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Ecojustice Education through Pictures

Originally appears in the Fall 2016 issue

AS I BEGAN MY JOURNEY as an educator, I felt pulled in two directions, one toward the well-being of the environment and the other along the path of social justice. My background in life sciences had me strongly planted in the realm of living and non-living things, and yet my work as a teacher had my focus on the little people in front of me and their daily realities. At times, I had a strong sense of having to choose between my two passions, the environment and society, and I always felt discomfort in doing so. Why did the well-being of one have to silence the other? When I encountered the concept of Ecojustice, I finally found a sense of peace in reconciling the two paradigms – in effect, with Ecojustice, we can strive to address the challenges of society and the environment at the same time. Thus, Ecojustice Education is the space of learning about the injustices within society and the environment, and attempting to make change toward well-being.

At the intersection of three selected frameworks1 of Ecojustice, it is important to work with participants to uncover the following goals and understandings of Ecojustice education:
1. Resource access as equitable and respectful of the Earth and all of its inhabitants
2. Critical systems consciousness and stakeholder awareness
3. Sustainability as intergenerational
4. Importance of local and global knowledges and cultures

In order to do this kind of work in education, we might employ and encourage some of the following tools and pedagogies:
• place-based
• systems thinking
• action-orientation
• student-centred knowledge building

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Erin Sperling is a passionate educator, environmentalist and mother. She is a PhD candidate at OISE at University of Toronto as well as a teacher educator in science and environmental education. She has taught in Ontario, England and Tanzania. An urban dweller, she is proud to cycle in the city and keeps trying to win against the squirrels in her small but cheerful garden. This article summarizes a workshop that has been delivered to teacher candidates and teacher educators in Ontario, to introduce them to the concept and enactment of Ecojustice education. It was originally developed by Dr. Hilary Inwood at OISE for teacher educators, and her ongoing work in the field of environmental education should be duly noted. It has since been adapted for delivery with teacher candidates as well as teacher educators, in all curriculum and discipline areas.

Please see for more details on ordering Andrea Curtis’ What’s for Lunch?

1. I have drawn from the theoretical understandings of Ecojustice from the work of Martusewicz, R., Edmundson, J. and Lupinacci, J. (2011). Ecojustice education: Towards diverse, democratic and sustainable communities. New York: Routledge, the Principles of Environmental Justice retrieved from:, as defined by Delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit (1991) and the Canadian legal organization called ecojustice. These three sources provide one particular social and historical understanding of Ecojustice.

2. Jordan, C. (2006). Running the numbers. Retrieved from:

3. Jordan, C. (2009). Midway: Message from the gyre. Retrieved from: http://

4. Denes. A. (1982). Wheatfield: A confrontation. Retrieved from:

5. Curtis, A. (2012). What’s for Lunch: How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World. Red Deer Press: Markham, ON.

6. Menzel, P. & D’Aluisio, F. (2007). Hungry planet: What the world eats. Napa, CA: Material World Books. See also

7. Social Studies School Service. (2016). Hungry Planet.

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