A method that is being pushed in the schooling system is the concept of inquiry based learning for the students. To simply this, I’ll describe it as students doing what THEY want to do. With inquiry based learning, the emphasis is on the student to decide what route they would like to take with their learning or project. The uses of inquiry based learning know no bounds, but I would like to focus on how it can add to environmental education.
With environmental education, I perceive it more as way of thinking that a strict curriculum. Environmental education teaches us how to take responsibility for our actions, how to plan for the future, but most importantly it teaches us how to live in the moment. All to often we get weighed down by societal norms, but by taking the time to enjoy your surroundings and the beauty of nature one can escape those shackles. I believe environmental science is something that can be included into all subjects, similar to inquiry based learning.
Inquiry based learning is a cycle where one can begin at any step. There are no set paths one has to take, only suggested routes. With inquiry frameworks, the students can take any task and mold it into a creation of their own. It is during the process that a student can stumble across many revelations that otherwise they may never have encountered. During the inquiry cycle I lived in ESCI 302, my path along inquiry took me everywhere. What started as a journey with no set direction slowly but surely became a focused trek towards reducing emissions. Thanks to the inquiry framework we used, I lived many experiences that I shall never forget. I merely hope that my students will share similar experiences as I did with inquiry based learning.
At several points throughout the semester in our ESCI class, we have gone outside to experience the outdoors together. We have also discussed the concept of wilderness and what it means in class, but I’d like to question what wilderness actually is. The definition we came up with is class is roughly that wilderness is nature without human presence, rules, or order. This is a rough definition, but one that serves the purpose for what is to come.
First off, there is no part of Canada that is without order. All things in nature follow set rules and adhere to a natural order of things. Rabbits fur changes with the seasons, salmon swim upstream at a set time of the year to spawn, and the seasons follow their order. It is truly a colonial way of thinking to believe that simply because there isn’t human presence or written laws established that there is no order. The indigenous peoples who roamed the lands before the arrival of colonials had their set traditions and rules that they followed before their arrival.
In Newberry’s Canoe pedagogy, she talks about how when in nature we must enjoy all aspects. While on a canoe trip, we enjoy so much more than “just that of lakes, rocks, and trees—not just the smell of dirt and pine, the feel of hot granite after a swim, the softness of sphagnum, the graceful movement of a snapping turtle, or the scrape of lichen. It is also a site of struggle, a tangle of contested meanings” (Newberry). She elaborates that we must also embrace the hardships along our journey along with the beauty and wonders of nature. When we truly appreciate nature, there is no such thing as wilderness, only home.
This week as a class we went to the Regina Waste Water Treatment Plant. Once we figured out our carpooling situation, we sallied forth and made our way there. Upon arriving, we made our way inside and donned our protective equipment. Throughout our visit we were guided by Ray, who was extremely informative and lead us all throughout the plant. We as a class were able to see just how much work goes into making grey water reusable again. With the consumerist society that is seeded in North America, the able to make waste use-able again is invaluable.
During the visit, all the work and power used to clean grey water really put into perspective how imperative it is to use as little water as possible. Seeing all the high-tech machinery milling and the amount of wires being run everywhere was awe inspiring. The reason plants like these are necessary is simply because of the amount of water wasted in our society. It was following this visit that I really started to notice how much water I waste personally. This visit was equally educational as it was eye opening.
In order to remedy the amount of waste produced, we must be advocates against water waste. As said by Kimmerer, “[h]ere in the rainforest, I don’t want to be just a bystander to the rain, passive and protected; I want to be part of the downpour, to be soaked, along with the dark humus that squishes underfoot” (Kimmerer, 295) supporting the idea of taking action. We must change apathy to action in order to bring about the change we want to see. We can only control our own actions, but little by little we can show others the importance of ecoliteracy and sustainability.
