Learning Love of the Natural World
|“If even schools are attempting to up ecological awareness in kids, imagine how much more opportunity unschooling families have to learn to love the natural world!”|
Even with most learning establishments and homes embracing the celebration of Earth Day each April, practicing recycling programs and so on, the reality is that this is not enough. We continue to educate the young for the most part as if there is no planetary emergency, the assumption being that better technology will take care of the rapidly worsening environmental crisis. But the crisis, as David Orr says in his book Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect (Island Publishers, 1994), is “in the minds that develop and use technology. The disordering of ecological systems and of the great biogeochemical cycles of the earth reflect a prior disorder in the thought, perception, imagination, intellectual priorities, and loyalties inherent in the industrial mind. Ultimately, then the ecological crisis concerns how we think and the institutions that purport to shape and refine the capacity to think.”
Like Orr, I am convinced that “nothing short of a redesigning of education by adopting the ‘protection of the ecology’ as a basis, in every discipline will do.” The earlier that love for Nature starts in a child’s life, the better. Someone who respects and honors the natural world, who loves this awesome earth, its astounding diversity its frightening power, its mathematical elegance, needs to walk with a child in a truly natural world. Regularly, someone needs to take that child to forest and meadow, gaze with him or her into the depths of a sparkling stream, explore in secret caves and hide behind tall grass, be still for the deer and the rabbit to pass. The idea is that rather than approaching Nature through a lens, dissecting and evaluating, classifying and measuring, one ought to first allow the natural world to take ahold of one.
Orr proposes that children should be introduced to the “mysteries of specific places and things before giving them access to the power inherent in abstract knowledge...aim to fit the values and loyalties of [children] to specific places before we equip them to change the world.”
In this way, as the children grow, their commitment to their own environment will grow with them and we will have a stronger pool of people to draw from in reversing the tide. What the planet needs now is not more “successful” people but, as Orr says, “it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make habitable and humane.”
Perhaps it is because so many people are separated by modern life from the natural world, and can not perceive their actual dependency on it as a reality, that there are still too few people willing to take on the challenge of saving our Mother Earth.
But if children of all ages were to be given the opportunity to commune with the natural world with as much enthusiasm and zeal as many do in shopping malls, no doubt we will stand a better chance at having a beautiful and healthful ecology in the future. No doubt we would come to know beyond words and thought, that indeed we are a part of this magical world. Then, in the words of social activist and writer Joanna Macy, we would witness that “as we work to heal the Earth, Earth heals us.”
Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko is a Hamilton, Ontario, Canada-based visual artist, and writer. For a number of years, she was also co-producer of Radio Free School, a weekly radio program by, for and about home-learners. She is also the unschooling mother of three.