Prompting a Sense of Place
At the Upper New, we want to provide some structure and guidance for the continued growth of a “sense of place” narrative about the Upper New River basin. To help with this structuring, we have some “Foundations and Prompts” ideas for framing content submissions around relevant themes.
On a regular basis throughout each year, we’re planning to announce a variety of prompts for fiction and nonfiction writers, scientists, and visual or multimedia artists.
We’ll have a range of themes or categories, such as: systems thinking, systems wisdom, deep shifts of the fourth industrial revolution, the platform revolution, the commons, communities of practice (and social learning), ecological literacy, and distorted automatic thinking.
Our intention is to draw prompts from these categories and themes in a way that allows for creators to contribute works that reflect upon the ways these ideas and theories are playing out in the Upper New River watershed across various scales of time and space, interpreting some combination of internal and external perspectives.
Here are some of the conceptual foundations and example prompts. It should go without saying that many of these prompts will make more sense for fiction or nonfiction, but we don’t want to create too many preconceived boundaries.
- Foundation: Systems Thinking
- Foundation: Systems Wisdom
- Foundation: Deep Shifts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
- Foundation: The Commons
- Foundation: Communities of Practice
- Foundation: Ecological Literacy
Foundation: Systems Thinking
Have you ever considered the concept of systems thinking? What is it?
While there are many ways to define systems thinking (and its applications), especially in terms of business and economics, here’s our take on the matter: systems thinking is critical thinking applied to complex systems.
Fritjof Capra1Capra, F. (2000). Ecoliteracy: A systems approach to education. In Center for Ecoliteracy. Ecoliteracy: Mapping the terrain. Berkeley, CA. notes that achieving systems thinking involves a shift in mindset in several different ways. We can consider these different mindset shifts to be the principles of systems thinking.2Capra, F. (2005). Speaking nature’s language: Principles for sustainability. In M. K. Stone & Z. Barlow, (Eds.). Ecological literacy: Educating our children for a sustainable world. (pp. 18-29). San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.
One of Capra’s suggested shifts in mindset for systems thinking is a shift from measurement to mapping.
While measurement is dependent on quantification, mapping can allow for descriptions and understanding of relationships (including measured quantities and unmeasurable qualities). Mapping these relationships, these systemic qualities, based on measurable (and non-measurable) observations can help us to see the patterns inherent in these systems above and beyond the evidence we can gather from measuring what we perceive as the individual parts or processes of the system.
To reference an old metaphor, the forest and the trees: The parts and processes are the trees. The system is the forest. And so much more.
So, this is the gist of the shift in mindset from measurement to mapping: we learn to create a visual story about the relevant systems interaction to foster better understanding of the interactions and relationships. We use tools to measure, and then we put all the things that we’ve measured together into a cohesive picture. We show and we tell.
Systems Thinking Prompts: What are we looking for?
As a prompt for the Upper New Review, we might ask contributors to consider any kind of emergent phenomena (such as an unplanned trip to the grocery store to buy one item) and then pose the following questions:
- Which system(s) variables should we be measuring (over time) to better understand this emergent phenomenon of impulsive purchasing?
- How can we describe and understand the systems relationships relevant to this emergent phenomenon of impulsive purchasing?
- How do we map the story of this emergent phenomenon across its relevant systems interactions?
- What is the comprehensive story of this unplanned trip? What are the collective effects of everyone in the New River Basin making these kinds of trips every day?
Foundation: Systems Wisdom
In Thinking in Systems,3Meadows, D. H. (2008). Thinking in Systems: A Primer. United Kingdom: Chelsea Green Publishing. Meadows identifies several “systems wisdoms” that she collected over her years of working with systems models and conversing with other systems modelers. She summarizes these systems wisdoms as follows:
“These are the take home lessons, the concepts and practices that penetrate the discipline of systems so deeply that one begins, however imperfectly, to practice them not just in one’s profession, but in all of life. They are the behavioral consequences of a worldview based on the ideas of feedback, nonlinearity, and systems responsible for their own behavior.” (p. 170)
Here’s a list of the Systems Wisdoms.
