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The Ecological Imperative and Human Nature: A New Perspective on Ecological Education

Authors:
  • Institute for Social and Political Psychology of NAES of Ukraine

Abstract

This paper aims at disclosing the essence of "environmen-tal imperative" and "human nature", identifying the interconnection and relationship of historical development and current processes of globalization in the system of education and training and their influence on the formation of human cultural values. Global society and its educational institutions are still not ready to meet the environmental challenges of the 21 st century. The international community is starting to understand that the moral principles, spiritual world and human behavior in the biosphere do not meet the conditions of life, in which the society is immersed. People are now realizing that only the co-evolution with the biosphere will allow them to fit reasonably into the natural cycles and comprehend universal laws that prevail in the world. Similar trends bring the issues of environmentally safe development of civilization to the forefront of scientific inquiry, especially in education. For the sake of ecological survival, humankind must develop and actively implement a unified global strategy for the worldwide development on the basis of global cooperation in education that will ensure environmental quality for the civilization in the 21 st century. Through nurturing environmental sensitivity, contemporary humankind is able to explore their own selves and come to new conclusions in experiencing their own realities and truths. Bringing the problem of a human in terms of globalization of education to the fore will eventually result in a new paradigm that reflects a specific holistic nature of humans, their involvement to the natural and cultural worlds and their aspiration to move beyond their own limits.
Interdisciplinary Studies of Complex Systems
No. 12 (2018) 17–24
c
T. Danylova, G. Salata
The Ecological Imperative and Human Nature:
A New Perspective on Ecological Education
Tetiana Danylova,1Galyna Salata2
Abstract. This paper aims at disclosing the essence of “environmen-
tal imperative” and “human nature”, identifying the interconnection and
relationship of historical development and current processes of globaliza-
tion in the system of education and training and their influence on the
formation of human cultural values. Global society and its educational
institutions are still not ready to meet the environmental challenges of the
21st century. The international community is starting to understand that
the moral principles, spiritual world and human behavior in the biosphere
do not meet the conditions of life, in which the society is immersed. Pe-
ople are now realizing that only the co-evolution with the biosphere will
allow them to fit reasonably into the natural cycles and comprehend uni-
versal laws that prevail in the world. Similar trends bring the issues of
environmentally safe development of civilization to the forefront of scien-
tific inquiry, especially in education. For the sake of ecological survival,
humankind must develop and actively implement a unified global strategy
for the worldwide development on the basis of global cooperation in edu-
cation that will ensure environmental quality for the civilization in the
21st century. Through nurturing environmental sensitivity, contemporary
humankind is able to explore their own selves and come to new conclusions
in experiencing their own realities and truths. Bringing the problem of a
human in terms of globalization of education to the fore will eventually
result in a new paradigm that reflects a specific holistic nature of humans,
their involvement to the natural and cultural worlds and their aspiration
to move beyond their own limits.
Keywords: human nature, human being, ecological imperative, environ-
mental challenges, education, globalization of education
1 Introduction
Relevance of the study. Every epoch, every society, every culture has uni-
quely interpreted the concept and essence of education. This largely depends
on the mentality of society that influences the educative doctrine and also
undergoes dramatic changes. The philosophy and psychology of education
is the center, the battlefield of worldviews and system of values. Obviously,
this struggle is the norm of life in any society, in which the level of civili-
zation and culture of this struggle is a measure of the civilized society itself.
1National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine.
danilova_tv@ukr.net
2College of Kyiv University of Culture. salaty@bigmir.net
17
18 T. Danylova, G. Salata
Worsening ecological situation, the real threat of further deterioration and the
urgent need to preserve and restore the natural environment is a burning issue
in the context of human existence, which is seen as the basis of self-awareness of
any citizen, nation, state, and finally, the international community. In the 20th
century, one-sided view on a person (biological and sociological approaches),
particularly in the educational cognitive space, led to the idea that substantial
consolidation of human existence does not exist. However, a person still remains
the material being who lives in the world of culture created by him/herself.
Thus, the human nature requires a broader understanding. It is obvious that
the impact of human activities on the environment does not simply become
a factor that determines its evolution. It is growing so fast that it is just
impossible to speak of any balance of the biosphere and at the same time of
the maintenance of homeostasis of Homo sapiens species.
