Embracing A Living Earth

“I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address these problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy. To deal with those, we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.  We scientists don’t know how to do that”

                                                                                                — Gus Speth

“The common factor that connects the effects of climate change, the COVID-19 epidemic, and the stewardship of Nature is the destructive world view of many human beings. Man’s worst enemy is man himself. “

                                                                                                — Bill Graham

“For people, their story of the human role in the universe is their primary source of intelligibility and value. The deepest crises experienced by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate for meeting the survival demands of a present situation.”

                                                          — Thomas Berry – Dream of the Earth

As an environmental educator, I believe that the future welfare of my high school students is in jeopardy. Many of these fine young people are unaware of the world that much of the adult generation is leaving for them — a future world that includes limited food supplies, less land available to support all life on earth, and social unrest. Many of us adults are apathetic about Nature even though Nature is our home upon which we all depend. Much of the human adult population over age 25 harbors a worldview that separates humanity from Nature. We see this apathy expressed in human attitudes about the climate change crisis and a deep distrust of scientists and educators. In addition, our adult population has actively participated in the pollution of our society’s value system resulting in an economic free-for-all that has caused the over-consumption of Nature’s resources.

I offer this question to you:

How can humans thrive within a natural world that has the ingredients necessary for our survival but, at the same time, is threatened by human destruction of that world?

In answer to this question, Earth Charter offers a challenge to we environmental educators and to all stewards of Nature.

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. … the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that amid a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.”

Despite the impact of a large apathetic group of humans over age 25, there is a significant group of people in this age range who are very effective stewards of our Earth and who hold the power to help our youth embrace a worldview that can result in them advancing the well-being of our home — Mother Earth. These people include teachers (particularly environmental educators), scientists, and all other humans who embrace Nature as being the provider and protector of life on Earth. Through their worldviews and their informed actions, these people act within a framework of protecting our home while the older generation of naysayers with their destructive worldview die off.

It is my view that the first thing that this powerful group of stewards of Nature, environmental educators, and young people must do is to intensely focus on the replacement of humanity’s “Story of Separation” with a “Living Earth Story”.

Another word for “story” is “worldview”. Worldview is commonly defined as a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world that guides us. The worldview of a large part of modern adult humans is believing that we are separate from Nature, from each other, and from the community of life. This worldview is commonly called the “Story of Separation”. This story erroneously portrays humanity as being able to control and predict Nature. The “Story of Separation” results in human behaviors of exploitation, excessive economic growth, extremes of wealth and inequality, and the misuse of Nature’s resources which result in the effects of climate change, consumerism, and overpopulation. For many of our adults  the “Story of Separation” is their guiding worldview. But for humanity to survive, we need to be living a worldview that is in synergy with our home — Mother Nature. It has been proposed by several people and organizations that we humans need to embrace the “Living Earth Story”.  A “Living Earth” is an environment where everything is interconnected and interdependent. It is an environment where life’s energy flows from our sun and then between every living creature on Earth. Indeed, the health and well-being of all life on Earth depends upon the preservation of this energy flow. For Earth’s human population to survive, this pattern of interdependence must become a powerful part of our consciousness. In the “Living Earth Story”, we humans believe in the power of community and interdependence — not separation.

The “Living Earth Story” can have its birth and growth in the minds and hearts of our youth while in the classroom and while being outdoors. Interdependence can be studied and practiced in the classroom, in Nature, and in human society. My teaching methods focus on inquiry-based seminars and field trips (with primary, secondary, and high school students), where we trace Nature’s vital energy flow and explore the consequences if we humans interrupt that flow.  We explore interdependence in Nature and in human society. The theme of my entire program is “Everything in Nature is Interdependent and Interconnected”. My students and I embrace the “Living Earth Story” as learning takes place.

It is my view that, if enough environmental educators and their schools throughout the world introduce and focus upon the “Living Earth Story”, our younger generations will gradually adopt and practice the “Living Earth Story” as the way of life that is already practiced by Mother Nature. As our older human generations die off, younger humans will operate in unity with Nature and achieve sustainability. 

I invite environmental educators and other stewards of Nature to join me in a dialog where we can all work together to create a plan of action for helping our young people adopt and practice a worldview that is guided by the “Living Earth Story”. Please provide your comments in the space at the end of this essay or by contacting me at my Twitter account @ballenamar.

Here, I offer several references regarding the “Living Earth Story”. To respect your time, with each reference I provide a short summary. 

Free Book. “Empowering Stewards of Nature – Lessons from Our Web of Life”

I encourage you to download a free copy of this 180-page PDF book written by me. You can download the book by following the instructions on the right-hand side of my web site home page at www.freshvista.com. It is the purpose of this book to share with environmental educators, my students,  and other stewards of Nature my suggestions for guiding their young people toward the development of a sustainable “Living Earth” worldview. You are welcome to use any of this material in your work. 

Nature’s Web of Life: The Soul and Science of an Interdependent Nature

This is my web site at https://www.freshvista.com. The home page summarizes the content including a list of many essays on interdependence in Nature. I also provide a short video which might prove useful to your students.

The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning.

This is a wonderful  book by Jeremy Lent ( https://www.jeremylent.com/flourishing-future.html )

The premise of this book is that our current sustainability crisis is a product of destructive human worldviews that can be reshaped. The book opens with a dedication to those “future generations” (our youth) who can reshape humanity’s worldview into a living earth story. The book continues with an excellent history about how our current worldviews about Nature evolved from previous generations of humans, how we are currently experiencing unnecessary suffering, and how these current worldviews are “…driving our civilization toward collapse”. Lent suggests that we modern humans “reach within ourselves to feel our deepest motivations as living beings embedded in the web of life, and act upon them.” This serves as a suggestion to all of us who are working with youth to create a new legacy of future environmental leaders who understand that:

“A Great Transformation of older worldviews would need to be founded on a worldview that could enable humanity to thrive sustainably on the earth into the future…. The new worldview would be based on the emerging systems view of life, recognizing the intrinsic interconnectedness between all forms of life on earth, and seeing humanity as physically and spiritually embracing the natural world.” 

Earth Charter

https://earthcharter.org/

The need is strong, for tools and strategies that reconnect us with the perception that we are part of a community of unique life, that is totally interconnected and that shares, and is generously welcomed by the planet. In the sense of a loving and careful systemic vision, the Earth Charter brings essential reflections. It works like a compass, a north that indicates fundamental inspirations for new actions. They are principles and values that guide us towards a new path, for the common good, for sustainability.

https://earthcharter.org/stories/patricia-abuhab-and-the-earth-charter-game-an-education-strategy-for-sustainability/

Worldviews and Values in Ecology

https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/uram.18.3.176

“The task for us is now clear, but complex: it is to develop worldviews and value systems that might improve on our chances for ecological survival and a meaningful future development for all life on earth within a global biotic community. It is to the accomplishment of this task that one worthwhile step might be to seek to rediscover the significance of the worldviews and the ultimate values of traditional cultures. We cannot copy or simply take over their worldviews, but we can learn from the ways in which the traditional cultures perceive their unity with all living beings. Furthermore, we can learn from the way they are able to adapt to present life conditions which put limits to what we can and should do now. We can learn from the ways such cultures seek ways in which to transform the world so that the human presence will continue to exist for generations to come along with other forms of life in the biotic community. Because, if we do not regard that task in all seriousness as a significant, meaningful, and even ultimate task, we might one day find that there will be no need any more to look for ultimate values in other areas – because there simply will not be any beings around to realize any kind of values at all. If we are to avoid such a dreadful fate, we need to do our job by working out ultimate values of such a nature that they arise out of an ecological worldview and thus reflect a spirituality of survival for all life on earth.”

