Take a breath, hold it, hold it, hold it… eventually you know you will have to breath out and take another. This simple act embodies our connection to everything else – we are of the place, we are of the earth and it is of us.
We spent three days at the Nazareth School site together working on the Naturally Smart programme in South Australia developing permaculture inspired designs for our various school sites. The next phase of this work will see the schools meeting regularly and sharing their ongoing findings with other schools in the network.
Taking a breath, paying attention to our breathing, the regulatory system of self becomes an opportunity, an invitation, to slow down and reconsider, to realign and to reconnect.
That is what we have been doing with the Naturally Smart programme – a longitudinal enquiry at the school level into the conditions which facilitate sustainable practice. This work is emergent, nuanced to individual and organisational settings, diverse and yet capable of being modelled and framed so that it can be replicated across a multitude of sites. It is as far as we are aware the first substantive effort to design and develop a pedagogic approach to ecological consciousness and as such is fraught with frontier challenges, but it is providing to be accessible, pragmatic and thought provoking.
It is an opening to a new story.
The story explores the idea that everything is connected to everything else, now and forever.
As Ben Okra observes, ‘Stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories individuals and nations live by and tell themselves and you change the individuals and nations. Nations and peoples are largely the stories they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories that are lies, they will suffer the future consequences of those lies. If they tell themselves stories that face their own truths, they will free their histories for future flowerings.’ (Okri
Commission on the future of multiethnic Britain 2000, 103,3,4)
If this is so, then what is the story for our time?
In responding we are intent on providing solutions by developing resources which support knowledge, skills, understanding and capabilities that will support young people and equip them with the resilience to respond to the challenges that the 21st century might throw at them.
Central to our analysis of human and planetary condition in the early part of the 21st century is the understanding that we urgently need to align human progress within the broader process and systems of the planetary needs. Any further imbalance between people care and earth care is likely to put us on a collision path with the very life systems upon which we depend.
To do this we now have to reimagine education. This requires a fundamental change of core practice.
Business as usual will not be sufficient to shift human consciousness towards an ecological alignment with the life systems of the earth. Education will have to change in the coming years to ensure that our young people are suitably knowledgeable with ideas that are conducive for survival in the context of climate and environmental change.
To do this we have to adopt and learn new capabilities, and apply these into the routine of daily school life as a matter of urgency.
It is a simple but profound shift that this work is calling every teacher and every learner to attend to, one which moves human ego to recognise and respond positively to the creative eco.
It starts from where we are now, and builds slowly towards a transformed educational offer, one which still serves the human society, but is reframed to also attend to the role of young people as citizens of planet earth.
This is the agenda for global educational reform and implicates us all in making changes that connect us at a local level. It is the rationale for a paradigm shift, changing human consciousness to attend to our place within an ecological system of which we are all a part.
Our work in South Australia, Tasmania, Hong Kong, UK, France, Brasil, and elsewhere puts these ideas into practice.