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Session Title: Developing capabilities for well-being in the age of climate collapse
Speaker: Michael Link, Assistant Professor, University of Winnipeg
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Short description: We live during a time when it seems the best way to achieve a sense of well-being is to avoid reality. As we collectively crawl our way out of a global pandemic, we now face a land war in Europe and a return to the grip of the Cold War. As daunting as both of these world events most certainly are, they pale in comparison with the reality of climate collapse (assuming we avoid a nuclear exchange with Russia). So how do we address the individual and systemic issues that lie at the root of the climate crisis? And how do we act in the face of climate breakdown without being mired in misery and anxiety? What is proposed here is the development of capabilities for well-being. Drawing from the Well-Being and Well-Becoming (WB2) Framework (Falkenberg, 2019) and my own research into capabilities development in schools (Link, 2018), we begin by recognizing what humans need to live well. Here we draw from Max-Neef’s Fundamental Human Needs framework (1991). We then determine what capabilities would be required to fulfill each human need, according to our specific culture and community (Nussbaum, 2011). For example, one human need identified by Max-Neef is participation. The capabilities to listen, to consider the perspectives of others, and to articulate our own viewpoint may include some of the necessary capabilities required to help fulfill our need to participate. In order to cultivate these capabilities, it will be necessary to seek out opportunities to develop and enact them. In the school system, where my research is located, the teacher would assume the role of creating opportunities to develop and enact capabilities for well-being. As adults, whether individually or in groups, we need to seek out these opportunities ourselves. If we return back to the example of the human need to participate and corresponding capabilities, we might wish to pursue opportunities to exercise our interpersonal capabilities such as engaging in town hall meetings, public forums, or simply entering into a discussion at a coffee shop with a friend that has a different perspective from our own. Through the development and enactment of needs-linked capabilities we may be in a better place to fulfill our sense of well-being and address the problems that face us as we attempt to transition to a liveable future.

Bio: Michael Link is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Winnipeg on Treaty One Territory and the homeland of the Métis Nation. His research interests include education for sustainability and student well-being, and the connections these fields have to teacher education. He can be reached at: [email protected].