Taking risks

Exploring ecofeminist, climate-just popular education


  • Astrid von Kotze University of the Western Cape and University of KwaZulu-Natal https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4720-4639
  • Shirley Walters University of the Western Cape




Popular education, ecofeminism, climate justice, risk, Nature


The climate catastrophe is a clarion call to humanity to change how we live. How do radical popular educators respond to this call? We ‘join the dots’ using climate justice, ecofeminism and our own insights from our engaged activist scholarship as theoretical positions to explore this question.  Dominant Western worldviews which separate humans from other life forms contribute to ecological degradation.  For climate justice, this hard-wired worldview needs to be disrupted. Drawing on multiple examples from Africa, we conclude that ways to do this require the foregrounding of cognitive justice which includes recognising the validity of multiple knowledges, learning from others and supporting communities’ in their struggles for reparation, reclamation and conservation of their land. These actions can be amplified in engagements which disrupt the unsustainable behaviour and policies of the wealthy. We argue that radical popular education in these times is climate just and ecofeminist.


Metrics Loading ...


Adichie, C. (2018). The danger of a single story. [video]. https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

Brody, H. (2002). The other side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers and the shaping of the World. North Point Press.

Burt, J. (2020). Cognitive justice and environmental learning in South African social movements. (Unpublished doctoral thesis). Rhodes University

Butterwick, S. & Roy, C. (Eds.). (2016). Working the margins of community-based adult learning: The power of arts-making in finding voice and creating conditions for seeing/listening. Sense Publisher.

Chambers, R. (1983) Rural Development. Putting the last first. Longman.

Chiponda, M. (2022). Grassroots women and energy sovereignty. New Agenda, Vol. 83, 62-65. https://hdl.handle.net/10520/ejc-nagenda_v2022_n83_a13

Clegg, J. (2021). Scatterling of Africa. Pan Macmillan.

Coalition for Fair Fisheries [CFFA]. (2021, March 2). Fight against the installation of a steel plant in Bargny: Women fish processors change their strategy. https://www.cffacape.org/news-blog/fight-against-the-installation-of-a-metallurgical-plant-in-bargny-women-fish-processors-change-their-strategy

Cock, J. (2018). Writing the Ancestral River. A biography of the Kowie. Johannesburg.

Crowther, J., Galloway, V., & Martin, I. (Eds.). (2005). Popular Education: Engaging the academy. International Perspectives. National Institute of Continuing Education (NIACE).

Crowther, J., Martin, I., & Shaw, M. (Eds.). (1999). Popular Education and Social Movements in Scotland today. National Institute of Continuing Education (NIACE).

Dawson, A. (2022, April 1) Give Back Stolen Land. Great Transition Network. https://greattransition.org/gti-forum/conservation-dawson

de Sousa Santos, B. (2014). Epistemologies of the South: Justice against epistemicide. Routledge.

de Sousa Santos, B. (2018). The end of the cognitive empire: The coming of age of epistemologies of the South. Duke University Press.

Dilworth, C. (2010). Too smart for our own good, The ecological predicament of humankind. Cambridge University Press.

Glazebrook, T. (2017). Feminist intersections with environmentalism and ecological thought. In A. Garry, S. J. Khader, A. Stone (Eds.) The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy (pp. 432-446). Taylor and Francis Group.

Gough, A., & Whitehouse, H. (2019). Centering gender on the agenda of environmental education re- search. The Journal of Environmental Education, 50(4-6), 332–347.

Holifield, R., Chakraborty, J. & Walker, G. (Eds.). (2017). The Routledge handbook of environmental justice. London: Routledge

Institute for Global Development [IGD]. (2021). A regenerative ethic for gender just transition with Ariel Salleh – Gender and Just Transitions Series. UNSW. Sydney.

Institute for integrative science and health. (n.d.). Two-Eyed Seeing. http://www.integrativescience.ca/principles/twoeyedseeing

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]. (2022). Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (Eds.)]. Cambridge University Press.

Klein, N. (2022, March 1). Toxic Nostalgia, From Putin to Trump to the Trucker Convoys War is reshaping our world. Will we harness that urgency for climate action or succumb to a final, deadly oil and gas boom? The Intercept. https://theintercept.com/2022/03/01/war-climate-crisis-putin-trump-oil-gas/

Lange, E. (2018). Transforming transformative education through ontologies of relationality. Journal of Transformative Education, 16(4), 280-301.

Lange, E., Polanco O’Neil, J., & Ross, E. (2021). Educating during the great transformation: Relationality and transformative sustainability education. Andragoška spoznanja/Studies in Adult Education and Learning, 2021, 27(1), 23-46.

Mbatha, S., & Pitt, B. (2021). Black Lion. Alive in the Wilderness. Jonathan Balls Publishers.

Mbuthuma, N. (2022). Resisting extractavism development. New Agenda, Vol. 83, 90-94. https://hdl.handle.net/10520/ejc-nagenda_v2022_n83_a18

Menakem, R. (2017). My grandmother’s hands: Racialized trauma and the pathway to mending our hearts and bodies. Central Recovery Press, LLC.