Changing Our Worldview for A Sustainable Future and The Role of Dialogue

http://www.totetu.org/assets/media/paper/j023_040.pdf

“The best mechanism for us to declare our responsibility to each other would be through intercultural, interfaith and interdisciplinary dialogues such as  between the natural and social-human sciences. Dialogue is the meeting of hearts and minds in the form of cooperative and positive interaction between people of different faith, traditions, spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at the individual or institutional level. Its aim is to derive a common ground in belief and strategy for common action, through a concentration on similarities between faiths, understanding of values and commitment to the common good. Dialogue is communication between people of faith (who agree to disagree on certain issues such as their differences); it is the experience of travelling together and working in projects that are of mutual importance. To engage in dialogue also means to be able to take oneself out of one’s own group; seeing oneself as others would see oneself and seeing the future of humankind as a whole.”

Why ecocentrism is the key pathway to sustainability

https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/statement-ecocentrism/

 

Ecocentrism finds value in all of nature. It takes a much wider view of the world than does anthropocentrism, which sees individual humans and the human species as more valuable than all other organisms. Ecocentrism is the broadest of worldviews, but there are related worldviews. Ecocentrism goes beyond biocentrism (ethics that sees inherent value to all living things) by including environmental systems as wholes, and their abiotic aspects. It also goes beyond zoocentrism (seeing value in animals) on account of explicitly including flora and the ecological contexts for organisms. Ecocentrism is thus the umbrella that includes biocentrism and zoocentrism, because all three of these worldviews value the nonhuman, with ecocentrism having the widest vision. Given that life relies on geological processes and geomorphology to sustain it, and that ‘geodiversity’ also has intrinsic value, the broader term ‘ecocentrism’ seems most appropriate.

David Korten – Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP7OCZ0d27U&ab_channel=SamEuston

(40 minute video)

David Korten addresses the ecological crisis that is created by economic growth and suggests alternative strategies. His book that brings together the important teachings of Thomas Berry (The Dream of the Earth) and the many books about an economic system that protects life on Earth rather than destroys it. David Korten suggests that the Sacred Money and Markets story, the one that drives our lives today, be replaced by a Sacred Life and Living Earth story that preserves the community of life.

According to Korten, “we have created a global suicide economy designed to make money with no concern for the consequences for life”. He goes on to suggest that we must modify our worldview to align with the Society of Friends who suggest that:

“Our understanding of the testimony of simplicity is about removing the excesses that distract us from the life of the Spirit, as well as not using more than our fair share of Earth’s resources. Our testimony of equality would guide us away from a society of such income inequality that exists today. And our testimony of community would lead us to a society where the good of the community comes before the good of the individual.”

Korten then goes on to describe in more detail critical design choices:

“Realigning the basis of our economy to living households and communities, and away from computer-driven financial markets and corporations, is the essential first step toward a healthy, sustainable future. Ownership is power. When that power resides in global financial markets and corporations, it supports making money. But, when distributed among living people in living communities, it supports making a living.”

Please Comment

I encourage you to share your ideas with me. Please provide your comments in the space at the end of this essay or by contacting me at my Twitter account @ballenamar. (Twitter hashtag: # environmentaleducation)

Environmental Education Essay List

Click on a title to view an essay

Environmental Education: Empowering Our Youth

“For people, their story of the human role in the universe is their primary source of intelligibility and value. The deepest crises experienced by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate for meeting the survival demands of a present situation.”

— Thomas Berry – Dream of the Earth

As a fellow environmental educator, I believe that the future welfare of my young high school students is in jeopardy. Many of them are unaware of the world that much of the adult generation is leaving for them — a future world that includes limited food supplies, less land to support all life on earth, and social unrest. Many of we adults are apathetic about Nature even though Nature is our home upon which we all depend. Much of the human adult population over age 25 harbors a worldview that separates humanity from Nature. We see this apathy expressed in human attitudes about the climate change crisis and a deep distrust of scientists and educators. In addition, our adult population has actively participated in the pollution of our society’s value system resulting in an economic free-for-all that has caused the over-consumption of Nature’s resources.

I offer this question to you:

How can humans thrive within a natural world that has the ingredients necessary for our survival but, at the same time, is threatened by human destruction of that world?

In answer to this question, Earth Charter offers a challenge to we environmental educators and to all stewards of Nature”

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. … the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that amid a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.”

Despite the impact of a large apathetic group of humans over age 25, there is a significant group of people in this age range who are very effective stewards of our Earth and who hold the power to help our youth embrace a worldview that can result in them advancing the well-being of our home — Mother Earth — now and in the future. These people include teachers (particularly environmental educators), scientists, and all other humans who embrace Nature as being the provider and protector of life on Earth. Through their worldviews and their informed actions, these people act within a framework of protecting our home while the older generation of naysayers with their destructive worldview die off.

It is my view that the first thing that this powerful group of stewards of Nature, environmental educators, and young people must do is to intensely focus on the replacement of humanity’s “Story of Separation” with a “Living Earth Story”.

Another word for “story” is “worldview”. Worldview is commonly defined as a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world that guides us. The worldview of a large part of modern adult humans is believing that we are separate from Nature, from each other, and from the community of life. This worldview is commonly called the “Story of Separation”. This story erroneously portrays humanity as being able to control and predict Nature. The “Story of Separation” results in human behaviors of exploitation, excessive economic growth, extremes of wealth and inequality, and the misuse of Nature’s resources which result in the effects of climate change, consumerism, and overpopulation.

Our human race cannot enjoy a sustainable future if the “Story of Separation” is our guiding worldview. Instead, we need to be living a worldview that is in synergy with our home — Mother Nature. It has been

proposed by several people and organizations that we humans need to embrace the “Living Earth Story”.  A “Living Earth” is an environment where everything is interconnected and interdependent. It is an environment where life’s energy flows from our sun and then between every living creature on Earth. Indeed, the health and well-being of all life on Earth depends upon this energy flow to live. For Earth’s human population to survive, this pattern of interdependence must become a powerful part of our consciousness. In the “Living Earth Story”, we humans believe in the power of community and interdependence — not separation.

