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Towards a theory of critical energy literacy: the Youth Strike for Climate, renewable energy and beyond

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 September 2021

Gregory Lowan-Trudeau*
Affiliation:
University of Calgary, Werklund School of Education, Calgary, CanadaCA
Teresa Anne Fowler
Affiliation:
Concordia University of Edmonton, Department of Physical Education & Wellness, Faculty of Education, Edmonton, CanadaCA
*
*Corresponding author. E-mail: gelowan@ucalgary.ca
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Abstract

The Youth Strike for Climate raised important global attention to interconnected climate, energy and environmental issues — it also compelled us to consider what we will do to address these pressing challenges. Developed through consideration of such dynamics, we propose critical energy literacy as an emerging theory that denotes understanding of the social, environmental, political and economic challenges, benefits and impacts of various energy sources, developments and technologies. Critical energy literacy is grounded in critical and decolonising approaches to STEM education; considerations for collaborative multi-, inter- and Trans disciplinary pedagogy; critical place-based inquiry and pedagogy; critical gender perspectives and critical media literacy and engagement. Enhancing societal critical energy literacy will assist with more equitable energy, transit, construction and environmental planning by and for communities, businesses and governments. In this theory-building commentary, we share insights related to and principles for our emerging theory of critical energy literacy which coalesced through personal experience with and previous studies into related initiatives and areas of inquiry, and recent reviews of literature as well as K-12, post-secondary and not-for-profit curricula in Canada with consideration for international contexts. A discussion of renewable energy development and education focused on the Canadian province of Alberta is presented as an illuminating exemplar.

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Article
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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

Introduction

The Youth Strike for Climate brought important global attention to interconnected climate, energy and environmental issues. Inherent within considerations of climate change are the role of energy production, capture, consumption and related policies — highly technocratic areas of consideration. Youth in many areas of the world are more electronically connected and able to independently access climate change related and other environmental information via the internet and other sources than ever before. However, given the overwhelming volume of information currently available and the lack of regular access for some socioeconomically or otherwise marginalised youth to digital and/or non-digital learning resources, finding reliable sources of information regarding climate change, energy and environmental topics while making sense of associated dynamics are daunting challenges for the best of educators and most critically informed youth. As such, we propose that collaborative approaches to critical energy literacy between educators and learners in various community, school and post-secondary contexts will prove beneficial and supportive for youth engaging in related activism and advocacy.

The Youth Strike for ClimateFootnote 1 was a series of interconnected and iteratively inspired activist initiatives around the world that typically involved school aged youth (and other supporters) attending climate-related events, rather than school, on Fridays. The Youth Strike for Climate was initiated by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish secondary school student, in 2018, reached a peak of activities in 2019 and continues to inform related events and organisations today (e.g., see https://globalclimatestrike.net).

In addition to providing a platform for raising global awareness of climate change and other related environmental issues, the Youth Strike for Climate revealed ongoing intersectional prejudices and injustices. For example, explicit and implicit gender violence was expressed by oil and gas industry advocates who created misogynistic imagery and discourse related to Greta Thunberg, founder of the Youth Strike for Climate, in an attempt to discredit the movement (CBC News, 2020). Such manifestations further emphasise well-established historical and contemporary links between extractive resource industries and gendered violence against Indigenous women and girls, in particular, in Canada (Awasis, Reference Awasis, Black, D’Arcy, Weis and Russell2014), Australia (Carrington et al., Reference Carrington, McIntosh and Scott2010), the United States (Lucchesi, Reference Lucchesi2019; Weber, Reference Weber, Geigle and Barkdull2014) and elsewhere. However, Indigenous women such as Winona LaDuke (Reference LaDuke, Black, D’Arcy, Weis and Russell2014) have also risen to become prominent leaders in the climate movement, community-based renewable energy development and related socioecological advocacy and activism.

We approach this theory-building commentary as university-based scholar educators in the Canadian province of Alberta, a well-known controversial centre of oil and gas extraction (Katz-Rosene, Reference Katz-Rosene2017), and promising context for renewable energy production (Kralovic & Mutysheva, Reference Kralovic and Mutysheva2006). This work grows out of previous activist initiatives and related research (Lowan-Trudeau, Reference Lowan-Trudeau2019; Lowan-Trudeau & Fowler, in press). Our sense from having participated in and/or supported the Youth Strike for Climate and other similar initiatives is that leaders and participants alike are building and expressing notable critical energy literacy while thinking about what’s next after/as a result of such activist initiatives. Associated questions arise such as, “What are we protesting not only against, but also towards? And how can we facilitate positive and critically informed long-term change?” In the following, we present critical energy literacy as one possible component of a solutions-oriented approach. We define critical energy literacy as an understanding of the social, environmental, political and economic challenges, benefits and impacts of various energy sources, developments and technologies.

