Janine Kitson (second from left) with Correctional Service teachers at Long Bay.

Iron bars do not an environmentalist shake

Kit Shepherd
Environment contact, CSTA

Teachers at Long Bay were recently treated to a lunchtime presentation by Janine Kitson, well-known author of regular articles and book reviews in Education, on topics relating to environmentalism.

I had bumped into Janine at a symposium hosted by the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady Stage Economy, where we heard speakers presenting 0n renewable energy, the Transition Town movement and population sustainability. The meeting provided an opportunity to thank Janine for her articles in Education which are always a highlight for me as she writes clearly and succinctly about a wide variety of issues while putting them into a broader context. She was delighted to be invited to visit and speak to education staff at Long Bay gaol.

We met in a small lunchroom outside the prison walls, and the group were addressed with a mixture of formality and relaxed interest.

Janine gave a good wrap to the journal and a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes to get it produced. She emphasised too the value of this independent journal in our age of media monopolies.

Her passion for conservation and environmental education were conveyed elegantly.

She is part of a lineage of educators who were also environmental activists and poured their energy into raising awareness about many concerns — the importance of preserving wilderness and national parks, species extinction, global warming, pollution, food security, energy production and renewables among others.

Janine has experienced politics from the inside (having been on a local council) and advised us of the importance of keeping issues alive in order to bring about political and social change. She made the expansive point that teachers and environmental activists are natural allies, sharing the value of social justice, so both networks need to foster this relationship in order to add strength to their causes.

Discussion following the presentation brought out the interests of the people present: one is an active member of Transition Bondi, part of the global Transition Town movement. This movement works toward local sustainability and building community networks in response to global warming and “peak” resource use.

Others are keenly aware of the need to reduce waste and to promote reduction in use of resources, re-use and recycling. One has a pond in her suburban home garden that supports a frog population and preserves a pocket of nature in an urban environment.

In the prison setting educators have the opportunity to include the theme of environmental sustainability in their teaching curricula — literacy, numeracy, art, music, IT, English to speakers of other languages; in some centres horticulture is taught. Constraints involving security issues and administration unfortunately limit the possibilities for action and training. There are industries involving waste management and food production in correctional centres that offer some scope for sustainability action.

As a result of Janine’s visit we can feel more connected to the broader circle of environmentally aware educators.