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Ecological Literacy - A Foundation for Sustainability


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Presentation by EcoLabs. First shown at theTeach-in for Ecological Literacy in Design Education. Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Ecological Literacy - A Foundation for Sustainability

  1. 1. Ecological Literacy A Foundation for Sustainability
  2. 2. The Visual Communication of Ecological Literacy Jody Joanna Boehnert - MPhil - School of Architecture and DesignWhy? Context Levels of Learning & EngagementPresently humanity’s ecological footprint exceeds its regenerativecapacity by 30%. This global overshoot is growing and ecosystems are 1st: Education ABOUT Sustainabilitybeing run down as wastes (including greenhouse gases) accumulate in Content and/or skills emphasis. Easily accommodatedthe air, land, and water. Climate change, resource depletion, pollution, into existing system. Learning ABOUT change.loss of biodiversity, and other systemic environmental problems ACCOMMODATIVE RESPONSE - maintenance.threaten to destroy the natural support systems on which we depend. 2nd: Education FOR SustainabilityWhat? Systems, Networks, Values Additional values emphasis. Greening of institutions.Problems cannot be understood in isolation but must be seen as Deeper questioning and reform of purpose, policy and practice.interconnected and interdependent. We must learn to engage with Learning FOR change. REFORMATIVE RESPONSE - adaptive.complexity and think in terms of systems to address currentecological, social and economic problems. Images can be usefultools to help with this learning process. 3rd: SUSTAINABLE Education Capacity building and action emphasis.How? Transformational Learning Experiential curriculum. Institutions as learning communities. Learning AS change. TRANSFORMATIVE RESPONSE - enactment.The value / action gap permeates education for sustainability and isobvious in environmental coverage in the media. The gap between Stephen Sterling, 2009our ideas about what we value and what we are actually doing toaddress the problem is the notorious value / action gap. This projectuses transformational learning to move from values to action. Thisapproach is integrated into cycles of action research and practicebased design work. ECOLOGICAL Actions GOOD DESIGN Ideas / Theories ECONOMIC SOCIAL Norms / Assumptions Beliefs / Values Paradigm / Worldview Metaphysics / Cosmology Transformational Learning Values, Knowledge, Skills A: SEEING (Perception ) An expanded ethical sensibility or consciousness The world is a complex, interconnected, finite, ecological-social- B: KNOWING (Conception) psychological-economic system. We treat it as if it were not, asEcological literacy - the understanding of the principles of organization A critical understanding of pattern, if it were divisible, separable, simple, and infinite. Our persistent,that ecosystems have evolved to sustain the web of life - is the first consequence and connectivity intractable, global problems arise directly from this mismatch.step on the road to sustainability. The second step is the move Donella Meadows, 1982towards ecodesign. We need to apply our ecological knowledge to C: DOING (Action)the fundamental redesign of our technologies and social institutions, The ability to design and act relationally,so as to bridge the current gap between human design and the integratively and wisely. References Fritjof Capra. The Hidden Connections. London: Flamingo. 2003 Stephen Sterling. Whole Systems Thinking as a Basis for Paradigm Change in Education. University of Bath. 2003ecological sustainable systems of nature. Stephen Sterling. Transformational Learning. Researching Transformational Learning. University of Gloucestershire. 2009 Fritjof Capra, 2003 Stephen Sterling, 2009 | This poster can be downloaded on this website:
  3. 3. ECOLOGICAL ECONOMIC SOCIALWe have to learn to see the world anew. Einstein
  4. 4. The world is a complex, interconnected,finite, ecological-social-psychological-economic system. We treat it as if it werenot, as if it were divisible, separable, simple,and infinite. Our persistent, intractable,global problems arise directly from thismismatch. Donella Meadows, 1982
  5. 5. We live in a profoundly relational world, butour perceptual, intellectual and learningtools are inadequate to properly see andappreciate this reality, and to develop anappropriate ‘systemic wisdom’. Stephen Sterling, 2009
  6. 6. Content 1. Context 2. Concept 3. Key ideas 4. History 5. Development 6. Practice 7. Learning
  7. 7. The volume of education has increased andcontinues to increase, yet so do pollution,exhaustion of resources, and the dangersof ecological catastrophe. If still moreeducation is to save us, it would have to beeducation of a different kind: education thattakes us into the depth of things. Schumacher, 1974
  8. 8. 1. Context Springer-Verlag. The New Scientist.
