Monday, May 17, 2010


In his “classic” paper, What Is Education For, David Orr of Oberlin College emphasizes that “no student should graduate from … any … educational institution without a basic comprehension of:” ecological principles, processes and ethics; carrying capacity; least-cost/end-use analysis; appropriate scale and limits of technology,; and how to live well in a place.

With this in mind, our lifestyles are indicative of the fact that we haven’t done very well at educating toward ecological literacy in the U.S., nor in Seguin/local communities. Our biocapacity in this country is about 11.6 acres per capita, yet our ecological footprint is 23.7 ( ). (And this precarious difference is worse for south central Texas.) (Numerous other indicators of sustainability also point to the fact that we are not realizing ecological literacy and appropriate livelihoods/behaviors.)

Moreover, in the U.S. we consume per capita considerably more than 200,000 kilocalories per day, yet over one billion powerless folk consume less than 5,000 per day ( & others.). Our consumption pattern here in Seguin/other local communites in the U.S. cannot yield quality life for most of the billions of folk in the world—for now and certainly not for future generations.

School planners, educators and school systems are obvious pools to tap for leadership that will move us toward a mindset and toward a Natural and agricultural green space which will facilitate and enable livelihoods of conservation and sustainability. In order to foment these pools of conservation and sustainability, we need more neighborhood and rural schools (including high schools) built in concert with Nature and the Land which have no more than 500 students ( ). The landscapes of our schools should be of mostly native plant communities (possessing placards with species identification/information), some agricultural production, living and rainfall-catchment roofs, and limited parking space (encouraging walking, bicycling, bus transport and car-pooling). Buildings should be sustainably built of mostly local materials and should be designed and strategically placed for passive cooling and heating, and for comprehensive, holistic education that is lived and breathed on the campus. Food and drink—and fibers and other materials used on campuses-- should be mostly locally produced, processed, and prepared for consumption.

All folk involved the school system—students, staff, faculty, administrators, school board members, the larger community—should be knowledgeable about the energy and material inputs/throughputs and outputs, and ecological footprints (including carbon, water, energy) of the school and school system, and involved in changing them for the better (effective communication, participatory/hands-on, decentralized/site-based management, lifelong learning/critical thinking). Various “renewable” energy sources, holistic and preventative systems of student health care, composting toilets and simulated-wetlands sewage-treatment systems and LEED certification at the highest level also need to be considered. (And of course we should have additional systemic and holistic “greening of the curriculum.” )

The picture I’ve painted in these previous two paragraphs is part of a dream, … a vision for moving toward a conserving and sustainable Seguin/local community. It most certainly won’t happen over night! … But it will never happen in an effective and efficient manner if we don’t start now!!

No one likes to hear that the schools and other components of our built environment--on which we’ve worked so hard, and sacrificed and struggled to build in an ethical fashion--should have been smaller and developed in concert with Nature and the Land. Established people in a local region don’t want to hear a relative newcomer (our arrival here in Seguin was 1985) spout off that the high tech, high-energy and -resource input ways of doing things—which we were particularly manipulated toward, taught and lived after WW II--were way off base. And we don’t want to hear and know that we can’t just tear down what we’ve built, and cannot just throw energy and resources and the “American”/can-do attitude at it, … and then magically fix it.

We Texans and Seguinites are a proud people, set in our ways. And all of us, young and old, in the US, Western Europe, Japan and other “developed” nations, and among the elite in the less-developed nations, have really become addicted to “big” and “consumption” and “wasteful lifestyles”--conventional air-conditioning and water heating, cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks, eating exotic product from all over the world which costs much in energy-units, etc., etc..

Nevertheless, we need to reach down deep and get some humility, all of us—the “wet behind the ears” and the “wise and experienced”—and begin to critically think about how to begin to lead our community into conservation and sustainability. We’ve got to learn to live lightly on the Land and compassionately attempt to provide quality life for all--everywhere and forever.

Therefore, let’s be brave, ethical and critically-thinking as community, and cautiously begin to accept the monumental challenge to develop a long term plan that involves a revamping of a local (Seguin) school district toward holistic ecological literacy and sustainable livelihoods/community.

Let’s begin to work hard to build small neighborhood schools in concert with Nature and the Land, that teach and promote ecological literacy and that give us hope for providing quality life for all for years to come.

(This wasn’t easy to write. … I sort of would like to just be a part of status quo--and doing a little gardening and picking native dewberries & grapes, and looking at the beautiful new calf crop, and efficiently reducing personal consumption/reusing/recycling, and bicycling to the Wellness Center regularly, and helping my wife, Mom and Mom-in-Law, and kids and grandkids—and not worry and struggle with real issues and real change toward conservation and sustainability.
But … .)