Sustainability Learning

Food distances
Underlying all the above research areas are the issues of whether, how, why, and when humans can learn about, and act on, their environmental and social impacts. An important way to create critical human agency - and to understand and act on environmental S&T developments - is to nurture sustainability learning. Thus, I study the development, use, and impacts of learning tools and processes among citizens, communities, workers, and regulators. In fall 2008, I plan to offer a seminar on sustainability learning.

For example, I have already used the concept of food miles to illustrate the theoretical importance of how "missing objects" are made (or not). Information visualization is central to learning. Using food miles, consumers can visualize more readily the environmental effects of the long-distance transport of their foods. In the electronics industry, I am examining (with Chad White) how companies are visualizing the environmental effects of their designs and products, generating new workplace "information politics", and consequently improving their supply chain governance.

More generally, I am investigating a range of experiments with learning processes and artifacts, including the chemical body burden concept, using XRF guns to measure toxics in furniture, ecological footprints, interactive lighting design tools, energy use monitors, and Pesticide Action Network North America’s pesticide catcher. My interest is in the cognitive, social, political, and institutional/organizational facets of these learning processes – and in how the processes can be integrated with policy and decision-making.

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