Environmental Education

This web page offers environmental educators and other stewards of Nature ideas 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.

The photo at the top of this page portrays a high school student of mine working with a group of primary students to demonstrate how Nature is connected and interdependent. For me, it is a captivating photo because it demonstrates the power of legacy where one young person is able to pass along the power of his knowledge to younger people. 

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 adults do 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 environmental educators because these people 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 finds 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 guide 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 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 textbooks. 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 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 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.

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.

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.

It is my hope that, after reviewing the ideas in this section, you will communicate with me in the space provided below. You are free to agree or disagree with me. In addition, the contribution of your ideas will help us all become more effective educators that give our youth new power.

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)

My Role As An Environmental Educator

” 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.” — from Earth Charter

Here are some of my recent notes about being an environmental educator.

I wish to solicit other environmental educators and stewards of Nature to embrace and evangelize  a worldview to all humans that states:

“All life on this earth is interconnected and interdependent. All life on Earth transfers and transforms the energy that comes from our sun. We humans must maintain a consciousness that respects and protects these processes of energy flow if we are to survive as a race.  Ecological literacy (ecoliteracy) is the ability to understand and protect the natural systems that permit the energy flow that makes life on earth possible. To be “eco-literate” means to understand and protect the interdependence of ecological and human communities in order to sustain life on Earth.”

The goal of all environmental education is to guide the minds and hearts of all human beings toward a worldview that Nature must be respected and protected because Earth is our home. The role of environmental educators is to  show human beings how natural environments function and how we humans can live sustainably within these ecosystems.

Environmental Education is a multi-disciplinary field integrating disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, earth science, atmospheric science, mathematics, and geography. The term is often used to imply education within the school system, from primary to post-secondary. However, it is sometimes used more broadly to include all efforts to educate the public and other audiences, including print materials, websites, media campaigns, etc. Environmental Education is the guiding of individuals, and communities in transitioning to a society that is knowledgeable of the environment and its associated problems, aware of the solutions to these problems, and motivated to solve them.

The term “Environmental Education” was coined by American educator David W. Orr and physicist Fritjof Capra in the 1990s. With this a new value entered education – meaning the “well-being of the earth”. An ecologically literate society would be a sustainable society which did not destroy the natural environment on which they depend. “Ecological literacy” (ecoliteracy ) is a powerful concept as it creates a foundation for an integrated approach to environmental problems. Advocates champion ecoliteracy as a new educational paradigm emerging around the poles of holism, systems thinking, sustainability, and complexity. Earth Charter goes on to state:

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history. This is a time when humanity must choose its future, a future that holds both great peril and great promise.  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.

All of my teaching and other work with environmental educators is based on this idea in addition to the idea that:

“…all living beings on this earth are interconnected and interdependent with each other. This is the basic definition of life that is necessary to transfer and transform energy”

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

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.

Nature’s Relationships : Predator and Prey

Our great predators, the wolf, the cougar, the bear, and others teach us about the vital importance of interdependence in Nature. They are top predators because the power of their connecting presence is an evolutionary driver of the diversity of life. Chains of life flourish with the force of predation. The killing of predators by mankind results in broken energy connections that make a big difference in how Nature operates.

The conservationist’s toolkit must contain the ability to identify and preserve vital energy connections in Nature. Wikipedia defines keystone predators as species which have a disproportionately large effect on their natural environment relative to their abundance. We humans are just beginning to realize that keystone predators are a major connecting force in the functioning of ecosystems. It is a paradox that the great predators are a key to life itself. They affect the life and health of entire ecosystems. Yet, agricultural interests and Nature’s stewards in our public lands kill off the major predators because they are inconvenient or considered dangerous to humanity.

There is a wonderful video that provides a lot of detail and scientific data that supports the restoration of predators such as the wolf and the cougar. Lords of Nature  is a powerful 58 minute video that portrays the ecological damage caused by the breaking of natural connections when these predators are killed off. Narrated by Peter Coyote, the video beautifully demonstrates how everything is interconnected in Nature. And it offers solutions for humanity’s healthy coexistence with these animals. This video is well worth your time because it lays out the scientific evidence and reasoning for the preservation of the great predators like the wolf and the cougar. It also gives examples of successful coexistence between agricultural interests and predators.

