Environmental Educators Have The Power To Change Humanity’s Inaccurate Worldview About Nature
Recently, I was invited to speak at a community event on whatever topic that suited my fancy. I chose the topic “The Fantasy Of Infinite Growth On A Finite Planet” because I have been deeply concerned about an unsustainable and rapidly growing human population that is consuming the limited supply of Nature’s resources.
Current estimates by various scholars suggest that humanity will be in deep trouble sometime between 2050 and 2100. The result will be wars over land use and the destruction of an ethic that could hold together a functioning human civilization.
By choosing this topic for my community talk, I was giving myself the opportunity to explore two questions:
How did humanity get into this mess?
How can humanity save itself?
This essay explores these two questions.
I have had a struggle understanding the reasons why unsustainable human population growth exists in the first place. The necessary preparation for my talk gave me the opportunity to look into this issue deeply. The first thing that became apparent was that I was dealing with a cultural issue within humanity. I discovered that the hunter-gatherer culture of the early humans was very holistic and had a strong physical and spiritual relationship with Nature.
About 1,000 years ago, two worldviews emerged within the human population. The Oriental culture has had a historically holistic worldview of Nature for about 1,000 years. The belief is that there is interdependence between all of Nature including human beings. This worldview is in synchrony with the findings of modern science that has developed over the last 50 years.
The Western culture that includes North America and Europe embraces a worldview that mankind is separate from Nature, has dominion over Nature, and can control Nature. These ideas originated about 1,000 years ago in ancient Greece and were strongly supported by the theories of early science.
At this modern point in the history of man, China has become strongly industrialized and has somewhat waivered from its worldview of human interdependence with Nature. However, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has been emphatic on building “an ecological civilization that will benefit generations to come”. He has offered detail on his effort to reach this goal. In stark contrast, the rhetoric of United States president, Donald Trump, has been clearly against the protection of Nature and clearly in support of economic growth with little regard for its impact on Nature.
In this essay, I wish to focus on the Western worldview about Nature and what actions might be taken to change the current course of over-consumption and over-population that has the potential of destroying the human race within this century. In his book, The Patterning Instinct, Jeremy Lent discusses the concept of a worldview. He says:
“We can think of our civilization’s worldview as an edifice of ideas that has arisen layer by layer over older constructions put together by generations past. Our worldview is the set of assumptions we hold about how things work: how society functions, its relationship with the natural world, what is valuable and what is possible. It often remains unquestioned and unstated but is deeply felt and underlies many of the choices we make in our lives. We form our worldview implicitly as we grow up, from family, friends, and culture, and once it’s set, we’re barely aware of it unless we’re presented with a different worldview for comparison. The unconscious origin of our worldview makes it quite inflexible. That’s fine when it’s working for us. But suppose our worldview is causing us to act collectively in ways that could undermine humanity’s future? Then it would be valuable to become more conscious of it. If our worldview is built on shaky foundations, we need to know about it: we need to find the cracks and repair them before it’s too late.”
Jeremy Lent’s quote gave me some perspective as I thought about ways that we Western humans can alter the destructive destiny that faces us. I was particularly impressed by his comment “we form our worldview implicitly as we grow up, from family, friends, and culture, and once it’s set, we’re barely aware of it”. Indeed, much of our personal worldviews are developed through a chain of people coupled with our observations.
Add to this the fact that there are myths about Nature that have emerged from erroneous assumptions or from outdated scientific findings made at different times and places in history. These myths have been passed from one generation to the next. They have been believed and practiced so frequently that they have become an unquestioned integral part of the worldview of a large population of people.
What this scenario implies is that there is power in chains of people passing on facts and traditions and myths. This means that, through the chain of legacy, we humans have the power to influence and correct updated and corrected stories about our environment. In doing so, a worldview can be changed to correspond with current truths.
The Western worldview about Nature is a classic example of this idea. The core portrayal of a uniquely western mindset is mankind being set apart from Nature and being called upon called to dominate Nature. This worldview is manifested in unsustainable capital growth and overconsumption. Within the last 50 years, modern science, has proven that Nature and all of its life is highly interdependent because energy must flow within and between Her creatures in order to live. Furthermore, it has been shown that mankind cannot predict Nature’s processes with any accuracy. The idea advanced by the current Western worldview that mankind is set apart from Nature and is called upon called to dominate Nature is blatantly false.
The need to change the Western worldview to reflect what science has taught us over the last 50 years is critical. For indeed, the current Western worldview is a core reason why mankind will be facing a deep crisis in this century. A crisis that could destroy humanity. Changing the Western worldview to one of harmony and interdependency with Nature is a seemingly impossible task. How do we motivate humanity to recognize, honor, and respect Nature’s interdependency. An interdependency that includes us ???
There are two key centers of influence that are receptive to this revised and accurate worldview. The first group is our children and young people. More than half of the world’s population is under the age of 25. Here lies a large population who can be influenced and who are receptive to learning about Nature’s wonder. This large group has the power to influence the adult population. Young people are not yet culturally conditioned to a worldview where Nature is ignored. The fresh minds of young people are open to new ideas and new world views. These young minds have the potential of becoming our next generation of environmental leaders.
The second group of influential people is environmental educators and educators in general. This very important group consists of the legacy builders of future generations. It is with this very important group that the chain of truth about Nature’s interdependencies starts and is then passed on to people under the age of 25. These young people can continue this legacy chain to younger people and possibly to older generations.
Many people and groups are beginning to realize that building this new environmental awareness can happen only in our children and in our youth. The message that we must present to our youth :
Nothing on this earth exists solely on its own. Everything is dependent upon everything else.
Environmental educators empower our generations of youth through legacy building
Through the legacy created by hands-on, place-based education and guided by environmental educators, we can develop a consciousness for the interdependency of all forms of Nature. Legacy building means empowering our youth to become environmental stewards. And through this consciousness, corrections can be made to the current Western worldview.
References About This Subject That Are Worth Your Extra Attention :
Here are some references that were used to create this essay:
Stepping Back From The Brink – An astonishing new field of enquiry explores the deep changes that could avert a planetary disaster
What Will It Take To Avoid Collapse? Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a dire warning to humanity about impending collapse but virtually no-one takes notice.
A new history of cultural big ideas looks to the East for solace. Our planetary predicament demands the broadest and deepest perspective to guide our actions in the middle of what would otherwise be an enervating horror show.
Our values will decide our destiny. Each unique culture shapes its values, and those values shape history. By the same token, the predominant values of our civilization are what will shape the future.
A House on Shaky Ground: Eight Structural Flaws of the Western Worldview
What Does China’s Ecological Civilization Mean For Humanity’s Future?
Is There A More Important Education? Solutions to our environmental dilemma rest in environmental education and behaviors that manifest our environmental understanding
Why Do I Write These Essays?
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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.