Eco-consciousness

A whole-system approach is a twofold understanding by nature. It indicates an inner transformation to generate a greater capacity to pay attention to both our innate knowledge and the presence of all beings. This encompasses the notion of inclusive leadership to inspire self-reflect, deep listening, and empathy. It is also a way to explore the core beliefs, values, socio-historic contexts, and institutions that impede or catalyze peace in alignment with nonviolence, ecological sustainability, and social justice. Alternatively, it is important to examine social institutions that strive to provide fair access, opportunities, and promote justice to empower us to create change”[1]

  • “All communication is through signs. A sign imparts something to its interpreter, its interpreter may interpret or misinterpret that which is communicated. The original sign is interpreted may itself be a misinterpretation. An interpreter may also bring something more to the interpretation than was conveyed through the original sign; thus, the sign may grow, and we with it, for being a human being means being an organic sign-complex, in transaction with a universe suffused with signs.”[2]

Research found that a key challenge for environmental education is “to establish connections with places in which learning occurs with the aim of improving those places ecologically, socio-culturally, environmentally and ethically, while simultaneously improving the well-being of those involved”[3] This requires a fundamental shift in perspective to address the self-perpetuated dualism lies in Western empiricism and materialism – a change of focus from the “objectness” of things to the material flows and formative processes wherein they come into being.” The valorization of man and nature can be reflected in labor relations as it was defined as “purposeful activity aimed at the production of use-values.”[4] On other hand, one notable exploitation of the “usefulness” of plants to humans has added to the pressures on their existence: The bio‐cultural spaces plants occupy in the modern world, whether circulated as amputated parts for human consumption, destabilized by climate change, or demolished for political expediency when they become old and too expensive to maintain, are highly complex cross‐species entanglements.”[5] These are forms of immaturity on a collective level that permeates the social-cultural systems, which “regardless of the tremendous civilization and its accomplishments on the materialistic plane of existence “from the viewpoint of developmental trauma involving compromised attachment issues.”[6] And sequentially these take-for-granted assumptions and beliefs dictate the manner in which we educate our children.[7] In other words:

“The more the ego identity obsesses over its viability, the more threatened it feels and becomes, and the very act of perceiving a threat to its self-other boundary magnifies its aloneness against the otherness of the rest of the universe. The whole situation results in not only loneliness but also fearfulness. The possibilities of distress and suffering compounding to such ego identity construction are real for  most of us, insofar as we have all received cultural conditioning in the so-called ordinary consciousness.”[8]


[1] Brantmeier, Edward J, and Webb, Destin. “Examining Learning in the Course, “Inclusive Leadership for Sustainable Peace”.” Journal of Peace Education 17, no. 1 (2020): 1-25.

[2] Halton, Eugene. 2008. “Mind Matters.” Symbolic Interaction 31 (2): 119–41. https://doi-org.ezproxy.library.tufts.edu/10.1525/si.2008.31.2.119.

[3] Sol, A.J, and Wals, A.E.J. “Strengthening Ecological Mindfulness through Hybrid Learning in Vital Coalitions.” Cultural Studies of Science Education 10, no. 1 (2015): 203-14.

[4] Howard, Penny McCall. “The Anthropology of Human-environment Relations.” Focaal 2018, no. 82 (2018): 64-79.

[5] Sanders, Dawn L. “Standing in the Shadows of Plants.” Plants, People, Planet 1, no. 3 (2019): 130-38.

[6] Bai, Heesoon, Cohen, Avraham, Miyakawa, Muga, and Falkenberg, Thomas. “Mindfulness for Adulting.” Learning (Abingdon (England)) 4, no. 1 (2018): 12-28.

[7] Miller, Jeffrey Alan. Plant Trees in Other People’s Yards: An Investigation into the Perspectives Forming Seventh-graders’ Understanding of an Ecological and Sustainable Worldview, and Possibilities for a Curriculum to Broaden These Perspectives, 1997.

[8] Bai, Heesoon, Cohen, Avraham, Miyakawa, Muga, and Falkenberg, Thomas. “Mindfulness for Adulting.” Learning (Abingdon (England)) 4, no. 1 (2018): 12-28.

