My initial understanding of the environment and environmental education as seen overall in my creative journals and blog posts, have focused on the appreciation of the physical well-being of nature. I associated this with the well-being of humans because of the interaction and relationship we have with the environment. However, although I still stand by this idea, the information I have gathered and learned throughout the past couple months has introduced me to alternate perspectives. The key here is the notion brought up by Capra (2007) that all education is environmental education. From this, I can see many dimensions which, in detail, would definitely exceed the length of this blog post. Eco-literacy, cultural commons (Bowers, 2009), and the euro-centric view of nature are the dimensions of environmental education that I may have touched on in all my previous reflections, but I did not necessarily connect.
The reoccurring idea within my blog posts had an emphasis on nature. As I read my words about the importance of nature and the beauty of it and how it needs to be appreciated see seen here, I begin to realize that I was missing a very important piece of the puzzle. I was wrapped up in the idea that in order to be mindful of our environment, we need to learn how to live sustainable lives. But there is more to environmental education than that. Looking at the word nature, I was looking at in the way I was conditioned to think which neglects colonial past and that relationship to the words “nature” and “wilderness.” I never thought, until now, that these words could be seen as “cultural and hegemonic written through relations of power” (Newbery, 2012, p.34). In my first blog post, and then throughout, I continuously referred to the beauty aspect of nature. I guess I never really thought about it the extent of colonialism and how nature has played a role in cultural identity. In post number five I did mention this idea, but if I could rewrite it, I would go even further. Further to the extent that what we teach about nature and wilderness has been constructed in an euro-centric way providing education with only one perspective of space, land, and wilderness.
My approach to environmental education has been centred around what is being lost. I mentioned the culture of technology in youth, and in my love letter, commented on the fact that many “don’t care” about the environment as much as they should. My definitions of what it means to care have not changed, but encompass more meaning. This meaning will be constantly growing, but as of now, what I wish to add to “caring about the environment” is associated with the cultural commons Bowers (2009) talks about. The paradigms within a given community restrict and reinforce certain dominate discourses. As a result, alternate perspectives are left out, and Orr (2004) argues that ignorance is a part of human condition. This ignorance can take the form of white privilege and, in the case, unintentionally neglect the importance of colonial history and it’s influence on this concept of nature. Because of this ignorance, wilderness and nature have been viewed as a communal space that we share, respect, and some may take for granted when in reality there are historic stories that need to be shared. My thought process about the beauty of nature has evolved in to the beauty of space. How I can relate this to environmental education is that in order to fully understand and teach others to, as I stated, “appreciate” the environment, the euro-centric perspective that reinforces power needs to be challenged.
In my action learning project, I see myself taking this perspective more animately. Supporting local food and products is one of many ways I can do my part in displaying the importance of community. Through my new environmental lens, I am now specifically interested is how important local businesses are to the environment and societal paradigms. Of course, reducing my carbon footprint is a dominate goal to this plan, however, challenging the common knowledge of food production because of capitalism is an element of my improved concept of appreciation to the environment. To conclude, I find myself critiquing concepts and meanings as I read and write about what it means to be eco0literate. As a result, thinking critically has allowed me to make connections about why environmental education is important. Paradigms in our society may have power, but being able to recognize this gives me an advantage to understand that we are surrounded by people, materials, and other living things that interact and have relationships which have histories that tell us why we are here today and inspirations for where we can go in the future.
Bowers, C. (2009). Educating for a Revitalization of the Cultural Commons. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 14(1), 196-200.
Capra, F. (2007). Sustainable Living, Ecological Literacy, and the Breath of Life. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 12(1), 9-18.
Curthoys, L., Cuthbertson, B., & Clark, J. (2012). Community story circles: An opportunity to rethink the epistemological approach to heritage interpretive planning. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (CJEE), 17, 173-187.
Orr, D. W. (2004). Earth in mind: On education, environment, and the human prospect. Island Press.