From the Big Bang to a sustainable earth community: working with the universe story in Australian community and tertiary education

Jobson, L 2014, From the Big Bang to a sustainable earth community: working with the universe story in Australian community and tertiary education, PhD Thesis, Education, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title From the Big Bang to a sustainable earth community: working with the universe story in Australian community and tertiary education
Author(s) Jobson, L
Year 2014
Abstract In the context of increasing concerns about the health of the planet, this thesis set out to explore approaches that aim to empower people to preserve the life support systems that sustain not just humans but all living things. Inspired by the work of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, the thesis examines the proposition that gaining a broader sense of the cosmos and Earth can encourage humans to fundamentally re-think and value all of life in more celebrated, ethical and mutually beneficial ways. The separate and combined work of Berry and Swimme is large and complex, but it is best exemplified in The Universe Story (1992), in which Berry and Swimme propose a respectful appreciation of the limitations of objective science that can transcend the dualisms that currently divide science and spirituality, and that perceive humans as separate from ecosystems and nature. This, in turn, can lead to the adoption of what they have called a ‘functional cosmology’, which conceives of all life as being subjective and interactive.

While the author has aimed to distil the work of Berry and Swimme into a concise set of concepts for the purposes of this study, the thesis does not aim to critique the work itself. Rather, the thesis explores a range of attempts that have been made in Australian community and tertiary educational contexts to put into practice the ideas put forward by Berry and Swimme. This thesis critically examines these efforts in order to ascertain the work’s applicability and effectiveness across local social contexts, and the problems that arise in the attempts of four contrasting Australian educational contexts which work with ideas derived from Berry and Swimme, either directly or indirectly. The thesis is based on conversations with people within those educational contexts about how they have interpreted and worked with ideas selected from the body of work of the two theorists. The researcher was particularly interested in the extent to which these people are able to relate ideas taken from Berry and Swimme to their daily life practices. The focus on consciously changing daily practice led the researcher to adopt a phenomenological/critical hermeneutic approach to the research design. A blend of qualitative and quantitative research methods was used to enable the education participants to express their thoughts and feelings in a range of ways. Based on a wide-ranging review of international literature on ecological education, the researcher selected work that seems to complement or fill gaps in the work of Berry and Swimme. Ideas taken from selected scholars are brought into a final discussion of what can be learnt from the examination of attempts made to work with the ideas of Berry and Swimme in Australian settings.
Degree PhD Thesis
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Education
Keyword(s) Animal welfare
big history
biological systems
biosphere
cosmology
ecology
education
emotions in animals
environmental ethics
environmental protection
environmental responsibility
evolution
global environmental change
human-animal relations
intersubjectivity
philosophy of nature
science
spirituality
system theory
transformative learning
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Created: Fri, 22 Aug 2014, 14:11:20 EST by Denise Paciocco
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