In addition to ignoring an exponential and unsustainable human population growth, humans have come to believe that they can predict and control Nature. With this belief comes the false idea that humans are not dependent upon anything. Sustainability guru Justin Mog says:
“It may be that we live in an age of hyper-connectivity and “big data,” but I contend that the fundamental reason why we’ve managed to construct the most highly unsustainable culture the Earth has ever seen is precisely because we have not been taught to see the connections“.
The key word in this quote is “connections“. The underlying force of all life on Earth is the flow of energy. Without energy flow, life would not exist. Life’s energy flows through highly interconnected networks of chemical and physical conduits such as our body’s digestive system, our network of veins and arteries, and Earth’s ecosystems. This energy flow network, that starts with our sun, consists of highly complex energy flow networks throughout Nature at all levels. If pieces of this interdependent network are altered or destroyed, life as we know it would be changed or destroyed. The preservation this network is not addressed in modern conservation strategies. Yet, it is easily taught in the classroom and demonstrated during hands-on, place-based student visits with Nature. Soon it will be the same in Kragujevac.
Peter Karieva, formerly Chief Scientist with The Nature Conservancy, has said:
” For better or worse, people’s attitudes and actions help shape the world that will be left behind for future generations…The “public is becoming increasingly indifferent to environmental issues… The fate of Nature and people are deeply intertwined…. Conservation will be a durable success only if people support conservation goals.”
As Gus Speth points out, scientists ( including those mentioned in the papers I just noted) do not know how to solve the problem of human indifference toward a sustainable Nature, but environmental educators do know the solution. It is my contention that environmental educators are very important people in modern times because they have the power to build a consciousness in young people (and maybe their parents) that may prevent the crises that face humanity in 50 years.
The challenges that face environmental educators are:
- Human indifference to Nature.
- A lack of ecological literacy concerning subjects such as Nature’s energy networks.
- The absence of a legacy – connections to parents and to future generations.
Perhaps human indifference is the biggest challenge that faces environmental educators. I submit that the building of ecological ethics in our youth is an important first step. An “environmental ethic” is a guideline for behavior that is based on scientific fact. An environmental ethic is the connection of facts that are first learned in the classroom, then practiced through outdoor experiential activities, and ultimately coupled with with human behavior in the world of Nature. It is a powerful thing for a young person to be able to sit with family and talk about how everything in Nature, including we humans, is interdependent. It is equally powerful when that young student supports his or her statement with facts about the vital energy flow between all things in Nature. In doing so, both human indifference and ecological literacy are addressed.