Below some examples of the links between the environment and…

Environment and Culture
A culture is shaped by local natural environments and by patterns of human activity, as well as the meaning that is given to these. Climate, soil composition and access to water will determine how people build their settlements, what plants are harvested and what animals live there, what is eaten and how the food is prepared. Plants and animals will also determine the choice of which materials are used for building, which fabrics are used for clothing, how much of the body is covered, and which pigments and materials are used for decoration. Personal awareness and experience of the inner and outer realms, a reverence for all of creation, the recognition of inter-related and interdependent relationship with all life forms, resulted in the wish to maintain right relationships that formed the basis of peoples’ sacred ways and of communal rituals and celebrations. The type of culture that develops will also determine the type of learning environments available to the people making up a tribe, a community or a nation.

Environment and Spirituality
The more people depend on their environment the more that shamanic and animistic elements are likely to infuse their belief systems, as is the case in many of the native indigenous nations of this world. There are many cultures that do not experience a separation between the spiritual and temporal, nor do they perceive a separation between themselves and other expressions of life. The Dakota people’s Mitakuye Oyasin says it all, two words that mean all are my relatives and signifying an intimate living relationship between all that is, each living through this web of life, the seen and the ‘unseen’, those who have gone before and those who are still to come. Spirit permeates all that IS, and this uncontaminated source is available to all. It is up to the individual to embark upon this ‘journey’ and to become one with this reality. Different cultures have different ways of attaining this ultimate goal and their environment becomes an intrinsic part of their journey. There are different ways and symbols to depict this individual journey that each person embarks upon, and cultures have a different way of describing this, though there are many similarities.

From time immemorial designated individuals of the indigenous nations had living links and worked intimately with realms that many people today in the industrialised countries do not perceive anymore. This does not mean that these realms do not exist. But there is another aspect that is often ignored: that many indigenous people do not only have a deep link to what they perceive to be the spirit-world, but also have a link to the great Spirit of a Nation, to the Guardian of a Nation. This wisdom and ‘key’ is still held by certain indigenous Elders and when speaking about the environment, then the inner landscapes of this world need to be mentioned and included. These inner landscapes also require tending and nourishing and there are few left who still have this gift and who do not only work on these levels, but at the same time pass on the knowledge, experience and guide others, to the next generation, for them too to see and experience this reality and teach others.

Environment and the Healing Arts
From the time that hunter-gatherers roamed the lands, individuals have observed and experienced the effects that nature has on all that lives. They discovered the power of plants, water and minerals. They also learned from the animals who in times of illness instinctively were drawn to certain plants and substances. Over thousands of years this knowledge has been past on and applied. Some created highly sophisticated healing system that is still being used with great effect and success today.
With readily available over-the-counter medicines and huge budgets dedicated to marketing these products, there is a danger that traditional knowledge about and methods of how to use these natural ingredients might be lost. It is crucial that this information be maintained for humanity and that the stewards and Elders that still have this knowledge pass this on through their traditional ways and lineages.

Environment, the Arts and Sciences
Local music tunes and dance patterns were often created by/through rhythmic daily chores, like the pounding of grains or agricultural activities and by mimicking animal sounds or movements. A science like astrology evolved from observing the effects of stellar activity on human and animal behaviours, on agricultural patterns, on tidal activities and was used as an accurate tool of navigation.

Language, writing and mathematical skills were required if people were engaged in commercial and diplomatic activities and exchanges with neighbouring tribes and regional clans. As such the language would visually incorporate signs of locally recognisable symbols and be written or etched on materials available locally.

Environment and Trade
Agriculture is thought to be only 10,000 years old, though 9 small carbonised 11,400-year-old figs found recently (2006) near Jericho may be the fruits the world’s earliest form of agriculture. However, this is mentioned in passing only, as it can be assumed that the earliest trade would have been in hide, meats, wool, bone utensils, milk, cheese, wild grains, fruits, pigments and items handcrafted with/from local materials, like pottery, bags, and clothing.

