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Outline the Concept of Eco-Literacy and Consider Its Potential Role in Raising Awareness of the Role of Individual Action as a Means of Confronting Global Ecological Problems.

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Q. Outline the concept of eco-literacy and consider its potential role in raising awareness of the role of individual action as a means of confronting global ecological problems.

Giddens (1990) explains that due to developments in Modernity changes have occurred as regards to our emphasis or focus on issues relevant to our times. One of these issues is ecological matters and a number of ecological movements have come into being. For these movements the environment is their area of concern, he explains.

'like peace movements, they are not completely new. In the nineteenth century, ecological movements were linked with romantiscm and mainly intended to 'counter the impact of modern industry on traditional modes of production and upon the landscape' in the late twentieth century they assumed greater prominence'

(Giddens. A (1990) cited in Halambous & Holburn, Sociology themes and Perspectives. Collins. London 2000)

With catastrophes such as 2005 Tsunami and oil spills and burning Iraqi oil fields, there has never been so much importance in ensuring we look after our environment. However with Americas refusal to sign up to a United Nations statement at Kyoto, aimed at tackling climate change, the second phase is in jeopardy. While we can only hope that the rest of the world leaders continue to take it forward in order to stop the rapidly changing climate. This assignment will explore what eco-literacy is and how we as individuals may be able to compensate in some way for the United States lack of commitment.

Ecology is based on systems thinking, inputs from the external environment effect the internal environment, affecting the output, therefore it means on a semi - permeable basis that everything we do has an impact. The main emphasis for ecological campaigns is often aimed at the bigger corporations and government policies, but reality is that we as individuals through our external inputs create the external exports of contributing to the growing concerns for the environment in terms of global warming, an ecosystem.

Eco-literacy to me means an understanding of the relationship and knowledge individuals have with their environment.

One of the most forward thinkers on ecoliteracy is Fritjof Capra, a Physicist and philosopher, who has written a number of books based on the interconnectivity of systems thinking and the environment. One of his main concepts of ecoliteracy matters is the importance of building a sustainable society. His thinking is developed from Lester Brown, the founder of the World Watch Institute, in the early 1980's. His definition defines a sustainable society as

'One that can fulfil its needs without diminishing the chances of future generations'


Capras theories are based around the fact that everything in society is interlinked, for example, people by communications, and we need to design societies that do not interfere with nature. In the book 'The Hidden Connections' Capra identifies learning as the essential ingredient in taking the worlds understanding forward and having an impact on the future. He describes it as.

"a system of education for sustainable living, based on ecoliteracy, at the primary and secondary school levels, . . . with a pedagogy that puts the understanding of life at it very center; and experience of life in the real world . . ." He notes "that life, from its beginning, did not take over the planet by combat but by networking."

(Capra, F. The Hidden Connections --Integrating the Biological, Cognitive and Social Dimensions of Life into a Science of Sustainability)

When considering how eco-literacy can aid the raising awareness of global ecological problems, it appears that it is such a huge task, impossible even. How are we going to really promote an understanding that throwing your rubbish into a bin equates to global warming? The green movement is stereotyped with grungy students campaigning to free animals from testing, the media reporting the almost terrorist antics of these groups, that to most people it is associated with extremism. Through the researching for this assignment I have come across a number of organisations such as the 'Simplelife' and books such as 'The Good Life' that begin to promote a different movement. Both the good life through its production of a manual for simple living and the virtual community of Simplelife attempt to address through accessible literature the translation of what it entails to simplify ones life. The message from both of these, is that as individuals within modern society we are willing victims of consumerism, we all consume and waste to much and this has clearly a detrimental impact on our environment. What this message teaches us is that throughout our day to day existence, we can make changes that reduce the waste. They stress that in order to become more eco-literate the change must begin with you, and it is essentially a way of living that brings you back to simplicity. In some ways it is reminiscent of how we used to live, composting, vegetable patches and not falling victim to consumerism. This is backed up by an article by Satish Kumer (Resurgence) in which he states,

"But just as individual habits will remain an eccentric idealism without political and corporate change, so political and corporate change will remain superficial and inadequate without personal change."

( Satish Kumar




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