Sie sind auf Seite 1von 6
84 Ecological Literacy time or on their own as an overload. Environmental concems and the ‘issues raised by the challenge of sustainability are still blithely ignored in the mainstream of nearly all the disciplines represented in the cata- Jogs of our proudest institutions. rom a casual sampling of the various professional journals, one would have little idea that humanity had any problems beyond methodological esoterica. ‘The essays in Section 2 have to do with the question of what the limits of earth have to do with the content and process of education and with the way we define knowledge. They are written in the belief ‘that educational institutions are potential leverage points for the transi- tion to sustainability. Four themes from the essays in Section 1 are found throughout those in Section 2. First, as suggested in Chapter 1, 1 believe that education must acquaint students with deeper causes of the crises just ahead. This requires the active engagement of the humanities in particular. The problems of sustainability ate rooted in the human condition and their resolution will require people of greater philosophical depth and perspective. Second, sustainability as described in Chapter 2 requires a different kind of curriculum that encourages the development of ecological competence throughout the population, Yes, we need experts, but not to the exclusion of a popu- lation that is both ecologically literate and competent. We will need farmers, businesspersons, writers, bureaucrats, builders, foresters, and workmen who are also ecologically literate and competent and who can build sustainable solutions from the bottom up. The goal of eco- logical competence implies a different kind of education and a differ ent kind of educational experience that develops the practical art of living well in particular places. Third, as argued in Chapter 4, ecological sustainability implies a recovery of civic competence. I see no prospect whatsoever for build- ing a sustainable society without an active, engaged, informed, and competent citizenry. The environmental movement is almost without exception one in which citizens forced govemments and large eco- nomic interests to do something they were otherwise not inclined to do. Its quite literally a democratic movement, but it will not necessari- ly remain such without an unwavering commitment by educational institutions to foster widespread civic competence ‘The essays in Section 2 are based on a belief that a reformed edu- cation is an essential part of a solution to the crisis described in Section 1. Education, however, is not just about society, it is about persons. At the individual level, the goai is something like the Greek model of Paideia or that of the Renaissance person of wide understanding, com- etence, and commitment to the ccmmon good. Ecological Literacy to count, Eeolog- stray isthe bility to read. Numeracy ithe ability to count Ba itchy, according to Garret Hardin, isthe ability to ask "What Shen Conidae ateton x propery bing ie our socom ingen caching the young to read, count, and compute, but no hough o ecological irc. Reading afer sl ean ancient sil, And Tor mow othe ovetets century we have boon sy adn, soba ing apg, ding and now computing Dut "Wha ty aie re ae aot come easy for us cespte all of Our Formidable advances trae arse Napoleon did a ask the question, 1 ger, ul he tad reached the ouskins of Moscow, by which time no one could give food answer except "Lets go back home” If Custer asked the ques tide we have no recor of it His last known words at Lite Big Horn were, "Hurrah, boys, aw we have them,” a stiming # dubious pro- houncement. And economists, who are certainly both numerate an have notated the quston often enough Asking “Wht then?” on tl iver, or at Fort Laramie, woul then” on the wes cide of te Nemen fiver, or at Fort Laie fave saved alo of wouble. Fore same reason, “What then” is also an appropriate quanto a before the at sn frets duapeas, Bere he rth economy cones io obvi, and bore wwe have warmed the planet intleraby - Th fluro develop escaleacy i sn of omison and of commision. et onl are We fling otic he Basis abot the rein fat teaching large amount of auth and how it works, but we ae in fat te ‘i Sait thats simply wrong By fang to include ecological prspect inany number sujet, sade ws ae taught at eolgy iio tant for history, politics, economics, society, and so forth. ae through television they lara tha the eat stele for the taking, The res 85 86 Ecological Literacy 4 generation of ecological yahoos without a clue why the color of the ‘water in their rivers is related to their food supply, or why storms are becoming more severe as the planet warms. ‘The same persons as adults will create businesses, vote, have families, and above all, con- sume. If they come to reflect on the discrepancy between the splendor of their private lives in a hotter, more toxic and violent world, as eco- logical iliterates they will have roughly the same success as one tying to balance a checkbook without knowing arthematc. sto A otectieBark- 15 fresesce ~ I icouPerasce Ong feats ale Pontos, Nov pe SySToM. FORMATION OF ATTITUDES To become ecologically Iteate one must cerany beable o read aad, tink, ven like fo real. Ecslogicalteracy also presumes ans ‘10 use numbers, and the ably to know what is countable and what i nor, whichis to sy the lmits of numbers. But these are indoor sil Ecological