Interbeing – No Man Is An Island

 

No man is an island. Instead, his “interbeing” is shared with the plants and animals he eats, the people who make his clothes and food, the people who populate his home, country and the very world he perceives, the insects that pollinate the trees that yield his fruit, shade him from the sun, and provide lumber or his house.”                                                                                                     Buddhist Monk and scholar Thich Nhat Hanh

There is something about the world “interbeing” that tugs at my soul leaving a joyous and very comfortable feeling. In one word, “Interbeing”  describes all of the processes that drive our planet because it describes the processes of inter-dependence and co-existence among all things. Without interbeing, Nature would fail to function. In human terms, interbeing recognizes the dependence of any one person on all other people and objects. Interbeing is the process that describes Nature as a living system as well as a well-functioning human society.

One of my favorite environmental writers is Dr. Scott Sampson who is a  dinosaur paleontologist, science communicator, and author of the book  How To Raise A Wild Child. In a 2011 essay at edge.org, Scott does a great job of describing the absurd mindset of a very large group of human adults over the age of 25.

Arguably the most cherished and deeply ingrained notion in the Western mindset is the separateness of our skin-encapsulated selves — the belief that we can be likened to isolated, static machines. Having externalized the world beyond our bodies, we are consumed with thoughts of furthering our own ends and protecting ourselves. Yet this deeply rooted notion of isolation is illusory, as evidenced by our constant exchange of matter and energy with the “outside” world. At what point did your last breath of air, sip of water, or bite of food cease to be part of the outside world and become you? Precisely when did your exhalations and wastes cease being you? Our skin is as much permeable membrane as barrier, so much so that, like a whirlpool, it is difficult to discern where “you” end and the remainder of the world begins. Energized by sunlight, life converts inanimate rock into nutrients, which then pass through plants, herbivores, and carnivores before being decomposed and returned to the inanimate Earth, beginning the cycle anew. Our internal metabolisms are intimately interwoven with this Earthly metabolism; one result is the replacement of every atom in our bodies every seven years or so.”

The idea that we humans are separate from Nature and can control Nature is blatantly false. The truth is that we humans are totally dependent on Nature and each other in order to live. Like every other creature on Earth, we are in a state of “interbeing” — this highly interconnected state of dependency on Nature. We humans must embrace the fact that we are not outside or above Nature, but fully enmeshed within it!!! As a result, every act that we do can affect everything else. But most of the time we have no idea what the consequence of that act might be. WHY?? Because we have no way of predicting what Nature will do.

The tragedy is that we adults are blindly consuming and abusing Nature at a rate that destroys or alters Nature’s ecosystems in addition to leaving little or nothing for our children, our grandchildren, future generations, and life in general.

Scott Sampson goes on to then pose the question, “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?” His response to his question is that humanity “would greatly benefit by embracing and practicing the concept of interbeing”.

The idea of interbeing comes from Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who says:

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in a 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.”

‘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. Without a cloud, we cannot have a paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are. . . . ‘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.

We must learn to see ourselves not as isolated but as permeable and interwoven — selves within larger selves, including the species self (humanity) and the biospheric self (life). The interbeing perspective encourages us to view other life forms as fellow travelers in the current of this ancient river. On a still more profound level, it enables us to envision ourselves and other organisms not as static “things” at all, but as processes deeply and inextricably embedded in the background flow.

Interbeing, an expression of ancient wisdom backed by science, can help us comprehend this radical ecology, fostering a much-needed transformation in mindset.”

The solution to climate change problems, human over-population, and over-consumption rests with those humans who have embraced a consciousness for the “interbeing” of everything on our Earth. When our central organizing priority becomes the interbeing of all life, we then experience the recovery of our world. When a person is gifted with a consciousness of interbeing and acts upon an ecosystem in some way, that action is always accompanied by the question:

If I do this here, what might happen over there? 

Here is a famous example. If I kill all the wolves at Yellowstone  National Park, what will happen to the ecosystem where those wolves lived? (Hint: Look at the video “Lords of Nature).  The killing of all the wolves at Yellowstone in the early 1900s by ranchers and hunters resulted in major, unexpected changes in the Yellowstone ecosystem. In the later 1900s, scientists recognized the negative ecological impact of the wolf killings and wolf reintroduction began. This recovery effort demonstrated the power of interbeing. This is a video worth watching !!!

It is a sad fact that the development of consciousness for interbeing will not come from the current generations of human adults who are separated from Nature, are focused on near term financial “growth”, and who choose not to consider the welfare of Earth’s creatures or the well-being of future human generations. This group of adult humans has left a mess for future human generations.

However, in all good stories, there are heroes that come to the rescue. These heroes are environmental educators, other specialists in education, scientists, college students, and those other folks who are angry about what is going on. What is essential for the long-term survival of the human race is a strong sense of interbeing with Earth and all life on Earth. Interbeing exists as a profoundly important tool in the arsenal of those who, through education, direct action, or example, will help define a new and positive future for all life on earth.

For Your Further Consideration

Video:  The Story of Interbeing   (8:44 minutes) Charles Eisenstein

In this video on interbeing, Charles Eisenstein explains how the real power we have to create change comes from alignment with the web of being.

Video: If We Don’t Protect Nature We Can’t Protect Ourselves  (5:34 minutes) Harrison Ford

  • Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms the energy necessary for all life to exist. The key to an active group of eco literate humans 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 – particularly our youth. 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 for the future, 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 include the acts of passing a worldview of a living Mother Earth on to humanity. Environmental education must be hands-on, and action-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become conscious in the minds and hearts of all of our youth.
  • This website offers a free PDF book entitled “Empowering Nature’s Stewards”. ‎ The book offers educational methodology and content for creating Nature’s “Living Earth Story” within our youth and all stewards of Nature. To download this book, follow the instructions when you click the “Empowering Nature’s Stewards ” menu item from the menu list. 
  • 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

 

A Reunion : Bringing Humans Back To Nature

 

We older folks are leaving an ecological mess for our younger generations. 

While thoroughly enjoying my senior years, I have experienced a profound internal struggle as I try to understand why we older folks are leaving an ecological mess for our younger generations.

