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$empt. • And we need poli+cal ac+vism.
What’s Learning Planet? Methodology for Ecosphere Literacy
EMOTIONAL LEARNING Bioempathe+c
Emotional learning Emo+onal intelligence, being neither compliant or psychopathic. But… a)Compassionate b) Bio-‐empathe+c: Able to empathise with other species and learn from and mimic biological systems c) Emo+onally resilient and self-‐reliant (helped by having an internal locus of control, and by having intrinsic mo+va+ons, rather than mo+vated by self-‐ interest & material gain) d) Able to defuse conﬂict (having skills of construc+ve depolarisa+on)
CONTEXTUAL LEARNING Peer-‐agogic Connec+ve
Contextual learning Learning takes place in reality Or, in other words, it’s: • Paragogic – (or peeragogic) learning well in context with other peers • Praxis-‐based – to learn immersively, in a context of change-‐making • Heutagogic – able autonomously to reﬂect on the situa+on and to experiment to improve your prac+ce • Connec+ve – wide, diﬀuse connec+ons with others, enabled by technology
PLAYFUL LEARNING Rapid prototyping Flipping dilemmas
Playful and creative • Play and crea+vity not just as fun or a$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