In contrast, as Miller claimed the cultural myths of how established assumption with technology advancement to be accepted as commonplace, he emphasized that the “ultimate issue surrounding the ecocrisis is primarily an issue of reshaping ourselves and tempering our lifestyles to live harmoniously with a finite planet, rather than reshaping the planet to provide for our infinite wants and desires.”[1] This suggests the true maturity of being human – with a focus on “being able to engage reality with increasingly expansive and resourceful capacity of discernment and wisdom, kindness, curiosity, and compassion.”[2] After all, these are intrinsic values that move beyond what technological sophistication, especially with the domination of the Western civilization can bring about.

Mindfulness is an embodied approach to environmental problems that are inherently intertwined. It is a non-ordinary consciousness in service of wholeness and relationality. For example, to achieve climate change adaptation, it is important to form effective public-private adaptation and governance through the improvement of climate change communication and more integrated social approaches such as emphatic listening to support the transformational process.[3] The cultivation of mindfulness is a way to form a compassionate response to external repercussions such as climate change and other disastrous events with an intention of remembering what it means to love and to be alive. In fact, the way how we cultivate respond to climate change becomes a mindfulness practice in daily living to raise our awareness on a planetary level.[4]

Similar to what Alan Watts observes, “we are all part of a collective and unfolding “organism-environment” process. Humans cannot be separated from animals or from the environment any more than a wave can be separated from the ocean. We are the ecosystem and the ecosystem is us.”[5] There is an imperative need to transcend the current paradigm of how true knowledge is being created. Satish Kumar, who believed in the intimate connection between soil, soul and society and advocated to drop ego in favor of eco claimed: “if we can understand the interdependence of all living beings and understand that all living creatures—from trees to worms to humans—depend on each other, then we can live in harmony with ourselves, with other people and with nature.” This keen observation emphasizes the root causes of social change provided us a holistic perspective to re-think our relation to the world and with ourselves in a remarkably interconnected world.[6]

As Roy Tamashiro conceived, “it is an awareness that embraces the rational, logical, scientific, analytical—as well as the intuitive, emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic dimensions, which are embodied and deeply grounded.”[7] This nondual spiritual perspective on the inner sources provided us an integral grounding between inner and outer dimensions of social change, as Gandhi emphasized that personal and social transformation are inseparably linked.[8]

[1] Miller, Jeffrey Alan. Plant Trees in Other People’s Yards: An Investigation into the Perspectives Forming Seventh-graders’ Understanding of an Ecological and Sustainable Worldview, and Possibilities for a Curriculum to Broaden These Perspectives, 1997.

[2] Bai, Heesoon, Cohen, Avraham, Miyakawa, Muga, and Falkenberg, Thomas. “Mindfulness for Adulting.” Learning (Abingdon (England)) 4, no. 1 (2018): 12-28.

[3] Wamsler, Christine. “Mind the Gap: The Role of Mindfulness in Adapting to Increasing Risk and Climate Change.” Sustainability Science 13, no. 4 (2018): 1121-135.

[4] AnAlayo, Bhikkhu. “A Task for Mindfulness: Facing Climate Change.” Mindfulness 10, no. 9 (2019): 1926-935.

[5] Sharp, Dustin N. “Prickles and Goo: Human Rights and Spirituality.” Journal of Human Rights 20, no. 1 (2021): 36-51.

[6] Sharp, Dustin N. “Prickles and Goo: Human Rights and Spirituality.” Journal of Human Rights 20, no. 1 (2021): 36-51.

[7] Tamashiro, Roy. “Planetary Consciousness, Witnessing the Inhuman, and Transformative Learning: Insights from Peace Pilgrimage Oral Histories and Autoethnographies.” Religions (Basel, Switzerland) 9, no. 5 (2018): 148.

[8] Sharp, Dustin N. “Prickles and Goo: Human Rights and Spirituality.” Journal of Human Rights 20, no. 1 (2021): 36-51.

Header photo by Rose @NYC, with Desk-free School for Ecological Justice, NYC 2018
Photos by Rose @The Textile Museum, Washington D.C.
5/27/2018 9:37 AM