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RD Glossary
Anthropocentrism

A way of thinking of the natural world as a resource to be exploited for human purposes; the fate of the environment as separate from the fate of humans; humans as rational while the environment is viewed as wield and in need of being brought under rational control—or replaced by an artificial environment created by scientific and technological experts; a key feature of Western thinking that can be traced back to the Book of Genesis.

Biodiversity

The natural world is multi-layered and interdependent—from the ecology of micro-organisms to the ecology of plants, animals, and humans; renewal of species is dependent upon the diversity of living systems; biodiversity as the basis of life and to undermine it is to undermine life itself; the opposite of an anthropocentric way of thinking.

Commons

The commons represent both the naturals systems (water, air, soil, forests, oceans, etc.) and the cultural patterns and traditions (intergenerational knowledge ranging from growing and preparing food, medicinal practices, arts, crafts, ceremonies, etc.) that are shared without cost by all members of the community; nature of the commons varies in terms of different cultures and bioregions; what has not been transformed into market relationships; the basis of mutual support systems and local democracy; in the modern world the commons may be managed and thus kept from becoming enclosed through private and corporate ownership by being managed by local and national government—municipal water systems and state and national parks are contemporary examples of the commons.

Conservatism

Conservatism as both a cultural and biological process is characteristic of the multiple languaging processes of a culture and, at the biological level, the way in which genes reproduce themselves over many generations—with only minor variation; places an emphasis on carrying forward the genuine achievements of the past (including gains made in achieving greater social justice); represents the conceptual and moral orientation of environmentalists and people working to sustain the commons as sites of resistance to economic and ideological globalization; relies upon critical reflection as one of the many approaches to conserving the non-monetized traditions of the community; based on fundamentally different assumptions than those taken for granted by liberal thinkers.

Critical Inquiry

A way of thinking that is essential to scientific inquiry, and to the renewal and, in some instance, the overturning of international knowledge and practices; when understood and practiced within the context of other cultural approaches to the renewal of knowledge and community critical inquiry can contribute to the quality of human life; when it is based on assumptions about the autonomous nature of the individual, that change is inherently progressive, and that it is the only valid approach to knowledge, critical inquiry can contribute to the form of subjectivity that is required by the industrial/consumer dependent culture

Culture

The practices, beliefs, traditions, moral norms that give the people a common sense of identity and way of understanding their relationship to the environment and to each other; cultures are as varied as the world’s language—and they disappearance as their language disappears; vary in terms of how the commons is understood and sustained (or degraded); they may be driven by an ideology (and religion) that causes them to become reactionary, a colonizing power, and environmentally destructive; The complex and varied traditions of a culture are reproduced with only minor variations in the languaging processes that are the basis of thought and communication—which are largely taken-for-granted even by social theorists who mistakenly represent the individual as autonomous and critically reflective, and thus as uninfluenced by their culture’s deep epistemological patterns of thinking.

Democracy

A process of decision making that involves all members of the community; it is expressed in culturally varied ways; in the West democracy is often associated with the assumption that decisions reflect the self-interest of the individual and that collectively the pursuit of self-interest contributes to the well-being of the larger society; in other cultures, democratic decision-making may be limited to decisions what helps to conserve the commons or about who has demonstrated the wisdom and degree of selflessness to make decisions for the entire community; democratic decision-making about which practices sustain the commons may be undermined by authoritarian powers—including universal prescriptions that are too often couched in the language of progress and emancipation from traditions.

