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Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Postmodern World

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The most important discoveries of the 20th century exist not in the realm of science, medicine, or technology, but rather in the dawning awareness of the earth's limits and how those limits will affect human evolution. Humanity has reached a crossroad where various ecological catastrophes meet what some call sustainable development. While a great deal of attention has been The most important discoveries of the 20th century exist not in the realm of science, medicine, or technology, but rather in the dawning awareness of the earth's limits and how those limits will affect human evolution. Humanity has reached a crossroad where various ecological catastrophes meet what some call sustainable development. While a great deal of attention has been given to what governments, corporations, utilities, international agencies, and private citizens can do to help in the transition to sustainability, little thought has been given to what schools, colleges, and universities can do. Ecological Literacy asks how the discovery of finiteness affects the content and substance of education. Given the limits of the earth, what should people know and how should they learn it?


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The most important discoveries of the 20th century exist not in the realm of science, medicine, or technology, but rather in the dawning awareness of the earth's limits and how those limits will affect human evolution. Humanity has reached a crossroad where various ecological catastrophes meet what some call sustainable development. While a great deal of attention has been The most important discoveries of the 20th century exist not in the realm of science, medicine, or technology, but rather in the dawning awareness of the earth's limits and how those limits will affect human evolution. Humanity has reached a crossroad where various ecological catastrophes meet what some call sustainable development. While a great deal of attention has been given to what governments, corporations, utilities, international agencies, and private citizens can do to help in the transition to sustainability, little thought has been given to what schools, colleges, and universities can do. Ecological Literacy asks how the discovery of finiteness affects the content and substance of education. Given the limits of the earth, what should people know and how should they learn it?

30 review for Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Postmodern World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

    This is an ecological literacy reader- full of excerpts from the best people in the field. This book is all about the aspects of education that should be a huge part of all schools- place-based education, garden classrooms, learning kitchens, farms-to-schools, bio-region study- except that unfortunately we are too obsessed with standardization to turn towards the real subject matter we should learn in school.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jonna Higgins-Freese

    Advisory: Most of the reviews posted for this title appear to actually be for Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World by Michael K. Stone (Editor), David W. Orr (Editor), Fritjof Capra (Preface). The book with Orr as single author is a collection of his essays from the mid-'90s. At the time I initially read it, I would have given it 5 stars. Orr is a good human being and a brilliant thinker, committed and wise. It's just that I no longer already-agree with much of his Advisory: Most of the reviews posted for this title appear to actually be for Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World by Michael K. Stone (Editor), David W. Orr (Editor), Fritjof Capra (Preface). The book with Orr as single author is a collection of his essays from the mid-'90s. At the time I initially read it, I would have given it 5 stars. Orr is a good human being and a brilliant thinker, committed and wise. It's just that I no longer already-agree with much of his perspective, so I find it less convincing than I did before. Some of his interesting observations that are relevant to my current work: "Education in the modern world was designed to further the conquest of nature and the industrialization of the planet. It tended to produce unbalanced, underdimensioned people tailored to fit the modern economy. Postmodern education must have a different agenda, one designed to heal, connect, liberate, empower, create, and celebrate. Postmodern education must be life-centered" (x). This is the kind of broad statement with which I would have wholeheartedly concurred at one time, and which strikes me as utterly absurd now. Certainly we have socioeconomic and environmental problems. But our culture *is* significantly focused on healing: life spans are increasing almost everywhere, and people survive illnesses that they simply didn't ten or fifty or a hundred years ago. Poverty is decreasing around the world, as is violence overall. No, things are not perfect. But to deny the good things modernity has brought now strikes me as incomprehensible. This was interesting: "'Schooling' is what happens in school and colleges. 'Training,' the inculcation of rote habit, is how one instructs an animal. 'Learning' is what can happen throughout life for those willing to risk it . . . we have all observed the [anomaly of] the highly schooled and heavily degreed fool, and a person lacking intellectual pedigree who lives with dignity, skill, intelligence, and magnanimity. . . . Schooling has to do with the ability to master basic functions that can be measured by tests. Learning has to do with matters of judgment, and with living responsibly and artfully, which cannot be measured so easily" (xi).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sean Glover

    Check out the chapter "Dancing with the Systems." Check out the chapter "Dancing with the Systems."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Learning how to raise my family green.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Depressing and slightly outdated. I'm thinking a lot about his views on technology and science in society and having a lot of conflict. This is mainly because the science and technology that I'm familiar with is not militaristic or profit driven. Another theme is that there are always trade-offs; you can't get something for nothing. Depressing and slightly outdated. I'm thinking a lot about his views on technology and science in society and having a lot of conflict. This is mainly because the science and technology that I'm familiar with is not militaristic or profit driven. Another theme is that there are always trade-offs; you can't get something for nothing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anton Wara-Wiri

