All things are connected

All things are connected

Sunday, 20 September 2015

My own learning pathway | a summary in the third person

My own learning pathway, a summary in the third person

Margaret Burger (van Zwol) is an environmentalist based in Durban.  She completed a bachelor’s degree and then studied education.  As a young activist her first teaching post was with the then Department of Education and Training at Pholela High School in Bulwer in 1975.

Relocating to the city in 1979, and feeling stifled in a strict curriculum environment, she taught Geography at Sacred Heart High School, Oakford Priory, Verulam.  At the same time she studied early childhood education and shifted her focus to this more creative developmental phase of education.

After more than a decade in education, she pursued her passion for working in the earth and started a landscaping and garden maintenance business, Grassroots in Johannesburg.  In 1991 she returned to Durban, combining landscaping, managing a legal office and community work.

Community work through the uMngeni Estuary Conservancy led to involvement in a private public partnership and a two year period mentoring a co-operative small business restoring the riparian zone of the uMngeni Estuary, Durban. Supporting adults in an advisory capacity encouraged the desire to understand how adults learn.  This period on the river became a turning point in wanting to understand how green open spaces are utilised by diverse members of society.  

Margaret completed Master’s thesis on workplace learning at Rhodes University Environmental Learning Research Centre graduating in 2017. The thesis topic is "Working for Ecosystems: An account of how pathways of learning lead to SMME development in a municipal social-ecological programme within a green economy context".

Working for Ecosystems is the eThekwini's municipal model in restoring ecosystems services through invasive alien plant control.  The dual learning pathways for the SMME's entails learning the practice of invasive alien plant control as well as becoming fully fledged contractors.  This is a complex multi-dimensional process with the ultimate aim of assisting in creating sustainable livelihoods in an increasingly urbanised environment.

Umvubu Co-operative early morning July 2008.  Take note of the 'rats tail' grass as appreciation for indigenous grasses

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Margaret Burger (van Zwol) | Field of interest

I was recently asked to describe my field of interest.  So certainly not limited to the explanation that follows, I tried to explain ...

Margaret Burger (van Zwol) | Field of interest | September 2015

Complexity and chaos, theories and practices, changing ways of producing knowledge by becoming the learner and listener, civic ecology, how we learn as a human species, consciousness, capacity and agency, tracing the threads of socio-ecological systems and how they have come to be, as well as how we can assist change in how we regard the world.  Reading and research, finding data through narratives and civic participation. Citizen science, embedded knowledge, sense of place, the nature of cities (as opposed to wilderness) and how we as a species became disconnected from nature to the point where species become extinct and think of nature as a service to be managed. These are questions which require a philosophical and relational approach.

More specifically, and in keeping with my profession, transformative environmental learning so that as humans entering the Anthropocene we are able to understand concepts such as climate change (planetary boundaries), biodiversity (humans as inter-beings interconnected to every strand that makes up the web of life), sustainable livelihoods (creating resilience through human capacity development, agency, and a broader view of the concept of security or its alternative ‘risk’). In practice this means I work with individuals and emerging entrepreneurs in environmental work and business functionality.

This curiosity underpins my deep interest in urbanism as a phenomenon, historically (how did we get to where we are now), socially (layers, schemes, inter-play and interaction), economically (alternative ways of functioning), environmentally (natural resource management i.e. the concept of ecosystem services). Unravelling the threads of how all things are connected and where and how the disconnect in understanding happens.  How do we develop consciousness to a level where we as humans are able to participate in the world as inter-beings?  In practice this means we network, we talk, interact and reflect.

On a practical level and in line with the thesis I am completing for my Masters in Environmental Education at the Rhodes Environmental Learning and Research Centre, I examine learning (in adults) as performance, learning as a democratic process and learning as connection (socio-cultural, socio-ecological, meaning making and relevance). 

Margaret Burger, with the Umoyomuhle directors, Ntombifuthi Msizazwe, Phumzile Majoka, Dumisani Kweyama, Cinsdiswa Ncane,  Mthini director Mthokozisi Majola, and director Muziwandile Chili of Muzi Chili Communications