The “Living Earth Story” can have its birth and growth in the minds and hearts of our youth while in the classroom and while being outdoors. Interdependence can be studied and practiced in the classroom, in Nature, and in human society. My teaching methods focus on inquiry-based seminars and field trips (with primary, secondary, and high school students), where we trace Nature’s vital energy flow and explore the consequences if we humans interrupt that flow.  We explore interdependence in Nature and in human society. The theme of my entire program is “Everything in Nature is Interdependent and Interconnected”. We embrace the “Living Earth Story” as learning takes place.

It is my view that, if enough environmental educators and their schools throughout the world introduce and practice the “Living Earth Story”, our younger generations will gradually adopt and practice the “Living Earth Story” as the way of life that is already practiced by Mother Nature. As our older human generations die off, humanity will operate in unity with Nature and achieve sustainability. 

I invite environmental educators and other stewards of Nature to join me in a dialog where we can all work together to create a plan of action for helping our young people adopt and practice a worldview that is guided by the “Living Earth Story”. Please provide your comments in the space at the end of this essay or by contacting me at my Twitter account @ballenamar.

Here, I offer several references regarding the “Living Earth Story”. To respect your time, with each reference I provide a short summary.

 

References and useful teaching material that focuses on interdependence in Nature and the”Living Earth Story”

 

Nature’s Web of Life: The Soul and Science of an Interdependent Nature

This is my web site at https://www.freshvista.com. The home page summarizes the content including a list of many essays on interdependence in Nature. I also provide a short video which might prove useful to your students.

 

Free Book. “Empowering Stewards of Nature – Lessons from Our Web of Life”

I encourage you to download a free copy of this 180-page PDF book written by me. You can download the book by following the instructions on the right-hand side of my web site home page at www.freshvista.com.  It is the purpose of this book to share with environmental educators and other stewards of Nature my suggestions for guiding their young people toward the development of a sustainable “Living Earth” worldview. You are welcome to use any of this material in your work. The table of contents for this book is displayed on the download page that appears after you click the picture of the book that appears on the right side.

The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning. A book by Jeremy Lent

https://www.jeremylent.com/flourishing-future.html

The premise of this book is that our current sustainability crisis is a product of destructive human worldviews that can be reshaped. The book opens with a dedication to those “future generations”(our youth) who can reshape humanity’s worldview. The book continues with an excellent history about how our current worldviews about Nature evolved from previous generations of humans, how we are currently experiencing unnecessary suffering, and how these current worldviews are “…driving our civilization toward collapse”. Lent suggests that we modern humans “reach within ourselves to feel our deepest motivations as living beings embedded in the web of life, and act upon them.” This serves as a suggestion to all of us who are working with youth to create a new legacy of future environmental leaders who understand that:

“A Great Transformation of older worldviews would need to be founded on a worldview that could enable humanity to thrive sustainably on the earth into the future…. The new worldview would be based on the emerging systems view of life, recognizing the intrinsic interconnectedness between all forms of life on earth, and seeing humanity as physically and spiritually embracing the natural world.”

Earth Charter

https://earthcharter.org/

The need is strong, for tools and strategies that reconnect us with the perception that we are part of a community of unique life, that is totally interconnected and that shares, and is generously welcomed by the planet. In the sense of a loving and careful systemic vision, the Earth Charter brings essential reflections. It works like a compass, a north that indicates fundamental inspirations for new actions. They are principles and values ​​that guide us towards a new path, for the common good, for sustainability.

Worldviews and Values in Ecology

https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/uram.18.3.176

“The task for us is now clear, but complex: it is to develop worldviews and value systems that might improve on our chances for ecological survival and a meaningful future development for all life on earth within a global biotic community. It is to the accomplishment of this task that one worthwhile step might be to seek to rediscover the significance of the worldviews and the ultimate values of traditional cultures. We cannot copy or simply take over their worldviews, but we can learn from the ways in which the traditional cultures perceive their unity with all living beings.”

Changing Our Worldview for A Sustainable Future and The Role of Dialogue

http://www.totetu.org/assets/media/paper/j023_040.pdf

“The best mechanism for us to declare our responsibility to each other would be through dialogues—intercultural, interfaith and even interdisciplinary dialogue, as for example between the natural and social-human sciences. Dialogue is the meeting of hearts and minds in the form of cooperative and positive interaction between people of different faith, traditions, spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at the individual or institutional level. Its aim is to derive a common ground in belief and strategy for common action, through a concentration on similarities between faiths, understanding of values and commitment to the common good. Dialogue is communication between people of faith (who agree to disagree on certain issues such as their differences for example); it is the experience of travelling together and working in projects that are of mutual importance. To engage in dialogue also means to be able to take oneself out of one’s own group; seeing oneself as others would see oneself and seeing the future of humankind as a whole.”

Why ecocentrism is the key pathway to sustainability

https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/statement-ecocentrism/

“Ecocentrism finds value in all of nature. It takes a much wider view of the world than does anthropocentrism, which sees individual humans and the human species as more valuable than all other organisms. Ecocentrism is the broadest of worldviews, but there are related worldviews. Ecocentrism goes beyond biocentrism (ethics that sees inherent value to all living things) by including environmental systems as wholes, and their abiotic aspects. It also goes beyond zoocentrism (seeing value in animals) on account of explicitly including flora and the ecological contexts for organisms. Ecocentrism is thus the umbrella that includes biocentrism and zoocentrism, because all three of these worldviews value the nonhuman, with ecocentrism having the widest vision. Given that life relies on geological processes and geomorphology to sustain it, and that ‘geodiversity’ also has intrinsic value, the broader term ‘ecocentrism’ seems most appropriate.”

David Korten – Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP7OCZ0d27U&ab_channel=SamEuston (40 minute video)

David Korten addresses the ecological crisis that is created by economic growth and suggests alternative strategies. His book that brings together the important teachings of Thomas Berry (The Dream of the Earth) and the many books about an economic system that protects life on Earth rather than destroys it. David Korten suggests that the Sacred Money and Markets story, the one that drives our lives today, be replaced by a Sacred Life and Living Earth story that preserves the community of life.

According to Korten, “we have created a global suicide economy designed to make money with no concern for the consequences for life”. He goes on to suggest that we must modify our worldview to align with the Society of Friends who suggest that:

“Our understanding of the testimony of simplicity is about removing the excesses that distract us from the life of the Spirit, as well as not using more than our fair share of Earth’s resources. Our testimony of equality would guide us away from a society of such income inequality that exists today. And our testimony of community would lead us to a society where the good of the community comes before the good of the individual.”

Korten then goes on to describe in more detail critical design choices:

“Realigning the basis of our economy to living households and communities, and away from computer-driven financial markets and corporations, is the essential first step toward a healthy, sustainable future. Ownership is power. When that power resides in global financial markets and corporations, it supports making money. But, when distributed among living people in living communities, it supports making a living.”

Please Comment

I encourage you to share your ideas with me. Please provide your comments in the space at the end of this essay or by contacting me at my Twitter account @ballenamar.