As a scientist and conservationist, I see this process of “Nature denial” taking place. I see the everyday activities of ordinary people impairing important ecosystems with activities as simple as dog walking in legally restricted or prohibited areas where dogs have a negative impact on important ecosystems. Warning signs created by knowledgeable ecologists are completely ignored by some members of the adult public. When a dog walker is approached by a smiling and polite steward of Nature who is also a member of the local community, tension ensues. In many cases, the dog walker continues on with the dog without leaving the area. No amount of courteous and compassionate dialog will sway the dog walker because he or she believes that the dog has a “right” to be there.  Where I live, this interchange happens often.

This kind of thing is happening by seemingly responsible adults at all levels, from walking dogs to climate  denial. One does not have to dig very deep to discover that the human world is facing some major environmental crises unless some real changes take place in humanity’s worldviews about Nature. I feel this very deeply because my current group of students, and their offspring,  will be the first generation to experience some pretty awful things as they reach middle age. I feel for this generation of young people, aged 25 years and younger, as I face them in the classroom every week. I accept my share of the responsibility because I am part of their problem.

Thinking that there is an infinite supply of goods available to us in our garden of Eden, the members of my generation have fueled over-consumption that has resulted in straining the finite resources of Earth. We have seen ourselves as separate from Nature instead of being dependent upon Her. We have erroneously believed that our  technology can control Nature and will offer miracles that will prevent the bad things from happening.. And, we adults have failed to see that the relationships and interactions between things are far more important than the things themselves. We have failed to realize that we humans need Nature but that Nature does not need us.

Inside of me, I find myself silently dealing with a growing anger for some people’s  total disregard for the environment upon which all of our lives depend. I find myself trying to understand what is going on. But, most of all, I seek solutions to offer my students. I see brightness in a group of adult heroes who are positive exceptions within my generation. These folks are environmental educators, thought leaders, and scientists. These people are bringing the truth of the near term future to our young people and offering solutions.

My discomfort has driven me to do a lot of reading as I seek the perspectives of some great thought leaders of our time. I have come to realize that the climate change problem and the dog walking problem are the same problem, They both call for the same solution. Among many, I am particularly grateful for the persuasive thinking of thought integrator Jeremy Lent, environmental and political activist George Monbiot, philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore, speaker and writer on themes of human cultural evolution Charles Eisenstein, environmental educator David W. Orr, and the father of modern systems thinking Fritjof Capra. At the end of this essay, I offer online references for each of these thinkers.

The one basic idea expressed by every one of these people is that of a misguided and misinformed human culture that has driven us to a point in our Earth’s history where we all feel separated from Nature. We feel separated from our very source of life. If we can understand that actions by humans are motivated by separation, we may have a chance at helping our youth forge a new pathway to both survival and happiness. For, it is through our youth that we humans have a chance of saving our race.

ClimateHealers  describes this story of separation:

This story of separation is the core story that is truly failing us. With the technological strides we have made in the last two centuries, most of us live in concrete jungles with little to no exposure to the terrestrial biodiversity on Earth. Other than our pets, we rarely meet any other animal species in our daily lives except in zoos and circuses or packaged as meat in supermarkets.”

Some people have concluded that we are separated from Creation in an unconscious enactment of the Old Testament story. In Genesis 1: 26 of the Bible (KJV), we are told that humans have dominion over the Earth:

Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Charles Eisenstein, author of The Ascent of Humanity and Sacred Economics, says:

In civilization, what you are is a discrete, separate individual, among other individuals, in an external universe that is separate from you. In religion, you are  a soul encased in flesh. In psychology, you are a mind encased in flesh. In biology, you are the expression of DNA serving to maximize your reproductive  self-interest and greed. And that conception of self has basically poisoned our planet, because we treat the planet as if it were an other. That is, not only are we separated from Creation, but we are separated from each other. While climate change is a symptom of  the fever that our Earth has contracted, the underlying disease is the disconnection from Creation that plagues human societies throughout the Earth.

While this story of our separation justifies and drives many of our daily actions, it is in fact a story of human exceptionalism, the idea that we are somehow different from and better than other species. It is based on the false notion that while other species all have to live in harmony with Nature, we are somehow exempt from that requirement since we can fashion our own environment.

This notion is patently false. The cascading environmental crises are signals from Nature that there are no such exceptions in the family of Life. We have no choice but to live in harmony with Nature because we are a part of Nature.

This story of separation is closely aligned with ‘speciesism’, which is discrimination and exploitation on the basis of species identity. It is due to speciesism that we consider the murder of humans to be wrong, but the hunting of other animals to be sport, concentration camps to be evil, but slaughterhouses to be humane, jails to be avoided, but zoos to be toured.”

 

We are entering a story of Reunion

 

Throughout all of this human created chaos,  Charles Eisenstein sees hope. He says that:

Individually and collectively, we are on a journey from a story of Separation to a new yet ancient story of Reunion: ecology, interdependence, and interbeing.”

Indeed Eisenstein’s words define the pathway of this Reunion which is the solution to the climate problem, the dog problem, and other human created environmental problems.  We must take the Reunion pathway if we are going to empower our youth by creating a new human consciousness of our interdependence with Nature in the minds and hearts of our current and future generations. A consciousness for interbeing among all things in Nature.

Interbeing means to inter-dependently co-exist. The meaning of interbeing recognizes the dependence of any one person on  all other people and objects. Not only is no man an island, but rather his interbeing is shared with the plants and animals he eats, the people who make his clothes and food, the people who populate his home, country and the very world he perceives, the insects that pollinate the trees that yield his fruit, shade him from the sun, and provide lumber for his house.

This essay begins a series of essays that describe  some of the ideas that are expressed by current thought leaders regarding the human role in resolving the current ecological crisis and bringing we humans back into a Reunion with Nature. Some of the subjects that this essay series will address include:

  • The Necessity of Our Interbeing With Nature
  • Empowering Our Youth
  • The Danger of Fundamentalism
  • The Vital Importance of Systems Thinking By Humans (Our Earth’s Living Systems)
  • The Power of Legacy

 

Here are references to each of the thought leaders who I have mentioned:

Jeremy Lent

George Monbiot

Kathleen Dean Moore

Charles Eisenstein

David W. Orr

Fritjof Capra

 

For Your Further Consideration

 

This essay is part of a series of essays that 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 generations.

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself,  or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

Please Comment and Subscribe

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

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.

Empowering Stewards of Nature (Free Study Guides)

Empowering Stewards of Nature

Lessons From the Web of Life

 


For Nature at all levels to exist, everything in our universe, in our world, and in our local communities must be connected because Nature’s fuel is energy which must flow between all plants and animals. Everything is connected. Nothing is self sufficient. Every rock, bird, beast, plant, and human being is dependent on each other in some way that is important. Without interconnectivity, Nature would not be here on Earth.

