The Search for a Common Language: Environmental Writing and Education

The Search for a Common Language: Environmental Writing and Education

The Search for a Common Language: Environmental Writing and Education

The Search for a Common Language: Environmental Writing and Education

Synopsis

A stellar group of writers, scientists, and educators illuminate the intersections between environmental science, creative writing, and education, considering ways to strengthen communication between differing fields with common interests. The contributing authors include Ken Brewer, Dan Flores, Hartmut Grassl, Carolyn Tanner Irish, Ted Kerasote, William Kittredge, Ellen Meloy, Louis Owens, Jennifer Price, Robert Michael Pyle, Kent C. Ryden, Annick Smith, Craig B. Stanford, Susan J. Tweit, and Keith Wilson.

Excerpt

Because scientists and poets are curious, they ask questions. Early
in his work, Einstein asked himself, “What would the world look
like if I were riding on the beam of light coming from that clock
tower?” That’s a child’s question, but an immensely intriguing one
that led to Einstein’s theory of relativity. An entomologist asks:
How does a bumble bee manage to lift its heavy weight and fly?
Poet Pablo Neruda asks whimsically: How many bees are there in
a day? the work of both scientist and poet begins with curiosity
and a question.… and like children, poets and scientists possess
a flexibility of thought, a willingness to modify their approach or
stance toward a subject or object. Like children, they have an open
ness to surprise, to what experience of the physical world may be
telling them that they didn’t expect
.
—Pattiann Rogers, “Wonder in Science and Poetry”

In A Sand County Almanac, first published in 1949, Aldo Leopold defined the importance of an “ecological” education. “One of the requisites for an ecological comprehension of land,” he wrote, “is an understanding of ecology.” This understanding, he added, “does not necessarily originate in courses bearing ecological labels; it is quite as likely to be labeled geography, botany, agronomy, history, or economics.” His conclusion that “this is as it should be” certainly follows from his exhortation earlier in the book that we must think at “right angles” from accepted knowledge, a process that “calls for a reversal of specialization; instead of learning more and more about less and less, we must learn more and more about the whole biotic landscape.” Like the natural processes on which it is based, Leopold’s ecological education is systemic, asking us to stand back from our own disciplines and look at the interrelationships among various modes of inquiry. When he complains that “whatever the label, ecological training is scarce,” he speaks about individual courses but also about the scarcity of fruitful cross-pollination among disciplines.

As ecological awareness has grown, thanks to Leopold and many others, over the past fifty-some years, the specialization he decried has only . . .

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