Mies, M., & Shiva, V. (2014). Ecofeminism (2nd ed.). Zed Books.

Mohanty, C. (2012). Series editor’s foreword. In L. Manicom, & S. Walters (Eds.), Feminist popular education in transnational debates: Building pedagogies of possibility (pp. vii–x). Palgrave.

Motta, S. & Esteves, A. M. (2014) Reinventing emancipation in the 21st century: the pedagogical practices of social movements. Interface: a journal for and about social movements, 6(1), 1-24.

Nadeau, D. (2020) Unsettling spirit. A journey into decolonization. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Ngcuka, O. (2022) Transkei’s Xolobeni community sounds alarm over extractivism, absent ministers and lack of basic services. Daily Maverick. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2022-03-30-transkeis-xolobeni-community-sounds-alarm-over-extractivism-absent-ministers-and-lack-of-basic-services/

Oksala, J. (2018). Feminism, capitalism, and ecology. Hypatia, 33(2), 26-234.

Orr, D. (2004) Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect. Island Press.

Randriamaro, Z., & Hargreaves, S. (2019). Research Report: Women stand their ground against big coal. The AfDB Sendou plant impacts on women in a time of climate crisis. WoMin Alliance.

Sachs, W. (2019). Foreword. In Kothari, A., Salleh, A., Escobar, A., Demaria, F. & Acosta, A. (Eds.) (2019) Pluriverse. A Post-Development Dictionary (pp. xi-xvii). Tulika Books.

Salleh, A. (2017). Ecofeminism as politics: Nature, Marx and the postmodern (2nd ed.). Zed Books.

Shryock, R. (2021) ‘Ecofeminism is about respect’: The activist working to revolutionise West African Farming. The Guradian. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/sep/22/ecofeminism-is-about-respect-the-activist-working-to-revolutionise-west-african-farming

Snively, G. & Lorna, W. W. (2016). Knowing home. BC Open Textbook Project https://greatbearrainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Knowinghomebook1.pdf

South African Food Sovereignty Campaign [SAFSC]. (2020). Climate Justice Charter. https://www. safsc.org.za/climate-justice-charter/

Spring, L. & Clover, D. (2021). Museums, socio-ecological thinking, and activist pedagogies of imagination. Andragoška spoznanja/Studies in Adult Education and Learning, 27(1), 63-78.

Sulcas, A. (2022) Changing what we eat will make or break our planet. Daily Maverick. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2022-04-18-changing-what-we-eat-will-make-or-break-our-planet

Terreblanche, C. (2018). Ubuntu and the struggle for an alternative African eco-socialist alternative. In V. Satgar (Ed.) (2018), The Climate Crisis: South African and global democratic eco-socialist alternatives. (pp. 168-189). Wits University Press.

Thompson, J. (1997). Words in Edgeways. Radical learning for social change. NIACE.

Tokar, B. (2019). On the evolution and continuing development of the climate justice movement. In T. Jafry (Ed.) (2019) Routledge Handbook of Climate Justice (pp.13-25). Routledge.

Van Diemen, E. (2022). What the new UN climate report says about risks and opportunities of a just transition in SA. Daily Maverick. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2022-04-10-what-the-new-un-climate-report-says-about-risks-and-opportunities-of-a-just-transition-in-sa/

Visvanathan, S. (2005). Knowledge, justice and democracy. In M. Leach, I. Scoones, & B. Wynne, (Eds.) Science and Citizens: Globalization and the Challenge of Engagement. Zed Books.

Von Kotze, A., & Holloway, A. (1996). Reducing Risk. Participatory learning activities for disaster mitigation in Southern Africa. IFRC.

Von Kotze, A. (2022). Streetfighters and Philosophers – adult educators responding to crises. In M. C. Mar, L. S. Vidigal, & E. Lucio-Villegas (Eds.), Proceedings of the 12th conference of the ESREA network ‘Between Global and Local – Adult learning and Communities’. ESREA & Coideso.

Walter, P. (2021). Indigenous Peoples Lead the Way: Arts-based Decolonising Educative-Activism for the Survival of Mother Earth. PIMA Bulletin, No. 39. https://www.pimanetwork.com/post/pima-bulletin-no-39-nov-2021

Walters, S. & von Kotze, A. (2021). Making a case for ecofeminist popular education in times of Covid-19. Andragoška spoznanja/Studies in Adult Education and Learning, 27(1), 47-62.

Walters, S. (2022). Learning about climate justice in times of drought and Covid-19, International Journal of Lifelong Education, 41(1), 45-59.

WoMin. (n.d.-a). Developmental alternatives. https://womin.africa/development-alternatives/

WoMin. (n.d.-b). Stories of struggle and Resistance. https://womin.africa/stories-of-struggle-and-resistance/

World Food Programme [WFP]. (2021). Climate change in Southern Africa. https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/WFP-0000129074.pdf




How to Cite

von Kotze, A., & Walters, S. (2023). Taking risks: Exploring ecofeminist, climate-just popular education. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 14(1), 17–33. https://doi.org/10.3384/rela.2000-7426.4324