 

Everything lives within this web of life. A plant is connected to our sun because the plant needs the sun’s energy to live. An animal, such as ourselves, needs the plant because the plant gives us the energy that we need to live. And so on. The conservation of our natural environment is the identification, understanding, and protection of these vital connections in Nature.

 

I am pleased to offer this series of lesson guides that focus on the theme that “Nothing In Nature Exists In Isolation”. The material is in the form of a PDF eBook which is provided, free of charge.

 

The objective of this book is to help environmental educators instill the need to preserve an interconnected Nature in the consciousness of our young people. The strategy of the material is to demonstrate the vital importance of identifying, understanding, and protecting connections in Nature. Equipped with this consciousness and new knowledge, a young person is in a position to influence his generation and future generations about how the conservation of connections in Nature will preserve the Earth’s environment for ourselves and for other creatures.

 

This book is written for environmental educators and their students. The material and methodology has been successfully used in environmental education programs in junior and senior high school levels. Modified and simplified material has been used from fourth grade up to sixth grade. I’ve found that all students, no matter what grade level, love the question and answer approach. I have also trained my high school students to become the mentors for sessions given in the lower grades. Young students seem to follow the lead of other students better than the lead of adults.

 

The material in this book is a collection of lesson modules that focus on our interconnected world of Nature. Individual lessons may be used separately or the complete lesson set may be used in the sequence provided as activities that focus on connections in Nature. Each module can be printed as a handout to your students.

 

The methodology sets aside the formal presentation of facts in favor of individual exploration and discovery. Instead of being a purveyor of facts, the “teacher” acts as a mentor who only asks questions. The research and the answers must come from the students.. Through Socratic style seminars and discussion groups accompanied by hands-on place-based education, this material will assist a student in engaging, exploring, and discovering Nature’s interconnected world. The Socratic approach is used because it builds critical thinking skills and strongly encourages students to do their own Internet research.

 

An important part of this book is the process of regularly providing updated editions. New material and ideas are openly welcomed and will be incorporated into new editions. Those who download a copy of this book will be asked for an email address so that new editions can be sent automatically. In effect, the book is a community project where, with time, the expertise of many environmental educators will be represented.

 

Download Your Free Book Here

Please view our privacy policy here    

When you enter your name, your email address, agree to the terms and conditions and click on the download button, you will receive an email that contains a download link. By clicking on this link, your eBook will be downloaded to your computer. Whenever there is a new release of the ebook, you will receive an email notification that includes a download link. I respect your privacy and I hate spam. Your email address will be used ONLY for matters concerning this eBook.

[wp_eStore_ssf id=8]
Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments – List Of Collaborators
  • Who Should Read And Use This Book?
  • Welcome
  • Suggestions For Using The Material in This eBook
  • Student Instructions For Participating In Seminar Sessions
  • Seminar Material On Connections In Nature
  • What Is Nature?
  • What Does “Engaging Nature” Mean?
  • What Are Connections In Nature?
  • What Is Energy?
  • What Are Ecosystems?
  • What Are Habitats?
  • What Are Food Webs?
  • Why are Wildlife Corridors Important ?
  • How Are You The Same As Rocks, Birds, Animals, and Rivers?
  • How Are Plants And The Sun Connected?
  • How Are Plants, Animals, And Humans Connected?
  • Why Are Sounds In Nature Important?
  • Why Are Forests Important In Our Lives?
  • How Can I Identify Connections In Nature ?
  • How Can I Protect Connections In Nature?
  • Case Studies
  • Our Sun’s Energy
  • Our Moon
  • Air
  • Water
  • Ice Bergs
  • Log Beaches
  • Winds
  • Storms
  • From Raindrops To Rivers
  • The San Pedro River
  • Estuaries
  • Fiddler Crabs
  • Forests
  • Lichens
  • Cow Pies
  • Grasslands
  • Fire
  • Deserts
  • Sand Dunes
  • Nursery Plants
  • Insects
  • Bugs And Flowers
  • Spines
  • Spider Webs
  • Emergent Behavior
  • Gray Whale Migration
  • Salmon Migration
  • Ant Colonies
  • Ants and Eggshells
  • Penguin Colonies
  • Elephant Seal Mother And Her Pup
  • Bull Elephant Seals
  • Salmon And Bears
  • Gentoo Penguin And Chicks
  • Albatross Predators
  • Pelicans And Seals
  • Turkey Vultures
  • The Baby Dies Too
  • Coyotes
  • Wandering Albatross
  • Frigate Birds
  • Bison
  • Beavers
  • Soundscapes
  • Fractals
  • Case Studies – Connections Broken By Man
  • Whale Catcher Boats
  • ATVs And Turtles
  • Fences
  • The Killing Of Wolves And Other Great Predators
  • Activity Sets In Nature
  • Using Students As Teachers
  • Engaging Nature With Photography
  • Identifying Sounds In Nature
  • Identifying Connections In Nature – The String Game
  • Applied Connection Identification Activities
  • Developing A Conservation Plan
  • A Final Note – Gifts Of Wisdom Passed On To You

My Video Essays

Here is a list of video essays that I have created over the years.

An Antarctic Adventure

In 2004, as part of a two-week excursion in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, we explored parts of the Antarctic Peninsula.    Of particular interest to me, was breaking through ice fields to allow another ship to pass. Also, the incredible wildlife, visits to research stations, and the awesome experience of crossing the stormy Drake Passage as we headed back to Cape Horn and the southern tip of South America.

Sights and Sounds In The Southern Ocean

Since it is physically impossible for me to transport you to some of my favorite places, through the magic of my videos I can share some of the sights and sounds that I have experienced.  Here is a 9 minute video of creatures and their sounds that I encountered while visiting South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Below the video there are explanations for each clip.

Visting My Elders

One of my favorite spots for engaging Nature is Ironwood Forest National Monument near Tucson, Arizona. In the secluded solitude of this wonderful desert, I am alone listening, observing, and meditating without any human interruption.

As is my daily practice, I sit outside at dawn anticipating the “golden hour” when the Saguaro Cactus glows from the light of the morning dawn and the birds greet the day in song. Thomas Merton calls this the “virgin point” of the day when Nature asks permission to be.

