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What is ecoliteracy?

Ecopedagogy is a way of developing what's known as ecoliteracy.

But what is ecoliteracy, and how does it come about?
© Dr Ria Dunkley, University of Glasgow

Ecopedagogy is a way of developing what’s known as ecoliteracy. 

But what is ecoliteracy, and how does it come about?

Ecoliteracy is about developing a knowledge that humans are connected to everything else on the planet – animals, insects, plants, and rocks. Everything. 

The ‘eco’ prefix 

The ‘eco’ in ‘ecoliteracy, stands for ‘ecological’. Ecoliteracy asks us to look at the big picture. It asks us to ‘read’ our world by experiencing it directly so that the interconnections between the human and natural world come into sharper focus. 

Our relationship with our environment constantly changes on a personal and planetary scale. Climate Change itself is a ‘wicked problem’, meaning that figuring out how we lessen the effects of climate change or change how we live with it is a complex process. There are, for example, unintended consequences of climate solutions. 

As a result, supporting critical ecoliteracy must recognise that there are no static ‘climate solutions’ that can be shared with learners, who can then put these solutions into practice unproblematically.  

Ecopedagogy, therefore, requires us to react quickly to changing present contexts. Ecoliteracy isn’t something that can be learned in one sitting. Instead, it is a lifelong process and is, therefore, at least in part, self-directed learning that might happen through our formal education, culture, lived experiences, newspapers and websites we read, and TV. Our political beliefs also shape how we view climate change and environmental crises. 

Critical ecoliteracy

Because ecoliteracy is formed through formal and informal education, a critical reading of our ideas about our relationship with the natural world is needed. 

What has become known as critical ecoliteracy involves recognising that when we come to the classroom or other learning places, we come with pre-existing understandings of the relationship between the human and the natural world and our place within it. 

It might be the case that, until meeting with ecopedagogy, the connections between the human and natural world have not been much questioned by the learner. In formal education and through many things we read and watch on TV, we are encouraged to place ourselves above other animals and to view ‘nature’ as something from which we can extract useful things and as a stage for acting out our lives. Yet it is becoming less and less possible to buy into this falsehood as the effects of living with climate change are being felt all over the planet. 

Critically reading our relationship with our environment.

We can imagine ways this relationship might differ by deconstructing and destabilising what we know and believe about our relationship with our environment. We might do this by, for example, looking to first-nation communities to appreciate how the ability to be connected to nature is threaded through ancient ways of thinking and continues to exist within many cultures in the present day. 

Ecoliteracy isn’t just about understanding

Importantly, ecoliteracy is not just about destroying what we understand about our relationship with the natural world. It’s also about rebuilding, enabling action by everyone, everywhere, on the serious issues of environmental crises and climate change. 

© Dr Ria Dunkley, University of Glasgow
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Ecopedagogy for Beginners: Putting Climate Change Education Into Action

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