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The role of public education in governance for resilience in a rapidly changing Arctic

Douglas S Cost, University of Alaska Fairbanks


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Education and learning possess powerful potential in affecting future resilience and sustainable states. Here, I focus on unpacking and examining the connections and feedbacks between social-environmental systems (SESs), resilience, and compulsory education. SESs have been problematized as frequently having a poor fit between environmental change and policy solutions. The last few decades have witnessed global recognition of climate change in the Arctic. This has led to discussion and debate over the role of schools in addressing local knowledge, environmental changes, and community priorities. In Alaska, USA, and other Arctic regions, the role of public schools in improving this fit has been largely overlooked. I hypothesize that, as extensions of governments, public schools in the North American Arctic and other locations offer an opportunity to create better linkages between societies and environments through governance. Secondarily, at the individual level, education is a vital component of resilience, but such education must embrace multiple perspectives in its curriculum to honor and access the diversity offered by local and traditional ecological knowledge and Western methods. Lastly, at the societal scale, schools are an untapped resource with which to meet the challenge of bolstering capacity for adaptation in a time of rapid transformation for Arctic societies.

Key words

governance; public education; resilience; rural schools; social-ecological systems

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087