  9. 9. Living Planet Report 2008. WWF
  10. 10. Living Planet Report 2006. WWF
  11. 11. Earth’s Natural Wealth: an Audit. The New Scientist
  12. 12. The Oil Age. Information design by Dave Menninger. 2006
  13. 13. Global production of oil and gas 50 Non-con Gas Gas billion Gboe/a 40 NGLsProduction, barrels Polar Oil 30 Deep Water Heavy 20 Regular 10 0 1930 1950 1970 1990 2010 2030 2050 Source: ASPO The Oil Crunch Securing the UK’s energy future First report of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security (ITPOES) The Oil Crunch. The UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security.
  14. 14. 2. Concept ECOLOGICAL ECONOMIC SOCIAL The interlocking global crises of unsustainability requires a far more fundamental social learning and educational response than environ-mental education, as a largely marginalized and contained body of thought and practice, has yet been able to effect. Sterling, 2005
  15. 15. The development of ecological understandingis not simply another subject to be learnt buta fundamental change in the way we see theworld. John Lyle, 1994
  16. 16. Ecological Literacy postmodern ecological worldviewshift from mechanistic metaphor and paradigmtowards an ecological metaphor and paradigm
  17. 17. The first step in our endeavor to build sustainablecommunities must be to become ‘ecologically literate’,i.e. to understand of the principles of organization,common to all living systems, that ecosystems haveevolved to sustain the web of life… Fritjof Capra, 2002
  18. 18. This systemic understanding of life allows usto formulate a set of principles of organizationthat may be identified as the basic principlesof ecology and used as guidelines for buildingsustainable human communities...
  19. 19. We need to apply our ecological knowledge tothe fundamental redesign of our technologiesand social institutions, so as to bridge the currentgap between human design and the ecologicalsustainable systems of nature. Fritjof Capra, 2002
  20. 20. 3. Key Ideas Systems thinking asserts that valid knowledge and meaningful understanding comes from building up whole pictures of phenomenon, not by breaking them into parts.
  21. 21. • shift thinking from objects to processes• shift thinking about relationships from hierarchies to networks
  22. 22. Whole Systems Thinking = systemism + ecologism = systems thinking + ecological thought • extension of perception • connection in conceptual thinking • integration of planning and action
  23. 23. • Not all systems thinking is ecological.• Not all ecological thinking is aware of systems thinking. Stephen Sterling
  24. 24. Paradigm Thomas Kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962A basic way of perceiving, thinking, valuing anddoing associated with a particular vision of reality.
  25. 25. ParadigmA constellation of concepts, values, perceptions,and practices shared by a community, which formsa particuliar vision of reality that is the basis of thewhole the community organizes itself. Capra, 1986
  26. 26. Implicit in the notion of paradigm is the relativeunawareness of deep assumptions.Paradigms have a normative aspect – theytell people what is important, legitimate andreasonable.Patton, 1990
  27. 27. Paradigms are the lens through which we look athe world and it therefore determines what weperceive. A paradigm is a set of beliefs or as-sumptions we make about the world, normallybeneath the level of awareness and thereforemostly never questioned. Stacey, 1996
  28. 28. Three components of a paradigm ethos - belief, imaginal, dimension - epistemology eidos - dimension of ideas / concepts - ontologypraxis - reflective intention and action - methodology Stephen Sterling
  29. 29. Actions Ideas / Theories Norms / Assumptions Beliefs / Values Paradigm / Worldview Metaphysics / Cosmology Transformational LearningValues, Knowledge, Skills A: SEEING (Perception ) An expanded ethical sensibility or consciousness B: KNOWING (Conception) A critical understanding of pattern, consequence and connectivity C: DOING (Actio n) The ability to design and act relationally, integratively and wisely. Stephen Sterling, 2009
  30. 30. EpistemologyThe study of the nature of knowledge,its origins, structure and validity.- ‘how we know’- epistemic learning = transformative learning
  31. 31. Challenge of unsustainability requires a deeplearning response, which may be termedtransformative or epistemic learning
  32. 32. 4. History Gregory Bateson suggested we suffer from ‘a fundamental epistemological error’ in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972).
