A ‘wicked problem’: rethinking history education in the Anthropocene

In seeking to attune history education to a relational, ecological, and ethical future orientation, we turned to scholarship in other fields that teach similar or proximate outcomes: Indigenous studies, environmental history, and climate change education. We suggest that the challenge in history is not just teaching about climate variation over time and its consequences, but also recognizing that the Anthropocene is a multidimensional phenomenon requiring adaptation in ways of being and understanding ourselves. We draw on the literature in each of the above-mentioned fields to leverage theory, content, and pedagogical cues to begin envisioning how history teachers and learners can seek meaning, when the terms within which we have made meaning in the past may slip away. In this article, we offer a prospective agenda for provoking history education to make significant change, particularly in Canada where we are situated. Our suggestions for history teaching and learning practice may be deployed in many different contexts to help educators confront the climate crisis. As historians and educators, we must provide these opportunities to learn about the past because as Davis and Todd state, ‘the story we tell ourselves about environmental crises, the story of humanity’s place on the earth and its presence within geological time determines how we understand how we got here, where we might like to be headed, and what we need to do’.