Neoliberalism and justice in education for sustainable development: a call for inclusive pluralism

Helen Kopnina*, Brett Cherniak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Commonly conceived, sustainable development is concerned with social and economic equity and maintenance of ecological stability for future generations. The Brundtland Report addresses the ethical principles of intragenerational and intergenerational equity as fundamental pillars of sustainable development. This equity is often defined in economic terms, involving fair distribution of natural resources, and in practice dependent on the workings of a neoliberal market economy. Simultaneously, it is assumed that democratic learning enables students to be critically rational and ethical agents able to make informed choices in regard to sustainability challenges. This article questions whether the benefits of sustainable development should be meant for humans only, and whether concern for environmental sustainability should be limited to the environment’s ability to accommodate social and economic equity. It is argued that the dominant form of pluralism employed within education is essentially anthropocentric, prioritizing social justice over interests of more-than-humans. This article will argue for a bolder move in the direction of inclusive pluralism through eco-representation and reinstatement of education for nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-841
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Issue number6
Early online date15 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


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