  33. 33. Scientific revolution (17th century)Radical change in epistemological position / paradigmA: Shift away from Medieval Christianity- end of the idea of a sacred worldB: Copernicus, Galileo & Issac Newton- geocentric view of the world displaced by astronomy
  34. 34. C: Scientific method: - Francis Bacon & Rene Descartes - empiricism - reductive thinking - dualism: subject & object mind & body, people & nature
  35. 35. - the whole was no more than the sum of the parts- mechanical world- world as a machine metaphor- facts and values are unrelated- vision of the material world as a great machine.- reductionism tries to gain understanding of aphenomenon by breaking it into the componentparts. This works for study of computers and carsbut not natural systems.
  36. 36. Reductionist science the root of thegrowing ecological crisis, because it entailsa transformation of nature such that theprocesses, regularities and regenerative capacityof nature are destroyed. Vandana Shiva, 1988
  37. 37. mechanistic, dualistic, rationalist, objectivist,and reductivist
  38. 38. Clash of paradigmsDominant worldview as flawed, dysfunctional
  39. 39. Mechanism EcologicalObjectivist ParticipativeReductionist, Holistic,dualistic integrativeReductive Systemic Stephen Sterling, 2009
  40. 40. Crises of Perception value driven participatory ecological wholistic systemic transdisciplinary empirical objective reductionist mechanical
  41. 41. Seeing differently
  42. 42. Put simply, the case against the dominantWestern worldview is that it is no longerconstitutes an adequate model of reality -particularly ecological reality. The map is wrong,and moreover, we commonly confuse the map(worldview) for the territory (reality). Sterling, 1993
  43. 43. 5. Development 70s - Meadows, Bateson 80s - Capra, Harman, Clark 90s - Orr, Laszlo, Hawkins, Kortean, Berman+ 00s - Sterling, 100s+
  44. 44. Problems as symptoms of systemic failure, rather than random errors requiring fixes.
  45. 45. Actions Ideas/theories Norms/assumptions Beliefs/values Paradigm/worldviewMetaphysics/cosmologyStephen Sterling on transition from beliefs to actions: ‘Levels of Knowing’, 2009
  46. 46. What we already ‘know’ frames what we see,and what we see frames what we understand.The things we make are an extension of themanner in which we think.
  47. 47. 6. Practice footprinting theory lifecyle analysis wicked problems cradle to cradle tipping points One Planet Living resilience biomimicry technology lock-in embodied energy carrying capacity rebound effect dematerialisation energy descent ecosystem services general systems externality costs
  48. 48. Values lead to what we design& designers subconsiously embed values in towhat we make.But our value system presently does notacknowledge our dependence on ecologicalsupport systems.
  49. 49. Some lessons from ecological systems fordesign of human systems. 1. Diversity 2. Feedbacks 3. Resilience 4. Non-linear thresholds 5. Emergence
  50. 50. 7. Learning How? Transformational Learning The value / action gap permeates education for sustainability and is obvious in environmental coverage in the media. The gap between our ideas about what we value and what we are actually doing to address the problem is the notorious value / action gap. This project uses transformational learning to move from values to action. This approach is integrated into cycles of action research and practice based design work.
