Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Lightness of Being Geographically Illiterate.

In my last post I gave you the first way that you and I can teach ourselves and our children about environmental citizenship. Here’s the second and third way, based on a paper by Blumstein and Saylan, entitled “The Failure of Environmental Education (and How We Can Fix It)”.

2. learn and teach that nature is nonlinear and inter-relational. What this means is that nature doesn’t react the same way all the time. It has thresholds over which rapid change can occur. Like a dam breaking. Because every living thing is connected and interacts in a community (including humans!) the effect of one change may spill into several changes, like the branches of a tree. Remember, the butterfly effect of my previous post…Blumstein and Saylan give the example of the return of the wolves to Yellowstone Park. Their return changed the behavior of their prey: deer, elk and moose chose to spend more time in the open, where they could detect their predators. This caused a reduction in grazing of willows, which exploded and created habitat for songbirds. So, the introduction of wolves increased the songbird diversity in Yellowstone. Very coolicious!

3. learn and teach a world view. Most of us North Americans know little or world history and many of us are geographically illiterate according to a recent poll (Trivedi, 2002). Remember my comment to “think and act locally”, which helps empower you? According to Blumstein and Saylan, it’s important also to maintain a “world view” to provide context for our local actions. This makes sense. In order to be motivated to do those local things, we need to understand their implications on a planetary scale. We need to understand that all these little things we will change a world paradigm. Otherwise why do them? We need to understand context and scale. How does our personal story fit into the larger global story? Find out WHY it’s important to recycle, compost, drive less, consume less…then tell others. 'Nuff said!

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.


surjit singh said...

Quite informative post.Good luck

Nina Munteanu said...

Thanks, Surjit! We're always learning, aren't we?