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S Environmental Learning

Visions for Environmental Learning

Chair: Dieter Steiner

Contributions: Mitchell Thomashow,Koachim Schütz

Lenelis Andersen, Helen Kopnina, Ulrich Loening, Peter Merry



Visions for Environmental Learning - Round Table


Presentation from Mitchell Thomashow: "To Know the World: A New Vision foir Environmental Learning"



This presentation will be an overview of my relatively new book, To Know the World: A New Vision for Environmental Learning (published by The MIT Press in 2020). I present a comprehensive approach to revitalizing environmental learning, emphasizing new ways to think about the migration of people and species, ecological and social networks, the relationship between local and global, improvisation as the foundation for adaptation, and the necessity of perceptual reciprocity in our connections to the biosphere. I provide a strong pedagogical orientation, focusing on place-based learning, the necessity of field-based natural history, and the uses of mapping, personal experience, and memory to access theoretical concepts. To Know the World is a sequel to my previous book, Bringing the Biosphere Home: Learning to Perceive Global Environmental Change (The MIT Press, 2001). To Know the World is based on my forty-five year career in the environmental studies field and the urgency that our field (including human ecology) adapts to changing circumstances in higher education as well as global ecology and politics.


Presentation by Joachim Schütz: "The Return of the Ouroboros" - and Discussion


  The paper argues for a radical switch in perspective in managing co-evolutionary, complex systems, i.e. ecosystems, society. Even though there are billions of potential entry points to start influencing co-evolving systems, the great majority of our western societies, especially academia still bases their approaches to manage our world upon a value-free, empirical natural science bottom-up point of view, which is by assumption independent of its specific context and historical development.
The paper argues that first, such an approach lacks a necessary integrative narrative, which is by contrast necessarily value-based, and second, since there is no way to predict the development of complex, coevolving systems it is absolutely necessary to start with an integrative narrative, representing the perceived identity of a system, before handling any specific problem.
This approach puts its primary focus upon relationships, responsibility, reciprocity and redistribution. Thereafter any classical academic insights are more than welcome and very helpful in handling any problems. It may be seen as a “marriage” of natural science and traditional knowledge of native cultures from all around the world.