Today in the educational process of each country, the topic of the human
nature takes on a new meaning due to the synthesis of the old philosophical tra-
ditions, psychology, neurologic [4], and broad complex of contemporary human
sciences, as well as due to the development of a new science on the behavior of
higher animals, whose biology is similar to human biology.
In addition, modern biotechnology and psychotechnologies require com-
prehensive multidisciplinary studies — they can be used to change the human
nature. The main objective of contemporary education in terms of globaliza-
tion approaches is to create a new scientific paradigm that holistically reflects
specificity of a human nature, human involvement in the natural world and
the world of culture that characterizes a person as an independent form of
existence [1].
A complex character of the environmental issue has been in the focus of
knowledge since the second half of the 20th century. The Chicago School of
Environmental Sociology initiated the humanitarian approach to environmental
issues. It studied various forms of environmental destruction caused by humans
and the establishment of the basic principles of environmental protection [13].
Within the humanitarian approach, the laws of influence of abiogenic, altered
biogenic and anthropogenic factors and their interaction with anthropological
and social cultural factors were revealed.
The international community is starting to understand that the moral
principles, spiritual world and human behavior within the biosphere do not
meet the conditions of life, in which the society is immersed. People are now
realizing that only the co-evolution with the biosphere will allow them to fit
reasonably into the natural cycles and comprehend universal laws that prevail in
the world. Similar trends bring the issues of environmentally safe development
of civilization to the forefront of scientific inquiry, especially in education [8].
The fact that the current situation requires new approaches to the analysis
of the interaction between nature and society, approval of new spiritual and
moral regulators of human activity, changes in ideological paradigm is often not
taken into account. We talk about the need to subordinate activities aimed at
transforming nature to the system of limitations, which is called the ecological
imperative. Its violation can lead to rapid degradation of our civilization.
Ecological Imperative and Human Nature 19
Purpose of the study. All abovementioned foregrounds the necessity to
disclose the essence of “environmental imperative” and “human nature”, iden-
tify the interconnection and relationship of historical development and current
processes of globalization in the system of education and training and their
influence on the formation of human cultural values.
The research methodology. Exploratory research design was used to con-
duct this study. The authors have used “Knowledge and Attitude about Eco-
logical Education” questionnaire [4, 14], secondary data collected from reports,
journals, and periodicals along with philosophical hermeneutics.
2 Meeting the Contemporary Environmental
Challenges: The Formation of a New Type
of Ecological Consciousness
Consciousness and morality, which carry out their regulation by means
of legal, spiritual and moral values, can and must act as key elements of the
social regulation of human behavior. Therefore, the society faces the fact: it
is necessary to learn to control ourselves, correlate our actions with natural
abilities and provide the harmonious interaction with the environment.
There is some resistance to the idea of introducing broader environmental
courses into an already crowded curriculum. In “The Professional Accountancy
Bodies and the Provision of Education and Training in Relation to Environ-
mental Issues” R. Gray and colleagues stated that “the primary resistance to
new, critical and reflective issues — including environmental issues — is not
institutional or structural but psychological” [6, p. 94]. Many career-oriented
educational groups resist any attempts to provide them with “more ‘critical’
education because it does not fit with either the way in which they perceive
themselves or their perceptions of their future self” [6, p. 94].
To illustrate this point, we conducted the survey among 37 students (21 fe-
male and 16 male). The participants of the study were undergraduate students
in Management at National University of Life and Environmental Sciences
of Ukraine. Choosing among several options in terms of F. Kluckhohn and
F. Strodtbeck’s value orientation “man’s relationship to nature” — subjuga-
tion to nature, harmony with nature, and mastery over nature — 84% of re-
spondents to a survey agreed that people should live in harmony with nature.
In regard to the state of environment, 73% responded that environmental de-
terioration was worsening, 27% — that it has not changed. The survey found
that 54% were concerned with environmental problems, however only 5% were
involved in the environmental conservation and preservation activities. The re-
spondents stressed that government must be responsible for environment pro-
tection (76%). The majority did not see themselves as active participants in
social and political life. 51% chose to study special environmental courses, while
49% rejected this proposition because they believed their profession did not va-
lue it. The study showed minimum or no significant difference in analyzing the
answers by sex.
