We Humans Must Include Nature In Our Sense of Self

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

 

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

 

The Great Turning

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Our needs can be met without destroying our world

 

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

 

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

 

Human Wisdom can become a plan of action

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Discovering hidden depths to our identity

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

For Your Further Consideration

 

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

 

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

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

 

Please Comment

 

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

 

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

Two Famous Sages Speak About Interdependence In Nature

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

For Your Further Consideration

 

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

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

 

 

Please Comment

 

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

 

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

An Informed Story About Nature Guides Human Life

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

                                                              — Terry Tempest Williams

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Your Further Consideration

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

Please Comment  Here

Human “Entitlement” Is An Ecological Threat

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

For Your Further Consideration

 

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

 

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

 

Please Comment

 

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

 

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

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Gratitude Is A Powerful Conservation Strategy

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Gratitude As An Antidote To Consumerism

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Giving Back and Giving Forward

 

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

 

Thank That Which Gives You Life

 

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

 

Giving To The Future

 

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

 

For Your Further Consideration

 

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

 

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

Please Comment

 

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

 

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

Our Youth Must Live Nature’s Story

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

-Joanna Macy – Active Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our youth must be guided by the Living Earth Story

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

David Korten says:

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

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

For Your Further Consideration

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

Please Comment

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

 

Humans and Nature: Three Perceptions of Reality

People normally cut reality into compartments, and so are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

In my work as a conservation biologist, I often experience an arrogance by many adult humans as they refuse to embrace Nature as their home. These people seem to reject the idea that :

We humans need Nature, but Nature doesn’t need we humans

I often find myself searching for the root causes of this human separation from Nature that is prevalent mostly in humans over the age of 25. I have grown to realize that this separation from Nature is a cultural thing that is driven by an individual’s psyche –  the human soul, mind, or spirit. I prefer to call this deeply embedded phenomenon a person’s “worldview” –  a particular perception of life or conception of the world which could be right or wrong. The behavior of a person is driven by his or her worldview.

There are three human worldviews of Nature’s reality that drive how human beings relate to Nature and how human beings affect Nature.  They are:

Worldview #1: We humans dominate and control Nature.

Worldview #2: Nature can be understood by separating and understanding each individual part of Nature.

Worldview #3: Everything in Nature has an interdependent relationship with everything else. Parts of Nature cannot be understood without reference to the whole. 
 

Human Dominion and Control of Nature

 
Currently, the modern and predominate human worldview of Nature centers around the idea that people can control and predict Nature. Modern systems science has shown that this worldview does not portray reality and is blatantly false. Nonetheless, a large percentage of the human population over age 25  (excluding scientists and environmental educators) believes that modern human technology will prevail and prevent bad things from happening to we humans.

Recently, an important word, “anthropocentric”,  has emerged in the literature.   The Encyclopedia Britannica defines Anthropocentric as a:

viewpoint arguing that human beings are the central or most significant entities in the world. This is a basic belief embedded in many Western religions and philosophies. Anthropocentrism regards humans as separate from and superior to nature and holds that human life has intrinsic value while other entities in nature (including animals, plants, mineral resources, and so on) are resources that may justifiably be exploited for the benefit of humankind.”

Anthropocentrism suggests that human beings are preoccupied with a “me first” attitude. Much is written about the human idea that economic growth is far more important than the preservation of the earth’s resources. “Consumerism” is defined as a preoccupation with activities that result in consuming Nature’s resources. The result has led to a great concern by many humans that these excesses have resulted in potentially destructive changes in Earth’s climate as early as 2050. These concerns are prevalent in the younger human population who believe that the destructive anthropocentric practices of many humans over age 25 will result in an uncertain future for younger generations of humans.

These concerns have resulted in a great deal of climate activism by young people. One example, among many, is the activities of 16 year old Greta Thunberg . Greta has inspired and organized youth groups who have become vocal about how the older human generations are leaving an environmental mess that will need to be cleaned up by young people. Greta has attracted a lot of attention and has spoken before the United Nations and other influential world bodies.
 

Reductionism – separating and understanding each individual part of Nature
 

 
Reductionism is the claim that the properties of any complex and varied object can be explained by separately studying a set of fewer, more basic, elements within the phenomenon. For example, reductionism asserts that you can completely understand how an automobile engine operates by disassembling that engine, laying the parts on the garage floor, and studying each part separately.

In practical terms, reductionism states that every biological theory and fact may be deduced from studying the simplest components of the biological system in question. This would mean that, if we were to know perfectly the traits of every biological process in an organism, for example, we would be able to predict the behavior of the organism they compose. But we can’t. A good example is modern medicine where a doctor diagnoses a specific malady in a patient and prescribes a specific pill to fix that problem. Charles Eisenstein says:

What is the cause of, say, strep throat? Well, obviously it is the streptococcus bacterium, right? The problem is a germ. The solution is to kill the germ. On one level this may be accurate, but consider what this approach renders invisible and leaves out. First, it leaves out the question why one person exposed to the germ gets sick, and another does not. Especially if someone gets repeated infections of strep, it might be more useful to see the germ not as the cause, but as one of the symptoms of the disease. It also ignores the effects of repeated antibiotic treatment, and whether that might somehow contribute to vulnerability to reinfection. In medicine, focusing on the immediate, linear cause of a disease can destroy or impair the possibility of a real cure, whether on an individual or epidemiological level.”

