Final Project: Literacy and Ecoliteracy

Yaeir Heber

For my final presentation I lead a discussion on the technology of literacy and its affects on human-nature psychology and our consequent interactions with the natural world.  For an interesting approach to this we talked about some excerpts from David Orr’s book entitled Earth in Mind ("Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect," David W. Orr, Island Press, Introduction, Chapter 2, and Chapter 9.)  In this piece Orr identifies that that he considers to be our current ecological problems are fundamentally “problems of the mind” and that we cannot count merely on technology to fix them (p.2).  This problem, he explains that we have lost and ecological intelligence: “…the environmental crisis originates with the inability to think abut ecological patterns, systems of causation, and long-term effects of human actions” (p.2).  He calls for a reconstruction of our education system so that it would in fact teach a holistic sensibility to the workings of the natural world that we might better inhabit it.  While specialized technical knowledges can be useful, we need to understand the context in which life takes place, so that we may not destroy it unknowingly while myopically focused on our particular discipline or specialty. 

In our discussion, the worry that his concerns were not realistic considering how hegemonic our current society is was of great concern.  It brings up the dilemma of how to change a convention: is it still necessary to become apt in maneuvering with in that very system, or is an all out rejection more effective.  While I do not think Orr is suggesting either, this dilemma carries great philosophical significance.  

The other article we talked about put forth an explanation for why we have alienated ourselves from life (Orr, p.17).  David Abram in his book The Spell of the Sensuous ("The Spell of the Sensuous," David Abram, Vintage Books, 1996, Ch.4, pp. 93-114.) suggests that by creating a visually sensible representation for abstractions, we realized them in our psyche.  That is to say, because we wrote the word “red” which created a see-able thing that meant, not a worldly red, but the abstract notion of red (which is not see-able in the world) we created psychological space for a Truth that existed beyond to temporal world and distracted our attention and attunement from our habitat.  Consequently, we has lost our keen ability to read nature, or to be ecologically literate and can now extract meaning and participate or communicate only with humans and human technologies or creations.

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last updated 2/10/08