Our collective individual successes are taking our planet to the edge of the cliff of disaster. Thomas Morten’s advice to students was to “be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success.”
The plain fact is that the planet does not need more “successful” people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form.
If today is a typical day on planet Earth, we will lose 116 square miles of rainforest, or about an acre a second, another 72 square miles to encroaching deserts, 40 to 100 species, increase in the human population by 250,000, add 2,700 tons of chlorofluorocarbons to the atmosphere and 15 million tons of carbon. Tonight the Earth will be a little hotter, its waters more acidic, and the fabric of life more threadbare.
It is largely the result of work by people with BAs, BSs, LLBs, MBAs, and PhDs.
In Wiesel’s words: “Education emphasized theories instead of values, concepts rather than human beings, abstraction rather than consciousness, answers instead of questions, ideology and efficiency rather than conscience.”
CFCs (carbon, fluorine, chlorine, hydrogen) had created a general thinning of the ozone worldwide.
The complexity of Earth and its life systems can never be safely managed. The ecology of the top inch of topsoil is still largely unknown, as is its relationship to the larger systems of the biosphere.
What might be managed is us: human desires, economies, politics, and communities. We have to reshape ourselves to fit a finite planet than to attempt to reshape the planet to fit our infinite wants.
There is an information explosion going on which cannot so easily by measured.. We still lack the science of land health.
Due to the economists lack of rudimentary knowledge of ecology, our national accounting systems do not subtract the costs of biotic impoverishment, soil erosion, poisons in the air or water, and resource depletion from gross national product. We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that we are much richer than we are.
We consider our self modern, technological, and developed. This, of course, represents cultural arrogance of the worst sort, and a gross misreading of history and anthropology. Communism produced too little at too high a cost. Capitalism produces too much, shares too little, also at too high a cost to our children and grandchildren. At its worst it is a world of crack on the streets, insensate violence, anomie, and the most desperate kind of poverty. The fact is that we live in a disintegrating culture.
WHAT EDUCATION MUST BE FOR
It should be measured against the agenda of human survival.
All education is environmental education.. Teach economics, with reference to the laws of thermodynamics, physics and ecology
The goal of education is not mastery of subject matter, but of one’s person. Education should not just stuff all kinds of facts, techniques, methods, and information into the student’s mind,
Knowledge should carry with it the responsibility to see that it is well used in the world. Whose responsibility is Love Canal? Chernobyl? Ozone depletion? The Valdez oil spill?
We should know the effects of this knowledge on real people and their communities. The bottom line for society includes other costs, those of unemployment, crime, higher divorce rates, alcoholism, child abuse, lost savings, and wrecked lives. The education did not include the value of good communities or the human costs of a narrow destructive economic rationality that valued efficiency and economic abstractions above people and community.
Process is important for learning. It should not be just indoors but also outdoor.
AN ASSIGNMENT FOR THE CAMPUS
Examine resource flows on the campus: food, energy, water, materials, and waste. Faculty and students should together study the wells, mines, farms, feedlots, and forests that supply the campus as well as the dumps where you send your waste. Support better alternatives that do less environmental damage, lower carbon dioxide emissions, reduce use of toxic substances, promote energy efficiency and the use of solar energy, help to build a sustainable regional economy and cut long-term costs. No student should graduate without understanding how to analyze resource flows and without the opportunity to participate in the creation of real solutions to real problems.No student should graduate from this or any other educational institution without a basic comprehension of:
the laws of thermodynamics, the basic principles of ecology, energetic, least-cost, end-use analysis, how to live well in a place, limits of technology, sustainable agriculture and forestry, steady-state economics, environmental ethics.