I’ve been writing over many years, covering a wide range of topics centering on the need for education systems to respond much more fully and urgently to global challenges and help ensure more sustainable futures, not least for young people alive now, and for generations to come.

Sustainable Education Materials

I’ve also covered the implications of sustainability and ecological perspectives for all aspects of educational paradigm, policy, purpose and provision, and the nature of transformative learning, transformative learning systems and pedagogies.

My other topics include: Education for sustainability history, philosophy, theory and policy, the nature of systemic and paradigmatic change in education, sustainability and institutional learning and change, and the relationship between ecological thought, systemic thinking and an emergent postmodern ecological paradigm.

Latest publication

Planetary Primacy and the Necessity of Positive Dis-Illusion
Sustainability: The Journal of RecordVol. 12, No. 2

Planetary Primacy and the Necessity of Positive Dis‐Illusion

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Latest publications include:

Sterling, S (2019) ‘Planetary Primacy and the Necessity of Positive Dis-Illusion’, Sustainability: The Journal of Record, Vol 12, issue2, April 23rd. liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/sus.2019.29157

Sterling, S. (2019), ‘Becoming ‘learner drivers’ for the future: re-thinking learning and education in a troubled world’, Routledge Sustainable Development Pages, May 2019. (New: URL to follow shortly).

Sterling, S, Dawson, J and Warwick, P, ‘Transforming Sustainability Education at the Creative Edge of the Mainstream – A Case Study of Schumacher College, Journal of Transformative Education, ’Volume 16 Issue 3, July 2018. journals.sagepub.com/eprint/6Yb8rVT5jAvSTV5Z2faa/full

Sterling, S. ‘Assuming the Future: Repurposing Education in a Volatile Age’, in Sterling, S. and Jickling, B. (2017), Post-Sustainability and Environmental Education: Remaking Education for the Future, Pivot Press/Palgrave. palgrave.com/us/book/9783319513218

Some key publications which demonstrate my thinking include:

Sterling, S  (2006) ‘Contrasting paradigms in teaching and learning‘ (a hitherto unpublished short briefing contrasting ecological and conventional approaches to the curriculum).

Sterling, S ‘At variance with reality’ : how to re-think our thinking’ The Journal of Sustainability Education (2014) ‘The State of the Field’ jsedimensions.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Sterling-Stephen-JSE-May-2014-PDF-Ready.pdf

Sterling, S (2011)  ‘Towards anticipative education – learning by design’, in Harding, S. Grow Small, Think Beautiful: Ideas for a Sustainable World from Schumacher College,  Floris Books, Edinburgh.

Sterling, S (2009) ‘Towards ecological intelligence’ in Stibbe (2009) The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy – Skills for a changing world, Green Books, Dartington. arts.brighton.ac.uk/stibbe-handbook-of-sustainability/chapters/ecological-intelligence

Sterling, S (2012) Afterword: Let’s face the music and dance? In Wals, A and Corcoran, PB, Learning for Sustainability in times of accelerating change, Wageningen Academic Publishers.

A short reflective piece I wrote on ‘Re-membering’ was adapted for 2018 book on ‘Wild Pedagogies‘ by Jickling et al – and can be downloaded here.

A substantial paper ‘Winning the Future We Want – the pivotal role of education and learning’ is here. This paper was commissioned by UNESCO in preparation for the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, Nagoya  2014, (marking the end of the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development – DESD).  It was later edited into a shorter published paper (Sterling, S. 2014, ‘Separate tracks, or real synergy? – achieving a closer relationship between education and SD post 2015’, Journal of Education for Sustainable Development. September 2014 8: 89-112).

Lastly, here is material from the well-regarded WWF Scotland project ‘Linking Thinking – new perspectives on thinking and learning for sustainability’ which introduces systems thinking, including an edition for schools. (I have some CD-Roms available with this material – if interested please message me at ‘Contact’).

The nearest thing I have to a ‘manifesto’ is the Schumacher Briefing (which became a best-seller for Green Books):

Sterling, S (2001) Sustainable Education – Re-visioning learning and change, Schumacher Briefing no6. Schumacher Society/Green Books, Dartington. ISBN 1 870098 99 4. (This book has been a best seller for Green Books, and is now regarded as something of a classic!) https://www.greenbooks.co.uk/sustainable-education

Whilst my my doctoral thesis (Sterling 2003) is:

Whole Systems Thinking as a basis for paradigm change in education: explorations in the context of sustainability. http://www.bath.ac.uk/cree/sterling/sterlingthesis.pdf

Here’s the research problem that my thesis tackles:

Why is education as a whole – and environmental and sustainability education in particular – limited in their ability to make a positive difference to the human or environmental prospect by helping assure a more sustainable future – and what bases and qualities of change might lead them to become more transformative in this regard?

Other material based on recent presentations includes:

“The world of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has been forever changed by the outstanding work of Professor Stephen Sterling. In my former role as HEA Academic Lead for ESD, I worked with numerous excellent leaders in this field from across the sector nationally and internationally. The one common element of work led by all colleagues was the reliance on Stephen’s work to form a universally accepted foundation to justify our work.”

Prof Simon Kemp, former HEA Academic Lead in ESD


Recent presentations include:
  • Sterling, S (2018) ‘Triple Change and Sustainability: Re-booting the response of higher education to a different world’, University of Edinburgh, May. youtu.be/wSuHg5CGqXk
  • Sterling, S (2018) ‘Triple Change – Awareness, Alignment, Affect and sustainability education, University of Gloucestershire, June.
  • Sterling, S. Living ‘in’ the Earth…and educational reclamation, Keynote lecture. ‘What’s Going On? Global Fashion Conference’, Centre for Sustainable Fashion/London College of Fashion, University of Arts, London, UK. 31st October 2018. See vimeo.com/307031266
Other presentations links:

About Stephen Sterling

Find more about Stephen’s background; research interests; achievements; and recognition and roles.

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My Materials

Best known for his writing, find out about Stephen’s publications and presentations.

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‘Active retired’ as Emeritus Professor of Sustainabilty Education at the University of Plymouth, Stephen is available for some consultancy.

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“Stephen is an inspiration to the work we do at the Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development. His research, writing, and leadership in the education for sustainable development field have greatly influenced our work and my own thinking. For those of us who work on ESD, Stephen is a leading light and belongs to a select group of pioneers in the important work of educating for sustainability and fostering future generations of sustainability thinkers and leaders.”

Mirian Vilela, Executive Director, Earth Charter International