In addition, the reductionist approach to taking a pill to fix a problem ignores the possible side effects of a particular medication.

Reductionism fails to consider the relationships between parts where, in reality, Nature is a network of interrelated parts. Classical science and engineering have successfully used a reductionist methodology where one separates and simplifies phenomena in order to predict future events. Nevertheless, in recent decades the limits of reductionism have become evident in phenomena where interactions are relevant. Since reductionism separates, it has to ignore interactions. If interactions are relevant, reductionism is not suitable for studying complex phenomena such as ecosystems in Nature.

As I noted in an essay on environmental education that I have written:

It should come as no surprise that, despite being surrounded by an interdependent Nature, we humans think in bits and pieces and not relationships. From the day we start attending school until we graduate some 12 to 20 years later, we are embedded in an education system that operates in bits and pieces. We attend math classes where we must focus only on math. We take history classes where we must focus only on history. And we take music classes where we are taught to focus only on music. To prove that we have learned something, we are required to take separate exams in each subject and receive separate grades“.

Much of modern humanity’s reductionist worldview comes from this questionable structure of our education system. But yet, the reductionist worldview does not paint an accurate and realistic view of our home – Nature. A holistic worldview of Nature’s interdependence can paint a reality upon which we can live in a sustainable manner.
 

Holism is the study of relationships between everything

 
There are plenty of phenomena that are better described from a non-reductionist or holistic perspective. For example, insect swarms, flocks of birds, schools of fish, herds of animals, and human society exhibit behaviors at the group level that cannot be determined nor predicted simply from individual behaviors or rules. Each animal makes local decisions depending on the behavior of their neighbors, thus interacting with them. Through the study of interactions, group behavior can be well understood. We cannot define the behavior of a bird flock or a fish school based on the behavior of individuals only. The relationship between the birds or fish must be defined. This also applies to cells, brains, markets, cities, ecosystems, biospheres, etc. Since interactions generate novel information that is not present in initial nor boundary conditions, predictability is limited. There is no shortcut to determine the future state of a system other than actually running or computing that system in real time.  

Nonetheless, many people continue to harbor the false reductionist worldview of being able to predict and control Nature. These people fail to acknowledge that Nature is a complex network of interrelated and interdependent parts. Without a consciousness of interdependence and inter-connectivity in Nature, humans will continue to proceed along a destructive pathway that could spell disaster for the human race by about the year 2100.

This leads us to search for some form of action that might prevent the calamity that will result from an errant worldview.
 

Our youth, our scientists, and our environmental educators can save humanity

 
Our youth represent about half of the human population on Planet Earth that is 25 years of age or younger. Typically, these people ( as well as scientists and environmental educators) do not harbor the reductionist worldview of the older humans. Young people are not yet culturally conditioned to a worldview where Nature is viewed as a reductionist machine. The fresh minds of young people are open to new ideas and new world views. These young minds have the potential of becoming our next generation of environmental leaders. These young minds, with guidance of environmental educators and scientists, have the potential of embracing Nature is a system of interrelated and interdependent parts. In doing so new generations acquire a holistic worldview of Nature that is the necessary foundation for the sustainable existence of humans on Earth.
 

Hope For Mankind’s Future Comes From Instilling A Deep Consciousness For An Interdependent Nature In Our Youth

 
I have the privilege of overseeing an environmental education program that works with students from fourth grade through high school. The fundamental emphasis of this program is that nothing in Nature is isolated. Everything is interconnected and interdependent. Over the years, I have been able to show that, when my students move on in life, they retain and practice this fundamental idea. It becomes a holistic worldview for them. It is my hope that their newly acquired worldview will become a legacy for future generations that come in contact with them.

In this way, those of us who are environmental educators, scientists, or stewards of Nature have the potential of modifying humanity’s worldview of Nature so as to create a consciousness for the interdependence of all life.
 

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 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

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

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

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.

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A Compassionate Consciousness

The word “consciousness” is not just a philosophical, spiritual, “hippie”, or “tree hugger” idea. Consciousness means being aware of something.

“Connections”, “interconnectivity”, “interrelationships”, “links”, and interdependence are all words that describe Nature and life. The idea of everything being connected in Nature is essential because life is defined by the energy that is transported between all living creatures and transformed into useful forms within all living creatures. By understanding the simple idea that everything is interconnected, we also understand why Nature is so complex.

We now understand that the origin of everything in the Universe begins with the atoms created by the stars. When we look at the night sky, we see our ancestors. From these relatively simple beginnings, our world of Nature has evolved into highly complex interdependent systems such as the bodies of all living creatures, the organization of ecosystems, and the flow, distribution, and transformation of our sun’s energy. In fact our Universe, as we know it, could not exist without everything being connected and interdependent in some way.

A consciousness about interdependence in Nature is essential to the survival of humanity on this earth. If we fail to understand interdependence and how we depend upon other creatures of our Earth, we are unable to define how we humans are able to thrive in Nature. If we fail to be compassionate and conscious about how any of our actions might affect other creatures, we might end up hurting ourselves. This compassionate consciousness requires the humility of stewardship instead of the prevalent arrogant attitude of many humans (and government agencies) who wish to control and manage Nature without understanding the consequences of their actions.

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