RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019

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170 Children’s Common Worlds in Times of Climate Change
Affiliation Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group
Convenor(s) Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw (Western University, Canada)
Mindy Blaise (Edith Cowan University, Australia)
Chair(s) Mindy Blaise (Edith Cowan University, Australia)
Timetable Thursday 29 August 2019, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Huxley Building, Room 311
Session abstract Exploring children-climate relations, using creative paradigms, is significant at this time given the growing recognition of global ecological challenges and increasing awareness of the climate-related risks children face (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014; UNICEF, 2007, 2015). There is an urgent need to explore how adults can learn from and with children (Kraftl, 2015), and to identify creative and situated responses to support children’s sustainable living now and as they grow - without perpetuating the colonialism and anthropocentrism of the Anthropocene (Taylor, 2017). This session will address these needs through innovative and creative papers that investigate children’s engagement with climate change related issues in creative, hopeful and generative ways.

The salient theoretical construct for this session is common worlds (Common Worlds Research Collective, 2018). Children’s common worlds consist of the full gamut of complex relationships, traditions, and legacies that they inherit in the places in which they grow up (Taylor, 2013, 2017). Children’s common worlds include children’s relationships with their immediate natural and built environments, with the other human and nonhuman beings that share these same environments, and, in settler societies, with complex cultural, colonial, and environmental historical traditions and legacies. This inclusive feminist framework, developed by geographer Affrica Taylor, resists the nature/culture divide and situates childhoods within entangled human and nonhuman, social and environmental issues and concerns. Unlike the idealized natural worlds usually associated with Romantic Euro-Western traditions of nature and childhood, common worlds are the actual, messy, unequal, and imperfect worlds real children inherit and co-inhabit along with other human and nonhuman beings and entities (Taylor, 2013, 2017).

The session brings common worlds empirical and theoretical discussions into conversation with those of geography to enrich narratives of climate change. Specifically, we invite contributions that engage situated, hopeful, and speculative stories for livable futures within multiple childhood contexts.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2019@rgs.org
1,2,3 for the Ravine: Children as the catalyst for community and environmental regeneration
Cynthia Lopez Valenzuela (Rios Tarango, Mexico)
Sofia Deveaux (Estudio Abierto A.C., Mexico)
Natalia Deveaux (Estudio Abierto A.C., Mexico)
In 2018, a cross-organizational group was formed to join efforts to preserve La Barranca de Tarango as a non-urbanized ravine in the southeast of Mexico City, an area that is legally protected by the city’s government for its ecological and environmental value. For the past decades, these 270 acres have been affected by the rapid population growth in the surrounding area, which now represents 60,000 habitats in 29 adjoined neighborhoods. In this presentation, we will share the ongoing journey of a group of children of two of these neighborhoods divided/connected by a micro-ravine and the river.

In July, we invited children in the community to be part of a summer program build around the thematic topic of ‘The River’, after the summer program we decided to continue to visit the neighborhood once a month to give continuity to the children's program. Our aim is to provide experiences that allow children to reframe the relation they are constructing with(in) the natural world as a foreign place used mainly as a landfill. In spite that we started our engagement with a more formative and adult-led approach, we have noticed how by underpinning the activities on learning about the history of the place and recognizing the how human/animals/insects/plants/rubbish are mutually entangled and affected. Intergeneration -and even interspecies- discussions have been key to develop children’s trust to take ownership of their actions and imaginaries to promote sustainable practices in the wider community, such as reclaiming outdoor areas as public spaces and creating a YouTube channel to share their story.
Thinking pedagogically with the lifedeath of food
Alexandra Berry (Western University, Canada)
Lisa-Marie Gagliardi (Western University, Canada)
This paper brings together two inquiries into the lifedeath of food with young children at a childcare centre in Toronto, Ontario and an experimental studio space with pre-service early childhood educators in Vancouver, British Columbia. In collaboration with young children, educators, and pre-service early childhood educators, these projects attend to the common worlds (Pacini-Ketchabaw & Taylor, 2018) of humans and food through pedagogical and artistic inquiry, amid continual tensions, indigestions and transformations. Through feminist common world methods, we stay with the liveliness of ‘leftover’ food as it decays across time in the communal spaces of the studio and childcare centre, to prompt generative thinking about the entangled consumptive relations between humans and more-than-human others. Weaving together these stories, we rethink our relations with food by blurring the human-induced division between life and death. We imagine lifedeath as a pedagogical provocation that interrogates consumerist logics, which perpetuate anthropocentrism and colonialism, toward a hope for more liveable futures in the midst of ecological decay. Thinking with the pungency of death as an acute reminder of life and becoming, we highlight the vibrant pedagogical possibilities proposed by acts of decay and transcorporeal consumption.