BIrd Flocks Are Airborne Ecosystems

Each year I set aside some time to observe and photograph the flocks of Sandhill Cranes that migrate to Southeastern Arizona and New Mexico. There is some kind of magic in a flock of birds. There is a synchrony of leaderless energy as the group flows through the air going here and then there while changing shapes that respond to some hidden force. I want to share with you my passion for the migrating Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near McNeal, Arizona. I captured this video during the 2015 and 2016 winter seasons.

Here is a list of nature videos created by other people

An Environmental Educator’s Check List

This essay offers environmental educators and other stewards of Nature nine items that I consider vitally important when I am working with my young students. I urge you to offer your comments in the space provided at the end of this essay. 

Prepare Our Youth For  A Changing World

Many things in our world will be changing soon. Our world will become an uncertain and very different place for all life on Earth including our young people, their children, and their grandchildren. Here are four examples of what is predicted by many scientists and sociologists :

  • By the year 2050, the effects of climate change will start redefining how we live. Locally, climate change will cause rising sea levels that will flood many coastal regions worldwide.
  • We humans are over-consuming the resources of the Earth at a rate that will not sustain human life after the year 2100. As a result of these and other human-caused changes in our planet, the ethics of a civilized society will be gradually displaced by the ethics of a hostile society that is competing for limited resources.
  • The human population could increase from the present 7.6 billion people to an environmentally unsustainable population of 10 billion people by 2100 but perhaps as soon as 2050. With a population of 10 billion people, there will be no more land available to grow food.
  • Economic inequality among humans will continue to increase. Only a small percentage of the human population will own a huge percentage of the economic wealth. This trend will promote the uncontrolled expansion of multi-national corporations which will result in a negative impact on our environment.

These and other environmental and social crises are caused by human adults, mostly older than age 25, who have a very inaccurate worldview of how Nature operates.  Most of our adult population does not believe that we humans are totally dependent on Nature for our life’s energy. They erroneously believe that we humans have dominion over Nature and are able to control and predict Nature and its environment. Our disconnected elders erroneously believe that our technology will save us if anything bad, like climate change, takes place. The result is the growing crisis that we humans are now facing.  Indeed, the destructive worldviews of our elders are leaving a horrible mess for our young people. No matter what career students choose, these young people will be forced to plan their lives based on political instability, economic instability, and environmental instability in the years to come.

In the face of this crisis, what can educators do to offer our youth a chance for a productive, sustainable, and happy life? The answer lies with educators because educators have the capability to empower our youth with a worldview that is compatible with the way Nature and society do operate.

The fact is that all of Nature, including we humans and human society, is interconnected and interdependent. Life on Earth depends upon the flow of life’s energy from our sun to our Earth. This energy is then transported and transformed from one organism to another organism. These processes are both ecological and social. They form networks of interconnection and interdependence. The greatest gift that we can offer our youth is the power of a worldview that sees everything on Earth, including Nature and our human society, as interconnected and interdependent. With this way of thinking, called “systems thinking”, our young people and future generations will be empowered to understand and resolve current environmental and social crises.

About 50% of all humans on earth are 25 years old or younger. For the most part, these young people have fresh minds that have not been corrupted by the disconnected worldviews of their elders. The relationship between our educators and our youth is a critical connection if our teachers are able to offer their students an education that stresses systems thinking in every subject including biology/ecology, history, social studies, and mathematics. In doing so, our youth can acquire the wisdom of interdependence and systems thinking. This form of education stresses that human society, like Nature’s ecosystems in which we humans live, are intimately interconnected where the connections between each part in a system are more important than the parts. In other words, we must first understand how the connections are made between things before we can understand the whole system.  Education of our youth must be based on the premise that each person find identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace.

However, there is one characteristic of modern education that may stand in the way of achieving a meaningful holistic education. In order to understand our world, young people and adults must be able to see life as a collection of systems and elements that interact and are dependent upon one another. But in school, many of us are taught subjects in a compartmentalized way, with history in one class, natural science in another, social studies in yet another, and so on. In other words, we are taught to understand Nature and society in parts. We are not taught how these parts are connected. We are not taught how and why things in life are interdependent. Yet most real-world issues, like climate change, terrorism, and water use, are understood by connecting disciplines such as politics, geography, history, and biology. The current compartmentalized approach in most schools reinforces the incorrect idea in the minds of our students that knowledge is made up of many unrelated parts that are not connected. This lack of systems thinking provides little opportunity for students to see recurring patterns of behavior across subjects and disciplines in their real world.  Our students need to find identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace. Indeed, with an understanding of living systems like ecosystems, climate change, and other ecological challenges, we humans will be able to assess what we are doing wrong that causes bad things to happen.

In summary, a system of education that teaches how all of life interrelates and is interdependent should be a fundamental part of 21st-century education and anyone’s lifelong learning plan. It will be this revised system of education that will give our youth a worldview of connection and interdependence in our moral philosophy, our society, and in Nature. It will be this revised worldview that replaces the destructive worldview of our elders. It will be this worldview of interdependence that equips our youth to solve our problems of over-population, unsustainable consumption, climate change, and other issues.

Educators are a critically important influence in making this change. What follows is a preliminary list of important things that our educators must do to begin the process.

A Curriculum Must Be An Interrelated Collection Of Subjects

If educators are going to emphasize relationships and interdependence in the hearts and minds of our students, these concepts must be reflected in the curriculum. We must stop teaching such subjects as mathematics, history, or literature as separate subjects. In addition to teaching facts in each class, we must now emphasize how the material relates to the other subjects we are teaching. For example, a history class must now explore the interrelationships between human actions and historical events including what might have happened if the human actions were different. A math class should now emphasize applied mathematics where the student uses new math/statistical skills and network diagrams to calculate events and relationships in Nature. A religion or ethics class should conduct seminars with case studies about how religion and ethics can be applied to social systems. All of these classes should now employ an inquiry-based (Socratic) seminar approach (described in the next section) where students participate in seminar discussions rather than listen to lectures.

Use Inquiry-Based Learning (Socratic Learning)

Imagine, for a moment, teaching and learning that looks like this:

  • Picture a seminar-style setting where the teacher is a facilitator and the students consider assigned questions and do their own research to provide answers in front of their peers and their teachers.
  • Young people who continually question why things look and function the way that they do.
  • Their natural sense of wonder is at the center of their learning and drives the direction that learning will take.
  • Knowledge is dynamic, collectively constructed, and provided by many sources instead of being contained in a single textbook or classroom lectures.
  • Information is investigated, analyzed, and negotiated between students and their teachers.

