Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Schumacher College experience

If I had to summarize the two weeks I spent at Schumacher College as simply as possible, I would put it like this: Schumacher College is an amazing place full of amazing people doing amazing things.

I left Schumacher feeling inspired and motivated. Most of all, I left feeling like I'm on the right track with my research, my work, my thesis, my life. Everything is in line with my values. There's harmony in that, and with harmony comes happiness.

The purpose of my trip to Schumacher was twofold: 1) To take a course on ecological literacy; and 2) To use Schumacher as a case study for my master's thesis, which itself is about ecological literacy.

In case you're wondering what ecological literacy is, it's about knowing the story of who we are and where we come from. It's about understanding that we are a part of -- not apart from -- the natural world. That we are a species that is utterly dependent on healthy ecosystems for the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.

Thinking that we are somehow superior to, or separate from, nature is the kind of thinking that led us to create an economic system built on a foundation of limitless consumption. So ecoliteracy is about the shift to a way of thinking that reflects the scientific reality of the world we live in. In other words, it's about recognizing that the earth is an intricate system of relationships that we are part of. It's about moving away from an ethos of separateness toward an ethos of relatedness. Of course, ecoliteracy is much more than just the passive acquisition of knowledge; it is the ability to understand the natural systems that make life on earth possible and to live accordingly.

Being at Schumacher was great because it gave me the chance to learn more about ecoliteracy from both a theoretical and practical point of view. We saw all sorts of examples of ecoliteracy in action, from Transition Town Totnes to sustainable farming to ecological design. People are simply rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.

Schumacher also gave me insights into how I want to communicate about the environment. I am not interested in the confrontational "who can shout louder" style of activism. I think it's more productive (and effective) to talk about the issues in a way that is not dogmatic or demanding. No one wants to be preached at. It's better to be soft and permeable, to mould the message to the other person's interests and beliefs. To invite them into the conversation, rather than shut them out. And, above all else, to have a sense of humour when communicating about the environment. Humour is critical. Otherwise we come across as being too earnest and being earnest is annoying. Earnestness is the enemy of environmentalism.

I have a lot more thoughts, but I'm saving those for later. For now, I'll just end with some photos of the English countryside.

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