Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 22, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Home-Schooling Yourself about Our Planet by Sister Mary Lou Dolan, CSJ


It’s September, back to school time! Even though most of us are not teaching in the classroom, beginning a new school year is part of our culture's rhythm. So, some schooling about our home planet, or home schooling (!), might be worthwhile.
I”d like to tell you about some “school books,” some texts, if you will, that can teach us about our home planet, how it works and what lessons it has for enriching the lives of all who live here.
Charlene Spretnak’s Relational Reality (Topsham ME: Green Horizon Books, 2011) is about the “deeply relational nature of reality.” Based on the insights of ecology and quantum physics, she uses a conversational style to talk about how our world is “inherently dynamic and interrelated at all levels.” She illustrates how our growing appreciation of relatedness is transforming education and parenting, health and health care, community design and the economy. Broadly ranging, her book ends with a brief discussion of our “multifaceted relationship with nature” (p. 202).
This relationship with nature is the focus of Richard Louv’s The Nature Principle (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2011). Louv’s Last Child in the Woods gave rise to the term “nature-deficit disorder” and discussed its effects in children. The Nature Principle extends nature-deficit disorder to adults. Using an engaging style, he describes how adults can tap into the restorative power of the natural world for our "physical, emotional and family fitness"! He gives many practical examples of how to learn from nature in order to build healthier personal, communal and societal ways of living. The more high tech we become, he says, the more we need nature.
Kathleen D. Moore and Michael P. Nelson's edited collection of short essays in Moral Ground (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2010) addresses the question, “Do we have a moral obligation to take action to protect the future of a planet in peril?” The book groups diverse responses into 14 categories. These range from “Yes, for the survival of humankind” to “Yes, for the sake of the children,” “Yes, for the sake of all forms of life on the planet,” “Yes, because justice demands it,” “Yes because we love the world” to “Yes, because our moral integrity requires us to do what is right.” A variety of styles from a very diverse series of authors representing many nationalities, cultures and perspectives are represented. Closing each section, the editors provide examples of ethical actions that can flow from the perspective represented in each section.
Natural history fans will enjoy Paul Greenberg’s Four Fish (NY: Penguin Reprint Edition, 2011), an entertaining, nuanced and informative story about our relationships with wild fish. He organizes his narration around the steps humans have taken to “control” this food source by our increasing ability to tap into more distant habitats. The species on which he focuses are salmon which migrate into fresh water streams, sea bass which live in shallow off-shore waters, cod which favor waters off the continental shelves and, finally, tuna that dwell in deep ocean waters. Greenberg uses a balance of the natural history of these fish, and social and technological factors involved in “harvesting” them, including discussions of fish farming and attempts at genetically modifying some species. This one will give you lots of grist for the ethical mills addressed in Moral Ground!
Totally different and perhaps the most effective book for nourishing our relationship with the natural world, is Mary Oliver’s Thirst (Boston: Beacon Press, 2007). Many of you are familiar with her work, so celebratory of the natural world. Several of her short poems are The Beautiful Striped Sparrow, Ribbon Snake Asleep in the Sun (“the nameless stars of its eyes”), and When I Am Among The Trees (“It’s simple” they say, “and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”).
Try some home schooling!