- Get the Beat of the System
- Expose Your Mental Models to the Light of Day
- Honor, Respect, and Distribute Information
- Use Language with Care and Enrich it with Systems Concepts
- Pay Attention to What is Important, Not Just What is Quantifiable
- Make Feedback Policies for Feedback Systems
- Go For the Good Of the Whole
- Listen to the Wisdom of the System
- Locate Responsibility in the System
- Stay Humble – Stay A Learner
- Celebrate Complexity
- Expand Time Horizons
- Defy The Disciplines
- Expand the Boundary of Caring
- Don’t Erode the Goal of Goodness
Let’s look at a few of these principles in a bit more detail.
Prompts: Get the Beat of the System
This is, essentially, the “look before you leap” mentality.
The importance of establishing this behavior as practice is to maintain a focus on facts instead of theories, which helps us all to avoid falling back into the grasp of our own belief systems and misconceptions — or to be misguided or railroaded by the beliefs and misconceptions of others.
- What are some systems you’ve noticed in the Upper New River basin?
- How do they behave?
- How much have they been disturbed, and in what ways?
Prompts: Expose Your Mental Models to the Light of Day
Remember, everything we think about the world is a model. This is how our brains work.
Meadows insists that we must visualize or verbalize our mental models about complex systems (scenarios) to other people in order to ensure that these models are complete, comprehensive, and consistent.
“You don’t have to put forth your mental model with diagrams and equations, although doing so is a good practice. You can do it with words or lists or pictures or arrows showing what you think is connected to what. The more you do that, in any form, the clearer your thinking will become, the faster you will admit your uncertainties and correct your mistakes, and the more flexible you will learn to be. Mental flexibility — the willingness to redraw boundaries, to notice that a system has shifted into a new mode, to see how to redesign structure — is a necessity when you live in a world of flexible systems.”Meadows, Thinking In Systems, p. 172
Exposing our mental models to the light of day allows us all to increase our mental flexibility.
- What are your mental models about how the Upper New River basin works?
- How might you go about visualizing and verbalizing these models?
- How would you explain them to an adult?
- How would you explain them to a six year old?
Prompts: Expand Time Horizons
To put it simply: the further you expand your time horizons (forward and backward in time), the more you increase your capacity for adaptivity. This helps us to consider the longer-term consequences of our actions.
Meadows uses the following metaphor to explain the importance (and complexity) of this principle:
“When you’re walking along a tricky, curving, unknown, surprising, obstacle strewn path, you’d be a fool to keep your head down and look just at the next step in front of you. You’d be equally a fool just to peer far ahead and never notice what’s immediately under your feet. You need to be watching both the short and the long term — the whole system.”Meadows, Thinking In Systems, p. 183
This is a key point to understanding the nature of expanding our time horizons: paying attention to both the short and the long term.
- What are some ways that you watch the short term and the long term in relation to each other as they play out in the Upper New River?
- Based on what you’ve seen, what would you write, paint, or sculpt?
- How would looking further back in time help you and others expand adaptive capacity within the Upper New River?
Prompts: Defy The Disciplines
To defy the disciplines means to follow a system wherever it leads, regardless of the expertise we have, or the expertise of others that we’ll be collaborating with in the process of following the system (across the arts and sciences). Defying disciplines is the core of consilience.
As usual, Meadows explains this concept quite clearly:
“Seeing systems whole requires more than being ‘interdisciplinary,’ if that word means, as it usually does, putting together people from different disciplines and letting them talk past each other. Interdisciplinary communication works only if there is a real problem to be solved, and if the representatives from the various disciplines are more committed to solving the problem than being academically correct. They will have to go into learning mode. They will have to admit ignorance and be willing to be taught, by each other and by the system.”Meadows, Thinking In Systems, p. 183
- When was the last time you went into learning mode?
- What happened?
- When was the last time you admitted ignorance?
- What happened?
- What would it look like for you to follow a system where it leads within the Upper New River basin?
- In what ways does your life or work defy the disciplines?
Foundation: Deep Shifts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
As we’re encouraged by organizations such as the World Economic Forum to expect continued major transitions in human-machine, human-human, and machine-machine interactions due to Industry 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, how might the so-called “deep shifts” of this Revolution play out in rural communities—such as those of the Upper New River watershed in North Carolina and Virginia—for the next two or three decades?
What can we learn from written and unwritten histories of how the first (railroads and steam engine), second (electricity, assembly line, mass production), and third (computers and networks) industrial revolutions played out in the communities of this region, so as to have a better critical understanding—through the lens of systems wisdom—for many potential futures?