eracy also requires the more demanding, capacty to observe nature with insight merger of landscape and mindscape The Interior landscape,” in Bary Loper’s words, respond (othe character, and subiley ofan exterior landscape the shape of he inviual mind is affected by land a kis by genes "The quality of thought related the ability to relate to “where on this earth one goes, what one ouches, the patern one observes in ature~the inthe history of one if it the land, evena fein the ly, where wind, the chirp of bt, the line of afaling les ace now," The fact tha this kind of nia ro edge of our landscapes is aptly disappearing can only inpoversh our rrental landscapes as well. People who do not know the ground on shih dey tan mit one of te element of good ting which i the capacity to ditinguish Between heath and disease in natural sys. tens andi lation heltand disease naan one Iteracy i drven bythe search or knowledge, eoologial he is driven bythe sense of wonde:, the sheer delight in being alive in beautiful, mysterious, bountiful world, The darkness and dlsorder at we have Brought to that word give ecologialiteracy an urgency It Tacked a century ago. We can now look over the abyss and’see the end ofa Ecological teacy begins inchichood. “fo keep alve his inborn sense of wonder,” cil in Rachel Carson's words, needs the Companionship of atleast one adit who can share fy rediscovering woth him the joy, excement ard mystery ofthe world we live in ‘he sense of wonder is rooted the emotions or what. Wilson has caled“biophiia,” which i snp the affinity forthe ving wel? The nourishment ofthat affinity the beginning pont forthe sna of Ecological Literacy 87 kinship with life, without which literacy of any sort will not help much, ‘This is to say that even a thorough knowledge of the facts of life and of the threats to it will not save us in the absence of the feeling of kin- ship with life of the sort that canaot entirely be put into words. ‘There are, I think, several reasons why ecological literacy has been so difficult for Westera culture. First, it implies the ability to think broad ly, to know something of what is hitched to what. This ability is being Jost in an age of specialization. Scientists of the quality of Rachel Carson or Aldo Leopold are rarities who must buck the pressures toward nar- rowness and also endure a great deal of professional rejection and hos- tity. By inquiring into the relationship between chlorinated hydrocar- bon pesticides and bird populations, Rachel Carson was asking an ecolate question. Many others filed to ask, not because they did not like birds, but because they had not, for whatever reasons, thought beyond the conventional categories. To do so would have required that they relate their food system to the decline in the number of birds ia their neighborhood. This means that they would have had some direct knowledge of farms and farming practices, as well as a comprehension of omithology. To think in ecolate fashion presumes a breadth of expe- rience with healthy natural systems, both of which are increasingly rare. It also presumes that the persors be willing and able to “think at right angles’ to their particular specializations, as Leopold put it. Ecological literacy is difficult, second, because we have come to believe that education is solely an indoor activity. A good part of it, of necessity, must be, but there is a price. William Morton Wheeler once compared the naturalist with the professional biologist in these words: “(The naturalist is primarily an observer and fond of outdoor life, a cok lector, 2 classifier, u describes, deeply impressed by the overwhelmin intricacy of natural phenomena and revelling in their very complexity. “The biologist, onthe other hand, “is oriented toward and dominated by ideas, and rather terrified or oppressed by the intricate hurly-burly of concrete, sensuous reality... ke is a denizen of the laboratory. His besetting sin is oversimplification and the tendency to undue isolation of the organisms he studies from their natural environment." Since Wheeler wrote, ecology has become increasingly specialized and, one suspects, remote from its subject matter. Ecology, like most learning ‘worthy of the effor, is an applied subject. Its goa is not just a compre~ hension of how the world works, but, inthe light of that knowledge, a life lived accordingly. The same is true of theology, sociology, political science, and most other subjects that grace the conventional curriculum. “The decline in the capacity for aesthetic appreciation isa third fac- tor working against ecological literacy. We have become comfortable 88 Ecological Literacy with all kinds of ugliness anc seem incapable of effective protest against its purveyors: urban devslopers, businessmen, government offi. Cials, television executives, timber and mining companies, utilities, and advertisers. Rene Dubos once stated that our greatest disservice to our children was to give them the belief that ugliness was somehow nor ‘mal, But disordered landscapes are not just an aesthetic problem, Usli. ness signifies a more fundamental disharmony between people and between people and the land. Ugliness is, I think, the surest sign of Gisease, or what is now being called “unsustainability.” Show me the hamburger stands, neon ticky-tacky strips leading toward every city in America, and the shopping mals, and r'll show you devastated tain forests, a decaying countryside, « politically