Carl Sagan Discusses Man’s Arrogance About Nature

  • Mankind cannot live without Nature but Nature can live without mankind.
  • Mankind has compelled his nature upon Nature.
  • Charles Darwin has famously said that “Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work, worthy of the interposition of a deity. More humble, and I believe truer, to consider him created from animals.”
  • A quote  from Gozilla that holds a lot of truth is “The arrogance of man is in thinking that Nature is in our control and not the other way around.”
  • Joanna Macy defines the “Great Turning” as “a name for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization “.

 

All of these comments imply that the solution to the environmental ills of mankind is a change in worldview from an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions. We call this arrogance, ownership, and control. A new and very positive worldview by human culture that will assure our future on this Planet is a consciousness of our connection with everything coupled with a sense of our interdependence with everything our Planet.

 

One of my favorite people is the late Carl Sagan who is famous for his in-depth talks on many subjects. Here is one review of Sagan’s work.

 

“Sagan’s ability to convey his ideas allowed many people to understand the cosmos better—simultaneously emphasizing the value and worthiness of the human race, and the relative insignificance of the Earth in comparison to the Universe. He delivered the 1977 series of Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in London. He hosted and, with Ann Druyan, co-wrote and co-produced the highly popular thirteen-part Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.”

 

One of my Carl Sagan favorites is his discussion of man’s arrogance. The definition of arrogance is when a person believes he or she is better than others, knows more than everyone else, and acts out these beliefs. An example of arrogance is when a person believes that he is never wrong and is “entitled to do certain things that prove destructive. The title of Sagan’s talk  “Man And His Arrogance”. You can view his talk by way of a Youtube video.

If you prefer to read the text of Carl Sagan’s speech, I provide it below:

 

“See that star?

“You mean that bright red one?” his daughter asks in return

“Yes, it might not be there anymore. It might be gone by now, exploded or something. Its light is still crossing space, just reaching our eyes now. But we don’t see it as it is, we see it as it was.”

Many people experience a stirring sense of wonder when they first confront this simple truth. Why? why should it be so compelling. The immense distances to the stars and the galaxies means we see everything in the past. Some as they were before the earth came to be. Telescopes are time machines.

Long ago, when an early galaxy began to pour light out in to the surrounding darkness no witness could have known that billions of years later. Some remote clumps of rock and metal, ice and organic molecules would fall together to form a place that we call earth. And surely nobody could have imagined that life would arise, and thinking beings evolve who would one day capture a fraction of that light and would try to puzzle out what sent it on its way.

We can recognize here a shortcoming, in some circumstances serious, in our ability to understand the world. Characteristically, willie-nilly we seem compelled to project our own nature onto nature. Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work worthy of the interposition of a deity. Darwin wrote in his notebook, more humble, and I think truer to consider himself created from animals.

We’re johnny-come-latelys; we live in the cosmic boondocks; we emerged from microbes in muck; Apes are our cousins; our thoughts are not entirely our own, and on top of that we’re making a mess of our planet and becoming a danger to ourselves.

The trapdoor beneath our feet swings open. We find ourselves in bottomless free fall. We are lost in a great darkness and there is nobody to send out a search party. Given so harsh a reality, of course we are inclined to shut our eyes and pretend that we are safe and snug at home, that the fall is only a bad dream. If it takes a little myth and ritual to get us through a night that seems endless, who among us cannot sympathize and understand?

We long to be here for a purpose. Even though, despite much self-deception, none is evident. The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for parents to care for us, to forgive us of our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge of preferable to ignorance. Better, by far, to embrace the harsh reality than a reassuring fable.

Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Our common sense intuitions can be mistaken. Our preferences don’t count. We do not live in a privileged reference frame. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”

 

For Your Further Consideration

 

This essay, and other essays in this web site, present ideas to environmental educators and all stewards of Nature about ecoliteracy and legacy.   The emphasis is on two key ideas:

  • Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms energy. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity, This worldview includes the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
  • Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on and place-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of our youth. Environmental education must include the the passing of this consciousness to future generation.

 

Please Comment

 

The purpose of this web site is to build a dialog between myself and my readers. I invite you to offer your comments, your critique, and to share your ideas with all of my readers in the comment space provided below.

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar .  With Twitter, in addition to receiving regular Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

We Humans Must Include Nature In Our Sense of Self

Those of you who are regular readers of my essays might have sensed a series of themes that regularly underlie my writing:

 

  • Everything in Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
  • Nature is our home. We humans need Nature to live, but Nature does not need we humans.
  • Humans are consuming Nature’s resources and polluting the atmosphere at unsustainable rates that might result in  the end of the human race by 2100.
  • We senior adults are leaving an ecological mess for our youth.
  • The environmental education of our youth is an essential activity that can aid our youth in reversing the destruction caused by we adults.

 

The Great Turning

 

These themes, and other themes about how humans are affecting Nature, have evolved into extensive rhetoric from many sources about how we humans can save ourselves.  The passion of our modern youth and the ideas of numerous thought leaders and conservation organizations has led to extensive discourse on the web and in many fine books. One popular theme that has emerged is  The Great Turning. Joanna Macy defines the “Great Turning” as :

 

“a name for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization.

The ecological and social crises we face are caused by an economic system dependent on accelerating growth. This self-destructing political economy sets its goals and measures its performance in terms of ever-increasing corporate profits—in other words by how fast materials can be extracted from Earth and turned into consumer products, weapons, and waste.

A revolution is under way because people are realizing that our needs can be met without destroying our world. We have the technical knowledge, the communication tools, and material resources to grow enough food, ensure clean air and water, and meet rational energy needs. Future generations, if there is a livable world for them, will look back at the epochal transition we are making to a life-sustaining society. And they may well call this the time of the Great Turning. It is happening now.”

 

From my perspective and life experiences as a biologist, a teacher. and a conservationist, I do not see a “Great Turning” taking place. I say this because I see strong evidence that a sufficient number of influential people and organisations view themselves as “entitled” to live their lives by ignoring Nature’s warning signs. This group also refuses to accept the acquired knowledge of humans, both indigenous wisdom and our scientists, who have carefully studied the negative impacts that we humans have imposed upon Nature The harmful attitudes of those who view themselves as “entitled” have emerged from an erroneous worldview of how Nature and our world operates. I have written about my hope that all humans will somehow return to Nature. But, this can only come about if we, as individuals, embrace a wider sense of self within our beings.

 

Our needs can be met without destroying our world

 

Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone have written a wonderful book entitled “Active Hope“. Amazon describes the book as  :

 

“Drawing on decades of teaching an empowerment approach known as the Work That Reconnects, the authors guide us through a transformational process informed by mythic journeys, modern psychology, spirituality, and holistic science. This process equips us with tools to face the mess we’re in and play our role in the collective transition, or Great Turning, to a life-sustaining society.”

