Skip to main content

Environmental Education After Sustainability

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Education and the Environment book series (PSEE)


The idea, “after sustainability” has more than one meaning. It could mean “in pursuit of” (in imitation of) or “following in time.” In this chapter I use both senses of “after sustainability.” I firstly explore ways of rethinking sustainability by proposing the idea as a rhizome, as an empty signifier, and as the potentia of sustainability culture (a grass roots societal movement). This exploration is in pursuit of sustainability but offers radical alternatives to dominant discourses on sustainability. Second, I register the possibility of moving beyond the idea of sustainability, informed by an ontology of immanence, whereby both the subject becomes imperceptible and so too the idea of sustainability.


  • Sustainability
  • Sustainability education
  • Becoming imperceptible
  • Ontology of immanence

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Dualism is linked to transcendence in the sense that dualism is based on the premise that an entity/substance exists only relation to another entity/substance external to itself.

  2. 2.

    At Stellenbosch University, South Africa we have, for example, seen the deterritorialization of some disciplines located in disparate faculties and the emergence of a transdisciplinary network of scholars and the development of a transdisciplinary doctoral programme involving academics from all faculties within the university. Moreover, we have seen lines of flight from this network to form connections with other research organizations and local communities. An example of the production of “new” knowledge in a “new” knowledge space is the Enkannini (local community of shack dwellers) iShack project which is an assemblage of community members, university academics, students, and community-based organizations working together among other things: improve insulation of shack buildings using recycled material; introducing biogas digesters utilizing human solid waste to enable cooking from biomethane; using grey water flushing; and producing an off-grid solar home system.

  3. 3.

    Wallin (2010, p. 25) importantly points out that the premise of one ontological substance (not two) does not mean that we are left with a uniform plane that denies difference. He writes, “The attributes of substance accessible to human consciousness include thought and extension, both of which Deleuze conceptualizes as an unlimited finity…[T]he attribute is not attributed by a transcendent substance, but is rather one of an infinite number of ways a substance might be expressed.” Students’ powers of acting can of course be expressed in opposite ways, where they act selfishly or show hatred to the world. This happens when the creative power within is colonized through arrogance, institutional regimes, etc.


  • Bonnett, M. (1999). Education for sustainable development: A coherent philosophy for environmental education? Cambridge Journal of Education, 29(3), 313–324.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bonnett, M. (2002). Sustainability as a frame of mind-and how to develop it. The Trumpeter, 18(1), 1–9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bowers, C. (1980). Curriculum as cultural reproduction: An examination of the metaphor as carrier of ideology. Teachers College Record, 82(2), 267–290.

    Google Scholar 

  • Braidotti, R. (2006). Transpositions. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Braidotti, R. (2010). Powers of affirmation: Response to Lisa Baraitser, Patrick Hanafin and Clare Hemmings. Subjectivity, 3(2), 140–148.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Braidotti, R. (2013). The posthuman. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, T. (2015). Sustainability as empty signifier: Its rise, fall and radical politics. Antipode, 1–19. doi:10.1111/anti.12164

  • Deleuze, G. (1988). Expressionism in philosophy: Spinoza (Tom Conley, Trans.). New York: Zone.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia (Brian Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1994). What is philosophy? (Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, Trans.). New York: Columbia University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guattari, F. (2001). The three ecologies (Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton, Trans.). London: The Athlone Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Huckle, J., & Wals, A. E. J. (2015). The UN decade of education for sustainable development: Business as usual in the end. Environmental Education Research, 21(3), 491–505.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Irwin, R. (2008). “After Neoliberalism”: Environmental education to education for sustainability. In E. Gonzalez-Gaudiano & M. A. Peters (Eds.), Environmental education: Identity, politics and citizenship (pp. 171–193). Rotterdam: Sense publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jickling, B. (1997). If environmental education is to make sense for teachers, we had better rethink how we define it. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 2, 86–103.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laclau, E. (1996). Emancipation(s). London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  • Le Grange, L. (2008). Towards a language of probability for sustainability education (South) Africa. In E. Gonzalez-Gaudiano & M. A. Peters (Eds.), Environmental education: Identity, politics and citizenship (pp. 207–217). Rotterdam: Sense publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Le Grange, L. (2011). Sustainability higher education: From arborescent to rhizomatic thinking. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43(7), 741–754.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Le Grange, L. (2012a). Ubuntu, ukama, environment and moral education. Journal of Moral Education, 41(3), 329–340.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Le Grange, L. (2012b). Ubuntu, ukama and the healing of nature, self and society. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 44(S2), 56–67.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Le Grange, L. (2013). The politics of needs and sustainability education in South Africa. In R. Stevenson, M. Brody, J. Dillon, & A. E. J. Wals (Eds.), International handbook of research on environmental education (pp. 108–114). New York: Taylor & Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meillassoux, Q. (2008). After finitude: An essay on the necessity of contingency (Ray Brassier, Trans.). New York: Continuum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parr, A. (2009). Hijacking sustainability. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sauvé, L. (1999). Environmental education between modernity and postmodernity: Searching for an integrating educational framework. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 4, 9–35.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sellers, W. (2006). Review of technology, culture, and socioeconomics: A rhizoanalysis of educational discourses by Patricia O’Riley. Transnational Curriculum Inquiry, 3(1). Retrieved from

  • Smith, D. W. (2012). Essays on Deleuze. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stables, A., & Scott, W. (2002). The quest for holism in education for sustainable development. Environmental Education Research, 8(1), 53–60.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Swyngedouw, E. (2010). Apocalypse forever? Post-political populism and the spectre of climate change. Theory, Culture, and Society, 27(2/3), 213–232.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wallin, J. J. (2010). A Deleuzian approach to curriculum: Essays on a pedagogical life. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development). (1987). Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Žakauskaitė, A. (2015). Deleuze and Beckett towards becoming-imperceptible. In S. E. Wilmer & A. Žakauskaitė (Eds.), Deleuze and Beckett (pp. 60–77). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lesley Le Grange .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2017 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Grange, L.L. (2017). Environmental Education After Sustainability. In: Jickling, B., Sterling, S. (eds) Post-Sustainability and Environmental Education. Palgrave Studies in Education and the Environment. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-51321-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-51322-5

  • eBook Packages: EducationEducation (R0)