dependent population, and toxic waste dumps. Its all ofa fabric. And this is the heart of the matter. To see things in their wholeness is politically threatening. To understand that our manner of living, 30 comfortable for some, is linked to cancer rates in migrant laborers in California, the disappearance of tropical rain forests, fifty thousand {oxic dumps across the U'S.A., and the depletion of the ozone layer is. to see the need for a change in cur way of life. To see things whole is to see both the wounds we have inflicted on the natural world in the ‘name of mastery and those we have inflicted on ourselves and on our children for no good reason, swhatever our stated intentions. Real eco. logical literacy is radicalizing in that it forces us to reckon with the Toots of our ailments, not just w:th their symptoms. For this reason, I think it leads to a revitalization and broadening of the concept of citi- Zenship to include membership in a planetwide community of humans and living things, And how does this striving for community come into being? 1 Goubt that there is a single path, but there are certain common ele- ‘ments. First, in the lives of most if not all people who define them. selves as environmentalists, there is experience in the natural world at an early age. Leopold came to know birds and wildlife in the marshes and fields around his home in Buslington, Iowa before his teens. David Brower, as a young boy on long walks over the Berkeley hills, learned to describe the flora to his nearly blind mother. Second, and not sux. Prisingly, there is often an older teacher or mentor as a role model: grandfather, a neighbor, an older brother, a parent, or teacher. Third, there are seminal books that explain, heighten, and say what we have felt deeply, but not said so well. In my own life, Rene Dubos and Loren Biseley served this function of helping to bring feelings to artica- late consciousness, Beological literacy is becoming more difficult, I believe, not 89 Ecological Literacy because there ae fewer books aout nate, bt beezse tere ee opportunity for the direct experience oft. Fewer people grow up on fam orn ua reas sire aces i egy and where 9 cay © Iara dee of compatnce and selicontdence toward the ral world. Where the ratio between the human-created enviro >the purely natural world exceeds some point, the sense of place can only Bo ence of haat One nds the abi fair and/or eae but thout any ral sense of belonging in the natural world. A sense of place equtes more det conta ith the natural aspects ofa pace Sith sot andispe, and wie The vende esas we move dows the continuum toward the wotllzed urban environment where nature exists in tiny, lated fragments by pexmision only. ld diferent this an argument for more urban pas, summer camps, green Bel ess aeas, public seashors, IF we must live in an increasingly Urban word ts make i one ef welldesiged compact geen cies tht inde wes ser pr, meandering genet, an ban farms where people can se, touch, and experience nature in a variety, Sees eine no other tes wil 2 sustsnable in a greenhouse world. ECOLOGICAL LITERACY AND FORMAL EDUCATION it has striking ‘he goof elo ty at ave descr has tiking inplatons for that pf education that must oar dasrooms, bares, and lboratories. To the extent that most educators have none ihe ernment, ny ave regard 35 ast of problems Sih ses) solvable Cone dilemmas, which a : wee tools and methods of reductionist science which 8) create Vahvenetl, schaologeal renee hat wil not reat even worse Sie fects Solitons, etfs, engi atte 10p of sci om overnments and corporations aed are passed down oa passive ci a ity in the form of laws, policies, and technologies. The results {Soune wil be soca ely, play, and Manan desl ute wilt le and ui s bamane cre an be rete sae sve. Tn er words, bsies can g0 OF 2 sul Since there no pata nea for am eclogite and eclog scaly competent publ, error educeon fost fen esa Cait an ents inthe cartcun, not a8 a core requirement oF ° entire educational process. “Ftd sme pe ofthe cris can be acertely desided a8 probiems, Some of these can be solved by technology, paticulry so Beologtcal Literacy those that requite increased resource efficiency. I is a mistake, howev eth that all we need Sone techoclogy, moran eslgealy tnt rd cg bic lingo help euch eae polos demand) public polices that require ncriices it al cones ce se whether the public understand the relaton betwee is we be the health of the natural systems. singand For this to oocut, we must think both the substance cess of education aa levels, What does it mean fo educate Seno Ie suai, goign ald Leopold wo, fom Songer Of land community 10 plain mente and cidzen oft Howe applied in practice, the answer will rest on six foundations, . The firsts the recognition ht al eduction fe entronmental ed éevion: By what is included or excluded emphasied or ignored, st ents learn that they area par of or apa rom ine nacecl eon Through al education we incleate the Meas of cach sesrdoN oe carelessness. Conventional econ, by and lage as been een, tion of all chat is human tothe exclusion of our dependence on nates Aga stents ely ele mat Wen ery at place or steers or inking why these are imporangs Second, enuivonmentalksues are comple and cant bee sod trough a single dsctine or apartment Depa deca se mmore of discussion and experimentation, iteclingtian remains an unfulfilled promise. The larg cosieed Tetra toes it was tied within