 

Human Wisdom can become a plan of action

 

While this book describes a task that might be too difficult or too big for many humans to swallow, the book has a wonderful chapter (called “A Wider Sense of Self”) that asks us to call upon one’s inner self to make a transformation. This chapter also contains guiding wisdom that can be presented by environmental educators to their students. In turn, this wisdom can become a plan of action that our youth can use to guide them toward protecting our Mother Earth.  What follows is a series of quotes from Chapter 5 of “Active Hope” entitled “A Wider Sense Of Self”. This chapter suggests that each human can experience a transformation in which the emergence of a wider sense of self powerfully enhances our ability to contribute to the stability of our interdependent and interconnected world.

 

“There is so much more to us than just a separate self; our connected self is based on recognizing that we are part of many larger circles. Our sense of rootedness comes from experiencing these more encompassing circles of our identity. When the definition of self changes, the meaning of self-interest and self-serving motivations changes accordingly.

 

The Indian culture has developed such a richly satisfying life of connectedness that they can’t be bought off. Preserving the beauty and vitality of their world is more important to them than anything a materialistic society can offer.

 

Discovering hidden depths to our identity

 

But elsewhere, beautiful forests are being torn down to make way for open-cast mines, while corporate-backed mercenaries crush opposition from the local population. “Who am I to take on the problems of the world?” we might ask. Yet our view of what we’re capable of is linked to our sense of who and what we are. Discovering hidden depths to our identity opens up a whole new set of possibilities.

 

Can we transform our expression of selfishness by widening and deepening the self for whom we act?

 

Unhappily, the extensive moralizing within the ecological movement has given the public the false impression that they are being asked to make a sacrifice — to show more responsibility, more concern and a nicer moral standard. But all of that would flow naturally and easily if the self were widened and deepened so that protection of nature was felt and perceived as protection of our very selves. By inviting in experiences of interconnectedness we can enhance our sense of belonging to our world. This mode of being widens and deepens our sense of who we are.

 

It is from our connected selves that much of what people most value in life emerges, including love, friendship, loyalty, trust, relationship, belonging, purpose, gratitude, spirituality, mutual aid, and meaning. When people lose their sense of belonging to larger circles, they lose not only the motivation to act for their communities and environment but also valuable sources of support and resilience.

 

We humans live in the web of life. Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking

 

We live in the web of life in reciprocity with people, other creatures, and the earth, recognizing that they are part of us and we are part of them. When we include the natural world, we are brought into a much larger story of who and what we are. Recognizing ourselves as part of the living body of Earth opens us to a great source of strength. Life has a powerful creative energy and manifests a powerful desire to continue. When we align ourselves with the well-being of our world, we allow that desire and creative energy to act through us. When I try to protect the rainforest, I become part of the rainforest protecting itself. I am that part of the rainforest recently emerged into human thinking.

 

Important steps in our evolution have occurred through cooperation between species, even to the point of separate organisms joining together to create entirely new forms. According to Margulis and Sagan (1996), “Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking” (i.e., by cooperation, interaction, and mutual dependence between living organisms).

 

Our passions need to be compassion and an insight into the radical interdependence of all phenomena. We need compassion because it provides the fuel to move us out to where we need to be and to do what we need to do.  You also need the insight into the radical interconnectivity of all that is. We are so interwoven in the web of life that even our smallest acts have repercussions that ripple through the whole web, beyond our capacity to see.

 

When we see with new eyes, we discover a different way of perceiving and experiencing power.”

 

One of my essays entitled “Compassionate Consciousness” suggests a pathway toward the ideas expressed in these quotes from the “Active Hope” book.

 

Our plan of action must include developing connections through our young people

 

The secret to resolving our environmental crises is to develop a consciousness for the idea of Nature’s interdependent connections. through our young people. Young people have fresh minds. They are unhampered by the biases we develop as we get older. And, they learn and associate through awe and wonder. Many environmental organizations are beginning to realize that sustainability education within our schools is a powerful means to correct the ecological mistakes of the past. Instead of offering the common doomsday approach, environmental education uses stewardship to build a basic consciousness toward interdependence in Nature that will serve as a foundation for sound ecological decisions in the future.”

 

For Your Further Consideration

 

This essay, and other essays in this web site, present ideas to environmental educators and all stewards of Nature about ecoliteracy and legacy.   The emphasis is on two key ideas:

 

· Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms energy. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity, This worldview includes the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.

· Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on and place-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of our youth. Environmental education must include the the passing of this consciousness to future generation.

 

Please Comment

 

The purpose of this web site is to build a dialog between myself and my readers. I invite you to offer your comments, your critique, and to share your ideas with all of my readers in the comment space provided below.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar .  With Twitter, in addition to receiving regular Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

Two Famous Sages Speak About Interdependence In Nature

 

Interdependence is a defining feature of all life on our Earth.

 

I have written about the vital importance of interdependence to all living things on our planet. But, long before I wrote about interdependence, the subject was discussed in the essays of two famous people — Charles Darwin and the Buddhist  sage Thich Nhat Hanh. The purpose of this essay is to offer the writings of these two sages about the interdependence of all things in Nature.

 

Thich Nhat Hanh offers the following in his book “The Heart of Understanding”:

 

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be.

 

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

 

Looking even more deeply, we can see we are in it too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, the sheet of paper is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. You cannot point out one thing that is not here-time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. “To be” is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.

 

Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its source. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do you think that this sheet of paper will be possible? No, without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper elements.” And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without “non-paper elements,” like mind, logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.

 

Charles Darwin, in speaking about Nature’s Tangled Bank says:

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

For Your Further Consideration

 

This essay, and other essays in this web site, present ideas to environmental educators and all stewards of Nature about ecoliteracy and legacy.   The emphasis is on two key ideas:

  • Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms energy. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity, This worldview includes the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
  • Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on and place-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of our youth. Environmental education must include the the passing of this consciousness to future generation.

 

 

Please Comment

 

The purpose of this web site is to build a dialog between myself and my readers. I invite you to offer your comments, your critique, and to share your ideas with all of my readers in the comment space provided below.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar .  With Twitter, in addition to receiving regular Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I have read and that I think is important.

An Informed Story About Nature Guides Human Life

“The power of story is that it bypasses rhetoric and pierces the heart ”

                                                              — Terry Tempest Williams

Our Stories Define Who We Are And How We Conduct Our Lives

The major problem that we humans face in this age is not climate change, over-consumption, or population growth. Our problem is that we are guided by an inaccurate underlying story about Nature — which is our home. Another word for “story” is “worldview”. Worldview is commonly defined as a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.

 

Charles Eisenstein, in his book “Ascent of Humanity” says:

 

“A story paints a particular picture of how life is or should be and directly shapes our lives and our world, often without our even being aware of its influence.”

“Like other cultures before us, we have created a mythology, a constellation of stories to explain The Way of the World. It includes the forces of nature, the forces of human nature, the story of our origins, and an account of our role and function in the universe. Like those of all cultures, our mythology is not wholly fabricated but a window on the truth, that is seen through the distorting lens of our culture’s prejudices. Our stories are mostly unconscious. A story paints a particular picture of how life is or should be and directly shapes our lives and our world, often without our even being aware of its influence.”