EcoJustice

The aspects of ecojustice that should be the focus of educational reforms at both the university and public level are connected with the need to reduce the impact of the industrial/consumer dependent culture on everyday life while at the same time ensuring that people are not impoverished and limited in terms of equal opportunity; the five aspects of ecojustice that have special significance for educational reformers include the following (1) eliminating the causes of eco-racism, (2) ending the North’s exploitation and cultural colonization of the South (Third World cultures), (3) revitalizing the commons in order to achieve a healthier balance between market and non-market aspects of community life, (4) ensure that the prospects of future generations are not diminished by the hubris and ideology that drives the globalization of the West’s industrial culture, (5) reducing the threat to what Vandana Shiva refers to as “eath democracy” –that is, the right of natural systems to reproduce themselves rather than to have their existence contingent upon the demands of humans; ecojustice provides the larger moral and conceptual framework for understanding how to achieve the goals of social justice.

Ecological Crisis

The accelerating degradation occurring in natural systems that is undermining their ability to reproduce themselves at a sustainable level; caused in large part by human ignorance, greed, use of destructive technologies and economic practices, population pressures, and a lack of knowledge of how to live in a sustainable ways; the immediate and most visible aspects of the ecological crisis include global warming, the depletion of potable water, fisheries, and the loss of topsoil; widespread toxic contamination of the environment is contributing to the acceleration of the loss of species and to an increase number of human diseases.

Ecology

Ecology comes from the early Greek word oikas which meant managing the daily relationships and activities within the household; currently it refers to the interdependent nature of natural systems—and by extension, the symbolic systems and human activities we refer to as culture; it represents the parts as interdependent with the larger whole such as the interactions between cultural and natural systems; this interdependence of cultural and natural systems was expressed by Gregory Bateson when he wrote that “no system which shows mental characteristics (when differences are the source of information circulating through the entire system) can any part have unilaterial control over the whole” ( 1972, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p. 316); the opposite of an anthropocentric way of thinking.

Education

Leads to many forms of learning, including understanding of relationships as well as the culture’s way of understanding the attributes of the participants in these relationships—which in turn involves learning the culture’s moral norms that govern these relationships; involves mentoring relationships and human/Nature relationships that are sustainable; it can reproduce the formulaic thinking handed down from the past by teachers and other sources within the community—included books and the media; it can occur through self discovery, reflection, and embodied experience; it can reproduce the cultures way of knowing and value system that privilege certain groups over others; much of it occurs at a taken-for-granted level of awareness.

Emancipation


A powerful idea in the West that is based on the assumption that all traditions are obstacles to progress and individual freedom; among its supporting assumptions are the ideas that change is inherently progressive in nature and that individuals, regardless of culture, should seek to emancipate themselves as well as others; it can be a “God-word” that obscures its potential to mask a colonizing intent; when framed in terms of specific abuses and injustices it can lead to important reforms; it becomes a source of colonization when it is represented as a universal good and when there is no consideration given to what need to be conserved and renewed.

Enclosure

The process of limiting access, use, and democratic decisions about what can be freely shared by members of the community; enclosure both of natural systems (water, forests, plants, animals, airwaves, etc.) and cultural practices and achievements (music, traditions relating to food, healing, entertainment, games, entertainment, craft knowledge, etc.) through the monetization and integration into industrial culture; privatization; expansion of markets; privatization of what were previously public services and maintenance of the commons is the latest expression of enclosure.

Environmental Crisis

The accelerating degradation occurring in natural systems that is undermining their ability to reproduce themselves at a sustainable level; caused in large part by human ignorance, greed, use of destructive technologies and economic practices, population pressures, and a lack of knowledge of how to live in a sustainable ways; the immediate and most visible aspects of the ecological crisis include global warming, the depletion of potable water, fisheries, and the loss of topsoil; widespread toxic contamination of the environment is contributing to the acceleration of the loss of species and to an increase number of human diseases.

Evolution


The Darwinian explanation of how the environment selects the better adapted species to pass on its genetic material to future generations; a theory that is now being extended (again) to explain which cultural patterns (memes) are better adapted and thus will survive while other cultures become extinct; an ideology when it involves extrapolations from the realm of biology to the realm of culture; current expressions of this form of scientism represent Western culture as the better adapted and Western scientists as able to predict that computers will replace humans in the process of evolution; cultural extrapolations are good examples of the ethnocentric thinking of Western scientists who stray into scientism.

