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A  fantas(c  voyage   Bridget  McKenzie  

•  Wri$en  as  prepara+on  for  talk  at   Hinchinbrook  Country  Park,  Hun+ngdon.     •  An  event  called  ‘We  Are  Where?’  to  explore   ques+ons  of  children,  nature  and  the  role  of   ar+sts   •  Organised  by  Cambridge  Curiosity  and   Imagina+on   •  October  2013  

•  My  growing  voca+on  is  to  lead  people  into  the   green,  both  prac+cally  and  metaphorically,  and   to  show  that  it  can  be  a  fantas+c  voyage.  I  think   children  can  be  some  of  our  best  navigators  into   the  green,  and  that  many  Crea+ve  Ecology   programmes  are  brilliant  in  extending  these   capaci+es.  They’re  even  essen+al.     •  But  I  want  to  look  at  the  map  from  higher  up,  to   talk  about  a  dual  problem,  which  are  like  two   walls  of  a  chasm  breaking  apart  our  world:          1)  The  next  genera+on  2)  Environment  

•  The  next  genera+on?  I  don’t  want  you  to  think   I’m  blaming  children.  The  opposite.     •  I  argue  that  the  thriving  ebullience  of  children   is  being  suppressed  ‘too  much  too   young’  (which  is  also  the  +tle  of  a  new   campaign  against  formal  schooling  for  early   years).     •  This  scene  is  from  the  just-­‐out  film  Ender’s   Game,  in  which  children  are  recruited  to   military  school,  in  a  context  of  humans  having   to  go  up  and  occupy  space  because  Earth  is   neglected  and  plundered.    

•  The  crisis  for  the  environment  is  more  talked  about   but  very  complex  to  know.  The  thriving  ebullience  of   nature  is  being  suppressed  and  damaged.  It’s  gone   awry.  The  image  is  aWer  historic  floods  in  Bangladesh   when  spiders  are  having  to  go  up  and  occupy  the  trees   because  their  ground  is  ruined.     •  Just  to  focus  in  one  one  aspect  of  this  -­‐  trees:   o  Trees  are  key  to  life  on  Earth.  Thinking  about  them  is   the  origin  of  sustainability  (Evelyn’s  Sylva  in  1662)   o  We’re  defores+ng  86,400  acres  a  day     o  Combined  with  emi^ng  9  billion  tonnes  CO2  a  year   o  Drought  is  weakening  the  world’s  forests,  stressed   further  by  more  extreme  fires,  storms  and  diseases.        

•  People  commonly  associate  nature  with  a  container,  as  a   place  to  go  outside  into,  as  if  walking  into  a  picture.     •  When  I  talk  about  a  journey  into  the  green,  I  don’t  mean   going  into  nature  in  this  way,  but  becoming  green-­‐ hearted.     •  This  is  about  a  shiWed  perspec+ve  on  our  connectedness   to  it.     •  Nature  is  self.  We  are  nature.  We  aren’t  just  within  it  but   we  are  it.   •  You  are  not  disconnected  from  nature,  rather  you  are   nature  gone  awry.     •  This  Ant  Death  Spiral  happens  when  ants  lose  the   pheromone  trail  and  circle  together  un+l  death.  You  are   part  of  a  community  caught  in  a  death  spiral,  deple+ng   and  destroying  your  selfworld  and  therefore  your  self.    

•  Yet  we  don’t  no+ce  we’ve  lost  the  trail  because  we   (in  the  affluent  world)  have  found  so  many  ways  to   replicate  nature,  to  veil  the  damage  and  to  craW  an   illusion  of  abundance.     •  This  image  is  from  a  gigan+c  vase  installed  recently   in  Tianmen  Square,  in  China.     •  Meanwhile  we  struggle  to  see  the  big  scale  things   that  really  ma$er:  Rebecca  Solnit  wrote  this  week   about  media  priori+es  that  you’d  need  all  the  paper   in  world  to  show  the  scale  of  importance  of  climate   change,  when  other  stories  could  be  printed  on  the   nano  scale.      

About  Ecosphere  Literacy   •  The  importance  of  a  broad  range  of   competencies  to  map  life,  to  make  meaning   from  it,  nurture  it  and  create  it.     •  I  argue  that  it  is  the  root  of  all  learning  for   now.  Immeasurably  more  important  than   ‘literal  literacy’   •  Not  just  for  schools  but  for  all  organisa+ons   that  seek  to  support  and  change  people.    