This is process is called “Inquiry-Based Learning”.

Education is much more than force-feeding information to students and measuring how well they regurgitate that information back to the teacher on command or through testing. With the facilitator asking questions instead of lecturing, the student is required to think and probe. This process of critical thinking embeds knowledge and creates curiosity and a yearning to learn more. Critical thinking encourages the exploration, adventure, and discovery that we see in outdoor education.

When I was a student, one of my truly great life experiences was two years working on a Master’s degree at Harvard University.  In this program, we used no text books. There were no lectures. Classes were totally inquiry-based where the professor played the role of facilitator by continually posing difficult questions. We students would prepare for a class by doing research and gathering facts to support conclusions. That preparation was vital to building a knowledge base for a given class session. We learned the value of good research. We gained the ability to think about and defend our ideas. Most importantly, we built critical thinking skills as we defended our ideas in front of our peers and our professor. This Harvard experience became the model for my role as an educator. I was amazed to find that the inquiry-based approach to learning worked well with my university graduate students as well as my primary (5th grade and up), secondary, and high school students.

Benefits of Inquiry-Based learning include:

  • Honoring students’ questions increases their motivation, leading to higher levels of engagement, improved understanding, and a love of learning.
  • Inquiry stimulates students’ curiosity, leading to progressively deeper questions and habitual critical thinking.
  • Inquiry builds lifelong learning skills that become greater than simply learning facts, listening to lectures, and taking tests.

Eliminate Exams. Use project-based learning.  Grade each student based on preparation and participation

What is needed are tools to help the student explore relationships in our world. Exams do not accomplish this. However, a student project provides the opportunity for the student to learn about relationships, exercise that knowledge in a practical way, and to be evaluated.

While both projects and exams will get a student to memorize new information, the skill that is needed is applying the information.  Project-based learning will teach the material, and then guide the student to seek out information, then apply the new knowledge to explore real world examples, and encourage working in groups to reinforce the new knowledge.

When we eliminate the compartmentalized idea of exams in the curriculum, how are we able to evaluate student progress? Inquiry-Based learning provides an automatic tool for evaluating progress. That tool is to grade students at each class or seminar session according to their participation and preparation. When the facilitator calls upon a student to explore a certain issue in class, it will become quickly apparent whether the student has prepared for the class. In addition, active and voluntary, meaningful participation should be rewarded with a higher grade.

I start each school year by giving each student a grade of 10.0. This grade can be reduced if a student fails to prepare or participate. In addition, a student can receive a restored good grade if the student demonstrates improvement in participation and preparation.

Hospitality – People Learn From People/Things That They Love

The metaphor of hospitality is an extremely important part of education that is often forgotten by educators. Henri J.M. Nouwen was a Catholic priest, author, professor, and pastor who wrote over 40 books about the spiritual life. One of his books, “Reaching Out” uses the metaphor of hospitality – a gracious host serving the needs of a guest – to describe many different human relationships. One of the relationships that Fr. Nouwen examines is the relationship between a teacher and a student. He does so in a very profound and effective way that becomes a guide for any teacher who cares to challenge his/her students to reach new horizons.

In his book, Fr Nouwen said:

“One of the greatest tragedies of modern education is that millions of young people spend many hours, days, weeks, and years listening to lectures, reading books and writing papers with a constantly increasing resistance. Students perceive their education as a long endless row of obligations to be fulfilled. They are considered as poor needy, ignorant beggars who come to a man or woman of knowledge. Teachers are perceived more as demanding bosses than as guides in the search for knowledge and understanding.

While the ability to think critically and the opportunity to develop one’s talents are far more career-defining than any subject matter that is taught, educators continue to define themselves by offering memorized and regurgitated knowledge. The teacher is trained to offer solutions without the existence of a question. Consequently, critical thinking skills are never developed and talents are never encouraged because the student rarely gets the opportunity to argue a question.

Hospitality is the creation of a friendly empty space by a host where a guest can fearlessly reach out to fellow human beings and invite them to explore new relationships. Hospitality is much like gardening. We cannot force a plant to grow but we can take away the weeds and stones which prevent its development.

Hospitality can take place on many levels and in many kinds of relationships. One such relationship is that between a teacher and a student where the student is treated like a guest who honors the host’s house with his/her presence and will not leave it without having made a unique contribution.

The good host (the teacher) is the one who not only helps guests (the students) see that they have hidden talents, but who also is able to help them develop and deepen those talents so they can continue their way on their own with new self-confidence. “

This journey of discovery can be accomplished through inquiry-based  (Socratic) learning that is described earlier in this document.

Add seminars in systems thinking to the curriculum

All of life in our world, from a molecule to the entire earth can be defined as systems of relationships that permit energy or social interaction to flow from one organism to another organism. The study of these relationships has matured over the years into a discipline known as “systems science” or “systems thinking”.

Systems thinking is the study of the causes and effects of relationships. Systems thinking allows us to visually portray what is happening as we study a particular system. It allows us to see and analyze our world in simpler terms. Systems thinking focuses on the characteristics of the connections in a system. Systems thinking helps us define what is going on in our world.

On the Internet, there is a huge wealth of information about systems thinking and the teaching of systems thinking. Many lesson plans are offered. Here, I provide an essay that I wrote  about systems thinking so that you can get more detail.

In my view, an excellent way to introduce systems thinking to students is through biology or ecology classes because these subjects introduce interconnected and interdependent energy flow in Nature. In my program, systems thinking is introduced to primary (4th grade and older)  secondary, and high school students. Both in-class inquiry-based learning and field trip experiences are offered with the primary goal being to develop a love relationship between a student and the student’s world.

Integrate Ethics Development In All Classes

One must love something in order to protect it. If we are to succeed in helping our students live in the world that they face, the faculty must cause a love relationship between each student and the world as it is today. This love must include a growing passion to protect what we love.

Ethics is a set of guidelines that we must exercise regularly if we are to protect our world. Ethical guidelines lead us as we apply what we have learned in biology, mathematics, history and all of the other subjects that are taught in school. A suggested list of ethical principles might be:

  • Everything in Nature, including we humans, is interdependent.
  • The actions of one can affect the whole.
  • Nature is always changing.
  • Conservation is a necessary part of human morality.
  • Compassion means that we humans cannot assign a greater value to one person or species over another.

