Tag Archives: ecology

Ecology and Teaching at SXSW!!

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I’m looking forward to setting off for Austin, Texas on Sunday for a week of SXSWedu talks, meetings, and conversation….not to mention the predicted 75-degree temps!

I’ll be giving one of the Future 20 talks at 11:30 on Thursday, March 9th about Ecology as a Model for Teaching.

Here’s the presentation description:

Grounded in a pedagogy of interdependence, collaboration and co-evolution, this talk will outline essential methods and tools necessary to integrate ecological systems thinking into curricular and instructional design. Building curricula based on ecological models helps to focus on organic, open and engaged learning experiences that coalesce around learning outcomes, around ‘real-world’ ecological challenges and around learner-centered approaches — where the boundaries between student, teacher and the world all blur and begin to evolve into a new paradigm of an intentionally engaged ecology.

If you’re in the area, stop on by!

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In all things

I am honored to have been featured by several news organizations this week. Articles about Climate Run were printed in today’s editions of The Times Argus Newspaper and the Caledonian Record. Earlier this week, Vermont Biz, VT Digger, and USA Running all posted articles about the 2017 Arctic Trail Run.

In the Caledonian Record, I was quoted as saying,

“Climate resilience isn’t about just one intervention, or several. It’s looking at the entanglement of infrastructure, culture, policies, and ecology, and seeing what we can do to not just mitigate our impact but to build more intentional and resilient relationships between social and ecological systems.”

 

“It’s not about saving nature, it’s about saving us,” he said.

“Saving us” is about celebrating individuals, building whole communities, and fostering resilient relationships with one another and across boundary lines. If we can’t do that, then how can we even begin to take meaningful action with respect to our larger world?

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Sometimes it can be pretty hard to be out on a long run. Particularly on a cold mid-winter late afternoon in northern Vermont, it can be hard even to get out the door! But when my body warms up and I embrace the rhythm of the run, I’m reminded nearly every time that running isn’t just about the exertion and a means to push through to the finish.

Rather, I like to think of my running itself as writing a narrative of openness, acceptance, and understanding of my place in this larger world—as I run, I feel boundaries begin to blur, and I find myself on a gradient between self and world.

By looking at the landscape at a small scale—something that running (and walking, and skiing, and so on) almost always requires us to do—we can begin to make our connections to natural places at the same time more dynamic, more entwined, and more resilient.

Anything that underscores the tangible, real physicality of individual and community connections with ecological systems—through sport, endurance, and recreation—can be an essential foundation for meaningful conversations not just about ‘the environment,’ but about our communities and about ourselves.

What do I hope for? For no less than to use my experience to begin writing a new narrative that integrates communities and individuals more intentionally with the ecological future of our world.

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Ecology as a Model for Teaching

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I love it when synergy happens. And in my world, it seems to happen all the time. Like this, for example — I’ve proposed a workshop for the SXSWedu Conference and Festival next March that integrates my love of teaching, ecology, design, systems, and of course running!

The talk will “outline the essential methods and tools necessary to integrate ecological systems thinking into curricular and instructional design.”

In a nutshell, it’s all about how to integrate *what* we teach about–like the natural world, ecology, and climate resilience–into *how* we teach about it.

Want to know more?

You can find the proposal  — and, most importantly, vote for it — here!

Everyday Ecology

I am reading two things at the moment: Donella Meadows’ “Dancing with Systems” and Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical Letter, “On Care For Our Common Home.” Disparate as these texts are—the first a reflection on decades of work with ecological systems by perhaps our leading evangelist of systems thinking, published in the year of her death, 2001–and the second, a provocation to more than simply the 1 billion followers of Roman Catholicism to think, discuss, and act upon issues of climate change in the context of our social and economic structures, choices, and philosophies.

