The November workshop continued questioning how religious, spiritual and ideological beliefs and values, also related to gender, shape interpretations of environmental care and social progress. It aimed at confronting perspectives from research and practice of vocational education (economy, work, technology), adult education (participation, citizenship) and higher education (production of knowledge and professionals), in relation to their local, national and supranational governance. The experimental virtual workshop was organized by the EquJust-research group, SVV-programme, Vocational Education and Culture-research network, Tallinn University, and EquJust partners in E+ global mobility (https://equjust.wordpress.com/collaboration/). The workshop attracted researchers, practitioners and students from Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
Larissa Jögi from Tallinn University, teacher in the joint Foundations and international development of adult education and learning-course (https://equjust.wordpress.com/2021/02/12/foundations-and-international-development-of-adult-education-and-learning/) was hosting the workshop.
In the introduction Anja Heikkinen illustrated the contradiction between environmental care and social progress by contrasting Human Development Index with Ecological Footprint of countries (Global Footprint Network 2021): the social progress of “developed” Global North builds on extreme exploitation of environment and on outsourcing environmental burdens to the “under-developed” Global South.
Anja highlighted the importance of focusing on adult, vocational and higher education: the burden to save human life and conditions for human life is almost exclusively put on the shoulders of children and youth, also in moral and environmental education. Yet the adults with their economic, political and social institutions hold the power to change the future. It is adults with their (gendered) beliefs and values in families, at worksites, in social and economic and political life who set the rules for changing the future. The following sessions discuss, if and how the mainstream policies, practices and theories promote blind and uncritical adaptation to the hegemonic beliefs and values, which maintain unsustainable ways of life in the world of adults.
The topic of the first part of the workshop was Perspectives on social progress from the Global North versus the Global South, whether inside the North or the South. These were discussed through the example of an ESF project Empowering migrants for employment (https://equjust.wordpress.com/2020/12/23/empowering-migrants-for-employment-eme-project-ending-this-year/#more-1787), whose approaches were introduced by Anna Ojapelto, Katriina Tapanila and Satu Heimo from EME-project and EquJust-group.
Researchers Golaleh Makrooni and Nasrin Jinia (affiliated with EquJust) commented and questioned the good practices to empower migrants for employment from the perspective of the Global South, building on their research and experiences.
It seems widely agreed that support of different kinds of representatives of forced migration require more ethnically sensitive and aware approach among host societies, public authorities and NGOS. However, the support measures lack capacity to address the diverse beliefs, values and attitudes and practices in gender relations, which are critical for any other endeavours of mutual integration. A critical issue is engagement of migrant background people having both research and experientially based expertise to inform such activities.
The Global North-centred view on integration and employment of migrants was confronted by Lecturer Samya Saeed from University of Duhok. Comparisons were made to approaches to the huge challenge of refugees and displaced people in Irak Kurdistan. The grassroot-level initiatives rely widely on diverse NGOs which have historical and cultural understanding of the problems. While their experiences would be worth to learn in the global North, the liberation from funding and agenda-setting by the donors from the global North would require move towards direct contacts and collaboration between NGOs, universities, adult and vocational education institutions in global North and global South.
The second perspective to environmental care and social progress was the technological imperative, which was extremely UpToDate due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic to implementation and topics of the workshop. The workshop questioned, how far the emphasis on technological progress and promotion of European values are the salvation both to environmental care and social progress. How far the “universal” values and beliefs of the Global North are compatible with the ontological constraints of the earthly environment and with the wellbeing and rights of all human and nonhuman inhabitants of the earth?
In their presentations, Gabriele Molzberger from the University of Wuppertal and Anja Heikkinen from Tampere University and EquJust-group, argued that the religious belief in technological progress in the Global North has become hegemonic. While its technological salvation gospel seems to deepen the metabolic alienation of humans from nonhuman nature, it may also restrict the potential of finding place-based and traditionally justified alternatives to interpretations about environmental care and social progress in the Global South. The celebration of environmental care and social progress in the Global North is fundamentally dependant on exploiting resources and outsourcing environmental and societal problems to the Global South.
Complementary views were provided by Dr Shafiqul Alam from Bangladesh and Golaleh Makrooni from Kurdistan Iran (both also from EquJust-group). They problematized the sanity of solutionism suggested by the concept of circular economy provided by the Global North, from the perspective of the Global South. Furthermore they reminded about the need to learn from traditional, indigenous solutions in integrating water and energy management, adjusted to the local physical and social environment.
The third perspective to the of impact of beliefs and values on environmental care and social progress in adult, vocational and higher education, focused on (global) governance. Aka Firowz from Stamford University and Mohammed Asaduzzaman from Islamic University in Bangladesh reflected on ways in which relations between governance and education could be understood on the basis of major traditions of Western and Eastern philosophy, focussing on their key values and virtues. They emphasized the importance of learning to practice harmony between diverse ways of life among humans and between human and nature.
Senior Lecturer Hannes Peltonen from Tampere University (International relations) continued by problematizing the contextual and social nature of beliefs and virtues. Global governance requires revisiting traditional beliefs about what is means to “act well” in front of the joint urgent planetary dilemmas.
Teemu Salminen from the Tampere parish reflected on the potential of (Christian) religion to provide moral alternatives to address current global environmental and social crises. To move forward from being a part of the problem, religions should reflect critically their historical role in making it emerge. They should develop versions about faith, hope and love in the context of the Global home, shared by humans and other creatures.
Senior researcher Eeva Kallio from University of Jyväskylä elaborated the concept of wisdom, as a fruitful starting point for discussing alternatives for better future of humans and other entities. This requires deeper understanding about the meanings of wisdom in different religious, cultural and scientific contexts.
The fourth perspective to impacts of beliefs, values and gender on conceptions of environmental care and social progress was introduced by Björn Wallén, the chair of Finnish adult education association (VST). The focus in Björn’s presentation was on the diverse potential and pitfalls of the concept of digital citizenship.
Annika Pastuhov from Linköping University, Satu Heimo and Jenni Pätäri from EquJust-group (all from the collaborative programme Freedom and responsibility in popular adult education, www.vapausjavastuu.fi) problematized the concept of digital citizenship: what kind of collective is it promoting, how digitalization contributes to inequalities among people nationally and transnationally, and what is the responsibility of adult education as an integrated field of research and practice to address digitalization in relation to burning issues of the day glocally.
The workshop also had a pedagogical agenda, especially for the students from course Foundations and international development of adult education and learning, supervised jointly by Tallinn and Tampere Universities. While all participants were exposed to cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary encounters in plenary sessions and breakout rooms, the study circles of the course had the responsibility to host the breakout rooms, to document and report discussions, and to reflect the event as part of their studies.
A joint publication is under making, related to the event and topics. Furthermore, the experiment and experiences are reflected among organizing institutions and networks, in developing future research and study activities.