Here are all the deep shifts listed in “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”4Schwab, K. (2017). The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Switzerland: Penguin Books Limited. by Klaus Schwab:
- Shift 1: Implantable Technologies
- Shift 2: Our Digital Presence
- Shift 3: Vision as the New Interface
- Shift 4: Wearable Internet
- Shift 5: Ubiquitous Computing
- Shift 6: A Supercomputer in Your Pocket
- Shift 7: Storage for All
- Shift 8: The Internet of and for Things
- Shift 9: The Connected Home
- Shift 10: Smart Cities
- Shift 11: Big Data for Decisions
- Shift 12: Driverless Cars
- Shift 13: Artificial Intelligence and Decision Making
- Shift 14: AI and White-Collar Jobs
- Shift 15: Robotics and Services
- Shift 16: Bitcoin and the Blockchain
- Shift 17: The Sharing Economy
- Shift 18: Governments and the Blockchain
- Shift 19: 3D Printing and Manufacturing
- Shift 20: 3D Printing and Human Health
- Shift 21: 3D Printing and Consumer Products
- Shift 22: Designer Beings
- Shift 23: Neurotechnologies
Let’s dive into four of these deep shifts for example prompts that we might provide…
Prompts: Shift 8 – The Internet of and for Things
“With continuously increasing computing power and falling hardware prices (still in line with Moore’s law), it is economically feasible to connect literally anything to the internet. Intelligent sensors are already available at very competitive prices. All things will be smart and connected to the internet, enabling greater communication and new data-driven services based on increased analytics capabilities.
A recent study looked into how sensors can be used to monitor animal health and behavior It demonstrates how sensors wired in cattle can communicate to each other through a mobile phone network, and can provide real-time data on cattle conditions from anywhere.
Experts suggest that, in the future, every (physical) product could be connected to ubiquitous communication infrastructure, and sensors everywhere will allow people to fully perceive their environment.”Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, p. 137
- What are the social, technological, and environmental implications of “new data-driven services based on increased analytics capabilities”?
- Consider the mobile-networked sensors wired in cattle: what are the implications for small farms in the Upper New River basin?
- What about the bigger picture of agribusiness as context?
- What are the pros and cons of a “ubiquitous communication infrastructure”?
- What are the implications for the human and non-human communities of the Upper New River basin?
- Can we not already fully perceive our environment?
- What are we missing that this form of technology might help us with?
Prompts: Shift 10 – Smart Cities
“Many cities will connect services, utilities and roads to the internet. These smart cities will manage their energy, material flows, logistics and traffic. Progressive cities, such as Singapore and Barcelona, are already implementing many new data-driven services, including intelligent parking solutions, smart trash collection and intelligent lighting. Smart cities are continuously extending their network of sensor technology and working on their data platforms, which will be the core for connecting the different technology projects and adding future services based on data analytics and predictive modeling.”Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, p. 142
- While there are certainly large towns and cities within the Upper New River basin, what are the implications for “smart municipalities” (e.g., at the county level) concerning the management of “energy, material flows, logistics and traffic”?
- What about a smart basin?
- Would such a thing be feasible, considering the Upper New River basin crosses state boundaries?
- Considering “services based on data analytics and predictive modeling”…who is doing the modeling and the predicting?
- To what end?
Prompts: Shift 11 – Big Data for Decisions
“More data exists about communities than ever before. And the ability to understand and manage this data is improving all the time. Governments may start to find that their previous ways of collecting data are no longer needed, and may turn to big-data technologies to automate their current programs and deliver new and innovative ways to service citizens and customers.
Leveraging big data will enable better and faster decision making in a wide range of industries and applications. Automated decision making can reduce complexities for citizens and enable businesses and governments to provide real-time services and support for everything from customer interactions to automated tax filings and payments.
The risks and opportunities in leveraging big data for decision making are significant. Establishing trust in the data and algorithms used to make decisions will be vital. Citizen concerns over privacy and establishing accountability in business and legal structures will require adjustments in thinking, as well as clear guidelines for use in preventing profiling and unanticipated consequences. Leveraging big data to replace processes that today are done may render certain jobs obsolete, but may also create new categories of jobs and opportunities that currently do not exist in the market.”Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, p. 144
- What are potential environmental costs and benefits for automating programs for “new and innovative ways to service citizens and customers”?