20 T. Danylova, G. Salata
Global society and its educational institutions are still not ready to meet
the environmental challenges of the 21st century. According to G. Boyce, “con-
temporary university activity is increasingly centred on the narrow goals of
preparing students for work and meeting the needs of business for trained wor-
kers. The resultant socialization of students into disciplined compliance with
the values of the present social order, is in sharp contrast to the “ideal” univer-
sity as a community of scholars with a role in reflecting on and problematizing
the pervasive ideas of the times and providing an active space for difference,
debate, and even dissent” [2, p. 566].
Thus, for the sake of ecological survival, humankind must develop and
actively implement a unified global strategy for the worldwide development
on the basis of global cooperation in education that will ensure environmen-
talqualityinthe21
st century. Through nurturing environmental sensitivity,
contemporary humankind is able to explore their own selves and come to new
conclusions in experiencing their own realities and truths.
The agenda includes a wider “ecologization” of social consciousness, which
means the formation of ecological awareness as the distinct form of social con-
sciousness and the introduction of ecological aspect into all other forms and
levels of social consciousness. Ecological consciousness is a key component of
ecological culture that integrates all types and results of material and spiritual
human activities aimed at achieving optimal interaction between society and
nature. The need for the formation of ecological culture as a decisive factor in
the harmonization of relations between society and nature has become more
urgent now, especially in globalization processes of educational transformati-
ons.
The term “ecological imperative” was introduced by N. Moiseev by ana-
logy with the categorical imperative devised by I. Kant. This resulted in the
discussion on value and normative foundations of the ecological imperative
and the scope of its application in the scientific community. Sustainable hu-
man development requires conceptualization of the ecological imperative. The
implementation of the ecological imperative depends on the degree of human
understanding of social and historical significance of environmentally safe de-
velopment.
The ecological imperative in terms of axiological interpretation may be
seen as substantial reality that has emerged and developed in the process of
global sociogenesis and evolution of the biosphere. It exists within the limits of
the latter and is determined by the correlation of properties of the environment
and the characteristics of civilizations. Human bodies are made of the same
matter as that of the physical cosmos, that is, human is “linked by genetic
continuity with all the other living inhabitants of his planet” [7, p. 19]. The
ecological imperative is a measure of rational interaction between the interna-
tional community and the nature.
Environmental degradation turned out to be the logical result of the ex-
isting perception of the world influenced by values and attitudes. Peculiar
perception of the nature in the ancient world caused the illusion of inexhausti-
ble natural substrate. Later these views were transformed: the problem of
co-evolutionary interactions was interpreted in the context of social communi-
ties that largely led to the global environmental crisis.
Ecological Imperative and Human Nature 21
Understanding the complexity of social and natural situation greatly de-
pends on the spiritual and moral values, level and depth of education, traditi-
onal culture, as well as accessibility and transparency of environmental infor-
mation. Shaping social aspirations, attitudes and preferences of individuals,
groups and community in general, the worldview affects the system of moral
values and orientations, determines the development of ideas on the ideal and
current strategy of the social development.
Since different ethnic groups perceive the natural constraints differently,
the revision of value hierarchy within the public consciousness should be the
priority in solving environmental problems, especially in the educational con-
text. These new values must meet the high spiritual and moral orientations
and overcome “a horizontal existence, one in which all values are of equal
significance — what Barrett calls the “flattening out of values”. The urgent
psychological and philosophical need of Western man today is a return to the
vertical, to some central spiritual ideal principle about which he can orient his
life. . . ” [3, p. 219].
3 On Different Interpretations of Human
Nature
Nurturing a new ecological consciousness is tightly connected to the inter-
pretation of a human nature that have developed in the philosophical, physical,
biological, cultural anthropology and differently assessed the degree of unity of
a human with the worlds of nature and culture [14].
Naturalistic understanding of human nature is based on the idea of biolo-
gical nature of a human. At different times, human nature was reduced to the
body, passions, and instincts. In the extreme case, this approach leads to the
identification of higher animals’ and humans’ biology: the deep roots of human
behavior are reduced to pre-conscious and pre-cultural principle in humans.
Sociological perspective of human nature is based on the recognition of
common social characteristics, attitudes inherent in all individuals. According
to the logic of this approach, human nature can not be derived from human
biology, thus, any human as social and cultural being is seen as interiorized
social relations. This model breaks phylogenetic animal-human continuity: it
is based on the premise that all biological aspects of humans were socialized.