Freedom

A powerful political metaphor that has contributed to constructive and destructive outcomes; for many educational theorists it represents the essence of being human and the goal of these theorists is to attain as much freedom as possible; often is stated as a goal even for cultures that do not share the Western cultural assumptions that underlie the Western idea of freedom; often represented as not having any limitations or responsibilities that go along with freedom; a central value of Western Enlightenment thinkers who did not understand the life-sustaining relationships between humans and natural systems—thus a powerful source of anthropocentric thinking; often used as a context-free metaphor that simplifies the network of relationships and forms of morel reciprocity that exist in everyday life, and which vary from culture to culture; freedom from hunger, environmentally induced illness, political and economic privations, and from being colonized by other cultures represent more accurately how freedom is understood within the context of educational reforms that are directed at addressing ecojustice issues.

Globalization

The effort to standardize consumer habits, values, and ways of thinking that contributes to the development of global markets, greater efficiencies and profits; politically, it is based on neo-liberal values and assumptions that justify this latest expression of Western colonization; undermines local economies, traditions of self-sufficiency, and the non-monetized aspects of local cultures; a source of poverty as it requires participating in a money economy even when automation makes work even more scarce; environmentally destructive and a n overwhelming force in the process of enclosure of the commons.

Individualism

As understood from a cultural and ecojustice perspective, individualism refers to the ways in which cultural patterns are given individualized expression—which may involve questioning and giving expression to new ways of thinking while at the same time carrying forward other taken-for-granted patterns; total autonomy would mean having a private language not shared by others; as a metaphor that relies upon the analogy of a person who exists entirely independent of natural systems—which is a total fantasy that reflects the dangers of some forms of abstract thinking; contributes to the current emphasis on the authority of subjective judgments and the indifference to the social and environmental relationships that sustain life; the individual who has developed more in accordance with the liberal vision of the autonomous individual (that is, has no skills or sense of moral reciprocity toward others) is more dependent upon consumerism to meet daily needs.

Intergenerational Knowledge

Its complexity and importance has largely been marginalized by the liberal emphasis on individual freedom and progress; it is the basis of sustainable commons and is the source of empowerment in terms of being able to carry out tasks as individual and as a member of a group; represents alternative knowledge to the industrial mode of production and is the basis of the mutual support systems in the community; it may take the form of building on past achievements in the arts, science, health care, food preparation, and so forth; it is also the basis of technological developments and economic ideas that now threaten cultural diversity, the viability of natural systems, and small scale economies of local communities; when treated in the abstract and judged as either entirely good or bad, understanding becomes a victim of ideology; needs to be continually evaluated in terms of concrete situations that take account of place, existing patterns of cultural self-sufficiency, and impact on natural systems; that is, it needs to be evaluated in terms of whether it contributes to ecojustice.

Liberalism

A metaphor that designates a political tradition of thinking that can be traced back to the ideas of John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill; a tradition of thinking that led to many advances over the constraints and inequities of feudal society; a tradition of thinking that still reproduces the silences and misunderstandings of its founding “fathers” such as ignoring human existence as part of a larger ecology of cultural and natural relationships and interdependencies,; the source of support of other Western myths that underlie the Janus nature of science and the Industrial Revolution that is now being globalized; currently the basis of emancipatory theories of educational reform that are being promoted on a global basis and of such organizations as the World Trade Organization; lacks the vocabulary for addressing ecojustice issues and for understanding the importance of the commons as sites of resistance to the spread of a monetized economy that increases wealth for the few while leaving billions of people in impoverished conditions; is often represented as responsible for achieving social justice in the areas of race, gender, labor, and the environment—which in reality represent efforts to create more just, equitable,and sustainable communities (which has been the goal of the philosophical conservatism of Edmund Burke and the environmental conservatism of Wendell Berry).