- How would you define and explain “better and faster decision making in a wide range of industries and applications”?
- What does “better“ look like?
- In what ways can automated decision making reduce complexities for the citizens of the Upper New River communities?
- What would it take for you to trust an algorithm?
- What’s at stake?
- For you as an individual?
- For all communities of the Upper New River and beyond?
- If you were tasked with creating guidelines for prevention of profiling and “unanticipated consequences”, what would those guidelines entail?
- How might they be effectively enforced?
- What are potential new categories of jobs and market opportunities “created” by big data?
- How might these play out within the communities of the Upper New River basin?
Prompts: Shift 12 – Driverless Cars
“Trials of driverless cars from large companies such as Audi and Google are already taking place, with a number of other enterprises ramping up efforts to develop new solutions. These vehicles can potentially be more efficient and safer than cars with people behind the steering wheel. Moreover, they could reduce congestion and emissions, and upend existing models of transportation and logistics.”Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, p. 147
- What are the pros and cons of driverless cars?
- Have you had any personal experiences?
- In the Upper New River basin?
- What are your thoughts on how driverless cars will or will not be able to share the roads with pedestrians, bicyclists, and human-driven automobiles?
- Are there particular issues specific to the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- What about driverless buses and transfer trucks?
- What do they add to the equation?
- Pros and cons?
- Will we have to go all in?
- Is this an all or nothing proposition?
- Either only driverless vehicles or human-driven vehicles?
- Why or why not?
- What about mass transit instead?
- For example, what would it really take to build a national high-speed passenger rail network that actually gets used more than air travel in the United States?
- Where and how would the Upper New River basin be connected to this rail network?
- Draw us a map and tell us about it.
Foundation: The Commons
There are many concepts of what “the commons” actually is, and many of us are probably familiar with some version of the tragedy of the commons, involving grazing cattle, traffic congestion, groundwater pumping, etc. More examples can be found here at the Harvard Business School. Here at the Upper New Review, we particularly identify with the way David Bollier discusses the commons in his book Think Like A Commoner.5Bollier, D. (2014). Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons. Canada: New Society Publishers.
In a section near the end of the book, Bollier defines the commons as follows:
A social system for long-term stewardship of resources that preserves shared values and community identity.Bollier, Think Like A Commoner – “The Commons, Short and Sweet” (p. 175-177)
A self-organized system by which communities manage resources (both depletable and replenishable) with minimal or no reliance on the Market or State.
The wealth that we inherit or create together and must pass on undiminished or enhanced, to our children. Our collective wealth includes gifts of nature, civic infrastructure, cultural works, and traditions and knowledge.
A sector of the economy (and life!) that generates value in ways that are often taken for granted—and often jeopardized by the Market/State
There is a direct connection between the preservation of shared values and community identity in the commons and the concepts associated with “modes of belonging” in communities of practice, which we will discuss soon.
Prompts: Understanding The Commons
Bollier continues his explanation of the commons:
“There is no master inventory of commons because a commons arises whenever a given community decides it wishes to manage a resource in a collective manner, with special regard for equitable access, use, and sustainability.”Bollier, Think Like A Commoner, p. 175
- How do we manage the Upper New River basin collectively?
- Who needs to be involved in the collective management decisions?
“The commons is not a resource. It is a resource plus a defined community and the protocols, values and norms devised by the community to manage needed resources. Many resources—such as the atmosphere, oceans, genetic knowledge and biodiversity—urgently need to be managed as commons.”Bollier, Think Like A Commoner, p. 175-6
- What might be the protocols, values, and norms of the Upper New River basin as a commons?
- How will the communities of the Upper New River basin create and manage these protocols, values, and norms?
- How does the Upper New River basin fit in as a commons in the context of North America as a commons? And in the context of Earth as a commons?
“There is no commons without commoning—social practices and norms that help a community manage a resource for collective benefit. Forms of commenting naturally vary from one commons to another because humanity itself is so varied. And so there is no ‘standard template’ for commons, just shared patterns and principles. The commons must be understood then, as a verb as much as a noun. A commons must be animated by bottom-up participation, personal responsibility, transparency, and self-policing accountability.”Bollier, Think Like A Commoner, p. 176
- What does bottom-up participation look like in the Upper New River basin as a commons?
