Connecting Water to Global Citizenship via Education for Sustainable Development

In the next three instalments of the CPGJ blog, we (Elsa Lee and Mary Murphy) will write about our ongoing research into community-based waterway regeneration projects in the UK and South Africa. It is entitled, Connecting Water to Global Citizenship via Education for Sustainable Development (CW2GC), and is funded by the ESRC (Grant number: RG 94581).  Amongst other things, CW2GC seeks to understand if and how the kind of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) that takes place in waterway regeneration projects engenders a sense of being part of a global community, and if this work can act as a means towards critical reflection on ‘global citizenship’ in a time of both ‘slow and fast violence’, to use the words of Nixon (2013). We ask whether acting locally on environmental issues becomes a conduit for engaging politically at a global level.  Our study began in January 2019 and we started collecting data in June 2019. In conducting this comparative study we seek to reveal some of the complexities of these terms, and their tendency for invisibilising and erasing many of the voices they claim to represent. We have remained active as social distance researchers during the COVID-19, and we want to publish these posts now because we believe our research has important social and political implications in the context of the global public health crisis, both in terms of how ethnography can proceed under such conditions, and the importance of understanding our positionality in relation to global risk. It is important to note that what we present here is very much an outcome of our work-in-progress, and as such we welcome critical engagement from readers.

The first instalment of our mini-series provides an overview of our research, describing the aims and the methods we are using to achieve these and will be written by Elsa Lee, the project PI. The second instalment comprises brief descriptions of the three concepts that we are bringing together and why we think they matter. These concepts are hydrosociology, education for sustainable development and global citizenship education. It’s important for readers to note that we do not take these concepts at face value or disregard their potentially problematic nature or their historical origins but we seek to assess their integrity and use-value in contexts where a form of criticality in relation to climate change has never been more urgent. The third instalment is a reflection from Mary written from the field under South African lockdown, about conducting ethnographic research on global issues in the time of pandemic. We would like to acknowledge Jo Dillabough for her helping us to prepare these posts and thank her for her support.