“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” (Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac, 1948)
The quote above represents the essence of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic. Because of its applicability and efficacy in face of current environmental problems, Leopold’s land ethic has become the mark of North American contemporary conservation movement. One can argue such ethic became so important because of its congruent points with the common Western worldview that considers utilitarian values, as well as its rejection of a paradigmatic view of man and nature to favor the concept of a biotic community, much more in line with a “stewardship” emergent worldview.
Some traditional worldviews resonate with this ethic in some aspects; some do not; some give rise to different ethical considerations; some don’t express an environmental ethic at all. In his book Earth’s Insight, environmental philosopher J. Baird Callicott argues that achieving environmental conservation may not be feasible without an environmental ethic, enriched by traditional worldviews, to animate and reinforce its practices. Simply, we need to embrace considerations embedded in traditional ways of living and the affordances it gives us in the linking of ethical environmental considerations.
Callicott makes an allusion to Buddhist thought and the “Jewel Net of Indra” to elaborate from the word “Network”. He says:
“The worlds indigenous and traditional systems of thought must create a network of environmental ethics – each a jewel, with its own unique color and composition, reflecting the light of all others. Connecting all the eyes of this biospherical network of recovered traditional and indigenous environmental ethics – binding them into a coherent whole – is a common thread, the emerging post-modern worldview and its associated evolutionary ecological environmental ethics. “
In such diversity and richness lays the means to conserve the world’s natural resources. Where is the informal education landscape in this “network”? Are we at all moving in that direction and directly contributing to this emergent ethic? Are we finding ways to blend culture and science in a philosophical debate? Yes, people need to learn about the bio, geo, chemical and physical process of the world we live in, but I think its also imperative that they learn about the relationships between man and nature and arrive to their own self-realization. Education to me can be the “light” distributed throughout all dimensions of this “network” Callicott talks about and the bond supporting the reflection of all lights.