- What does personal responsibility look like in the Upper New River basin as a commons?
- What does transparency look like in the Upper New River basin as a commons?
- What does self-policing look like in the Upper New River basin as a commons?
Foundation: Communities of Practice
In Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity,6Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. United States: Cambridge University Press. Etienne Wenger puts forth a social theory of learning. He outlines four components of this theory.
“1) Meaning: a way of talking about our (changing) ability – individually and collectively- to experience our life and the world as meaningful.
2) Practice: a way of talking about the shared historical and social resources, frameworks, and perspectives that can sustain mutual engagement in action.
3) Community: a way of talking about the social configurations in which our enterprises are defined as worth pursuing and our participation is recognizable as competence.
4) Identity: a way of talking about how learning changes who we are and creates personal histories of becoming in the context of our communities.”Wenger, Communities of Practice, p. 5
- How do you experience your life in this world as meaningful? How have your abilities to do so changed over time: individually and collectively?
- Where does the Upper New River basin fit into this meaningfulness?
- What does mutual engagement in action look like within the Upper New River basin?
- What are the social configurations that define the worthwhile enterprises of the Upper New River basin?
- How do these configurations define worthwhile enterprises?
- How is your participation in these configurations and enterprises recognizable as competence?
- How has learning changed who you are, and what role did the Upper New River basin play?
- What are your personal histories of becoming within the context of the Upper New River basin
“The negotiation of meaning, I have argued, is the level of discourse at which the concept of practice should be understood. The second piece of necessary groundwork is to associate practice with the formation of communities. By associating practice with community, I am not arguing everything anybody might call a community is defined by practice or has a practice that is specific to it; nor that everything any- body might call practice is the defining property of a clearly specifiable community. A residential neighborhood, for instance, is often called “the community” but it is usually not a community of practice. Playing scales on the piano is often called practice – as in “practice makes perfect”-but it does not define what I would call a community of practice. Rather, I am claiming that associating practice and community does two things.
1) It yields a more tractable characterization of the concept of practice – in particular, by distinguishing it from less tractable terms like culture, activity, or structure.
2) It defines a special type of community – a community of practice.”Wenger, Communities of Practice, p. 72
Here are two prompts we might pose through the Upper New Review to increase our understanding through collective articulation of what communities of practice are:
- What makes terms like culture, activity, and structure less tractable than “practice”?
- What are some examples of this comparison that you can recognize from the experiences you’ve had in the Upper New River basin?
- Within or beyond the communities of the Upper New River basin, how might we define any community of practice in terms of sustained mutual engagement?
- What kinds of engagement?
- How is it mutual, and how is it sustained?
- Who is involved, and why?
“To associate practice and community, I will describe three dimensions of the relation by which practice is the source of coherence of a community…
1) mutual engagement
2) a joint enterprise
3) a shared repertoire”Wenger, Communities of Practice, p.72-73
(Note: In the original text, these three dimensions are diagrammed in Figure 2.1. Dimensions of practice as the property of a community.)
- If you were asked to paint an example of practice as community coherence, what would it look like?
Let’s walk through each of these three dimensions, one at a time. We’ll start with Mutual Engagement.
Prompts: Mutual Engagement
The dimension of mutual engagement includes concepts such as engaged diversity, doing things together (collaboration?), relationships, social complexity, and community maintenance.
- What are some specific examples of “engaged diversity” within the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- What does the social complexity of the Upper New River basin look like?
- How big is it?
- How long has it been in operation?
- How has it changed over time, and how will it continue to change?
- What are the questions we need to be asking in order to better understand its dimensions?
- Can the communities of the Upper New River basin be maintained?
- Why is such maintenance vital?
Prompts: Joint Enterprise
The dimension of joint enterprise includes the concepts of negotiated enterprise, mutual accountability, interpretations, rhythms, and local response.
- How is enterprise negotiated within the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- What are some examples of mutual accountability within the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- What are the rhythms flowing within and around the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- What does local response look like in the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- How do these responses play out?
Prompts: Shared Repertoire
The dimension of shared repertoire concerns the styles, artifacts, tools, historical events, actions, discourses, stories, and concepts that have taken shape (and will continue to form) within the communities of the Upper New River basin.
