COS 58-3
Ecological literacy leadership: into the mind of nature

Wednesday, August 7, 2013: 8:40 AM
L100F, Minneapolis Convention Center
John J. Kineman, Cooperative Inst. for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, CO
Kamaljit Bawa, Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA

ESA's Sustainable Biosphere and Earth Stewardship Initiatives call for increased emphasis on ecology education globally, using place-based, multi-cultural, interdisciplinary, problem-oriented, experiential learning to develop a more socially relevant science agenda that can be translated into practice, addressing society's need for a sustainable ecology worldwide. The related concept of "ecological literacy" emphasizes the "ability to read" meanings from nature as contrasted with behavioral models. Noting debatable success of past approaches to integrating conservation, poverty reduction, and sustainable development we believe there must be a fundamental shift in approach in applied ecology and policy support. We therefore wish to encourage development and testing of new kinds of models for science and education capable of expressing general principles of nature in terms of cognitive models for human and societal behavior. We need a new scientific framework that can express ecological knowledge in a way that is compatible with cultural perspectives -- perhaps the "necessary unity" between mind and nature championed by Gregory Bateson over 30 years ago. Such a framework may be constructible from recent developments in complex systems science focusing on the learning aspect of socio-ecological systems and basing pedagogy on Peter Senge's concept of 'learning organization'.


Experiments began through a Fulbright grant in 2008 with the long-term aim of augmenting already innovative and highly effective programs at ATREE (Bangalore) in community-based conservation and research on sustainable livelihoods at several sites in India. These experiments expanded in subsequent years to include two other institutions in India exploring two domains: (1) developing a theoretical framework to couple traditional science with contextual models (natural and human) to represent socio-ecological potentials as system attractors; and (2) conducting experimental workshops to introduce these ideas via applications in conservation science. Initial results suggest potentially broad student-driven interest from a genuine desire to integrate Eastern and Western thinking. We are therefore developing these ideas and experimental results into a Graduate Certificate program in "Ecological Literacy Leadership" for US and Indian students in any primary discipline. The program would offer virtual classrooms and co-laboratories for broad participation and cross-cultural sharing, coupled with problem-solving internships via student exchange, study abroad, and faculty-led research. The aim is to broaden the societal foundation of deep ecological thinking and sense of connection to nature, and thus to rebuild our general ecological literacy by connecting both hemispheres of the global brain.