Energy Literacy

Common definitions of energy literacy in both scholarly and government documents acknowledge the scientific, social and/or political aspects germane to understanding energy technologies and systems (e.g., Martins et al., Reference Martins, Madaleno and Dias2020; U.S. Department of Energy, 2017). In our review of energy literacy literature, we also encountered behavioural approaches to energy literacy aimed at encouraging pro-environmental actions as a result of enhanced energy literacy (e.g., DeWaters & Powers, Reference DeWaters and Powers2011). However, overtly critical energy perspectives that explicitly recognise interrelated societal and environmental inequities are somewhat elusive (Delgado, Reference Delgado2016).

For example, in a review of Canadian provincial and territorial curricula focused on critical and Indigenous environmental issues, we found that explicitly critical approaches to energy-related topics were notably lacking in most regions (Lowan-Trudeau & Fowler, in press). In a subsequent review of non-profit educational and post-secondary program descriptions and curricula, we found that, while more overtly critical energy perspectives that bring together the social, political and technical aspects of energy literacy are emerging in some programmes and organisations (e.g., see Carleton University’s Sustainable Energy graduate programs: https://carleton.ca/cserc/academic-programs/graduate-programs-in-sustainable-energy/), many still take a primarily technical/scientific approach. As such, this is an outstanding issue in the field with the potential for significant growth and transformation as has been persistently noted by energy education scholars (Jennings, Reference Jennings2009).

Moreover, we found that energy education programmes developed by independent non-profit groups such as the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-Operative (TREC; www.trec.on.ca), an organisation that facilitates community-based renewable energy developments, often present more critical energy perspectives and intersectional voices reflective of environmental justice (Pellow, Reference Pellow2017), just sustainability (Agyeman, Reference Agyeman2008) and just transition (Newell & Mulvaney, Reference Newell and Mulvaney2013) paradigms than those that are closely affiliated with and/or funded by governments or the oil and gas industry. For example, Inside Education, a natural resource and environmentally oriented non-profit educational organisation in the province of Alberta — Canada’s oil and gas industry hub — lists both the Government of Alberta, a predominantly conservative and pro-fossil fuel entity and several oil and gas corporations, among others, as “partners” on their website (see https://www.insideeducation.ca/partners/). Unsurprisingly, much of the energy related information that is shared as a potential resource for teachers and students presents a neutral or even supportive perspective on, for example, Alberta’s infamous oil/tar sands (e.g., https://www.insideeducation.ca/learning-resources/classroom-learning-resources/elementary-school/#oil-sands-field-trips). These iterative insights led us to discuss and consider possibilities for more critical approaches to energy literacy.

Critical Energy Literacy

In consideration of the trends and dynamics described above, we propose critical energy literacy as an emerging theory that denotes critical understanding of the social, environmental, political and economic challenges, benefits and impacts of various energy sources, transportation technologies and construction technologies including, but not limited to wind, solar, passive, small- or large-scale hydro, tidal, geothermal, oil and gas, coal and nuclear. As a theory, critical energy literacy will assist with the articulation and exploration of the relationships between interrelated phenomena (Anfara & Mertz, Reference Anfara and Mertz2006).

Similar to related concepts with roots in critical theory such as critical media literacy (Kellner & Share, Reference Kellner, Share, Steinberg and Macedo2007; Robertson & Scheidler-Benns, Reference Robertson and Scheidler-Benns2016), critical energy literacy leads us to not only identify but also to challenge and strive to address intersectional inequities in society. For example, adopting a critical energy lens may assist in identifying the past, present or projected socioenvironmental impacts of or benefits for a marginalised community in relation to a given energy project. As such, critical energy literacy is resonant with, but distinguished from, similar concepts such as critical environmental justice (Pellow, Reference Pellow2017) and just sustainability (Agyeman, Reference Agyeman2008) by its specific focus on energy.