- How do these components fit together as a repertoire for the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- How far back in time is our collective awareness of these shared repertoires within the communities of the Upper New River basin? Is it far enough?
- Do we need to expand our time horizons?
- Considering terms such as “actions, discourses, and stories”: are some of these elements more relevant than others for fully understanding the shared repertoire of the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- If so, why are they more relevant?
Prompts: Modes of belonging
How does any individual “fit in” to any number of communities of practice?
In chapter eight of his book, Wenger outlines three different modes of belonging:
“1) engagement – active involvement in mutual processes of negotiation of meaning
2) imagination – creating images of the world and seeing connections through time and space by extrapolating from our own experience
3) alignment – coordinating our energy and activities in order to fit within broader structures and contribute to broader enterprises.”Wenger, Communities of Practice, p. 173-4
We see quite a few connections between these three modes of belonging and Meadows’ principles of systems wisdom. For example, “creating images of the world” is a lot like establishing mental models, and “seeing connections through time and space” should ring some bells concerning networks and time horizons, getting the beat of the system, etc.
- How are you involved in the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- In what ways are you engaged?
- What does that negotiation look like?
- What are you imagining?
- Tell us. Show us.
- How are you aligned?
- How will you continue aligning?
- What for?
- Explain it to us.
(Note: In the original text, these three modes are diagrammed in Figure 8.1. Modes of belonging.)
As before, let’s walk through each of these three modes, one at a time. We’ll start with Engagement.
The mode of engagement includes the manifestation of belonging in terms of shared histories of learning, relationships, interactions, and practices. We realize this is starting to get a little self-referential. Hang in there!
- How would you describe a shared history of learning, both in general terms and within the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- How do you define the difference between relationships and interactions?
- How is that difference important with your ongoing engagement as a way to belong to the various communities of the Upper New River basin?
The mode of imagination includes the manifestation of belonging in terms of mental models, of mental images: images of possibilities, images of the world, images of the past and the future, images of ourselves. (And, we assume, combinations of these mental images interacting with each other.) This sounds a lot like nascent systems wisdom to us.
As we all should know by now, mental images lend themselves to physical images, physical forms, and various narratives.
- Tell us about your imagination.
- What does the world look like to you?
- What are the possibilities, the past, the future?
- What do you look like in your own imagination?
- How do these images help you belong in the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- How does your imagination for belonging fuel the narratives you create?
The mode of alignment includes the manifestation of belonging in terms of discourses, coordinated enterprises, styles, complexity, and compliance. We recognize that many of these are loaded terms. Let’s unpack them in the context of our purpose.
- What are your experiences engaging in discourse (for the purpose of alignment) in the short and long term, within and beyond the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- What do these discourses look like?
- How would you explain them?
- How is coordinated enterprise different from mutual engagement?
- What is relevant about this difference for the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- What is your understanding of the relationship between compliance and alignment?
- How would you explain it?
- What does this relationship look like?
- How is this relationship relevant to the communities of the Upper New River basin?
Foundation: Ecological Literacy
When it comes to defining ecological literacy (often referred to as environmental literacy or ecoliteracy), there have been many approaches. Andrew Stables’7Stables, A. (1998). Environmental literacy: Functional, cultural, critical. The case of the SCAA guidelines. Environmental Education Research, 4(2), 155-164. definition of ecological literacy is perhaps the most concise:
- How do you make sense of the world around you?
- How do you make sense of the Upper New River basin?
- What is your relationship with the Upper New River basin, and how do you make sense of this relationship?
Seemingly articulating Stables’ definition, David Orr8Orr, D. W. (1992). Ecological literacy: Education and the transition to a postmodern world. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. emphasizes knowledge, care, and practical competence in his definition of ecological literacy, as well as a broad understanding of sustainable relationships between individuals, society, and the natural systems – all based upon a fundamental knowledge of how the world works as a physical system.
- How would you define or describe practical competence?
- How broad is your understanding of sustainable relationships between individuals, society, and the natural systems of the Upper New River basin and beyond?
- How confident are you with this understanding?
- What do you know about how the world works as a physical system?
- How does the Upper New River basin work as a physical system?
