Earth Education, Interbeing, and Deep Ecology

By Anderson, Tom; Guyas, Anniina Suominen | Studies in Art Education, April 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Earth Education, Interbeing, and Deep Ecology

Anderson, Tom, Guyas, Anniina Suominen, Studies in Art Education

We want to know if it is possible to live on earth peacefully. Is it possible to sustain life? Can weembracean ethos of su stai nability that is not solely about the appropriate care of the world's resources, but also about the creation of meaning - the making of lives that we feel are worth living? (hooks, 2009, p. 1)

Earth Education: Attending to What Counts

Whitehead (1929) argued that all aspects of education should be for the sake of life, and many have agreed (Anderson & Milbrandt, 2005; Dewey, 2004/1916; Freire, 1973; Greene, 2001; hooks, 1994; Kahn, 2010). In this context, we suggest that art is exploration, inquiry, experience, and communication among human beings about things that count So, what counts, right now? Arguably, the biggest current issue before humankind is environmental degradation (Hanh, 2008; Kahn, 2010; Louv, 2008; Speth, 2008). The current rapid worldwide environmental decline has been caused primarily by people (Gore, 2006; Speth, 2008), and so is a sociocultural issue as much as an environmental one. Many (Jackson, 1994; Kahn, 2010; Naess, 2008; Speth, 2008) have argued that the existing environmental problems are a manifestation of ou r competitive and consumerist society, which frames the natural world primarily as resources to be exploited. This attitude has been said to result in a corresponding separation of people from each other and from other species, as well as from the Earth that sustains us (Hanh, 2008). To address this problem, we argue for a paradigm shift from a predominantly intellectual, individualist, dualistic orientation to a connectively oriented sense of self-realization (Naess, 2008) os interbeing (Hanh, 2008) - that is, within, not above, outside of, or separate from place, community, and the greater interconnected biosphere of planet Earth. Reflecting the philosophical stance called deep ecology (Devall & Sessions, 1985; Ecology Journal, 2008; Milton, 2002; Naess, 2008; Sessions, 1995), we question an anthropomorphic view of being that centers humans and positions them above all else and, instead, propose a model embracing humankind as an integral part of the larger web of life (Lovelock, 1979). Aligning ourselves with an increasing number of artists, scientists, sociologists, educators, cultural researchers, and eco nomists, we promote a pedagogical approach built on the recognition that to stop injustice, cruelty, and discrimination and to work toward a more humane society, we need to increase cultural literacy, take action against global techno-capitalism, and begin to acknowledge the interconnectedness of social justice and environmental issues (Bookchin, 2005; Institute for Humane Education [IHE], 2011; Kahn, 2010; Orr, 2009; Shiva, 2005; Speth, 2008; Weil, 2004). Employing an environmentalist Earth Education perspective, in this article, we describe the problem of environmental degradation, define deep ecology and the paradigm of interbeing as a praxis-based philosophy for developing a sense of place, and suggest principles to guide the implementation of deep ecology and interbeing in art education theory and practice.

Global Warming and Consumer Culture

Most scientists have said that Earth's current imbalance is connected to human activity (Gibson, 2009). The biggest problem has been climate change, and the last two decades have been the warmest since records have been kept (Gore, 2006). The biosphere - Earth's inter connected system of living things - has begun to wilt primarily because excess CO2 enters the atmosphere as we burn more fossil fuels than we need in order to maintain our consumerist cu ltu re (Sing ha, 2010; Speth, 2008). We recognize that a diversity of opinion exists about which manufactured items are necessary for quality of life, and which are excessive, just as there is some lack of consensus about the complex economic, political, and ethical issues that constitute the core of our arguments here. But there can hardly be disagreement that one of society's driving forces is corporate interests who do their best to convince people that consumer goods are necessary for fulfillment (Speth, 2008) and that having more stuff makes one more fulfilled (Achbar, Simpson & Abbott, 2004; Moore, 2009; Leonard, 2010). …

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