Listen to Elizabeth Sumida Huaman on FreshEd:

Indigenous Research Methodologies

Indigenous Women and Research

Growth, Environment & Education: Pathways and Choices

by Elizabeth Sumida Huaman
Associate Professor of Comparative and International Development Education
The University of Minnesota

As I write this piece for FreshEd, I think of the struggles for balance that living beings today confront across the globe. This month, the world watches fires burn in diverse placesevents more prevalent due to human overactivity, including unchecked development.

In the 1600s, Felipe Huaman Poma de Ayala described pachakuti, which has since been translated from Quechua as “the world turned upside down.” Pachakuti represents transformation but is dynamic and dependent upon lived conversation. Its beauty is that transformation is an infinite set of cycles, but the kinds of cycles that we engage involve choice. Yet, our choices are troubled by capitalist hegemony within coloniality, cycling into modernity and the global project of development. Likewise, Tim Jackson  addresses metaphor and mantra— “the story of having more” and the alternative of “restorying” life. Jackson also challenges education in planetary design as humanity becomes disposable (and as our environments become erasable). Similarly, Jason Hickel discusses degrowth and delineates capitalism as not just about competitiveness but based on perpetual growth, which places pressure on the planet. Hickel traces colonization from across Europe to American land usurpation and slavery—critiquing capitalism as a system of value creation “that appropriates value from humans and from nature elsewhere.” In my Quechua orientation, I think about the impacts of extractive industry on the lands surrounding mountain deities, climate change, tropical glaciers, and the people whose ontologies are rooted here.

As Hickel discusses lifestyle choices concerning global systems, so have we been altered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Prachi Srivastava  offers analysis of inequities and opportunities in education at this historical moment. She argues that those in the so-called Global South remind us of the networks urgently needed—she asks who is talking to who across geographic, disciplinary, and epistemic distinctions. How are ministries of health and education cooperating with child welfare, local and state infrastructure, and employment? In other words, education is part of an array of interlocking parts, which resonates with Indigenous knowledge systems. To Will’s question— “Do you think the pandemic will fundamentally change education systems worldwide?”—Srivastava’s answer is thoughtful. Lots of things will change, but for how long?

As humans living on this planet, we have responsibilities to think about where we are geographically and cyclically. Which way will we go? Life-sustaining elements out of balance are reminders that “the good life” under coloniality is illusory. But we can also remind ourselves of what it means to sustain earth beauty and what it takes to do this. We are reminded of the pathways that reveal themselves to us and the work that it will take to walk them.

September 1, 2021