Facilitating critical energy literacy may prove challenging for educators at various levels in a range of contexts (K-12, post-secondary, community) tasked with fostering such understanding for their students, as they themselves may be more versed in certain areas of energy literacy than others (e.g., scientific/technical vs. social). In response, a small, but increasing number of educational resources and programmess for educators, grassroots community organisers and professionals working in science and/or policy settings have been developed to promote more comprehensive understanding of energy sources, challenges and possibilities.

Emerging principles of critical energy literacy

Reflective of the aforementioned dynamics and influences, critical energy literacy is theoretically framed by scholarship in the areas of critical and decolonising science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; considerations for collaborative multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary pedagogy; critical place-based inquiry and pedagogy; critical gender perspectives and critical media literacy and engagement.

Critical approaches to STEM

Building on the foundational work of scholars such as Aikenhead and Ogawa (Reference Aikenhead and Ogawa2007) and Barnhardt and Kawagley (Reference Barnhardt and Kawagley2005), the growing field of critical STEM education provides key insights for critical energy literacy. For example, Bullock (Reference Bullock2017) rightly asks whether prioritising universal STEM education is indeed a remedy for socioeconomic disparity or simply a tool to further reinforce societal hierarchies. Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars alike are also considering the colonial connotations of conventional STEM research and education as well as alternative, decolonised paths forward (Bang & Medin, Reference Bang and Medin2010; Lowan-Trudeau, Reference Lowan-Trudeau2017). They also exhort educators and researchers to deeply consider the interconnection of critical social, environmental and technological phenomena (de Freitas et al., Reference de Freitas, Lupinacci and Pais2017).

Collaborative approaches

Important questions also arise in both educational and research contexts when considering how to best bring together disparate bodies of knowledge through multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary approaches (Bernstein, Reference Bernstein2015; Choi & Pak, Reference Choi and Pak2006). Reflective of similar models of cultural interaction such as multi, inter and transculturalism (Welsch, Reference Welsch, Featherstone and Lash1999), multi- and interdisciplinary approaches are based on the maintenance of disciplinary boundaries — multidisciplinary approaches promote sharing between knowledge systems for mutual consideration while interdisciplinary approaches go further to seek possible points of convergence or integration, but not hybridity (Lowan-Trudeau, Reference Lowan-Trudeau2015). Transdisciplinary approaches transcend disciplinary boundaries to create new hybrids that incorporate tailored elements from traditional fields (Bernstein, Reference Bernstein2015; Reid et al., Reference Reid, Greaves and Kirby2017). While multi- and interdisciplinary pedagogical approaches incorporate the breadth of knowledge of collaborating educators and their associated knowledge systems, transdisciplinary approaches require individual educators to acquire and foster focused depth of understanding by bringing together discrete fields in relation to a complex topic. As such, with consideration for the dynamics described above and in light of the experiences of those who have made initial attempts in the area of critical energy education (e.g., Henderson, Reference Henderson, Deer, Falkenberg, McMillan and Sims2014), a specific consideration for critical energy literacy is whether it is better to promote multi- or interdisciplinary collaboration between individual educators from discrete subject areas or to develop pre- and in-service training opportunities for a new group of individuals capable of serving as transdisciplinary energy educators. However, a dichotomous approach of this nature may be inappropriate with a more balanced solution lying somewhere along a multi-inter-transdisciplinary continuum.

Context and place

Considering the role of context and place in pedagogy and inquiry is also central to critical energy literacy. Greenwood’s (formerly Gruenewald) (Reference Gruenewald2003) early conception of a critical pedagogy of place exhorts educators to deeply consider their sociocultural, geographical and ecological contexts through concepts such as decolonisation and re-inhabitation while facilitating similarly critical consciousness for their students. Greenwood’s work has led to numerous responses, heated debate and a substantial amount of iterative scholarship that further incorporates concepts such as reconciliation (Bowers, Reference Bowers2008; Greenwood, Reference Greenwood2008; Lowan-Trudeau, Reference Lowan-Trudeau2017; Scully, Reference Scully2012; Stevenson, Reference Stevenson2008). Tuck and McKenzie (Reference Tuck and McKenzie2015) also critically consider place and encourage researchers to directly acknowledge and incorporate place and context in our work in connection with socioecological relationships and Indigenous topics in particular.

