties and friction is implementing a national educational system, and white colonisers had little comprehension of local ways of life, and so struggled to develop sensitive programmes. This resulted in uneven penetration of education throughout PNG.

Hawaii, in comparison, had a more homogenous population, in terms of language and centralised social structure, which also shares more parallels with European organisation. Hawaiian ali’i (chiefs), and royalty, were utilised by colonial regime to implement their imperial policies and ensure their own elite status. Two types of schools were implicated, continuing hierarchical structure into industrial legitimacy, though both prioritised European understandings over Hawaiian views. In contemporary Hawaii, unlike PNG, indigenou people are now a minority, and so have less leverage in making educational demands from the white policymakers.

In both nations a top-down, hierarchical administration of education was implemented, with active disdain and neglect of indigenous ways of knowing. Reliance on Western education frameworks continues today, and American-style schooling has become fashionable and an industry in of itself (Mather 1999). This is one manifestation of the neocolonial forces at work in the developing world. Local environmental demands are not considered- instead, Westernised, industrial knowledge is prioritised. However, there are bottom-up movements and political activity that could be the beginning of re-incorporating environmental awareness and significance.

In PNG, The Viles Tok Ples Skul movement provides ‘barefoot’ teachers that instruct in both English and the creole (tok ples), from literacy to local values and customs (Mather 1999, Scaglion 2015). In 1978, Hawaiian was established as the official language of the State (Scaglion 2015), and so local elders were introduced as part-time teachers at school, to facilitate the spread of the language. This exposure to older indigenous people could reduce the generational gap, and cultivate understandings of traditional ways of life in younger Hawaiians. A tactic in Native American education has been to enrol non-native teachers in culture courses, allowing them to deliver culturally sensitive and competent education to indigenous students (McInnes 2017); a similar process could be applied in the Pacific Island context.

These are steps towards an educational framework that is considerate and responsive to local needs. However, many Pacific Islands are still hugely limited by resources and economic capital to prioritise provincial education among its many burgeoning infrastructural demands. This hangover from the over-exploitation of British colonisation has placed PNG, and many other ex-colonies at the bottom of the global economy, and restrained in their ability to reassess environmental relationships. Despite being structurally predisposed to alienation from the environment, these innovations in indigenous pedagogy mean that future education may promote a closer and thoughtful relationship with the environment.

While a revival of bush economy lifestyles is far-fetched, protection and nurture of ecology could reintegrate humans with a recovering environment.



Industruial education produces a econetxt where industrail eductasion is vital to engage with enviornment, after alienation from tarditional ways of life.


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