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Ok

  7. 5 out of 5

    Math Heinzel

    Inspiring, informational, well written and organized.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    A book full of good information and ideas and philosophy to make the reader (at least this reader) really think.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erik Akre

    Orr's book offers an incredible challenge to the reader, and by extension to the world at large. In the process of addressing (describing, exposing) the social, political, and economic hurdles that humanity faces in the late 20th century and beyond, he asks his readers who they are ecologically, whether they have "stood up and been counted" in the struggle to save the already-mostly-failed integrity of Earth and the human race. The book reads not unlike an extremely coherent and eloquent litany Orr's book offers an incredible challenge to the reader, and by extension to the world at large. In the process of addressing (describing, exposing) the social, political, and economic hurdles that humanity faces in the late 20th century and beyond, he asks his readers who they are ecologically, whether they have "stood up and been counted" in the struggle to save the already-mostly-failed integrity of Earth and the human race. The book reads not unlike an extremely coherent and eloquent litany of challenging and urgent survival alarms. The uplift of the book happens in the section about education--particularly education at the university level--and its role in the ecological crisis. Education fails us, but there is vision, and perhaps even hope, for change. In this section Orr, who himself taught at the time at Oberlin College, offers numerous ideas. Again, his writing is an extreme challenge to the current system. Readers from university settings will find this section very valuable. To say that humankind needs to change its ways, Orr makes us realize, is a lame and tragic understatement. What is needed is an enormous overhaul in how we view ourselves and the world. What is needed is the cultivation and realization of virtue among the people and communities of the world. Orr wrote this book in the 1990's, and his message is no less (or much more) pertinent now. Read this book, even today, for a serious wake-up, a serious kick-in-the-pants, a challenge that you may or may not be able to handle.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erik Akre

    A barrage of different visionary viewpoints on education, not strictly from a stuffed "ecoliteracy" approach. A wide range of essays: indigenous education practices, the concept of slow food and the "slow school," grassroots environmental justice in ghettos of San Francisco, and lots about sustainability of food systems (in and out of the school system)... The book offers all of these, and many more approaches to the broad concept of ecoliteracy. It's a great book for varied, unorthodox, interes A barrage of different visionary viewpoints on education, not strictly from a stuffed "ecoliteracy" approach. A wide range of essays: indigenous education practices, the concept of slow food and the "slow school," grassroots environmental justice in ghettos of San Francisco, and lots about sustainability of food systems (in and out of the school system)... The book offers all of these, and many more approaches to the broad concept of ecoliteracy. It's a great book for varied, unorthodox, interesting, counter-cultural perspectives on learning and education..

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I found these essays incredibly helpful as I thought through environmental education lesson plans, as well as my future in the environmental nonprofit field. I caught myself being reminded of students and learning situations as I read, wondering how I could have taught or handled a situation differently. Incredibly helpful theoretical book as I engaged the practical. I particularly resonated with the systems thinking "dance" chapter. I found these essays incredibly helpful as I thought through environmental education lesson plans, as well as my future in the environmental nonprofit field. I caught myself being reminded of students and learning situations as I read, wondering how I could have taught or handled a situation differently. Incredibly helpful theoretical book as I engaged the practical. I particularly resonated with the systems thinking "dance" chapter.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    Some essays were better than others. However the overall topic is very interesting and the combination of essays made for a compelling read. It was especially fun to be able to personally relate to at least one of the essays, which was about Davis, CA, in part. It was inspiring and could potentially be used if one wanted to start something similar in other states such as Wisconsin.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steph

    I have made so many emphatic underlines and bookmarks on this book! It captures a lot of what I learned about in grad school. Not a textbook but quality information that is inspiring and educational.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Autumn Waddell

    This book is SO IMPORTANT! Can't reccomend it enough. Plan to read it again and again as I pursue my career with educating children. This book is SO IMPORTANT! Can't reccomend it enough. Plan to read it again and again as I pursue my career with educating children.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Overly simplified with little theory. Okay for case studies, but not much else.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Very Inspiring for teaching young people!!!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    I'm writing proposals about teaching children about sustainability and social responsibility with a big view, so I look forward to this one. Fritjof Capra wrote the Preface. I'm writing proposals about teaching children about sustainability and social responsibility with a big view, so I look forward to this one. Fritjof Capra wrote the Preface.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bastian

    Critical but creative ideas about where we're heading and where we should head... Critical but creative ideas about where we're heading and where we should head...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Wyld

    I think I was inspired by every single program written up in this book. If you are interested in environmental or sustainable education- this book is a must!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Fumi

    this is one of my on-and-off dry geeky book, and I have to say- it's awesome. I read one section at a time, and there are a lot of wisdom here. this is one of my on-and-off dry geeky book, and I have to say- it's awesome. I read one section at a time, and there are a lot of wisdom here.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shauna

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike Parkes

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nature Candy Gardens

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nayab

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennilee

  28. 5 out of 5

    D Jung

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lindy Risinger

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nell

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