This is the question I was asked recently in applying for a residency which would encompass marrying holistic science, deep ecology, transitional economics, transformational learning and building community. It was funny because I picked up my laptop to begin the search and sense-making for an answer with my friend 'the Internet' - but something deep within me rustled and instead I grabbed a notebook and pen and headed for my neighbouring park. There, I got lost walking, sensing, opening each of my senses to the answers that exist right in front of us: in Nature, and in our own wisdom, mirrored and accessed through our place in the greater eco-system. Instead of a short essay, as the application called for, it felt immediately right instead to give the reader an intuitive experience for my answer -- creating a space for the reader to realise my understanding of 'deep ecology'.
What is also funny is that while this poem or stream of description addresses the holistic science aspect of deep ecology, and calls upon my understanding from the molecular to the systems-level, it also addresses the holistic nature of deep ecology education, and holistic science education. Teaching deep ecology in a classroom or via textbooks or essays would immediately invalidate the very ethos and purpose of deep ecology. Because unlike most sciences, deep ecology encompasses more than the facts and observations and mechanics that often make up a scientific discipline. I have experienced what feels like all that modern science and technology has to offer, within the walls of a behemoth epicentre of modern science in the UK during my undergraduate. While science in our current definition and understanding seeks desperately to create 'experimental conditions', minimise 'human error' and discount the subjective, intuitive experience of the scientist, i.e. the human, understanding his or her natural environment - deep ecology returns us to our place in Nature, allows for the 'whole', systems view - and allows for 'whole' human scientists too.
This means also taking a holistic view to their education too. Which (and my heart jumps with joy at this) means exploring unschooling, self-directed learning, and life learning with it. If you are unfamiliar with these concepts, I urge you to take a look at this worksheet which is an exercise that helps re-contextualise our current education model and explain unschooling. A deep ecology learning model allows the learner to sink into their understanding, deep into reflection, and allow for that to manifest into whatever creative outputs or projects that emerge naturally. And that's what was great about this application. It gave me the licence to express my understanding in a shape and form that felt most natural, and most appropriate. Instead of the 'scientific method' of trying to control, force and prove, the deep ecology/holistic scientific method allowed me to let go, sense, create.
Whatever the outcome of this application, taking part in the process was an honour, and a joy, and I share the creative output with you now.
Arne Naess coined the term ‘deep ecology’ as an attempt to point out that Western culture needs to reconnect to something more satisfying and enduring than yet more economic growth fuelled by increasing levels of material consumption. Building on this insight, what is your current understanding of the meaning of‘deep’ in deep ecology? Do you see a role for science in developing the senses of ‘deep’ that you perceive?
As I read your question,
The reaction is to reach with my mind for a definition,
Or better yet,
The answer – as ‘decided’ by Wikipedia or a book.
Then I feel, intuitively –
How about trying
To answer this one
From the whole.
In trusting that the Universe’s wisdom flows through me,
I relinquish control and anxiety,
Let go of the detail,
And allow for deeper ‘knowing’,
Which arrives through each pore by mysterious ways.
I take myself to the nearby park,
My sphere of consciousness is allowed to expand,
The sensation of time comes to a still,
Normal boundaries between self and other dissolve.
To understand the meaning of ‘deep’,
Is acknowledging a scale unfathomable to the human mind.
It is holding the space between atoms,
And seeing the light from a galaxy,
Travelled through 100 million years of space.
When I think of ‘deep’,
My mind visits the paradox of transience and timeless-ness,
Of each passing moment of change.
And that with a 24 hour day to represent the 4.5 billion year life of Planet Earth,
We arrived 5 seconds before midnight,
A blink of time inhabited.
To understand the ‘deep’ in ‘deep ecology’,
I tune in to each breath.
The Air element within, is the same Air element without,
That rustles the leaves and grasses and branches outside,
And gives us the wind and the clouds.
Air fills our lungs, and travels through us as the gaseous molecules dissolved in our blood.
Each of these molecules passed through and breathed
By basically every living being ever existed.
Even the solid, ‘me’ material, Earth element that makes us,
Is merely borrowed for some time.
Since the moment of conception,
We grew from one cell to two,
Every molecule borrowed from plant or animal that once lived.
Nodes and limbs of the Universe
Become self-aware –
We have become so superficially aware of Self,
That we forget the fabric from which we have grown.
And so in this illusion of separation,
We have created and destroyed
‘non-Natural’ and ‘Natural’ things,
While our cities
Mimic the self-organisation of slime moulds,
And our algorithms
Follow the footsteps of Explorer Ants.
At the cellular level,
Tiny circadian rhythms are synchronising
To the natural cycles of light,
And the outside World
Sculpts us down to the genetic level,
Our flux of DNA coding
Stories of conditions passed.
There is a deep simplicity to Nature,
Far more tactile and tangible than the classroom,
And it is the same way one must ‘feel’ through
The sensory images, ripples and patterns
That govern and perpetuate at molecular and vast scales.
We separate ourselves at our own peril,
In the tumble of futile cycles
Which consume not only time and energy,
But our beloved Planet
And everything we once held dear.
Perhaps that what we need,
Is a Science based on Wisdom,
A wisdom that comes from a deep awareness
Of time, space and Life.
A guide on our evolution
Into a wiser form of Life.