Critically considering and engaging with media

The central role of popular, social and digital media upon our collective awareness and understanding of various energy technologies (Brady & Monani, Reference Brady and Monani2012; Hodges & Stocking, Reference Hodges and Stocking2016; Walker & Christidis, Reference Walker and Christidis2018) is a salient consideration for critical energy literacy. As critical media literacy and environmental communication scholars emphasise, popular media in particular not only influences us — it may also explicitly and implicitly express the beliefs and perspectives of the journalist, publisher and/or broader societal context (Kellner & Share, Reference Kellner, Share, Steinberg and Macedo2007; Milstein et al., Reference Milstein, Pileggi and Morgan2017; Takahashi & Rosenthal, Reference Takahashi and Rosenthal2018). Moreover, critical assessment of environmentally related media also reveals opportunities to actively engage with popular, social and digital media in order to shift discourses and expand societal understanding of a given issue, whether energy related or otherwise (Lowan-Trudeau, Reference Lowan-Trudeau2019, Reference Lowan-Trudeau2021; Milstein et al., Reference Milstein, Pileggi and Morgan2017). For example, educators in a range of K-12, post-secondary or community contexts can facilitate energy-related critical media literacy exercises that prompt learners to consider the subtle or overt influences of a publisher, author or funder on a given media artefact (e.g., print, digital text, audiovisual) in seeking to identify implicit, explicit or null/missing (Eisner, Reference Eisner2002) messages and associated discourses therein.

Critically considering gender dynamics

Awareness and attention to gender dynamics is also germane to critical energy literacy. As noted by Maina-Okori et al. (Reference Maina-Okori, Koushik and Wilson2018), intersectional approaches that consider gender alongside other sociocultural factors such as age, ability, culture, language and ethnicity must be part of contemporary environmental education initiatives. A critical gender perspective leads us to question who is benefitting from a particular project or technology as well as who is leading, oppressing others or being oppressed themselves? Such an approach may also assist us in identifying and exploring gender roles and dynamics in various energy industries, developments and educational organisations — considering who is or isn’t assuming occupational or leadership roles (Pearl-Martinez & Stephens, Reference Pearl-Martinez and Stephens2016). For example, while keeping in mind historical and ongoing patriarchal dynamics within environmental activist and education contexts (Breunig & Russell, Reference Breunig and Russell2020) and the disproportionate impacts of climate change upon women globally (Gough & Whitehouse, Reference Gough and Whitehouse2020), an increasingly notable number of community-based environmental organisations are led by women (Kaplan, Reference Kaplan2019; Taylor, Reference Taylor2014). This dynamic is also reflected in the Youth Strikes for Climate movement which, as previously noted, was initiated by Greta Thunberg with many other young women taking the lead on regional initiatives (Kaplan, Reference Kaplan2019).

In the following section, we consider renewable energy development and education in the context of the Canadian province of Alberta as an illuminating exemplar of critical energy literacy.

Renewable Energy in Alberta, Canada

Amid growing concern regarding climate change, environmental degradation from non-renewable energy sources and fluctuating resource markets, renewable energy development has rapidly expanded across Canada and around the world — solar panels, windmills, geothermal wells and small-scale run-of-river hydroelectric generators have increasingly appeared across the Canadian landscape. Larger scale renewable energy projects by private corporations and governments typically replace non-renewable energy sources such as oil, gas and coal, but may not result in ostensibly noticeable effects upon the target population’s environmental awareness and energy use; for example, in Calgary — a city of approximately 1.3 million people in southern Alberta — many people may be completely unaware that their light rail transit (LRT) system, the CTrain, is entirely powered by energy drawn from large windmill installations in rural areas south of the city (Grieco, Reference Grieco2015). In contrast, smaller scale projects are typically intended to directly serve the needs of those in the immediately surrounding area while also providing increased economic, environmental and in the case of Indigenous communities, political sovereignty rooted in traditional environmental values and local geographical, meteorological and ecological knowledge (Bargh, Reference Bargh2010, Reference Bargh2012; Henderson, Reference Henderson2013; Hoicka & McArthur, Reference Hoicka and MacArthur2018; Lipp et al., Reference Lipp, Tarhan and Dixon2016). Given immediately visible changes to the surrounding landscape and infrastructure, community members are commonly more aware of such initiatives.

An emerging group of educators in a range of community, school and post-secondary contexts in Alberta and beyond are attempting to respond to such trends by providing students with both technically and critically informed information related to renewable energy through a variety of pedagogical strategies (Henderson, Reference Henderson, Deer, Falkenberg, McMillan and Sims2014; Jennings, Reference Jennings2009; Jennings & Lund, Reference Jennings and Lund2001; Liarakou et al., Reference Liarakou, Gavrilakis and Flouri2009). Although some educators must rely upon theoretical information, classroom-friendly micro models, and examples of projects in relatively distant locales, an increasing number of K-12 schools, post-secondary institutions, non-profit organisations and Indigenous communities are developing in situ renewable energy installations which both serve their electrical needs and provide experiential, place-based teaching and learning opportunities for educators and students alike.