dicplin-centic Insitutions A are tronieog approach isto reshape institution to function as ransdisciplinry abe, ‘tories that include components such as agriculture, solar techroo, Bs forest and managemen, wey wave eying athe design, an sonoma otha thn of arene cnc ion isthe study of interactions acess the boundaries of ener knowledge and experience. ventional hid, for habitants, education occurs in par a a dlalogue with 4 place and has the characterises of good conversation Fema eben tion happens mosty as a monologue of human interest decnee saa accompiishments that owns outa other sounds his ke waned come of the belie that we are alone ina dend wordt of wranienee 1 eneray Aon, and bogeochanial tes ut te conversation Can ccc onl f we acknowledge eee sd nest of he Stier in cornerstone deine out, btn eon to nates quay of conversation does not ret on the bllinnee af on the ether person. itis more like a cance in which the aniecy roa Ecological Literacy 91 In good conversation, words represent reality faithfully. And words have power. They can enliven ot deaden, elevate or degrade, but they ‘are never neutral, because they affect our perception and ultimately our behavior. The use of words such as “resources,” *manage,” “chan- nelize,” “engineer,” and “produce” makes our relation to nature a monologue rather than @ conversation. The language of nature includes the sounds of animals, whales, birds, insects, wind, and water—a language more ancient and basic than human speech. Its ‘books are the etchings of life on the face of the land. To hear this lan guage requites patient, disciplined study of the natural world. But itis a language for which we have an affinity. Good conversation is unhurried. Tt has its own rhythm and pace. Dialogue with nature cannot be rushed. It will be governed by cycles of day and night, the seasons, the pace of procreation, and by the larg- cer rhythm of evolutionary and geologic time. Human sense of time is increasingly frenetic, driven by clocks, computers, and revolutions in transportation and communication. Good conversation has form, structure, and purpose. Conversation ‘with nature has the purpose of establishing, in Wendell Berry’s words: "What is here? What will nature permit here? What will nature help us do here?"® The form and structure of any conversation with the natural world is that of the discipline of ecology as a restorative process and healing art. Fourth, it follows that she wey education occurs is as important as its content. Students taught envirormental awareness in a setting that does not alter their relationship to basic life-support systems learn that it is sufficient to intellectualize, emote, or posture about such things without having to live differently. Envircnmental education ought to change the way people live, not just how they talk. This understanding of education is drawn from the writings of John Dewey, Alfred North Whitehead, J. Glenn Gray, Paulo Friere, Ivan Illich, and Eliot Wigginton. Learning in this view best occurs in response to real needs and the life situation of the leamer. The radical distinctions typically drawn between teacher and student, between the school and the community, and those between areas of knowledge, are dissolved. Real learning is participato- ty and experiential, not just didsctic. The flow can be two ways between teachers, who best function as facilitators, and students who are expect- ‘ed to be active agents in defining what is learned and how. Fifth, experience in the natural world is both an essential part of understanding the environment, and conducive to good thinking. Experience, properly conceived, trains the intellect to observe the land carefully and to distinguish between health and its opposite, Direct 92 Ecological Literacy experience is an antidote to indoor, abstract earning ti sping of good hiking, Undesanding nate cede» disciplined aed observant inlet. But eure, in Emersons words. alg "he Yeni of thought aa souree of language, metaphor, and syed ‘tural diversity may well be tke source of much of human creat and intelligence. If so, the simplification and homogenicaing of cesssems a ol esitin alone ofaannclignces Ecological Literacy 93 stand our place in the story of evolution. Its to know that our health, wvelk-being, and ultimately our survival depend on working with, not ‘gainst, natural forces. The basis for ecological literacy, then, isthe com- prehension of the interrelatedness of life grounded in the study of natu- ral history, ecology, and thermodynamics. It is t0 understand that: “There ain't no such thing asa “ee lunch"; “You can never throw any- thing away", and “The first law of intelligent tinkering is to keep all of the pieces.” It is also to undetstand, with Leopold, that we live in a ‘world of wounds senselessly inflicted on nature and on ourselves. 