Ethics development should take place in every class. Ethics development should not be compartmentalized into a single subject or class. Through inquiry-based learning, teachers should regularly ask their students to discuss “what if” scenarios that relate to the ethics of the subject matter being taught.

Empower Our Students To Change The World

An important part of the education that schools and teachers offer students is in guiding them to act upon that which they have learned. In particular, with the climate crisis, educators need to help students act in a way that might help them cope with what they might be facing after they graduate.

Here is my suggestion:

Students should be working with student groups in their local community, their state, their nation and around the world to bring awareness and to protest to the adults who have allowed the climate crisis to happen. One possibility might be to join with students from other schools to work with their government to lower our carbon footprint. As successes become a reality, our students will then have the opportunity to set an example for the world.

There are a number of youth groups forming worldwide. Students would have the opportunity to communicate with these groups by way of the Internet, seek their advice and learn from their experience, and join forces with these groups.

Below are three Internet references that talk about the power of youth to act and to resolve current environmental issues:

The Climate Kids Are All Right

Youth around the world are rising to the climate challenge — and they don’t care what the trolls have to say about it.

Youth Activists Are Building A Climate Justice Movement

Youth are building new models for social movements. Young people are no longer sitting back and waiting for older generations to make the change we know needs to happen.

Greta Thunberg gives a speech at UN Climate Change COP24 Conference

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist, has become very famous and has developed a strong following all over the world. You can Google her name to see many of her activities concerning climate change and the power of young people. Your students can communicate with her.

For Your Further Consideration

  • Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms the energy necessary for all life to exist. The key to an active group of ecoliterate humans 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 – particularly our youth. 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 for the future, 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 include the acts of passing a worldview of a Mother Earth on to Environmental education must be hands-on, and action-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of all of our youth.
  • This website offers a free PDF book entitled “Empowering Stewards of Nature – Lessons From The Web of Life”. The book offers education methodology and content for creating Nature’s “Living Earth Story” within our youth and all stewards of Nature.. To download this book, follow the instructions on the right side of the web-site when you click the photograph of the book. 
  • 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  Below

 

George Monbiot : Environmental Thought Leader

I am a big fan of eco-journalist George Monbiot .  Many of his essays, (as well as “The Patterning Instinct” by Jeremy Lent ) have influenced and sharpened my world view of Nature and helped me develop the theme of this web site that everything  in Nature, including humans, is interconnected and interdependent. I recently read Monbiot’s book called  ” Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life

George Monbiot Is An Environmental Thought Leader

He is an advocate for changing mankind’s worldview about Nature. He defines the idea of “rewilding” in terms that are completely in agreement with the theme of this web site.  In this essay, I offer some of Monbiot’s quotes from his book and references to some of his essays. It is my hope that his words will stimulate you into thinking about your relationship with Nature in a way that will help build your legacy that passes on a deep consciousness of Nature and her interrelationships with others.

The classic definition of rewilding is large-scale conservation aimed at:

  • Restoring and protecting natural processes and core wilderness areas.
  • Providing connectivity and energy flow between such areas.
  • Protecting or reintroducing apex predators and keystone species.

 

Monbiot describes rewilding as a new human activity that promotes interconnectivity and interdependence in Nature.

 

Monbiot goes further. He uses the term “rewilding” as a metaphor to describe the necessary change in mankind’s  worldview about Nature if humanity is to survive. The dictionary definition of feral is: “In a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication.”  Monbiot’s “Feral” metaphorically applies this definition to the hopeful escape of mankind from the damaging world views about Nature that possess and hold captive the lives and the future of human beings. Monbiot then goes on to describe rewilding as a new human activity that promotes interconnectivity and interdependence in Nature.

Amazon offers the following description of Monbiot’s book:

Monbiot takes readers on an enchanting journey around the world to explore ecosystems that have been “rewilded”: freed from human intervention and allowed―in some cases for the first time in millennia―to resume their natural ecological processes…. Through his eyes, we see environmental success―and begin to envision a future world where humans and nature are no longer separate and antagonistic, but are together part of a single, healing world.

Quotes from George Monbiot’s book “Feral: Rewilding, The Land, Sea,and Human Life”

.“Rewilding, to me, is about resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way. Some people see rewilding as a human retreat from nature; I see it as a re-involvement.”

 

“The rewilding of natural ecosystems that fascinates me is not an attempt to restore them to any prior state, but to permit ecological processes to resume… Rewilding recognizes that nature consists not just of a collection of species but also of their ever-shifting relationships with each other and with the physical environment.”

 

“The ecosystems that result are best described not as wilderness, but as self-willed: governed not by human management but by their own processes”

 

“Rewilding has no end points, no view about what a ‘right’ ecosystem or a ‘right’ assemblage of species looks like. It does not strive to produce a heath, a meadow, a rainforest, a kelp garden or a coral reef. It lets nature decide. The way they [the ecosystems] evolve cannot be predicted… While conservation often looks to the past, rewilding … looks to the future.”

 

“Rewilding is not about abandoning civilization but about enhancing it. It is to ‘love not man the less, but Nature more’.”

 

“The environmental movement up till now has necessarily been reactive. We have been clear about what we don’t like, But we also need to say what we would like. We need to show where hope lies. Ecological restoration is a work of hope.”

 

“The more we understand about how ecosystems work, the less appropriate certain conservation policies appear. As I have explored the powerful effects that some species exert on animals and plants to which, at first, they have no obvious connection, I have begun to understand the extent to which the farmed and managed systems, that many conservationists defend, are empty shells. They have lost not only their physical structure – the trees, shrubs and dead wood – but also many of the connections between the species which build an ecosystem. Most of the strands of the web of the life in these places have been broken “

 

“Rewilding is to restore, to the greatest extent possible, ecology’s dynamic interactions. In other words, the scientific principle behind rewilding is restoring what ecologists call trophic diversity. Trophic means relating to food and feeding [ energy flow]. Restoring trophic diversity means enhancing the number of opportunities, for animals, of life. It means expanding the web of life both vertically and horizontally, increasing the number of trophic levels (top predators, middle predators, plant eaters, plants, carrion and detritus feeders) and creating opportunities for the number and complexity of relationships at every level to rise.”