Climate change, over-consumption, and population growth problems are the results of being guided by an inaccurate story.

Kenny Ausubel, in his book   Dreaming The Future [ https://www.amazon.com/Dreaming-Future-Reimagining-Civilization-Nature/dp/1603584595 ], says:

“It is not a new gadget that’s going to make us more sustainable as a culture — it is a change of heart and a new set of eyes, a new way of viewing and valuing the world in which we are embedded and on which we depend.”

The lives of we modern human adults are being guided by a destructive and inaccurate worldview about how Nature operates. In order to survive, our consciousness needs to become synchronous with how Nature really operates. The purpose of this essay is to offer a list of some of the important features of Nature that we humans are unaware or have chosen to ignore.

Our youth can build a bright future by acquiring an accurate and informed story about Nature

This non-inclusive list, created from many sources including Kenny Ausubel’s book,  may serve as a starting point for the development or enhancement of curriculum in our environmental education programs where our youth are in the process of preparing for adulthood by developing an accurate worldview and consciousness that contains an informed story about Nature.

  • Human survival depends upon having an informed story about Nature that is based on good science.
  • There is no separation between human beings and the environment!! Nature can live without humans but humans cannot live without Nature.
  • The living biological truth is that human health is dependent on the health of the environment.
  • Centralized  human developed command-and-control worldviews, top-down human high technologies, and globalized human cultures characterize a dysfunctional civilization at odds with the decentralized intelligence of living systems.
  • Our real world is Nature. Nature consists of webs of interdependence. “Systems” is the word that guides us to the web of life and the health of the whole. The word “systems” changes our perspective from ‘I’ and ‘me’ to ‘we’, ‘ours, and ‘us’.
  • Local links run the world. Think ants, fish schools, bird flocks, and human crowds.
  • Interactions between things are more important than the things themselves.
  • The nature of Nature is constant change.
  • The name of the game is resilience. It means the capacity of both human and ecological systems to absorb disturbance and still retain their basic function and structure. Resilience does not mean just bouncing back to business-as-usual. It means assuring the very ability to get back. But if ecological regime change happens, resilience means having sufficient capacity to transform to meet the new management.
  • The first principle of resilience thinking is systems thinking: It’s all connected, from the web of life to human systems—“ You can only solve the whole problem,”
  • Our new declaration of independence is from fossil fuels and imperial entanglements.
  • There is no boundary that will protect Nature from a suffering humanity. If we are to save what is wild, what is irreparable and majestic in Nature, then we will ironically have to turn to each other and take care of all the human beings here on Earth.
  • The scent of money and political will destroys human humility and precaution when we engage Nature.
  • Nature optimizes rather than maximizes— it designs for the good of the whole system.
  • Nature leverages interdependence by recycling all materials, fostering cooperative relationships, and creating self-organizing systems.
  • Nature uses benign manufacturing with “life-friendly” materials, water-based chemistry, and self-assembly.
  • Nature constantly adapts and evolves.
  • Nature is resourceful and opportunistic. It uses feedback loops to keep learning and responding. It integrates cyclic processes. It cross-pollinates and mutates. It builds resilience through diversity, decentralization, and redundancy, allowing for failure and building in safeguards to avoid the possibility of crashing the whole system at once.
  • Nature runs on current sunlight.
  • Nature depends upon diversity.
  • Nature rewards cooperation.
  • Nature builds from the bottom up.
  • Nature recycles everything.
  • Nature creates conditions conducive to life.
  • In Nature, survival of a species depends upon the optimal use of energy. While we humans indiscriminately guzzle energy, Nature sips it.
  • Ecology is the study of relationships. Restoring the environment is about creating and sustaining healthy, functional relationships — both between people and Nature and between people and people.
  • Restoring natural ecology first requires restoring the social ecology of humans. This means connecting all the fractured agencies and people.
  • The limiting factor to human wellbeing and development is not human-made capital, it is life itself.

For Your Further Consideration

Ecological literacy (ecoliteracy) is the ability to understand how our Earth’s natural systems make life on our planet possible. The essays in this website offer thoughts about ecoliteracy to all environmental educators,  students, and stewards of Nature.   The emphasis is on these key ideas:
  • Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms  the energy necessary for all life to exist. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity. This worldview (the “Living Earth Story”) is supported by the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
  • Environmental educators, their students, scientists, and all stewards of Nature  are a powerful progressive force that, through their knowledge about Nature, through the legacies that they create, and through their informed actions are capable of overseeing the well-being of our home —  Mother Earth
  • Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on, and action-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a worldview in the minds and hearts of all of our youth. Environmental education must include the acts of passing this consciousness on to future generations.
  • If you are interested in working with me, other environmental educators, and other stewards of Nature to build a legacy of young people who will embrace and evangelize the worldview that “Everything on Earth is Connected and Interdependent”, please provide your questions and comments in the space provided below or by contacting me at my Twitter account @ballenamar.

Please Comment  Here

Human “Entitlement” Is An Ecological Threat

For the last 35 years, I have lived the life of a college professor and high school teacher in the beautiful city of Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico located some 250 miles due south of Tucson, Arizona along the eastern shore of the Sea of Cortez. One of my greatest pleasures and privileges is being an environmental educator working with students who are in their last year of high school as they get ready for new life adventures as university students in Mexico or in the USA.

 

One of my projects is to oversee the “Green Team” where my students teach primary grade students about the flow of energy in Nature. The Green Team emphasizes that everything in our world is connected and interdependent. Through the group of 3rd grade to 8th grade students, my high school students are building their own legacy as effective stewards of Nature. The Green Team “classroom” for these young students is a beautiful beach and estuary that is part of the shoreline that defines the Sea of Cortez. The beach and the estuary is a legally protected bird sanctuary that is governed by conservation regulations that are administered both by the Mexican state of Sonora and the Republic of Mexico.

 

This idyllic location is very close to the village of San Carlos — a location that attracts both Mexican and American/Canadian (Anglo) tourists. There are two large condominium projects just outside of the boundary for the protected area. Dogs and other human pets are prohibited inside the protected area. There are four large signs in Spanish and English that prohibit dogs. Dogs are considered an ecological threat because the large group of visiting migrating birds view dogs as predators. Feeding and breeding cycles of these birds are disturbed by dogs. Some dogs also chew the legs of these birds. Also, there is a growing number of sea turtles who now lay their eggs in the protected area. Dogs (and humans) invade these nests.

 

During the times that our Green Team “school” on the beach is operating, my students are trained to approach people who illegally walk their dogs on the beach and respectfully offer some environmental education about why a dog is an ecological threat. Over 80% of the time, my students succeed in convincing the dog walker to leave the restricted area with their animal. But, the other 20% of the dog walkers start arguing because they believe that are “entitled” to be on this beach with their dog despite the signs that are posted. The usual response by the dog walker is that they have been visiting San Carlos for 15 years, live in the condominiums, and are not going to change (in other words, they are “entitled” ). Some of these condominium dwellers have organized themselves to circumvent the rules that govern the protection of the beach and the estuary. (another act of “entitlement”).