For example, 36 schools in Alberta benefited from a funding initiative by the previous New Democratic Party (NDP) government to install solar panels and other renewable energy technologies on their roofs and surrounding grounds (Government of Alberta, 2016). Installations of this nature provide experiential learning opportunities for educators and students. For instance, some schools have ensured that digital readings from the solar panels or similar are prominently displayed so that students can observe the energy produced in real time (Max, Reference Max2018). The long-term benefits of schools offsetting not only environmental but also economic costs through such installations are also being recognised by communities such as Wetaskiwin in central Alberta (Max, Reference Max2018). Taken together, these dynamics provide strong opportunities for educators to engage their students in technically as well as critically oriented activities and discussions. As such, in situ installations offer a wide array of learning opportunities.

Elsewhere, T’Souke First Nation on Vancouver Island in neighbouring British Columbia is a recognised leader in community-based renewable energy development; extensive solar panel installations have allowed the community to gain increased energy, economic and environmental sovereignty while creating in situ renewable energy-related learning and training opportunities for youth and other community members that support, reflect and extend the community’s traditional environmental values (CBC News 2020; Kimmett, Reference Kimmett2009; Ozog, Reference Ozog2012). T’Souke First Nation’s successes have inspired Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and governments across British Columbia (Ozog, Reference Ozog2012) and the rest of Canada with similar projects arising more recently in Alberta through a now defunct funding initiative that was also introduced by the previous NDP government (Government of Alberta, 2018; Wilt, Reference Wilt2018).

Despite such promising developments, the combined social, political, ecological and technical aspects of renewable energy development (Jaffar, Reference Jaffar2015) present significant challenges for interested educators who may be grounded in one relevant disciplinary area, but not another (Henderson, Reference Henderson, Deer, Falkenberg, McMillan and Sims2014; Kandpal & Broman, Reference Kandpal and Broman2014; Liarakou et al., Reference Liarakou, Gavrilakis and Flouri2009). For example, while a science educator may be familiar with the technical and ecological aspects of solar, wind or geothermal power, they might struggle with social or political considerations such as government policies regulating whether or not individuals or communities can be reimbursed for excess power generated by their installation that is directed back into the electrical grid — a process commonly known as feed-in-tariffing (FIT) or reverse metering (Stokes, Reference Stokes2013). Conversely, social science educators may be interested and well versed in the sociopolitical aspects of renewable energy initiatives but lacking in technical or environmental expertise.

In consideration of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action (2015) and other educational mandates such as the Association of Canadian Deans of Education Accord on Indigenous Education (2010) and Alberta’s new Teaching Quality Standards (2018) which emphasise Indigenous perspectives, educators might also be interested in exploring the recent rise of renewable energy developments by Indigenous communities across Canada (Henderson, Reference Henderson2013; Krupa et al., Reference Krupa, Galbraith and Burch2015; Laboucan-Massimo, Reference Laboucan Massimo, Christian and Wong2017; Lowan-Trudeau, Reference Lowan-Trudeau2019; Ozog, Reference Ozog2012) with their students. However, as documented by Greg’s research in this area (Lowan-Trudeau, Reference Lowan-Trudeau2019), such educators may find themselves lacking in relevant cultural awareness and an adequate understanding of associated Indigenous political, economic, land and environmental rights.

Cultural, political and geographical contexts are key considerations for renewable energy educators. For example, the province of Alberta provides a particularly interesting base from which to conduct this inquiry. Geographically, in arguable contrast to its reputation as a centre of oil and gas development, Alberta is recognised as a region well suited to renewable energy development due to its natural abundance of wind, sunshine and rivers descending from the Rocky Mountains (Kralovic & Mutysheva, Reference Kralovic and Mutysheva2006). Politically, amidst a shift from the longstanding rule of the Progressive Conservative Party to the NDP in 2015, and subsequent return to a conservative government in 2019, support for non-renewable energy sources was maintained. However, similar to the federal (Government of Canada, 2015) and other provincial governments (Province of British Columbia 2015; Independent Energy System Operator, 2018), Alberta’s NDP government established significant funds to support the previously mentioned renewable energy initiatives by Indigenous communities (Government of Alberta, 2018; Wilt, Reference Wilt2018) and solar power installations on 36 public school sites (Government of Alberta, 2016). This is especially notable due to the recent crash in oil prices that resulted in widespread job losses in Alberta along with a desire on the part of many in the oil and gas industry to refocus their skills in more sustainable fields (McGarvey, Reference McGarvey2017). Such trends may also introduce opportunities for assessing and addressing gender diversity, or lack thereof, in Alberta’s energy industries (Pearl-Martinez & Stephens, Reference Pearl-Martinez and Stephens2016).