 

“Ecologists are not always aware of the extent to which the systems they study have been altered by humans: that the life they describe has been greatly simplified and diminished.” (Note: referred to as Shifting Baseline Syndrome)

 

‘Rewilding experiments are likely to present stiff challenges to current scientific knowledge. Many of the places ecologists have studied have been radically altered by human intervention, and many of the processes they have recorded, and which they assumed were natural, appear to have been shaped as much by people and their domestic stock as by wild animals and plants.” (Note: So what baseline do we use for a restoration project?)

 

Some Essays and Videos by George Monbiot

 

How Wolves Change Rivers (VIdeo)

For more wonder, rewild the world (VIdeo TED talk)

Stepping Back From The Brink

How Whales Change Climate (Video)

Everything Is Connected

Climate Breakdown | Clare Hymer meets George Monbiot (video)

Rewilding (VIdeo)

Breaking The Spell Of Loneliness | George Monbiot & Ewan McLennan | 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself,  or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

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.

We Humans Need An Ecological Civilization

Human beings must respect Nature, follow its ways and protect it

 

I came across the term “ecological civilization” when I read an article by Jeremy Lent about the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, proposing the idea of an ecological civilization before his congress. He said: “we, as human beings, must respect nature, follow its ways and protect it”. 

 

Jeremy Lent defines an ecological civilization as: “a civilization based on the sustainable health of interconnected living systems”.

 

I am heartened when a world leader proposes a change in western humanity’s world view that will lead to the survival of the human race. Sadly, i cannot imagine a Donald Trump proposing such a thing.

 

While China has recently had a dismal environmental record, Jeremy Lent notes:

 

Within a larger historical context, it is not too surprising that this vision of harmony between human and nature should emerge from China.  Traditional Chinese culture was founded on a worldview that perceived an intrinsic web of connection between humanity and nature.”

 

Nature can live without we humans, but humans cannot live without Nature

 

From the Chinese culture, we can say that humanity’s idea of a sustainable flourishing of our earthly home, Nature, is not new. It has simply been ignored by our western culture. Domination and control of Nature is the westerner’s idea of existence. Yet, Nature operates in a harmony created by interconnection and interdependence that is necessary for life’s critical energy to flow between and through all forms of life. It is this unwillingness of we western humans to accept the physical reality of how Nature operates that could ultimately destroy our race.

 

Nature will continue to operate as a living system. Nature can live without we humans, but humans cannot live without Nature.

 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

 

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself,  or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

 

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

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.

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself,  or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

 

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

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.

 

Nature’s Relationships : What Is Life ?

What Is Life ?

 

 

If we could surrender to Earth’s intelligence, we would rise up rooted—like trees.”

~ Rainier Maria Rilke

 

What Is Life ? This is a question with many answers. A dictionary might tell us that life is a distinctive characteristic of a living organism that has he capacity to grow, metabolize, respond to stimuli, adapt, and reproduce. But, defining life requires a greater depth if we are to understand how Nature operates.

 

We can define living things by their structure:

  • Living Things are Composed of Cells
  • Living Things Have Different Levels of Organization
  • Living Things Are A Network of Systems

 

Or, we could define living things in terms of energy:

  • Living Things Transport and Transform Energy
  • Living Things Respond To Their Environment
  • Living Things Grow
  • Living Things Reproduce
  • Living Things Adapt To Their Environment

 

We can say that the essence of life is a process:

All life processes intermingle and are somehow dependent upon each other. Everything within Nature is interconnected and interdependent. More than mere interconnectedness, interdependence refers to the tendency of all life on Earth to be fundamentally linked and mutually dependent upon each other. Interdependence is a defining feature of all of Nature and Her ecosystems. Animals depend on plants for the production of oxygen, while plants absorb the carbon dioxide released by animals. Bees, butterflies, and birds assist in pollination and seed dispersal, enabling the reproduction of a multitude of plant species on which other organisms depend for food and shelter. And, of course, Earth’s connectedness with the sun’s energy is of primary importance because solar energy drives all life.

 

Life is a living system:

We can see that humans are also interconnected to and interdependent with Nature. Nonetheless, humanity fails to embrace the idea that every living thing on earth, including humans, is inextricably interconnected to every other living being. This refusal by humanity to accept our interdependence with Nature is a basic reason why the effects of human overpopulation and over-consumption exist.

 

Life is a collection of systems:

We will never understand life and we will be unable to resolve our population crisis until we recognize that life is a collection of systems. While we may not realize it, we encounter and connect with systems every moment of our lives. Our bodies are a large collection of interconnected, self-maintaining systems. Every person we meet, every organization we work with, every animal, every tree, and every ecosystem is a system.

 

Life is a continuum:

The endless complexity of life is organized into patterns which repeat themselves as they energize each hierarchical level of an ecosystem.  From the ceaseless streaming of protoplasm to the many-vectored activities of supranational systems, there are continuous flows through living systems as they maintain their highly organized steady states.

 

We humans need to embrace a systems view of life:

It is important to recognize that we need to understand systems and the systems view of life because systems are the networks by which life’s vital energy is transported and transformed. A thorough understanding of Nature’s living systems, as well as energy flow within these systems, is key to the development of conservation programs by human beings. When a conservation program developed by humans proves ineffective, it is usually because there was insufficient comprehension of living systems and Nature’s energy flow within these systems.

 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself, or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

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.

 

 

A Legacy Worldview – Teach The Children Well

How do those of us who care and are aware face the grim dilemma of an unsustainable human population? Most certainly, conservation through obedience doesn’t work. Rules and policemen don’t teach anything. Laws, rules, and regulations can easily be ignored if one avoids individuals in law enforcement. The most likely and effective process is through education. However, the current attitudes of many members of the adult human population limit receptiveness to the idea of environmental education. Indeed, we have lost a large part of the adult population who will continue to live in unsustainable ways.

 

Nonetheless, education builds consciousness. It builds a capability to make good environmental decisions that are available to everyone — not just scientists and administrators. The challenge of environmental education is to build a legacy of conservation-minded people. Whether you are an educator or a student, your challenge is to pass on this legacy through your knowledge and your energy. Your job is to build a network of environmentally aware people through your example. In doing so, you will help build a future with people who care for the home in which we humans must live.  That is what this essay is all about.