Much of the conflict within the current government sponsored delisting of endangered wolf species results from human emotion and misunderstanding. On one side, some ranchers angrily view predators as thieves who destroy ones economic welfare. On the other side, the pro-wolf community portrays wolves and other predators as romantic, warm, and fuzzy creatures worth loving. Both sides harbor major misconceptions.

The video shows proof with examples that wolf predation of livestock can be reduced to near-zero levels through various non-lethal methods. Much of the resistance by the ranching community is in the Western United States where fear seems to prevail over reason. Unlike the fear of ranchers in the Western United States, there are large wolf populations in Minnesota and little predation of livestock because these ranchers have learned to employ effective non-lethal methods to protect their livestock. The video portrays interviews with Minnesota ranchers who have successfully used non-lethal methods for stopping wolf predation. The results are impressive. USDA data from the Northern Rocky Mountains show that wolves were responsible for only 1% of all livestock losses while losses due to disease (81%), bad weather (16%), and domestic dogs (2%) were far higher.

The video also notes that the pro-predator community has an equally erroneous perception – that of being “warm and fuzzy”. The fact is that predators are indeed hard to live with, and need our special attention to create a peaceful coexistence!

The science behind the issues associated with the great predators clearly defines how parts of ecosystems have been damaged or destroyed because predators like the wolf have been hunted to near extinction.

The video focuses on data and observations at Yellowstone National Park and Zion National Park. At Yellowstone and other places, starting early in the 20th century, the wolf was being exterminated. There was a war on any animal that was deemed a threat to livestock. Ranchers saw fit to clean their rangelands of all threats. By late 1920, the science of ecology (the study of Nature’s vital energy connections) began to emerge. By 1940, Aldo Leopold was defending the wolf and suggesting that conservation of the land for self-renewal should be the key idea for increasing the capacity of the land. He is famous for his words in his San County Almanac about the “green fire” in the eyes of a dying wolf . Leopold’s ideas were deeply holistic and included the welfare of soil, water, plants, and animals along with our human communities. The role of how predators associated with their prey became a key theme in his whole idea of the conservation of the health of the land. As a result, he started a bitter dispute with those who wanted the wolf exterminated.

In 1973 the Endangered Species Act was enacted and in 1995, new wolves were released into Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. Since then, researchers have gathered ecological data in Yellowstone and other national parks on the roles of predators in ecosystems. At Yellowstone, with the demise of the wolf prior to 1973, it was found that the ecosystem had changed significantly with too many deer and elk that resulted from a lack of top predators.

Aspen, cottonwood, and willow trees that grew along streams were stunted or destroyed by the foraging elk. In turn, the lack of strong stream-side plants caused erosion. The forests moved away from the streams resulting in changed ecosystems. The aquatic life in and near the streams was affected. This included beaver, fish, frogs, insects, and bird life.

With the reintroduction of the wolf, and with it the predation of elk and deer, a restoration of the former ecosystems began. The banquet provided by the wolf feeding on elk and deer was available to any other scavenger creatures from vultures to beetles. The stunted aspen, cottonwood, and willow trees began to grow again. Stream sites began to flourish. With the demise of the wolf, the beaver colonies had died off with only one left. The reintroduction of the wolf ultimately resulted in 12 beaver colonies. The Pronghorn Antelope population, a prey to coyotes, increased as the wolf preyed on coyotes again. The video describes all of this as a healing of a 70 year sickness created by mankind. Indeed, many connections in Nature had been restored with the reconnection of the keystone predator to his ecosystem. These studies have shown that the wolf is an important part of a fully functioning ecosystem

While ecological restoration was taking place at Yellowstone, deer were amassing in destructive numbers at Zion National Park. There were no wolves at Zion but there were many cougars. Strangely, the act of naming Zion as a national park ended up damaging the ecosystem. But, instead of purposeful eradication, the cougar quietly moved away from the hordes of humanity who came to visit Zion Canyon. Like Yellowstone, the stream side plant community was severely affected because of an overrun of deer. The key predator, the cougar, had moved on. But, researchers did find an opportunity to discover why all this was happening. The cougar moved to a secluded area near Zion Canyon known as North Creek. Here the scientists found a richness of life. There are 47 times more cottonwood trees, 5 times as many butterflies, and 200 times more toads and frogs. The key predator, the cougar, is keeping the deer population in check. Consequently, an ecological balance exists.

