With a goal of nurturing students to become ecoliterate, the Center for Ecoliteracy has identified five vital practices that integrate emotional, social, and ecological intelligence. They are described at greater length in our book, Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence (Jossey-Bass, 2012), from which the excerpt below is taken.
We work to inspire teachers to use a variety of learning opportunities that help students consider and apply these practices in a diverse range of contexts. These practices allow students to strengthen and extend their capacity to live sustainably.
1. Developing Empathy for All Forms of Life encourages students to expand their sense of compassion to other forms of life. By shifting from our society’s dominant mindset (which considers humans to be separate from and superior to the rest of life on Earth) to a view that recognizes humans as being members of the web of life, students broaden their care and concern to include a more inclusive network of relationships.
2. Embracing Sustainability as a Community Practice emerges from knowing that organisms do not exist in isolation. The quality of the web of relationships within any living community determines its collective ability to survive and thrive. By learning about the wondrous ways that plants, animals, and other living things are interdependent, students are inspired to consider the role of interconnectedness within their communities and see the value in strengthening those relationships by thinking and acting cooperatively.
3. Making the Invisible Visible assists students in recognizing the myriad effects of human behavior on other people and the environment. The impacts of human behavior have expanded exponentially in time, space, and magnitude, making the results difficult if not impossible to understand fully. Using tools to help make the invisible visible reveals the far-reaching implications of human behavior and enables us to act in more life-affirming ways.
4. Anticipating Unintended Consequences is a twofold challenge of predicting the potential implications of our behaviors as best we can, while at the same time accepting that we cannot foresee all possible cause-and-effect associations. Assuming that the ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life, students can adopt systems thinking and the “precautionary principle” as guidelines for cultivating a way of living that defends rather than destroys the web of life. Second, we build resiliency by supporting the capacity of natural and social communities to rebound from unintended consequences.
5. Understanding How Nature Sustains Life is imperative for students to cultivate a society that takes into account future generations and other forms of life. Nature has successfully supported life on Earth for billions of years. Therefore, by examining the Earth’s processes, we learn strategies that are applicable to designing human endeavors.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint. From Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social and Ecological Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, Lisa Bennett, and Zenobia Barlow. Copyright © 2012 by Center for Ecoliteracy.