Transformative learning through prefiguring sustainable futures?

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Trying to make climate-friendly food choices in a not-so-sustainable society can be a difficult task. What conflicts do young people who swim against the current face in their everyday lives and how do they cope with these? How can such prefigurative practice be utilized to promote more sustainable lifestyles and transformative learning?

Maria Ojala has interviewed late adolescents who make climate-friendly food choices to a relatively high degree. She investigates the conflicts that these adolescents experience as well as how they cope with them. Her findings illustrate how prefigurative tendencies among the adolescents can help motivate their engagement through the belief that, even though their individual efforts by themselves might not have a substantial impact on the environment, the adolescents can serve as role models and inspire others through their climate-friendly actions. By experimenting with more sustainable lifestyles, these adolescents’ everyday behavior can become a positive driving force that instills hope in themselves and in others that another way of being and acting is possible. Thus, their actions prefigure a more sustainable future.

Maria Ojala further integrates these findings into the framework of transformative learning to discuss how these conflicts can be included in formal education to teach adolescents how to become sources of inspiration to others. Focusing on positive aspects in climate change education, such as the potential of prefigurative practice, could help young people who experience conflicts to sustain their engagement, while also motivating those who are not active to take important steps towards sustainable living.

Ojala, M. (2022). Prefiguring sustainable futures? Young people’s strategies to deal with conflicts about climate-friendly food choices and implications for transformative learning. Environmental Education Research, 28(8), 1157–1174. 
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