From all of this, researchers have found similar results in other places such as Jasper Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada; Olympic National Park in Washington; and Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. The ecosystems in all of these locations were destined to decay without their top predators. Each is a living example of Aldo Leopold’s concerns some 60 years ago.Top predators provide richer, more resilient ecosystems throughout the world. There is scientific proof. And with this, human fear of loss has proven to be unfounded.

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

 

 

What does Climate Change, COVID, and Stewardship Have In Common??

What does climate change, the COVID-19 epidemic, and the stewardship of Nature have in common?? How are these three phrases, and the ideas that they represent, related?

You might be interested in this CNN report

As a scientist who regularly explores how Nature operates within a world  where human activity is a dominant influence, I witness both productive and destructive activities by humans. To explore these activities, one must first define the three phenomena that are listed in the title of his essay.

Encyclopedia Britannica defines “climate change” as a: “Periodic modification of Earth’s climate brought about as a result of changes in the atmosphere as well as interactions between the atmosphere and various other geologic, chemical, biological, and geographic factors within the Earth system.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “COVID-19” as: “A mild to severe respiratory illness that is caused by a coronavirus. It  is transmitted chiefly by contact with infectious material (such as respiratory droplets) or with objects or surfaces contaminated by the causative virus, and is characterized especially by fever, cough, and shortness of breath and may progress to pneumonia and respiratory failure

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “stewardship” as: “The careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care

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

While COVID, climate change, and stewardship  represent seemingly separate phenomena and ideas, they also represent some important underlying human activities that produce the same destructive results. The most critical of these destructive results could be the elimination of the human race. But also, these three ideas carry the potential of changing how we humans preserve and live within our home, Mother Earth.

Climate change, the COVID-19 epidemic, and the stewardship of Nature have certain characteristics in common. They are:

  • Human activity dominates our Earth.
  • These activities are driven by human world views.
  • Some of these world views could destroy the human race.

Modern science has successfully defined the physical, chemical, biological, and geographic interactions  that result in climate change within our Earth’s systems. Science has also defined the processes that create the coronovirus and how it is spread among humans. And, science has defined good stewardship as the preservation of interdependence and biodiversity among all plants and animals. All three are described by modern science as systems of energy flow.

However, what modern science fails to address is how the current worldviews of human beings negatively impact the processes that Nature requires to succeed. The coronavirus epidemic has reached huge proportions worldwide because humans have failed to follow simple rules that can inhibit or stop the epidemic. The negative impact of climate change within our earth’s environment is caused by humans who shun activities that would inhibit chemical and atmospheric interactions (like using fossil fuels). The reduction in our Earth’s oxygen supply comes from our poor stewardship of our forests. Huge swaths of forest that supply our essential oxygen are being eliminated by we humans for economic gain.

The common factor between the issues that drive the coronovirus, climate change, and poor stewardship is a destructive world view of Nature by we humans. It is difficult for me to imagine any major progress in the modification or elimination of these three phenomena within many humans without first addressing methods to change the majority human worldview from a “me” attitude to a “we” attitude where the Earth is recognized as a living system that requires a human consciousness of interdependence between all things.

As a high school teacher and marine biologist, I have experienced my share of humanity’s destructive worldview about Nature — a worldview of poor stewardship. Part of my work involves education of adults and high school students and the conservation of a internationally protected estuary in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico. The rules specifically prohibit walking dogs in the protected area because the birds in this sanctuary view all dogs as predators. In addition, the annual depositing and hatching of Olive Ridley sea turtles in the dunes and the beach of the protected area is threatened by dogs.  Visitors from the USA and Canada are common most of the year. Signs that list the rules in both English and Spanish are posted in various locations. About 20% of the visitors openly ignore the signs and walk their dogs in environmentally protected areas. Some of these people actually destroy the signs at night. Due to budget constraints, there is only a  limited amount of enforcement. When these violators are approached, their attitude is one of “entitlement” where they feel that they have a right to walk their dogs despite the rules and the signs.

The village of San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, where I live, is a very popular and beautiful beach community near the much larger community of Guaymas. With the corona virus crisis in full force, rules prohibit occupying the beach and require staying at home except for certain activities. These rules also require wearing face masks when away from home for essential business are enforced to prevent the further spread of this virulent virus. Nonetheless, many people, both Mexican and Anglo, have violated these rules. Again, the attitude of “entitlement” prevails. The result is a continued spreading of the disease and the death of many people.