'A second stage in ecological literacy is to know something of the speed of the crisis that is upon us. Itis to know magnitudes, rates, and trends of population growth, species extinction, soil loss, deforestation, eserification, climate change, ozone depletion, resource exhaustion, air and water pollution, toxic and radioactive contamination, resource land energy use—in short, the vital signs of the planet and its ecosys- tems, Becoming ecologically lierate is to understand the human enter- prise for what itis: a sudden eruption in the enormity of evolutionary time. “Ecological literacy requires a comprehension of the dynamics of the modern world. The best stating place is to read the original ratio- nale for the domination of nature found in the writings of Bacon, Descartes, and Galileo. Here one finds the justification for the union of science with power and the case for separating ourselves frofty nature in order to control it more fully. To comprehend the idea of controlling nature, one must fathom the sources of the urge to power and the paradox of rational means hamessed to insane ends portrayed in Mar- lowe's Doctor Faustus, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Melville's Moby- Dick, and Dostoevsky’s “Legerd of the Grand Inquisitor.” Ecological literacy, then, requites a thorough understanding of the sways in which people and whole societies have become destructive, ‘The ecologically literate person will appreciate something of how social structures, religion, science, politics, technology, patriarchy, cul- ture, agriculture, and human cussedness combine as causes of our predicament, ‘The diagnosis of the causes of our plight is only half of the issue. But before we can address solutions there are several issues that demand clarification. "Nature." for example, is variously portrayed as red in tooth and claw,” or, like the film “Bambi,” full of sweet little critters. Economists see nature as natural resources to be used; the backpacker as a wellspring of transcendent values. We are no longer clear about our own nature, whether we are made in the image of God, or are merely a machine or computer, or animal. These are not 94 Ecological Literacy trivial, academic issues. Unless we can make reasonable distinctions between what is natural and what is not, and why that difference is important, we are liable to be at the mercy of the engineers who want to remake all of nature, including our own. Environmental literacy also requires a broad familiarity with the development of ecological consciousness. The best history of the con- cept of ecology is Donald Worster’s Nature's Economy: It is unclear whether the science of ecology will be “the last of the old sciences, or the first of the new.” As the former, ecology is the science of efficient resource management. As the first Of the new sciences, ecology is the basis for a broader search for pattern and meaning. As such it cannot avoid issues of values, and the ethical questions raised most succinctly in Leopold's “The Land Ethic.” ‘The study of environmental problems is an exercise in despair Unless itis regarded as only a preface to the study, design, and imple- ‘mentation of solutions. The concept of sustainability implies a radical change in the institutions and patterns that we have come to accept as normal, It begins with ecology as the basis for the redesign of technol. ogy, cities, farms, and educational institutions, and with a change in metaphors from mechanical to organic, industrial to biological, As part of the change we will need alternative measures of well-being such as those proposed by Amory Lovins (least-cost end-use analysis)" H. T. ‘Odum (energy accounting),? and John Cobb (index of sustainable wel. fare). Sustainability also implies a different approach to technology, one that gives greater priority to those that are smaller in scale, less environmentally destructive, and rely on the free services of natural systems. Not infrequently, technclogies with these characteristies are also highly cost-effective, especially when subsidies for competing technologies are leveled out If sustainability represents 2 minority tradition, it is nonetheless a long one dating back at least to Jefferson. Students should not be con- sidered ecologically literate until they have read Thoreau, Kropotkin, Muir, Albert Howard, alfred Nori Whitehead, Gandhi, Schweitzer, Aldo Leopold, Lewis Mumford, Rachel Carson, E. F. Schumacher, and Wendell Berry. There are alternatives to the present pattems that have remained dormant or isolated, not because they did not work, were Poorly thought out, or were impractical, but because they were not tied. In contrast to the directions of modern society, this tradition emphasizes democratic participation, the extension of ethical obliga- tions to the land community, careful ecological design, simplicity, widespread competence with natural systems, the sense of place, holism, decentralization of whatever can best be decentralized, and 95 Ecological Literacy human scaled technolo and communities. tadon dedeted tte such for paters, unity, comectonsberween people of sr atonslties, and generations, and between people and the wateral would. This is 4 tadiion grounded in the belief that life is Site and oto beetles expended on the epereral is «we Gh tin chlenges mitra, tice eclgia!dsrucion, and sathortariantm, whe supporting all of those actions tha src fatmest,sustainabiliy, and people's right to participate in those Sesion tha afer ther ves, Ulimatly, es «aden bul on 3 iow of orth se nite ane faite cet Hvingin a wo Tin by natal ns Thecomsasing Promethean ves, gen fre by the cee of technology, hols that ve ehould remove al ins, srether impo by nature, haan nature or moray hogan i found emblazoned on the avetsements of the age "You ca have all” (Michelob Beer), or “Your world should know no limis" Mer tyr he cso eras cizen wl cognie hess ede 1) or what hey atthe sl of epaphs, Penal Mercy kad in Uipr,and more durable, daectons toward prodence, stewardship, the celebration ofthe Creation