 

Recently, one condominium dweller approached my group of students. I will call her “Jane Doe”. Jane  declared her “respect” for my students then went on to explain why dog walkers are necessary to keep the beach clean. Her logic escapes me because a dog does not clean the beach. Instead, it threatens the wildlife of the area. At this point in their conversation with Jane, my students disbanded to successfully engage and turn back four other groups of dog walkers. Jane Doe then reconnected with my group of students to declare that, once they leave the beach, she and others will be illegally walking their dogs again in the restricted area.

Acts of Human “Entitlement” Damage The Environment And Disrespect Society

 

Sadly, Jane Doe and some other visitors to San Carlos commit both ecological sins and cultural sins. They  show disrespect to their host country by violating the laws of their host country,  disrespect to their host community, disrespect to my students, and disrespect to a group of knowledgeable scientists who have  created guiding regulations in order to preserve an important ecosystem. There is no respect. There is only the ecological damage caused by acts of “entitlement” by some very arrogant adult humans.

 

Entitlement is defined as the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.The “entitled” groups of the world come in packages of all sizes,  From the Jane Does on the beach at San Carlos to global corporations. These groups see themselves as deserving of privileges and special treatment that results in damage to the environment in which all life, both plants and animals, depend upon to exist.

 

The true story of Jane Doe illustrates an important point. The “entitled” groups of our world, both human adults and human organizations, have created a worldwide epidemic of entitlement that has resulted in the youth of this world inheriting  a damaged environment on our Earth that has put BOTH humanity and all of Nature at risk. The most common example is climate change where the  “entitled” are large corporations and climate deniers who believe that climate change consciousness is destructive to their economic well-being. The entitled groups hold a destructive state of mind that:

 

  • Publicly projects an erroneous attitude of entitlement,
  • Robs from future generations
  • Has no consciousness for Nature and Her creatures.
  • Fails to recognize that Nature is our home and the home of all living things.
  • Has no sense that we humans must work to preserve our home.

 

Acts of Human “Entitlement” Endanger The Future Of Our Young People


Sadly, these “entitled” people and organizations possess an environmentally destructive worldview. This means that the future of our youth is in doubt. It is our youth who must take some form of action to stop the potential environmental destruction. In the case of Jane Doe and her actions for example, the youth of San Carlos can solicit the local government agency and volunteer to help with the problem. In addition, since the citizens of Guaymas are very proud of their estuary, the students could solicit public support by writing an article for the local newspaper.

 

Fortunately, the youth of the world are beginning to rise up as they make moves to protect their future and the future of those who they love. The most famous example is the work of Greta Thunberg . I salute you Greta !!! Time Magazine has made a very wise choice for their “Person Of The Year” You are an inspration to all young people and hopefully to those adults who need to eliminate their sense of entitlement.  In addition to Greta, the Internet is ripe with many examples of the youth of the world protesting the destructive behavior of the more senior members of the world who feel “entitled” to do whatever suits them.

For Your Further Consideration

 

This essay, and other essays in this web site, present ideas to environmental educators and all stewards of Nature about ecoliteracy and legacy.   The emphasis is on two key ideas:

 

  1. Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms energy. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity, This worldview includes the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
  2. Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on and place-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of our youth. Environmental education must include the the passing of this consciousness to future generation.

 

Please Comment

 

The purpose of this web site is to build a dialog between myself and my readers. I invite you to offer your comments, your critique, and to share your ideas with all of my readers in the comment space provided below.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar .  With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

.

Gratitude Is A Powerful Conservation Strategy

As an environmental educator, I feel deeply privileged to be participating in the lives of my students. My passion is strong. I tend to be like a protective parent with my young people as I experience anger over those who continue to damage our Earth’s environment and the future of my “kids”. Many of my students do not understand my anger simply because they have not experienced the negative impact of those who are causing environmental damage. Rather than explain my feelings, I choose to portray gratitude for how Nature is our home and how Nature can protect us if  we allow her to do so. By taking this positive approach, I hope to instill a defense mechanism of gratitude in my youth that will carry them into full adulthood.

 

I am writing this essay during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season when we express our thanks for many things and wish good will to all mankind. What follows is a collection of notes about gratitude that I have collected over the years.

 

Gratitude is a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for all of life.

 

Recognizing the gifts in your life is profoundly strengthening. By savoring these gifts, you add to your psychological buoyancy, which helps you maintain your balance and poise when entering rougher waters.

 

Gratitude enhances our resilience, strengthening us to face disturbing information.

 

Gratitude promotes a sense of well being. It focuses our attention on things that we feel good about. Our readiness to help others is influenced by the level of gratitude we experience. It’s about getting better at spotting what’s already there.

 

Each day, by asking ourselves, “What happened today that I’m pleased about or thankful for?” we direct  our gaze toward constructive and positive actions.

 

Gratitude As An Antidote To Consumerism

 

While gratitude leads to increased happiness and life satisfaction, materialism — placing a higher value on material possessions than on meaningful relationships — has the opposite effect.

Gratitude is about delighting in and feeling satisfied with what you’re already experiencing.

 

Gratitude pulls us out of this rat race. It shifts our focus from what’s missing to what’s there.

 

To find our power to see the hard parts clearly and respond constructively, we need to draw on resources that bring out the best in us. Gratitude does this. It’s a resource we can learn to tap into at any moment.

 

The notion that we can be completely independent or self-made denies the reality of our reliance on other people and on our natural world. Indeed, Nature is a self regulating system. Nature can operate without we humans. but humans need Nature to survive.

 

Chief Leon Shenandoah said in his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1985 that  “Every human being has a sacred duty to protect the welfare of our mother earth from whom all life comes.”

 

Different stories give us different purposes. In the “Business as Usual” story created by we humans, nearly everything is privatized. The parts of our world remaining outside individual or corporate ownership, such as the air or the oceans, are not seen as our responsibility. Gratitude is viewed as politeness, not necessity.

 

The Haudenosaunee (hoe-dee-no-SHOW-nee which means means “people who build a. house” ) is an alliance among six Native American nations who are more commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy. Each nation has its own identity. In their “Basic Call to Consciousness,” the Haudenosaunee tell a  story in which:

 

“… our well-being depends on our natural world and gratitude keeps us to our purpose of taking care of life. When we forget this, the larger ecology we depend on gets lost from our sight — and the world unravels.”

 

Giving Back and Giving Forward

 

A timber executive once remarked that when he looked at a tree, all he saw was a pile of money on a stump. Compare this with the Haudenosaunee view that trees should be treated with gratitude and respect. If we saw trees as allies that helped us, we would want to become allies to them. This dynamic pulls us into a cycle of regeneration, in which we take what we need to live and also give back. Because our modern industrialized culture has forgotten this principle of reciprocity, forests continue to shrink and deserts to grow. To counter this unraveling, we humans need to develop an ecological intelligence that recognizes how our personal well-being depends on the well-being of the natural world. Gratitude plays an important role in developing this positive consciousness.

