Dark Ecology and Environmental Education: Disavowed Knowledges

Pripyat Middle School. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The term dark ecology highlights aspects of coexistence that have often been passed over and disavowed in environmental rhetoric. These aspects are decidedly ‘dark’ as they express negativity, ambiguity, irony, horror, and difference. Dark ecology also refers to the study of the ‘weird’, more precisely paradoxical and conflicting aspects of ecological awareness. As such, it goes against the grain of Romantic readings of ‘Nature’ as a pristine and distinct domain from which (western) humans are alienated and the relationship to which we must be rekindled . Instead of a neat culture-nature divide, we are constantly engaged with unholy mixtures between humans and non-humans that sustain the functioning of society.

Antti Saari studies dark ecology in environmental education in the following aspects:

  • Aesthetics of the uncanny in teaching ecological awareness (Saari 2018):
  • Dark places: (Saari and Mullen 2018)
  • Temporal loops in the Anthropocene.
  • Hyberobjects and bodily awareness (Saari and Värri 2017).
  • Ethics of traumatic knowledge in environmental education

Aforementioned themes are currently studied in a research project Activism Beyond Hope and Despair: Possibilities of Self-Cultivation in an Age of Environmental Crises funded by Kone Foundation with Saari (PI), Kallio and Varpanen (2020-2023).


Saari, A. & Mullen, J. 2018. Dark Places: Environmental education research in a world of hyperobjects. Environmental Education Research. Online first version

Saari, A. 2018. The Experience of the Uncanny as a Challenge for Teaching Ecological Awareness. In  R. Foster, J. Mäkelä & R. Martusewicz (Eds.) Art, EcoJustice, and Education: Intersecting Theories and Practises. New York: Routledge, 36-46.

Mansikka-Aho A,, Saari A., Lätti J., Eskola J. 2018. ”Se vaikenee, joka pelkää” : Ilmastonmuutos traumaattisena tietona. In J. Eskola, I. Nikanto & S. Virtanen (Eds.) Aikamme kasvatus: Vain muutos on pysyvää? 14 eläytymismenetelmätutkimusta. Tampere: Tampere University Press, 187-210.

Saari, A. & Värri, V.-M. 2017. Outoja muukalaisia: Hyperobjektien aika ympäristökasvatuksen haasteena. Kasvatus 48 (5), 403-314.