Youth in Alberta have also been proactive in building societal critical energy literacy through climate and renewable energy-related advocacy and activism. For example, Student Energy was formed in Calgary in 2009 by a trio of students at Mount Royal University (studentenergy.org). It has since expanded to include chapters across Canada and internationally with a consistent focus on climate and energy justice.

Despite or perhaps due to the aforementioned political changes, socio-economic trends and geographical positioning, environmental education scholars Jickling (Reference Jickling2003) and Niblett (Reference Niblett2008) might suggest that critical energy educators in Alberta must remain prepared to address lingering tensions between those supportive of conventional energy and those more interested in renewables. With the shift back to a conservative government in 2019, this is a particularly interesting time to consider such dynamics.

It is also important to acknowledge that renewable energy developments are not problem-free solutions that will solve all of the planet’s climate, pollution and socio-economic injustice woes without certain impacts. A range of interconnected social, economic, political, technical, health and ecological challenges have also arisen (Bargh, Reference Bargh2010; Richards, Noble & Belcher, Reference Richards, Noble and Belcher2012; Stokes, Reference Stokes2013) along with debates regarding, for example, the impact of large windmills on birds and human health (Liarakou et al., Reference Liarakou, Gavrilakis and Flouri2009; van der Horst, Reference van der Horst2007; Walker & Christidis, Reference Walker and Christidis2018). Some might also advocate for both pursuing renewable energy development and reducing general energy dependency as the best way forward (Lowan-Trudeau, Reference Lowan-Trudeau2019).

The grassroots efforts of individuals and smaller community groups in a variety of geographic and economic contexts must also be considered in relation to varying regional, provincial and federal policies guiding or impeding renewable energy development and implementation (Hoicka and McArthur, Reference Hoicka and MacArthur2018). Compounding the aforementioned challenges is the fact that critical renewable energy education is a distinctly underexplored area of both research and practice (Jennings, Reference Jennings2009), leaving educators with limited guidance, technical training and networking opportunities. As such, it is a key area that may be better understood if approached through a lens of critical energy literacy.

Conclusion

Developed through consideration of the dynamics presented throughout this article both related to and extending beyond the Youth Strike for Climate, we proposed critical energy literacy as an emerging theory that denotes understanding of the social, environmental, political and economic challenges, benefits and impacts of various energy sources, developments and technologies. Our discussion of critical energy literacy was further grounded in critical and decolonising approaches to STEM education; considerations for collaborative multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary pedagogy; critical place-based inquiry and pedagogy; critical gender perspectives and critical media literacy and engagement. Enhancing societal critical energy literacy will assist with more equitable energy, transit, construction and environmental planning by and for communities, businesses and governments. In this article, we shared insights related to and principles for critical energy literacy based on recent reviews of literature as well as K-12, post-secondary and not-for-profit curricula in Canada with consideration for Indigenous, non-Indigenous and international contexts. Our discussion of energy development, education and critical energy literacy focused on the socioenvironmentally complex Canadian province of Alberta as an illuminating exemplar.

The Youth Strike for Climate brought important sustained attention to issues of energy and environmental justice across Canada and around the world. As educational scholars, we must recognise, make space for and seek opportunities to support, collaborate with and learn from youth who are continuing with this important work through advocacy, activism and education. We continue to refine our emerging theory of critical energy literacy and related considerations through ongoing interviews with critical energy educators across Canada; future research that engages more directly with youth perspectives on and experiences with developing critical energy literacy would also prove insightful. We look forward to further opportunities for scholarship and practice.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Insight Grant (#435-2019-0238).

Footnotes

*

The online version of this article has been updated since original publication. A notice detailing the change has also been published

1 Also called the School Strike for Climate, Fridays for Future, and Skolstrejk för klimatet, among other terms (Verlie & Flynn, Reference Verlie and Flynn2020).

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