Ecosphere  literacy  is  to  know…   1.  what  is  wrong  with  us  (psychosis:  cap+vity)   2.  what  is  wrong  with  our  ac+ons  (ecocide)   3.  what  nature  looks  like  when  it  is  thriving     4.  how  it  has  gone  wrong,  in  systema+c  detail   5.  how  to  think  about  the  future   6.  how  to  shiW  culture  to  sustainability   7.  how  we  might  learn  be$er   8.  how  to  communicate  knowledge   9.  how  to  truly  account  for  value  of  nature     10.   how  to  thrive/regenerate  biosphere      

Discovering  cyanobacteria  –  Two  billion   years  old,  reclaiming  a  car  park  

•  We  have  to  look  in  other  ways  than  surveying  the  land   as  in  18th  Century  picturesque  views  of  nature.   •  This  image  shows  using  a  magnifier  to  inspect   cyanobacteria,  which  is  one  third  of  lichen.     •  It’s  a  two  billion  year  old  organism.  Such  beings  are   the  ancients  essen+al  for  thriving  life,  but  they’re   called  primi+ve.     •  Our  heirarchy  of  beings  should  be  fla$ened  –  to  see   the  connec+ons  not  the  ladder.   •  The  way  to  reverse  the  death  spiral  is  to  care  for  the   connec+ons  in  a  place.  One  cannot  claim  to  belong  to   a  place  –  to  have  place-­‐related  iden+ty  –  unless  you   care  for  it  ecologically,  and  thereby  care  for  other   inhabitants.    

•  The  focus,  righkully,  in  environmental  educa+on  is   to  nurture  skills  for  exploring  and  caring  for  places,   in  ways  that  pay  a$en+on  to  those  places.     •  I  think  there  is  a  broader  challenge  too,  of  placing   ourselves  in  +me,  in  rela+on  to  past  genera+ons,   to  other  species  and  to  planetary  systems.     •  This  (and  the  previous)  image  was  taken  on  a   course  where  I  gained  insights  into  this:  Ge^ng   Close  to  Nature.  The  man  dwarfed  by  mushrooms   is  Alan  Featherstone  Watson,  founder  of  Trees  for   Life,  which  aims  to  restore  the  Caledonian  Forest    

•  This  isn’t  about  going  back  to  a  primi+ve  way  of  living,   pre-­‐technology.     •  Technological  advances  can  be  harnessed  and  part  of   ecological  regenera+on.     •  Eric  Drexler,  founder  of  Nanotechnology,  argues  that   it  can  be  a  profoundly  ecological  approach  in  his  new   book  ‘Radical  Abundance’.   •  It’s  also  essen+al  that  we  see  on  a  much  smaller  scale   than  the  human  eye,  to  see  the  lower  end  of  trophic   cascades,  in  order  to  understand  how  everything   connects  together  ecologically.     •  This  image  is  of  an  insect  that  has  mechanical  gears:   Learning  about  this  is  made  possible  by  microscopy;   and  nature  has  mechanisms.      

Atmo…   Hydro…     Geo…     Cryo…   Bio…     spheres    

•  We  also  need  to  see  be$er  on  a  macro  scale.   •  We  need  to  overcome  our  aphasia  about  earth  systems   and  planetary  boundaries.  The  Ecosphere  is  all  of  these   dimensions  of  the  planet  working  together  –  rock,   water,  air  and  life.  (Biosphere,  Lithosphere,   Hydrosphere,  Cryosphere,  Atmosphere).   •  We  have  to  see  it  as  an  interopera+ng  system  for  Earth.   •  There  is  a  popular  no+on  that  science  for  the  future  is   about  space.     •  I  argue  that  we  need  to  shiW  this  while  building  on  it.   We  may  have  mapped  much  of  Earth  and  want  to  look   outwards.     •  But  a  ‘new  Star  Trek’  would  remind  ourselves  that  Earth   is  a  life-­‐bearing  planet  in  space,  with  really  exci+ng   physics,  and  exci+ng  heroic  challenges  to  tackle  forces   of  darkness  and  to  regenerate  life.        

