Identifying Points of Contact and Engagement Between Legal and Environmental Education

Publication Date01 November 2013
AuthorJane Holder
Date01 November 2013
ISSN: 0263-323X, pp. 541±69
Identifying Points of Contact and Engagement Between
Legal and Environmental Education
Jane Holder*
This article explores the shaping and possibly reforming potential of
ideas about sustainability in legal education by drawing up a scale of
environmental education theories, arranged according to their propen-
sity to transform radically university education. The article offers a
critical analysis of current individualist strategies aimed at developing
students' environmental skills, in particular that these hamper oppor-
tunities for universities to develop a broader and more creative agenda
of social change. Applying ideas about how environmental education
communities of practice develop, this article identifies some pockets of
activity seeking to integrate ideas of sustainability into the law curri-
culum, including via environmental law and teaching Wild Law or Earth
Jurisprudence. These issues form part of an on-going debate about how
well law students are being prepared for work in highly challenging
social, environmental, and financial circumstances, against the
backdrop of a broader question about `what are universities for?'
Members of University College London (UCL) have recently participated in
`Green Academy', a programme aimed at encouraging universities to embed
sustainability throughout their teaching curricula.
For UCL, this meant that
*Faculty of Laws, University College London, Bentham House, Endsleigh
Gardens, London WC1H 0EG, England
I am a member of the Higher Education Academy's Advisory Group on ESD, but the views
expressed in this article are my own. I am very grateful to colleagues at the Centre for Law
and Environment, UCL, Donald McGillivray, Sharon Turner, Wendy Maples, anonymous
reviewers, the UCL Green Academy team, and all my environmental law students.
1 The impact of this programme, run by the Higher Education Academy, has been
assessed by A. McCoshan and S. Martin, Evaluation of the Impact of the Green
Academy Programme and Case Studies (2012).
ß2013 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2013 Cardiff University Law School
several academics (including the vice-provost for education), the student
union of ficer f or ethic s and envi ronmen t, and UCL 's direc tor of
sustainability have devoted time to learning about other universities'
experience of absorbing and fostering an environmental learning agenda,
and planning how to do this in UCL, an urban, research-intensive, and
expanding unive rsity. Involvemen t in Green Academy repre sents an
important shift in the direction of UCL's work in this area towards
pedagogy. Previous activity on environmental sustainability focused upon
making improvements to the university's estate through participating in
environmental accreditation schemes such as Eco-Campus,
setting an
institution-wide environmental policy and challenging emission reduction
targets, and participating in the Green League, a high-profile ranking system
which awards unive rsities degree-sty le classifications b ased on their
environmental management and performance.
This snapshot of activity at UCL is replicated at institutions throughout
the United Kingdom at varying degrees of intensity. But this work also forms
part of a global agenda of environmental education aimed at influencing
strongly both the management and planning of estates and encouraging
curricula reform, and thereby fostering potentia lly powerful alliances
between administrators, academics, students, and unions. The prevailing
theme of the agenda is mainstreaming the ideas of sustainability in
educational practice and policy across disciplines. This process has been
supported by the creation of pan-university networks linking up individuals
who are pursuing sustainability (sometimes in the face of resistance or
disinterest) via their teaching, research, and management of university
estates. Some of these networks are developing `communities of practice',
locating and settling ecological thinking within different educational sites,
both physical and disciplinary, and creating a purposeful social movement,
aspects of which pose a direct challenge to current structures and practices of
university education.
The United Nations has been a figurehead for the development of environ-
mental education since designating 2005±2014 a Decade of Education for
Sustainable Development.
The aim of the Decade was to incorporate the
principle of sustainable development (`. .. development that meets the needs
of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their needs'
) by integrating social, economic, and environmental factors into
all aspects of education and learning, with the hope of encouraging `changes
2 An environmental operational and management system for higher and further
education institutions, aligned with existing international and national standards.
3 People and Planet classed UCL as `Upper Second' in the Green League 2010, and
`Lower Second' in 2011 and 2012.
4 UN Resolution 57/254 on UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development,
57th Session, 20 December 2002.
World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future (1987) 8.
ß2013 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2013 Cardiff University Law School

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