The book Earth in Mind, on Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect by David Orr is dense. It took me a couple months to get through it. I could only read a couple pages at a time.
It didn’t even have any pictures! I’m a picture book kind of guy.
It was both deeply rewarding and painful to slog through it. It was painful because it required me to use my brain and it was rewarding because it stimulated my brain more than any book I have read in a long time.
But it is one of the most influential books I have read. It is a serious book about the serious topic of how education forms our perception of nature and how so far education has failed.
The book makes no attempt to dumb down the topic and expects the reader to be a mature thinking human.
Written by an academic, the book is largely written for academics. But anyone interested in ecology and its future should read this book. We are all teachers at some level and we can all influence the world either positively or negatively by the way we teach.
It make me look at my green renovation business in New York not as a company that renovates brownstones into green homes but as a company that educates people through building. Certainly we can build green brownstones and make the world a greener place but we can only do so many green renovations.
But as an educator we can influence people. People are viral. Buildings in comparison are piles of earth. It made me realize that being a Brooklyn green contractor that renovates buildings was just the conduit to get to the people – the clients, the employees, the people passing by the building and living in it.
These people are the real focus of the company because they are who can be educated and who will in turn educate. They are the key to turning our ecological devastation into ecological rejuvenation. People have the energy to become exponential. No matter how many buildings we turn green it will always be linear growth. People on the other hand can cause exponential growth.
I know this in part because I have seen how humans create exponential destruction.
David Orr, the author, lays out in great detail the tremendous failure of education up until now. He shows in painful clarity how the way education is carried out alienates us from our surroundings and increase the destruction of the planet.
But unlike many people he does not stop there.
He goes on in similar detail on what the solution is. He provides clear steps for reworking education so that it supports Biophilia, or the love of life. He explains how education can be used to foster a love of our immediate surroundings, how it can help students discover their roots in the nature around them and use that as a reference point when they reach adulthood.
He discusses the importance of helping students learn with their heart and not just their mind. How do you learn math with your heart? We better figure out a way unless we want mathematicians to grow up to design better bombs instead of better bread.
Make no mistake: we are fucked. We have destroyed too much of the world to not suffer soon in the future. And education continues onwards like a bulldozer in the rain forest. We have a long way to go before we stop that machine of destruction.
From an early age we train children to maximize production, to be smarter, faster and more agile. If they succeed they go to better schools and then colleges. If they continue to thrive in this environment they move into dominant positions in the work force, eventually becoming the main decision makers for the world.
By then they are killer machines, completely devoid of any awareness that the very productivity that propelled them above the rest has in fact been an ongoing act of self isolation from everyone and everything around them, and no amount of corporate lip sink to teamwork will change that . Somebody who does not realize their connection to the universe is a loose cannon, an out of sync cell ready to wreak cancer. They are the most dangerous creature in the world.
And the educational system spits them out by the millions every year.
The education of our children is the largest cause of global devastation we have created. You don’t think so? Read the book and then get back to me.
When I started reading the book I earmarked pages I thought were worth rereading and writing about. By the end of the book almost every page has been earmarked.
So I’ll leave this post vague. There is too much to write about. I’ll do future posts on the topics. For now buy the book, read it at your pace and allow it to seep in slowly. It changed the way I see the world and my role in it.