  51. 51. Actions Ideas / Theories Norms / Assumptions Beliefs / Values Paradigm / Worldview Metaphysics / Cosmology Transformational LearningValues, Knowledge, Skills A: SEEING (Perc eption ) An expanded ethical sensibility or consciousness B: KNOWING (Conception) A critical understanding of pattern, consequence and connectivity C: DOING (Action) The ability to design and act relationally, integratively and wisely. Stephen Sterling, 2009
  52. 52. A sufficient and whole learning response -at personal, organisational and social levels -requires shifts in the three interrelated areas ofhuman knowing and experience: perception (Seeing – affective dimension) conception (Knowing – cognitive dimension) action (Doing – intentional dimension) Stephen Sterling, 2009
  53. 53. 10 Assumptions of Reductionist Thinking1 ‘To every problem, there’s a solution’2 ‘We can understand something by breaking it down into its component parts’3 ‘The whole (of something) is no more than the sum of its parts’4 ‘Most processes are linear’5 ‘Most issues and events are can be understood by examining the components.6 ‘It is acceptable to draw your circle of attention or concern quite tightly, as in ”that’s not my concern’7 ‘We can define or value something by distinguishing it from what it is not, or from its opposite’8 ‘Objectivity is both possible and necessary to understand issues‘9 ‘We can understand things best through a rational response. Any other approach is irrational’10 ‘If we know what the state of something is now, we can usually predict future outcomes’ Stephen Sterling 2009
  54. 54. 10 Assumptions of Reductionist Thinking • problem-solving • analysis • reductionism • cause-effect • atomism • narrow boundaries • objectivism • dualism • rationalism • determinism
  55. 55. An emerging ecological (relational/systemic)paradigm presents a sane and hopefulevolutionary pathway, necessary to theconditions we now face, with the powerto transcend the disintegrative effects ofmodernism and the disempowering relativism ofdeconstructive postmodernism. Stephen Sterling, 2009
  56. 56. To simplify, two ways of thinking...Problem-solving Reframing /alleviationAnalysis SynthesisReductionism HolismClosed cause-effect Multiple influencesAtomism/segregative IntegrativeNarrow boundaries Extension of boundariesObjectivism Critical subjectivityDualism Pluralism / dualityRationalism Rational / non-rationalDeterminism Uncertainty, ambiguity
  57. 57. Key cultural worldviewsMetaphor Mechanism Ecology/living systemsEpistemology Objectivist Participative Reductionist, Holistic,Ontology dualistic integrativeMethodology Reductive Systemic
  58. 58. Educational paradigmEducational Positivist Interpretivist; Critical; Poststructural Participativeparadigm Constructivist radicalRole of Instruction Facilitation Critical Deconstruct- Mediation,educator pedagogy ion mentoring/ transformative ‘invitational’Curriculum Prescribed Constructivist; Issues based Pluralist Indicative, emergentPedagogy Delivery Learner Critical Deconstructive Co-inquiry centered pedagogy TransactionalCultural worldview/metaphorMechanistic..............modernist…………….Postmodern….........Ecological…
  59. 59. Our machines, our value systems, oureducational systems will all have to beinformed by (the) switch, from the machineage when we tried to design schools to be likefactories, to an ecological age, when we wantto design schools, and families and socialinstitutions in terms of maintaining the qualityof life not just for our species, but for thewhole planet. Mary Catherine Bateson, 1997
  60. 60. Last thoughts...‘It is better to do the right thing wrongly, thanthe wrong thing better and better…’ Russell Ackoff
  61. 61. We can’t solve problems by using the samekind of thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein
  62. 62. ECOLOGICAL ECONOMIC SOCIAL http://teach-in.ning.comFurther Reading:Capra, Fritjof. 2002. The Hidden Connections. London: Flamingo, 2003.Orr, David. Ecological Literacy. Albany: State of New York Press, 1992.Stephen Sterling. Whole Systems Thinking as a Basis for Paradigm Change in Education. University of Bath. 2003