I read “On Care For Our Common Home” on the urging of my friend, writer and activist John Elder, who wrote an Op Ed for the Rutland Herald about the recently released encyclical. In reading the whole of the papal letter, I had hoped to find a passage or two that epitomized the ecological sentiment—something I could draw from to write a pithy post related to Climate Resilience. Instead, what I found was paragraph after paragraph of rich, balanced, and nuanced engagement of many dimensions of climate change.

Here are a few examples:

I urgently appeal . . . for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. . . . We require a new and universal solidarity.   [14]

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. [23]

Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. [25]

A delicate balance has to be maintained when speaking about these places [of great biodiversity—like tropical forests], for we cannot overlook the huge global economic interests which, under the guise of protecting them, can undermine the sovereignty of individual nations. [38]

Given the complexity of the ecological crisis and its multiple causes, we need to realize that the solutions will not emerge from just one way of interpreting and transforming reality. [63]

The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others. [95]

There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes”.[118]

Culture is more than what we have inherited from the past; it is also, and above all, a living, dynamic and participatory present reality, which cannot be excluded as we rethink the relationship between human beings and the environment. [143]

It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. . . .Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. [155]

As Pope Francis crafts an argument for an “integral ecology,” he outlines many concepts that are central tenets in the global conversation about climate change: the relationship between cultural and ecological systems, the role of politics and economy as a driving force for cultural and ecological change, the connection between our very bodies and the world we live in.

In short, the June 2015 encyclical proposes a model of thinking about our world that is based on systems, on ecology, and on intentional relationships among human beings and between humans and the world.

Donella Meadows’ short piece, “Dancing with Systems,” is a similarly accessible entree to thinking about systems. In her introduction, Meadows writes,

We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them! I already knew that, in a way before I began to study systems. I had learned about dancing with great powers from whitewater kayaking, from gardening, from playing music, from skiing. All those endeavors require one to stay wide-awake, pay close attention, participate flat out, and respond to feedback.

It had never occurred to me that those same requirements might apply to intellectual work, to management, to government, to getting along with people. But there it was, the message emerging from every computer model we made. Living successfully in a world of systems requires more of us than our ability to calculate. It requires our full humanity–our rationality, our ability to sort out truth from falsehood, our intuition, our compassion, our vision, and our morality.

There is a striking resonance here between these two different texts. On one level, it’s heartening that the once more marginal language of ecology and systems has made its way onto the global stage in such a significant way. On another, I am buoyed that we, globally, are thinking (or at least being asked to think) about how we related to and how we treat one another, ourselves, and the world we are both a part of and that is a part of us.

What better way forward for building a community of resilience?

 

Dispatches from Iceland #1: We are an expression of forces

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We’ve finally arrived in Iceland and settled into an Airbnb apartment in Seltjarnarnes, a few minutes from the city center. It already seems as though we’ve been gone from Vermont for many weeks, although it’s only been just nine days of travel, training, work, and food (!) in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.

A tour of Scandinavia to be sure!

While at the Arctic Encounters conference in Copenhagen last week, I very much appreciated the hospitality of the conference hosts and the many new friends and colleagues both I and Orion made over the three days. In conversations about the Climate Run project, I kept returning an idea raised for me in Matthew Tiessen’s writing about affect and emotion:

“Humans can be thought of not as individuals, actors, subjects, or creators, but as articulations and expressions of their environments. Each of us is a site-in-process, a crossing, where forces come to play. . . . We are an expression of forces.

If we are intentional about the ways that those forces are expressed through our interactions with/in the world, then I think we can begin to realize not only our own potential, but our potential to interact proactively with the world around us.

In order to fully realize and maximize human performance — the goal of my friends at O2X — we need to realize that a runner’s body is more than just itself. We are each very much entangled in a web of complex systems — social, cultural, and ecological.

The world is not merely a space through which we run; it’s a system that includes the body in a complex ecology. A critical part of what I’m learning–and what I hope to share–through the Climate Run experience is the many ways we can contribute to building a consciously inclusive ecology.

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