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Look, Don’t Touch

David Sobel, Orion
THE KIDS HAVE BEEN UP since seven-thirty playing computer games and watching cartoons. What a travesty for them to be inside on such a beautiful day, you harrumph to yourself. On the refrigerator, you notice the schedule of events from the nearby nature center. “Let’s Get Face to Face with Flowers,” it beckons. Just the thing! It’s a sparkly May morning. Buds are bursting. There’s a warm breeze full of the aromatic scent of the woods just waking up.

You trundle the kids into the minivan. They despondently consent. “Do we have to do a program? Programs are boring,” the older one complains. But as soon as you pull into the parking lot at Happy Hills Nature Center, their faces brighten. They fling the sliding door open and scamper down through the blossom-filled meadow to the shore of the pond. Ross, age seven, pulls off his sneakers and wades in, bent over searching for frogs. Amanda, age ten, plops down and starts making a dandelion tiara. What a good decision, you think to yourself.

Terri, the smiley naturalist wearing the official Happy Hills insigniaed staff shirt, saunters over. “Here for the flower program?” she chirps. “We’re meeting up in the Cozy Corner room to get started.”

Ross asks, “Can Freddie come too?” holding up the fat green frog he has befriended.

Terri’s bright face darkens a bit. “Sorry. Freddie needs to stay in the pond. Did you know the oils from your hands can make Freddie sick?”

In the darkened Cozy Corner room, Terri has prepared a PowerPoint of all the flowers you might see on the trail today. “Here are some spring beauties. They look just like little peppermint candies. But, of course, we can’t eat them. And here’s one of my favorites, Dutchman’s breeches. Why do you think we call them that?”

After about the seventh slide the kids start to squirm in their seats. “Daddy, I have to go pee,” complains Ross. After about the twenty-seventh slide, you too have to go pee.

“And now, let’s see how many we can find,” Terri says. It’s good to be back outside. Upon entering the woods, Amanda notices a red eft in a patch of moss. She takes a few steps off the trail and Terri chastises her: “Remember, Amanda, nature is fragile! When you walk off the trail, you crush all kinds of little creatures you can’t see.” Farther on Ross scampers up into the inviting branches of a tree that has fallen across the trail. “Sorry, Ross, no climbing, too dangerous, we wouldn’t want you to get hurt.” At each flower, Terri circles everyone around and tells them the Latin name, the herbal uses, the pollinator, the . . . Once in a while someone gets to touch the petals, only veeerrry gently. Picking flowers is strictly verboten…
(July/August 2012)

Daniel Goleman on the Importance of Ecological Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, Forbes
Daniel Goleman, who is an internationally known psychologist that lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. Daniel is the coauthor of ECOLITERATE: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence with Lisa Bennett and Zenobia Barlow published by Jossey-Bass, which came out in August. As a science journalist, Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half, with more than 5,000,000 copies in print worldwide in 40 languages, and has been a best seller in many countries.

In this interview, he talks about the importance of sustainability, what ecoliterate means, and more.

Why do you feel sustainability is such an important issue now as opposed to a decade ago?

We are now in what geologists call the Anthropocene Age, the first era in which the activities of one species, we humans, is degrading the handful of global systems that sustain life on our planet. These include, but go far beyond the carbon cycle and warming – nitrogen is creating vast dead spots in bodies of water, useable water itself is becoming scarcer, and so on. Within the last few decades there has been a great acceleration of these impacts, and the velocity of change is accelerating with each year. The longer we wait, the worse it gets. The clock is ticking.

How do you define “ecoliterate” and what was the most fascinating interview you had when writing your book?

‘Ecoliterate’ refers to the ability to understand the interactions between human systems – transportation, energy, building, commerce and industry and natural systems. The more transparent we can make these ecological impacts, the more effectively we can address them. And the more we can engage with emotional intelligence, the more motivated people will be to act. That‘s why Ecoliterate focuses on students, to shape their awareness and engagement with these issues for life…
(1 August 2012)

The rise and rise of co-op schools

Mervyn Wilson, The Ecologist
Do co-operative schools (trust schools and academies) provide a democratic community based alternative? Mervyn Wilson, Principal of the Co-operative College – which has been at the heart of the development of co-operative schools – explains why co-operatives are proving so popular

The idea of co-operative schools has been around for a long time. Followers of Robert Owen (inspired by his work at New Lanark where young people were sent to school rather than working in the mills) formed co-operative schools in Salford, Wigan and elsewhere. As consumer co-operative societies flourished from the mid 19th century, some set up their own schools, which were later absorbed into the emerging state system.

Today, the education system in England is undergoing the most profound structural change since the passing of the 1944 Education Act. But this rapid growth of academies and academy chains is accompanied by concern about a growing democratic deficit, with the loss of local authority control and weakening of accountability to local stakeholders.
(6 August 2012)