•  The  launch  of  Project  Wild  Thing,  cinema   screenings  of  film   •  It  argues  for  swapping  screen  +me  for  green   +me   •  This  is  good,  but  also  we  need  a   comprehensive  analysis  of  the  underlying   culture  of  ecophobia  and  industrialisa+on  of   childhood.     •  The  grid  is  my  first  a$empt.     •  And  we  need  poli+cal  ac+vism.    

What’s  Learning  Planet?  Methodology  for  Ecosphere   Literacy  



Emo+onally   resilient  

Construc+ve   depolarisa+on  

Emotional learning Emo+onal  intelligence,  being  neither  compliant  or   psychopathic.  But…   a)Compassionate   b)  Bio-­‐empathe+c:  Able  to  empathise  with  other   species  and  learn  from  and  mimic  biological   systems   c)  Emo+onally  resilient  and  self-­‐reliant  (helped  by   having  an  internal  locus  of  control,  and  by  having   intrinsic  mo+va+ons,  rather  than  mo+vated  by  self-­‐ interest  &  material  gain)   d)  Able  to  defuse  conflict  (having  skills  of   construc+ve  depolarisa+on)  

CONTEXTUAL LEARNING Peer-­‐agogic   Connec+ve  


Praxis-­‐ based  


Contextual learning Learning  takes  place  in  reality   Or,  in  other  words,  it’s:     •  Paragogic  –  (or  peeragogic)  learning  well  in   context  with  other  peers   •  Praxis-­‐based  –  to  learn  immersively,  in  a  context   of  change-­‐making   •  Heutagogic  –  able  autonomously  to  reflect  on  the   situa+on  and  to  experiment  to  improve  your   prac+ce   •  Connec+ve  –  wide,  diffuse  connec+ons  with   others,  enabled  by  technology    

PLAYFUL LEARNING Rapid   prototyping   Flipping   dilemmas  



Playful and creative •  Play  and  crea+vity  not  just  as  fun  or  a$rac+ve,   but  as  nurturing  of  posi+ve  deviance     •  Not  just  for  children  but  for  all   •  There’s  much  to  learn  from  children:  the  idea   that  you  are  already  fledged  as  you  are   fledging,  that  children  are  fully  people,  that   adults  are  s+ll  learning.    

•  This  highlights  the  role  of  ar+sts  in  the  Learning   Planet   •  Beuys  has  inspired  my  project  Beuysterous  –   crea+ve  ac+ons  for  trees  and  forests   •  He  is  known  for  introducing  the  idea  of  art  as  Social   Sculpture.  Does  this  need  reinven+ng  as  Planetary   Sculpture?   •  Cultural  ac+vism:  it’s  vital  for  arts  and  heritage   organisa+ons  and  prac++oners  to  rethink  what   makes  them  relevant.     •  I  argue  they  should  focus  missions  on  changing  and   disrup+ng  social  structures  with  an  ul+mate  goal  of   sustaining  life  on  the  planet.          

•  The  two  crises  –  the  next  genera+on  and  environment   –  are  one  crisis   •  In  tackling  this,  crea+ve  thinking  plays  an  essen+al  role   –  as  ‘posi+ve  deviancy’  and  ‘planetary  sculpture’   •  Back  to  this  idea  of  ‘space  science’  as  appealing,  as  an   inspiring  factor  to  regenerate  and  re-­‐terraform  the   Earth.     •  This  image  is  from  a  blogpost  by  Rachel  Armstrong  –   she  is  a  ‘living  architect’     •  In  Project  Persephone  she  has  taken  on  the  task  of   designing  interior  spaces  that  generate  diverse  life  as   on  earth,  for  a  spaceship.     •  She  talks  of  Bruno  Latour’s  idea  of  being  ‘earth  bound’:   the  need  to  be  aware  of  the  Earth  before  leaving  it.  

“…near  the  end  of  that  +me  aWer  most  of  the  animals,   birds,  plants,  forests  and  waters  were  dead  or  gasping   at  the  frayed  edge  of  great  self  intelligent  home   some  of  the  people  began  to  weep     and  from  that  weeping   a  new  earth  was  watered     and  the  children  of  those  people  no  longer  went  to  the   old  prison  schools  to  learn  death   but  relearnt  the  story   praised  the  fragile  green  endurance   and  made  a  new  world.”   Extract  from  words  of  remembrance  for  lost  beings  by  Shivam  O’Brien  2012  

A fantastic voyage into the green 1