Many people and groups are beginning to realize that building this new environmental awareness can happen only in our children and in our youth. Young people are not yet culturally conditioned to a way of life where Nature is ignored. Young people are open to new ideas and new world views.  The fresh minds of young people respond to facts and learn through awe and wonder. These young minds have the potential of becoming the next generation of environmental leaders.

 

Energy flow conduits in Nature are much more than the food webs and energy flow that we see in Nature. It is the connection between human beings where a conscience based on knowledge and conservation awareness is passed on to other human beings. Education through legacy building is the best and most empowering conservation strategy that is available to us humans. Passing on ideas through education builds a consciousness — a capability to make good ecological decisions by everyone. — not just scientists and administrators.

 

What message do we present to our youth? The message must start with the fundamental premise that nothing on this earth exists solely on its own. Everything is dependent upon everything else. Because of the vital importance of Nature’s energy flow and the conduits that transport and transform this energy,  the basic theme of any environmental education program needs to be built on the premise that everything in Nature is connected. Understanding this fundamental idea of interdependence in Nature is a crucial first step to effectively conserving our planet. 

Therefore, the basic objective of environmental education is to build a “connectivity consciousness” in our youth in hopes that our youth will build a legacy that influences the generations that follow them. This makes the relationships between generations an important connection in Nature. This idea of generation connectivity amplifies the huge importance and responsibility of environmental educators.

 

Through hands-on, place-based education that emphasizes inquiry-learning, we can develop a consciousness for the interdependency of all forms of Nature. A consciousness that recognizes and accepts the fact that, for Nature at all levels to exist, everything in our universe, in our world, and in our local communities is connected. We can build this consciousness in our youth by offering ways to identify, understand, and preserve vital connections in Nature as well as the ecosystems that embrace these connections.

 

In a profound message called “Teach The Children”, poet Mary Oliver  says:
“Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones—inkberry, lamb’s-quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones—rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms. Attention is the beginning of devotion.”
Children and youth up to and including age 25 represent 50% of the human population. If teaching methods make a subject interesting for each age group, children and youth are receptive to the awe and wonder of Nature. They will participate in activities that will reinforce the learning process.  They love to look, touch, feel, smell, and taste.

In turn, children and youth can influence adult members in their family. Children and youth can also influence the next generation. The idea of legacy education is a powerful conservation tool over the years. Let us assume that you have an environmental education class of 20 young minds. Let us also assume that you are able to significantly influence two (10%)  of these people to a point that they are able to eventually influence two other young people to a point of action. And so on. Over ten years,1,024 people will be strongly influenced by your singular influence in one year. If you do this for 10 years, your effort will result in 102,400 new stewards of Nature. If your success rate is 15% instead of 10%, your legacy from a 10-year effort will be 590,490 people. If your success rate is 20%, your legacy from a 10-year program will be 10,485,760 people. If there are 10,000 environmental educators providing significant influence to only 10% of their students, their legacy will be 10,240,000 young people becoming significant stewards of Nature. This very basic mathematical exercise demonstrates the significance and power of legacy building. By empowering a small group of students each year, one is able to eventually create a huge cadre of influential stewards of Nature well in advance of the projected 50-year date when it is thought that the human race will be in mortal danger of collapse due to its own ignorance.

 

Multiplying and spreading your knowledge and example to others is a powerful conservation strategy. By educating locally, but thinking globally, you become the initiator of a network of social energy that can grow and save Nature from human destruction. Your influence now can help build a future positive equilibrium in, at least, some corners of Nature’s existence.

 

Conservation is the act of identifying, understanding,  preserving, and protecting Nature’s energy flow. Legacy building – passing it on to others – must be added to our definition of conserving Nature. Legacy building is empowering environmental stewards, directly or indirectly, at all ages and within all disciplines.

The legacy worldview incorporates both the systems worldview that was explored in the second essay and the environmental ethics discussed in the fourth essay. These two subjects are seemingly unrelated. However, both worldviews address interrelationships. The systems worldview focuses on the technical truths about Nature’s interrelated systems while the ethical worldview focuses on the qualities and guidelines for human interaction within Nature’s ecosystems. The legacy worldview passes on facts and guidelines for action through the transfer of ideas to other groups and future generations. The legacy worldview represents the positive influence that is so badly needed if humanity is to survive on Earth. Here are two examples of young people and their mentors building a legacy of environmental consciousness. 

 

The Green Team

 

I am privileged to mentor a group of 10 incredible high school seniors in an environmental education program in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico. My students use hands-on, place-based, Socratic (inquiry-based) teaching strategies to help young people in the primary grades understand the flow of Nature’s energy and why everything in Nature is interconnected. This program, called the “Green Team”, uses a local estuary as the “classroom”. Being the “resident biologist”, my job is to provide the technical information necessary for the Green Team to build an effective teaching package. However, the actual teaching activities are conducted by my students.

Typically, the Green Team first provides a 45 minute in-class oral and video Socratic session to introduce the ideas about energy flow in Nature. Within a week of this activity, the students take a field trip to a local estuary. First, they participate in the “string game” activity where they learn about the complex connections in the ecosystem. Then, they enter a mangrove ecosystem, get wet, and trace Nature’s energy flow from the sun, through the mangrove system, into the estuary water plane, and out to sea. This activity is heavy with sensory activities. And, finally, the students participate in a “What did you see?” session.

 

The Green Team participates in legacy building. First, I passed the information on to my students. Then, they passed what they learned to younger students. With time, we hope that the younger students will become the new Green Team.

 

 The Little Acorns Program

 

Deborah Perryman is an award-winning environmental educator from Elgin, Illinois, USA who provides us with a second example of legacy building.  Deb is an Illinois teacher of the year recipient. She oversees the National Biodiversity Teach-In  which is run by her students. Her hands-on, place-based environmental teaching work is portrayed in this video.

 

Legacy Building Resource Material
 
Thanks for reading this blog essay. This website offers a free PDF version of a book entitled “Empowering Stewards of Nature”. The book offers education methodology and content for building a connectivity consciousness for Nature within your students. The methodology includes seminar-style Socratic learning in the classroom coupled with activities in Nature that emphasize Nature’s relationships and energy flow. The book also offers some activity sets that will prove useful as you implement your environmental education programs outdoors. In addition, there is a series of environmental case studies that can be used in inquiry-based learning sessions. You are free to use the material offered in these packages “as-is” or modify things to fit your needs. To download this book, follow the instructions on the right side of the web-site when you click the photograph of the book.  

 

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