In terms of embodiment and what it means to me, it boils down to be true to your word. By this I mean if I say I’m going to do something, then I had better do it. All to often people have the best intentions, but that’s all that they are : intentions. They back out of their promises or come up with excuses as to why they had to go back on their word. An example of this was when the United States, albeit under new leadership, attempted to back out of the Paris agreement because they deemed it unfeasible. This capitalistic train of thought often runs rampant across North America because people simply believe their words are good enough. Thoughts and prayers alone aren’t enough to make a change, we have to be willing to BE the change we want to see. For me, this embodiment typically takes form in Western ways of knowing seeing as this is what I have most experience in. This involves quantifiable ways that I can help reduce emissions and embodying them, such as shorter drives and walking more.
In Dr. Seuss’ tale The Lorax, we see the effects of giving only our word and not embodying the change we want to see. What started with only one tree grew to consume all the trees, but in the beginning claimed he would only use what was necessary. Going back on his promise due to his greed, the world was nearly lost because the deep grip capitalism had. At the very end, we see a shimmer of hope as the last truffula tree seed was given to start over. With seeing how The Lorax panned out, it brings to light the flaws with modern day society. In a society engrossed with the ideals of consumerism, the future may be bleak; however, should we band together to work for a better future, then perhaps all is not lost.
With the rapidly deteriorating state of the environment due to capitalism and consumerism, we as the human race need to start rallying together and taking action to combat this. All to often people become discouraged when presented with such a daunting task to overcome and thusly believe that it is futile to take action. What people often forget though is the power an entire population has versus the power a single person has. Change does not happen overnight, it is a slow, time consuming process that occurs over extended periods of time.
In light of this, what I will do to bring apathy to action is to start with the little things. In saying this, here are several examples I’m looking to start doing. First off, use minimal lighting when at home. Instead of using several lights at once, use only the one that is most advantageous for the task I’m completing. I don’t need the living room light on when my desk lamp will suffice. Secondly, I’m going to start sorting the waste my roommates and I produce at the house. Establishing what is garbage versus what is recycling, also what type of recycling it is (blue bin versus Sarcan). A list of recyclables is available on Sarcan’s website found here.
Lastly, the habit I want to embody more is the saying two feet and a heartbeat. By this I mean to drive as little as possible, and walk whenever I can. I know that Saskatchewan winters can be harsh, but with planning ahead and some bundling up on my part, it should be feasible. This also includes carpooling and using public transportation when possible. Going forward, my roommate and I are looking to bus to school when possible. By starting small, these habits will develop and hopefully grow into more substantial actions in order to aid the environment.
Whether one believes that deep, spiritual connections between all things exist, believe in string theory, or maybe something else all together, it’s evident that something draws and ties us all together. Very much the same in this fashion, ecoliteracy and what people believe it to be are usually similar. These ideas that draw us together and weave our beliefs into one. Similarly, Ashley’s ecoliteracy poem goes on to talk about a deep appreciation for nature and an eagerness to be one with it. The shame with this eagerness and appreciation though is that often times it fades as people grow older. All too often as people age, they go outside less and less until they rarely venture out of their house.
People get caught up in their day to day lives and forget to enjoy the beauty that surrounds them. This concept is briefly mentioned in Sam’s poem as a cause of strife for our mother. What may start as a simple ignorance or apathy on our part could grow into absolute calamity if left unchecked. It our responsibility to care for our planet, much as it cares for us.
Going forward, we must ask ourselves the question “What does it mean to be ecoliterate?” For some it might be as small as being mindful of what is recycling versus what is garbage. For others it might be more developed like how they can go about reducing their carbon footprint as much as possible. We must a band together and work towards a brighter future, for we are stronger together than we are on our own. Together we can find a way to weave all of our ideas for a better tomorrow into a braid that will stand the strain of capitalistic temptations.
As with the friluftsliv video we watched, the beauty of nature is a mindset, not a place. Whether we find ourselves in the bustle of downtown life, sitting at a park bench, or in the middle of a forest surrounded by trees, one can always take a moment to appreciate all that the earth provides us with. However short and sweet the moment may be, much like Alex’s poem, the beauty of nature permeates the soul almost instantly. As the old adage goes, take the time to stop and smell the roses. Actions as simple as these can remind us all of the importance taking care of our earth ultimately is.