Taking a slightly different approach, Golley9Golley, F. B. (1998). A primer for environmental literacy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. outlines a scientific, systems-oriented approach to environmental literacy, based on three foundational concepts: the environment, the system, and hierarchical organization.
- What would you do to take a systems-oriented approach to understanding the environment, the system, and the hierarchical organization of the Upper New River basin?
- Is this a proper approach for a broad, systems-oriented understanding of the ecology of the Upper New River basin?
- Why or why not?
- How do the environment, the system, and hierarchical organization work “for and against” each other?
- What’s missing?
Moving beyond Golley, Fritjof Capra10Capra, F. (2000). Ecoliteracy: A systems approach to education. In Center for Ecoliteracy. Ecoliteracy: Mapping the terrain. Berkeley, CA. provides an amorphous, holistic perspective, involving a basic understanding of organization within and between ecological communities, including an ability to embody these organizational relationships as part of one’s daily life within human communities.
Capra outlines several fundamental concepts of ecology: networks, nested systems, cycles, flows, development, and dynamic balance.
- What happens within and between the ecological niches and communities of the Upper New River basin?
- How do these interactions change over time?
- In what ways do you embody the six fundamental concepts of ecology as part of your daily life within the communities of the Upper New River basin?
Berkowitz, Ford, and Brewer11Berkowitz, A. E., Ford, M. E., & Brewer, C. A. (2005). A framework for integrating ecological literacy, civics literacy, and environmental citizenship in environmental education. In E. A. Johnson & M. J. Mappin, (Eds.). Environmental education or advocacy: Perspectives of ecology in environmental education. New York: Cambridge University Press. emphasize an understanding of the interface between ecological science and society as a key element of ecological literacy. As a sort of follow-up, Jordan, Singer, Vaughan, and Berkowitz12Jordan, R., Singer, F., Vaughan, J., & Berkowitz, A. (2009). What should every citizen know about the environment? [Electronic Version] Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7. have presented a knowledge space framework for ecological literacy, which includes: 1) evidence-based habits of mind, 2) ecological concepts and connections, and 3) self knowledge (i.e., human-environment connectedness) – with a focus upon the intersection of these three elements.
- How would you describe the interface between ecological science and society as it plays out in the communities of the Upper New River basin?
- How would you paint, sculpt, or photograph this interface?
- What are your evidence-based habits of mind?
- How do they play out in your creative endeavors?
- What is your familiarity with ecological concepts and connections?
- How would you rate your self-knowledge of connectedness?
- How does the Upper New River basin fit in?
- What does your knowledge space look like?
- Can you sketch it?
- Can you describe it?
- 1Capra, F. (2000). Ecoliteracy: A systems approach to education. In Center for Ecoliteracy. Ecoliteracy: Mapping the terrain. Berkeley, CA.
- 2Capra, F. (2005). Speaking nature’s language: Principles for sustainability. In M. K. Stone & Z. Barlow, (Eds.). Ecological literacy: Educating our children for a sustainable world. (pp. 18-29). San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.
- 3Meadows, D. H. (2008). Thinking in Systems: A Primer. United Kingdom: Chelsea Green Publishing.
- 4Schwab, K. (2017). The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Switzerland: Penguin Books Limited.
- 5Bollier, D. (2014). Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons. Canada: New Society Publishers.
- 6Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. United States: Cambridge University Press.
- 7Stables, A. (1998). Environmental literacy: Functional, cultural, critical. The case of the SCAA guidelines. Environmental Education Research, 4(2), 155-164.
- 8Orr, D. W. (1992). Ecological literacy: Education and the transition to a postmodern world. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
- 9Golley, F. B. (1998). A primer for environmental literacy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- 10Capra, F. (2000). Ecoliteracy: A systems approach to education. In Center for Ecoliteracy. Ecoliteracy: Mapping the terrain. Berkeley, CA.
- 11Berkowitz, A. E., Ford, M. E., & Brewer, C. A. (2005). A framework for integrating ecological literacy, civics literacy, and environmental citizenship in environmental education. In E. A. Johnson & M. J. Mappin, (Eds.). Environmental education or advocacy: Perspectives of ecology in environmental education. New York: Cambridge University Press.
- 12Jordan, R., Singer, F., Vaughan, J., & Berkowitz, A. (2009). What should every citizen know about the environment? [Electronic Version] Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7.