The theory of gene-culture coevolution and bio-cultural anthropology
claim that humans are “woven” into both nature and culture. Human nature
is a result of historical evolution in the synthesis of certain innate biological
predispositions. The representatives of sociobiology made an attempt to synt-
hesize biological and social determinants of a personality. They claimed that
the types of social behavior had a biological origin. Sociobiological theory is
based on the theory of gene-culture coevolution. This theory describes the
complex interactions, in which culture is generated and shaped by biological
imperatives. At the same time, biological properties are changed in response to
cultural innovations. According to Ch. Lumsden and E. Wilson, genetic and
cultural coevolution created a human [11].
22 T. Danylova, G. Salata
In his “Hypothesis on the Genesis of Homo Intelligence”, Y. Masuda poin-
ted out that humans created culture due to their brain activities and mental
abilities, while animal actions were determined merely by genes. Constantly
evolving culture affects the genetic evolution. Thus, human genes and cul-
ture follow the course of coevolution mutually influencing each other: “humans
have a long history of becoming increasingly more complex. And while spe-
cies survival is not assured, in another 10,000 years, it may evolve into a new
level” [5].
If sociobiology (evolutionary psychology) tries to understand the motives
of human behavior based on biology, bio-cultural anthropology tries to reveal
how culture affects our biological capabilities and limitations. Over the past
few thousand years, culture has become an important aspect of human reality
and its importance continues to grow rapidly: “. .. culture now rivals nature as
the more prominent source of challenges to our continuation. Today culture
consists of a rapidly growing number of material objects, customs, practices,
values and institutions.. . our lives are immersed in culture (as well as nature)
from conception to death. Culture is to human beings as water is to fish.
This calls into question the widespread assumption that we human beings are
somehow able to rise above, stand outside of, culture and make decisions free
from the constraints of experience. The principles of biocultural anthropology
rest upon the assumption that we are an animal species fully integrated into
nature, responsive to natural law, enmeshed within a cultural as well as a
natural environment, and, as fully as every thing else in the universe, a product
of natural processes that began billions of years ago with the origin of the
universe” [9].
Bio-cultural approach considers a human as a biological, social, and cultu-
ral being [12]. This includes consideration of biological variability as a function
of response and adaptation to environmental conditions when taking into ac-
count the request of socio-cultural environment. The importance of bio-cultural
approach lies in the development of a certain model for understanding the dyna-
mics of interaction between human biological, psychological, and socio-cultural
characteristics in response to environmental changes. “Bio-cultural approach
provides a basic framework to bridge the gap between cultural and biological
anthropology, thereby depicting the true nature of anthropology as a scientific
discipline. In other words, bio-cultural approach is one of those attempts to
reintegrate sub-disciplines, especially cultural and biological anthropology. . . It
strengthens the holistic approach to understanding the biological and cultural
aspects of human population not only from the sub-disciplinary but also from
the multidisciplinary perspective, thereby making anthropology more trans-
disciplinary in nature” [10, p. 40].
Thus within the designated paradigm, humans embrace both natural and
cultural worlds being deeply rooted in each of them. The border between
these worlds does not split humans into two halves. It rather unites them
in their primordial human nature. Biological and cultural in a human are not
hierarchically structured, but interact and influence each other making a human
the unique phenomenon, independent form of being alongside with nature and
culture.
Ecological Imperative and Human Nature 23
4 Conclusions
Today it is clear that environmental conservation and preservation, the
future of humanity is almost impossible without transformation of social consci-
ousness, awareness of the meaning and significance of the forthcoming changes.
Thus, the issues of socialization, new value orientations as well as the content
of educational programs (both national and global) come to the forefront. We
must deal with these challenges from the standpoint of the ecological imperative
and the principle of coevolution of humans and the biosphere. It is extremely
important to seek new forms and ways of introducing environmental knowledge
and imperatives into educational structures at various levels and a new base
for global educational discussion.
Education should promote physical, mental and social well-being of both
the individual and society, thereby improving our world. Bringing the problem
of a human in terms of globalization of education to the fore will eventually
result in a new paradigm that reflects a specific holistic nature of humans, their
involvement in the natural and cultural worlds and their aspiration to move
beyond their own limits.