Linguistic Diversity

The nearly 6000 languages still spoken (many barely existing) today are now being threatened by economic, technological and ideological globalization; linguistic diversity contributes to biodiversity by encoding in the vocabulary and ways of thinking knowledge of local ecosystems—and thus how to live within their limits and possibilities; linguistic diversity is also the basis of the diversity of the world’s commons which are now being threatened by Western educational reforms that promote a constructivist and transformative approach to learning, and by the combination of liberal ideology and technological development that have as their goal the creation of a world monoculture.

Mentoring

This intergenerationally connected relationship occurs in the arts, athletics, healing practices, crafts, place-based living--and even in community and environmentally destructive practices and relationships where profits are put ahead of what contributes to the well-being of the community; within the context of educating for ecojustice and the revitalization of the commons, mentoring is essential to passing on the skills necessary for building and maintaining the material culture, for developing personal artistic talents that represent alternatives to industrially produced entertainment, and for developing skills and the formation of character traits necessary for giving personal expression while at the same time renewing the worthwhile achievements of the past; mentoring also enables the older generation to feel that they are making a contribution to the quality of life of the younger generation; it is essentially a caring and non-monetized relationship.

Progress

Another political metaphor that is based on a number of Western assumptions; used to legitimize new technologies and ideas without considering their unintended consequences—that is, it provides an excuse for not being cautious or considering what is being lost; assumes that change and modes of inquiry that foster change are inherently progressive in nature; one of the most powerful metaphors that supports the current liberal goal of economic and technological globalizaton; when used in the context of addressing ecojustice issues, it takes on an entirely different meaning—one that takes account of gains made in sustaining linguistic and biodiversity, in revitalizing the skills and patterns of moral reciprocity essential to more viable commons, and to strengthening the tradition of local democracy.

Revitalization of the Commons

As the commons are understood as the totality of the culture and natural systems that are freely available to all the members of the community, the process of revitalization involves both the strengthening of local decision making in ways that ensures the continuation of these practices as well as reclaiming aspects of the commons that previously had been enclosed. The latter may take the form of renewing traditional agricultural practices that do not rely upon genetically engineered seeds and industrial chemicals, restoring wetlands, promoting community-centered arts that provide an alternative to the mass entertainment industry, the recovery of traditional knowledge and practices connected with the use of medicinal plants, the strengthening of the ties between local producers and consumers, the development of barter and local currency systems, and so forth. The revitalization of the commons is understood here as taking different forms of cultural expression and would be dependent upon local knowledge of place and sustainable practices.

Root Metaphors

The languaging processes carry forward past ways of thinking that are based on assumptions unique to the culture; these deeply held and generally taken-for-granted assumptions, which are derived from the culture’s mythopoetic narratives and powerful evocative experiences, are encoded in the words that called root metaphors; the root metaphors of a culture provide the interpretative frameworks that survive over many generations and influence values, approaches to problem solving and activities in a wide range of daily life; the root metaphors, as meta-cognitive schemata, also influences the silences as well as what will be marginalized; the dominant root metaphors in the West that have contributed to an ecologically destructive culture include mechanism, a linear interpretation of progress, anthropocentrism, Cartesian individualism, patriarchy, and, now, evolution as a way of explaining which cultures wills survive; these root metaphors reproduce the pre-ecological ways of thinking, and are also basic to the continued expansion of the industrial culture.; the root metaphor that serves as an interpretive framework for addressing ecojustice issues is ecology—which highlights awareness of relationships and interdependencies with the commons; as a root metaphor, ecology locates the individual as a participant within the ecological systems that we are calling the commons, which is profoundly different from how an anthropocentric root metaphor (interpretative framework) leads to thinking of oneself as an observer, a person who appropriates the environment for personal gain, or as totally indifferent to the changes occurring in the environment.

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RD Glossary by Run Digital

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