 

Thank That Which Gives You Life

 

The nth time that you see a tree or plant, take a moment to express thanks. With each breath you take in, experience gratitude for the oxygen that would simply not be there save for the magnificent work plants have done in transforming our atmosphere and making it breathable. As you look at all the greenery, bear in mind also that plants, by absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing the greenhouse effect, have saved our world from becoming dangerously overheated. Without plants and all they do for us, we would not be alive today. Consider how you would like to express your thanks.

 

Giving To The Future

 

Receiving from the past, we can give to the future. This point of view establishes a positive legacy for our young people who will follow us. When tackling issues such as climate change, the stance of gratitude is a refreshing alternative to guilt or fear as a source of motivation.

 

For Your Further Consideration

 

This essay, and other essays in this web site, present ideas to environmental educators and all stewards of Nature about ecoliteracy and legacy.   The emphasis is on two key ideas.

 

  • Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms energy. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity, This worldview includes the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
  • Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on and place-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of our youth. Environmental education must include the the passing of this consciousness to future generations.

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Our Youth Must Live Nature’s Story

When our central organizing priority becomes the well-being of all life, then what happens through us is the recovery of our world.”

-Joanna Macy – Active Hope

I fear for the future of my class of high school students who are finishing their final year before going to college. We adults are leaving these fine young people a real ecological mess. Many of you who are reading this essay know the grim reality, created by humans, that will come over the next 30 years and beyond. In addition to climate change, food shortages are expected and the air that all of Earth’s creatures need to survive will become more polluted.

The culprits appear to be that part of Earth’s adult human population over 25 years of age who are separated from Nature, who believe that they can control Nature, have excessively consumed Earth’s limited resources, and have been assured by some errant conservation groups that human ingenuity and technology can fix all of the ills that we adults have created. Add to this the apparent unlimited economic and political power wielded by global corporations as their executives line the pockets of politicians with gold so that environmental regulations can be overlooked. As a result, our mother Earth becomes further hampered in Her role of providing life support for all earthly creatures including we humans.

I am very cautious when I define the adult human population over age 25 because there is a large group of people in this category who are good stewards of our Earth. These people include teachers (particularly environmental educators), scientists, and humans who embrace Nature as being the provider of life for all of Earth’s creatures.

Our Stories Define Who We Are And How We Conduct Our Lives

Charles Eisenstein, in his book “Ascent of Humanity” says:

“Like other cultures before us, we have created a mythology, a constellation of stories to explain The Way of the World. It includes the forces of nature, the forces of human nature, the story of our origins, and an account of our role and function in the universe. Like those of all cultures, our mythology is not wholly fabricated but a window on the truth. It is seen through the distorting lens of our culture’s prejudices. Our stories are mostly unconscious. A story paints a particular picture of how life is or should be and directly shapes our lives and our world, often without our even being aware of its influence.”

Another word for “story” is “worldview”. Worldview is commonly defined as a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.

Our problem is not climate change, or overconsumption, or population growth. Our problem is the story that we humans have chosen to guide us.

The story of a large part of modern humans is believing ourselves as separate from Nature, from each other, and from the community of life. This is commonly called “The Story of Separation”. This story portrays humanity as being able to control and predict Nature. The separation story leads to human behaviors of exploitation, excessive economic growth, extremes of wealth and inequality, and the misuse of Nature’s resources which result in the effects of climate change, consumerism, and overpopulation. The key is to change the stories by which we define ourselves.

Author and thought leader David Korten suggests that a more viable story for human beings is the Living Earth story where we are living beings born of a living earth itself born of a living universe. We are part of an environment where everything on Earth is interconnected and interdependent. In order for Earth’s human population survive,this pattern of interdependence must become a powerful part of our consciousness. In the Living Earth story, we believe in the power of community, and not separation. We believe that our health and well-being depend upon Nature because we are part of Nature.

The truth is that we humans are experiencing the environmental effects of the Story of Separation. We need to change our Story of Separation to the Living Earth Story. And we have some 20 or 30 years to make, implement, and practice this change before bad things really happen. How do we do this?

I have had a lot of experience talking with adults whose personal story is the Story of Separation. These folks are not going to change !!!! I respectfully submit that many of the papers that have been written about “A Great Turning” have been unable to suggest effective ways to change the worldview of many of these older adults over 25. Yet, it is these people who have caused the ecological damage that our younger adults under age 25 will have to clean up in order to survive. It will be our youth who will need to create Joanna Macy’s “Ecological Civilization”: – a civilization “... that brings people and planet into balance, nurtures innovation and creative expression, and provides to all an opportunity for material sufficiency and spiritual abundance.

The formation of Joanna Macy’s Ecological Civilization must start with our youth in their classrooms and outdoors being led by environmental educators. It is here that the Living Earth story becomes a worldview. It is here that a consciousness for Mother Earth becomes a reality in the minds and hearts of students that will be carried beyond graduation and into adulthood. It is here that the power of influence begins its journey.

Maybe our young people will be able to influence a few of those who have the Story of Separation within their worldview. But more important, a large part of the adults over 25 at this point in time will be dead in 20 or 30 years. And the Story of Separation should die with them.

David W. Orr wrote a popular essay entitled “What Is Education For ??

Reading the entire paper is well worth your time. But in part, he says:

“Measured against the agenda of human survival, how might we rethink education? First, all education is environmental education. By what is included or excluded we teach students that they are part of or apart from the natural world. To teach economics, for example, without reference to the laws of thermodynamics or those of ecology is to teach a fundamentally important ecological lesson: that physics and ecology have nothing to do with the economy. That just happens to be dead wrong. The same is true throughout all of the curriculum.”

Our youth must be guided by the Living Earth Story

Orr’s important comment is that, done correctly, we educators can teach all students that they are part of the natural world. A curriculum that is not “compartmentalized”, and shows the relationships between everything that is taught, will help create a consciousness that “everything on Earth is interconnected and interdependent”. This is the basis for the Living Earth story.

David Korten says:

“The transition to an Ecological Civilization depends on the actions of We the People to embrace our interdependence with one another and Earth. We must change the defining stories of the mainstream culture. Every great transformational social movement begins with a conversation about a new idea that challenges and ultimately changes a prevailing cultural story. The civil rights movement changed the story on race. The environmental movement changed the story about the human relationship to nature. Our current task is to change the prevailing stories by which we understand our relationship to a living Earth,..”

It will be through our youth and our educators that we make this transition over the next 20 years.

For Your Further Consideration

This essay, and other essays in this web site, present ideas to environmental educators, their students, and all stewards of Nature about ecoliteracy and legacy.   The emphasis is on two key ideas:
  • Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms energy. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity, This worldview includes the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
  • Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on and place-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of our youth. Environmental education must include the the passing of this consciousness to future generation.

Please Comment

The purpose of this web site is to build a dialog between myself and my readers. I invite you to offer your comments, your critique, and to share your ideas with all of my readers in the comment space provided below.

 

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