Energising climate change pedagogies
Arooj Khan (University of Birmingham, UK)
Peter Kraftl (University of Birmingham, UK)
It is widely understood that climate change is an ongoing global threat with increasingly localised effects to our environment. Children and young people are often positioned as the next generation of leaders within the public imagination to overcome climate and environmental inactions. Increasingly, academics and third parties alike have identified the need for researchers and teachers to ‘listen to children’s voices’ within an educational and engagement context (Abellero 2008. Anderson 2013. Cutter-MacKenzie and Rousell 2018. Hamilton 2011). More recently, however, critics of (especially) Education for Sustainability have called for alternative ways of thinking and doing climate change pedagogies and of understanding young people’s relationships with the environment (Horton et al., 2015; Kraftl, 2015).

With these alternative ways of thinking and doing in mind, this paper critically reflects upon the findings of a research collaboration between the University of Birmingham and the St Paul’s Community Development Trust in Balsall Heath. As part of a wider Climate Action Network comprising researchers in Canada, Australia and the UK, the project aimed to develop novel ways of thinking and learning about ‘energy’ in times of climate change. We co-developed a range of creative and experimental methods – ranging from model-making with a local science museum, to making art/music via children’s embodied energies, to intergenerational energy walks. These methods were directed towards attempts to tap into the diverse energy histories, technologies and sociabilities of a place like Birmingham – from its rich industrial heritage to the migratory energies that make the city what it is today.

In this paper, we focus on how our findings and creative outputs highlighted how the common worlds inhabited by the children and young people are subject to inter-generational conditions and concerns. We demonstrate how these concerns are inherited and shared between humans and non-human alike, creating complex and non-linear energy engagements that encompass but extend beyond traditional ways of (for instance) learning about renewable energy technologies. Furthermore, the findings suggest that adopting a creative pedagogical approach can help to re-articulate the often complex link between climate change and energy in the local context of a place like Balsall Heath, as well as providing evidence which enables academics and practitioners alike the opportunity to re-think children and young people’s relationships with energy.
Enchanted animism: A matter of care
Jane Merewether (Edith Cowan University, Australia)
Jean Piaget (1929), whose work continues to be very influential in early childhood education, associated young children’s animism with their “primitive thought”, claiming children remain animists until they reach a more advanced and rational stage of development. This presentation proposes a rethinking of that view, pointing to the potential of children’s enchanted animism as a matter of care (Puig De La Bellacasa, 2018), as a way to open a door to an ethic of living more responsively and attentively with more-than-human others. This presentation contends that children’s playful and enchanted animism fosters curiosity, wonder and immersion in and of the world. It allows attentiveness not only to biotic matter such as humans, animals, plants, bacteria, but also to abiotic matter such as wind, rocks and clouds. Listening to children’s enchanted animism, has potential to open humans to their worldly embeddedness. It presents an opportunity for adults to learn from children how to listen not only to humans but also to the more-than-human world. But it means "resisting the force field of child-centredness” (Pacini-Ketchabaw, Taylor, & Blaise, 2016, p. 150) that is so ubiquitous in early childhood education. Decentring the human requires decentring the child and flies in the face of deeply embedded sociocultural understandings held dear by many who work with young children. Decentring the child is not easy for those trained to focus on the child; it needs a conscious effort on the part of adults to be of the world, not just with the child, but doing so opens us to the interrelationships and obligations of all matter, human and more-than-human.

Layers, catastrophes and children´s common worlds
Andre Reinach (Vera Cruz School, São Paulo, Brazil)
What are the possible connections between the concept of layer, the idea of catastrophe that is part of the climate change contemporary imagination and a comprehension that goes beyond the nature-culture divide in childhood education (Taylor, 2013)? Is it possible, in the context of global warming, for children to take that idea of catastrophe as a matter of thought, in Arendt´s sense, without falling in the paralyzing catastrophical narratives of the anthropocene, and avoiding to simply look away as well (Haraway, 2016)?

The present communication aims to follow an inquiry process in which eight year old children of a school based in São Paulo, Brazil, dealt with the idea of layers while digging in the school Yard. The teachers, following up from that experience, began to investigate with the children which worlds existed in the layers they found, and which stories they could possibly tell. Taking the idea that catastrophes produce traces that are kept on layers, the children went through an SF experience (Haraway, 2016) producing with their teachers some graphic representations, intending to figure out what would happen to their cities in case they were ruined by a catastrophe, and which worlds could be recovered from the traces their own lives produced.

Starting from the analysis of this experience´s documentation (Rinaldi, 2005), the communication intends to speculate about those questions, considering that the common worlds that children assemble could be an answer to the challenge posed by the climate change.