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[11] Lumsden, Ch. and E. Wilson. 2005. Genes, Mind, and Culture: The Coevo-
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This research shows the benefits of applying the innovative program "Common House" that allows students to develop knowledge, attitudes and behaviors that demonstrate and consolidate a fraternal relationship with Sister Nature. Fourteen sessions were held in the experimental group and there was a control group that served to compare the impact of the program. The sample consisted of 50 high school students from an Educational Institution in Lima. To measure the level of ecological awareness, a Likert scale was created that was validated by expert judgment and reached a reliability of Cronbach's Alpha = .910. The results of the program were estimated by the non-parametric rank statistic of U Mann Whitney (p < α = 0.05). It is concluded that the “Common House” program is effective in developing levels of ecological awareness in secondary school students.
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Introduction. The complex multifaceted essence of human as a biological, psychological, social being has attracted the attention of researchers and has caused hot debates during centuries. Still now, human being, her/his nature requires a broader understanding in the context of the synthesis of long-standing philosophical, psychological, religious traditions and contemporary sciences. Purpose. This paper aims to explore the phenomenon of human being through the lens of the Eastern philosophy and T. Leary's transpersonal perspective. Methodology. Exploratory research design was used for conducting this study. The author has used philosophical hermeneutics, secondary data collected from reports, journals, and periodicals along with own transpersonal experience. Theoretical basis and results. The essence of Eastern worldview is an awareness of unity and coherence of all things and phenomena. All things are the interdependent and interrelated parts of the One Whole: they are the different manifestations of the same unconditional reality. This is Tao for Taoists, Dharmakaya for Buddhists, Brahman for Hindus. These non-dualistic traditions emphasize: we have to transcend our dual thinking in order to perceive true nature of our inner self and to achieve the state of the absolute unity with everything that exists. " Subject – object " duality is illusory. Being disintegrated from the Oneness, a human is dissociated into different parts. The goal of a new interpretation of a human is to reintegrate these poles and transcend them. Merely theoretical approach to the problem of reintegration is insufficient. Reintegration requires a vivid experience of the " liberation " – the experience of enlightenment. This is a transpersonal experience that overcomes our common perception and goes beyond the usual " body-mind " frame. This experience was breathtakingly described by T. Leary. Experimenting with psilocybin and LSD, T. Leary was astonished that creativity was organically based; that human body contained billions of universes; and that human himself was the movement of various forms of energy. T. Leary proposed his own theory of evolution. Originality. The expansion of human horizons leads us to the new understanding/interpretation of a human being. Bringing the Eastern spiritual traditions, which perceive all objects and phenomena as various interrelated aspects of a single supreme reality, transpersonal psychology and modern sciences together, contemporary philosophers are able to design and develop a new approach to a human that will bridge the gap between different interpretations of a human being. T. Leary's ideas resonate with both quantum physics and the Eastern philosophy. In the 21 st century, T. Leary's ideas are relevant again. Conclusion. The Eastern spiritual teachings and transpersonal experience put the human problem in a completely different context. It induces us to switch from identifying human beings with the body, mind, ego to embracing them as whole organisms interwoven into the fabric of universal entity. This holistic approach, according to which a human is an undivided, alive and organic, ideal and material being, may be seen as a launching pad for a new transdisciplinary paradigm.
We live in an age in which the destruction of the environment has become a major concern. However, until recently, environmental problems have not become a major issue for the philosophy of education. The reason for this is that for a very long time the philosophy of education was intimately related to the concept of nature as the foundation and the model of human activity. We can see such an understanding of nature not only among the philosophers of Ancient Greece, but also among the modern pioneers of pedagogy. If we consider this situation, we may understand the challenge the environmental problem poses to the philosophy of education. Nature in this age of environmental problems cannot function as the foundation upon which an edifice of education can be built. It has become clear that nature is vulnerable to human intervention. Philosophy of education has responded to this turn of events by not paying attention to the concept of nature. This has sometimes taken an anti-foundational and anti-traditional form that is typical of postmodern thinking. More often though, this omission has occurred by way of shifting the discussion of education exclusively to social and political issues. In my opinion, this contemporary trend to exclude or ignore a metaphysical or ontological consideration of nature is too narrow. On one hand, it separates us from tradition, in which a consideration of nature played an important role. On the other hand, it excludes us from the experience of the whole that the Greeks called the cosmos. In this paper we will look for a third way of understanding this problem: one that shows due respect for ontology without falling into the error of considering nature as the foundation that serves as an absolute norm. In turn, this requires a balanced understanding of the dethroning of nature in the modern age.
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