In my work, I have discovered that much of the refusal to follow guideline or rules comes from an innate distrust of science by many human beings. Sadly, adult humans seem to be hardwired to dismiss facts that don’t fit their worldview. These facts may also affect the physical comfort of some humans.. This article  describes this phenomenon and offers reasons why many adult humans choose to ignore scientific fact and defy rules posted on signs by government authorities.

“Cognitive dissonance” is a concept that was developed in the 1950s by American psychologist Leon Festinger. It describes the mental conflict that occurs when current beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The unease or tension that the conflict arouses in people is relieved by one of several defensive maneuvers:

  • People reject, explain away, or avoid the new information.
  • People persuade themselves that no conflict really exists.
  • People reconcile the differences.
  • People resort to any other defensive means of preserving stability or order in their conceptions of the world and of themselves.

I have used the phrase “adult human” to classify 50% of the human race. These people are over 25 years of age. Many seem to suffer from cognitive dissonance. There seems to be a significant difference in the worldviews of these older generations and those humans who are younger than 25 years old. It is my view that the hope for humanity rests with our youth.

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 worldviews.  The fresh minds of young people respond to fact and learn through awe and wonder. These young minds have the potential of becoming our 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 connections 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 we humans. 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. 

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.

Empowering Stewards of Nature — Lessons From The Web Of Life

Empowering Stewards of Nature 

Lessons From the Web of Life

(Free PDF Study Guides)

This book advocates a human worldview that includes a deep consciousness for an interdependent and connected Nature. With this worldview, we are empowering humans to partner with Nature rather than unsuccessfully trying to manipulate and control Nature. Without interdependence and connectivity in Nature, all life on Earth, including we humans, would cease to exist because the energy necessary to sustain life could not flow Everything must be connected. Everything, including humans, is interdependent.  Nothing is self-sufficient.

The words and ideas in this book are directed to all stewards of Nature, elementary, high school, and university students, and all environmental educators including classroom teachers, park rangers, docents, and nature guides. In turn, it is hoped that you, the reader, will promote the idea that Nature’s processes of interconnection and interdependence are vital to the welfare and harmony of both Nature and humanity on this Earth.

The strategy of the material in this book is to demonstrate the vital importance of identifying, understanding, and protecting the interconnections that provide energy flow in Nature. Equipped with this consciousness and knowledge, the reader is in a position to help current and future human generations respect and preserve the Earth’s interdependent environment that is essential for all life to exist.  You, the reader, become the messenger.

This book is designed to help you become an effective and knowledgeable messenger to both current adult generations and to future human generations — our young people. The book offers a series of teaching resources that include teaching strategies, case studies, activity sets, and lesson sets that focus on the theme that “Nothing In Nature Exists In Isolation”. The methodology for presenting this material to human beings of all ages is to set aside the formal presentation of facts in favor of individual exploration and discovery. Instead of being a purveyor of facts, you, the messenger acts as a mentor and facilitator.

Through seminar-style discussion groups accompanied by hands-on place-based education in the outdoors, this material will help the “student” in any age group to build a healthy consciousness for Nature by engaging, exploring, and discovering Nature’s interconnected world.

This book:

* Identifies and describes unsustainable human population growth on a planet with limited resources.

* Uses modern systems science to more fully describe our planet as an interdependent living system.

* Evangelizes the deep dependency of humans on Nature’s energy flow within Her ecosystem

* Examines current scientific fact as the basis for creating an environmental ethic that will guide humans toward a sustainable harmony with Nature.

* Focuses on conservation practices that identify and preserve the pathways of energy flow in Nature. By identifying and conserving energy flow networks, mankind does not get involved in trying to predict what an unpredictable Nature will do. Instead, Nature, makes the decisions that best serve Her and Her creatures.

* Emphasizes the fact that the environmental education of our youth produces a powerful legacy of effective conservation practices in Nature.

The book is organized into the following sections:

  • Introductory material that describes the book’s purpose.
  • Teaching concepts – suggested methods for effectively presenting the material provided in this book to different audiences.
  • Case studies for seminars – basic study/research material that describes 28 different ecological subjects to be used for conducting inquiry-based (Socratic) seminars.
  • Suggested activity sets to be used for hands-on, place-based outdoor activities in Nature.
  • Suggested lesson sets created by professional biology/ecology teachers.
  • Epilogue – Summary of the ideas presented in this book.

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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.

 

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