CJERN- the new Climate Justice Education Research Network

By Loz Hennessy, School of Education, University of Bristol

Colleagues across the GW4 have teamed up to form the new Climate Justice Education Research Network (CJERN). This is a new initiative, which loosely builds on the work of the previous CCERN network, but takes an explicitly justice-centred approach. The activities of the new network involve bringing together a core group of researchers from across the GW4 to explore potential collaborations in the field of climate justice education.

What is the aim of this network?

The need for this work emerges from the tendency for the literature on climate change education to focus more on how we teach the Science behind climate change and less on how we grapple with the devastating consequences for human and non-human life and the ethical and political conundrums that are thrown up. PI, Dr Tracy Helliwell, elaborates, “Environmental education research is often framed as a purely scientific issue, which does not consider the unequal societal impacts of the climate and ecological emergencies. Hence, this project aims to develop new justice-focused educational responses.” Loz Hennessy is working on the project as RA to plan, facilitate and report on the workshops. Loz will also complete a literature review of current research at the intersection of environmental education and education for justice which will feed into the scoping report and support the grant writing process. She suggests that one core paper to guide the work will be the recent review of justice in climate change education, led by Carlie Trott – see here.

Workshops so far

On Wednesday 22nd November, we held our first workshop hosted at the University of Bath to brainstorm ideas, with colleagues representing the universities of Bath, Bristol and Cardiff. This was a very productive day, with many potential research directions emerging. Dr Rachel Wilder shared her reflections on the workshop, saying “I feel really delighted to be part of a group of such intelligent, accomplished and kind researchers and I’m excited to see where this leads”. On Thursday 8th February 2024, we met again in Bristol for workshop 2. Our venue was Sparks Bristol, the sustainability hub in the centre of town which is a collaboration between Global Goals Centre and Artspace Lifespace. At workshop 2, we welcomed some additional colleagues, including a delightful delegation from University of Exeter, as well as the wonderful Verity Jones, of UWE, Bristol, who spends one day per week working for Global Goals Centre and hence was able to give us a tour of the space at Sparks to give us inspiration for our work. At workshop 2, we got to know each other better. Emese kindly crafted each participant a beautiful crochet flower to take away from the day. At one point, a participant was heard to say, “I wish every workshop could be like this”.

members of CJERN at the workshops
Idea generation in action CJERN

Forming a community

As a group we agreed that getting to know each other as humans is essential to establishing ways of working together on this topic. Furthermore, getting out of the physical space of the university and spending time outdoors/in other spaces felt an important part of our work together. So as well as the hard work of generating ideas, we also enjoyed a walk around the beautiful city of Bath at our first workshop and explored the exhibitions at Sparks on workshop 2. Sharing food is also important, and we have enjoyed delicious vegan lunches from Green Rocket Cafe and Busy V Bakery.

The CJERN team
Workshop 1 the team in Bath
The CJERN Team
Workshop 2 the team in Sparks, Bristol

The CJERN community currently consists of: Rhian Barrance (Cardiff), Emese Hall (Exeter), Tracy Helliwell (Bristol), Loz Hennessy (Bristol), Lindsay Hetherington (Exeter), Verity Jones (UWE), Shona McIntosh (Bath), Esther Muddiman (Cardiff), Alison Oldfield (Bristol), Sally Palmer (Exeter), Terra Sprague (Bristol/Bath) and Rachel Wilder (Bath).

Going forwards

As a group with influence from numerous disciplines, we hope to find ways to meaningfully centre justice in our research around climate education. We are interested in creative approaches that challenge traditional research methods. As a community, we are hoping to generate multiple bids and proposals for projects/collaborations in a variety of forms. We have intentionally begun the process as a relatively small group to allow for productive generation of ideas, but going forwards we will be open to ideas for potential collaboration, so please do reach out if any of this resonates. You can follow CJERN at https://twitter.com/CCE_research and please get in touch at loz.hennessy@bristol.ac.uk if you are interested in this work.

Related reading:

  1. Education for Climate Justice blog serieshttps://www.ukfiet.org/2023/education-that-listens-to-those-most-affected-by-climate-change/ (this is blog 1 of 4)
  2. Carlie D.Trott, StephanieLam, JessicaRoncker, Emmanuel-SathyaGray, HaydenCourtney & Trevor L.Even(2023)Justice in climate change education: a systematic review,Environmental Education Research,29:11,1535-1572,DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2023.2181265