“No research on a dead planet”: preserving the socio-ecological conditions for academia

Thierry, Aaron; Horn, Laura; von Hellermann, Pauline and Gardner, Charlie. 2023. “No research on a dead planet”: preserving the socio-ecological conditions for academia. Frontiers in Education, 8, 1237076. ISSN 2504-284X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Despite thousands of higher education institutions (HEIs) having issued Climate Emergency declarations, most academics continue to operate according to ‘business-as-usual’. However, such passivity increases the risk of climate impacts so severe as to threaten the persistence of organized society, and thus HEIs themselves. This paper explores why a maladaptive cognitive-practice gap persists and asks what steps could be taken by members of HEIs to activate the academy. Drawing on insights from climate psychology and sociology, we argue that a process of ‘socially organized denial’ currently exists within universities, leading academics to experience a state of ‘double reality’ that inhibits feelings of accountability and agency, and this is self-reenforcing through the production of ‘pluralistic ignorance.’ We further argue that these processes serve to uphold the cultural hegemony of ‘business-as-usual’ and that this is worsened by the increasing neo-liberalization of modern universities. Escaping these dynamics will require deliberate efforts to break taboos, through frank conversations about what responding to a climate emergency means for universities’ – and individual academics’ – core values and goals.

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The original contributions presented in the study are included in the article/supplementary material, further inquiries can be directed to the corresponding author.


climate change, disavowal, higher education, institutional inertia, neoliberal university, socially organized denial, sustainability

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19 September 2023Accepted
6 October 2023Published

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Date Deposited:

06 Nov 2023 13:42

Last Modified:

06 Nov 2023 13:42

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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