From interactions with neighbours and fellow travellers individuals would have some idea of their wider environment and incursions into other tribes’ territories would give people an idea of a multi-coloured tapestry of life-expressions, different vegetations, animals, people and cultures. This would reinforce the belief in the Four Directions, each with its different expressions and modes.

However, these directions were not limited to earth alone. Shamanic practices trained people to become one with the spirit of a tree or animal, or to ‘stand tall’ so as to reach the moon or the Pleiades and then describe to others what they saw and perceived. Individuals are still being trained in this practice. This ‘remote viewing’ is used by military and big businesses worldwide.

Environment, Development and Learning
Many organisations and institutions have dedicated resources to developing projects and aid-packages. Many successful projects have been undertaken and the Sahel today has more tree-cover than 30 years ago. Big environmental and development schemes were initiated, only to flounder years later, as important aspects had not been taken into consideration: in many cases local populations were not consulted, their traditional methods were not taken into consideration, nor their cultural contexts respected. Dialogue and cooperation are crucial elements and often the most successful way forward is to incorporate the best of the traditional methods and local knowledge with elements and technologies of the developed world.

Technological advances have allowed databases to be compiled of traditional sustainable methods used in other such biomes in other parts of the world and this exchange has proved useful. Local populations recognised elements of their own traditions and cultures and were more willing to try new ways. These are all opportunities for learning new ways and methods, new techniques and technologies. Many environmental projects included education and training, and this often led to employment.

Environment and Ecological Technologies
So that we can act in partnership with nature in protecting the complex life-support system of the planet, we also need to develop clean energy sciences and move towards a new sustainable and just economic and social system that makes a clear distinction between wholesome and cancerous forms of growth.

The Foundation supports the research and development of efficient clean energy systems that are affordable, universally applicable, sustainable and environmentally safe while also respecting the diverse cultural needs.

Since the 1980s the Foundation for Gaia has established links with the international co-operative network of advanced scientific thinking, the Planetary Association for Clean Energy Inc. (Canada)

Environment and Nuclear Waste Decontamination Technologies
This Project by the PACE Scientific Network is dedicated to the development and deployment of nuchear waste clean-up technologies that are efficient, low-cost and environmentally friendly. With this strategy the world’s nuclear wastes could be cleaned up within 20 years. Implementation of this programme is due to start in 2007.

The intention is to test and optimise over the next 2 years on site nuclear waste decontamination protocol development at laboratories of the National Research Council of Canada, Atomic Energy of Canada, the French Commissariat a l’energie atomique (CEA), the Japanese CRIEPI, the Irish RPII, and the Italian ENEA.

Environment and Water
There is a critical need in the poorest reaches of the world for clean water technologies that are simple to operate and maintain. Two thirds of the world’s population lives in rural communities or rural environments. In the coming decade current water stress is expected to increase by 35%. About 4 billion persons – half of the world’s expected population by 2025 (and to whom this strategy is directed) will require an additional clean supply of water. Much of this lack of water and sanitation is found in Africa and Asia. Even industrialised countries will have to remove groundwater and surface water contaminants ranging from bacteria to pesticides, fertilisers, herbicides, to gasoline additives, to nuclear wastes. There is a need for an integrated approach to these problems.

This leads to the next question: water as an inalienable human right, though the World Trade Organisation (WTO) sees water as a commodity through the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations for water distribution services.

Environment and Human Rights
While the environment is the womb for human life and without it human life as we know it would perish, it will come as a surprise to many that when searching under the Human Rights’ issues within a UN agency such as the OHCHR there is no category relating to the environment. And when it is mentioned, it is under such generic phrases as “The development of respect for the natural environment.” Much work still remains to be done on this front, especially on the right to natural resources, e.g. water and the right to food.

Environment and Racism
This is a link to an excellent article on Environmental Racism and Environmental justice. More can be said, but we are adding this already as this is something to watch out for when thinking about environment, especially in these times of globalisation. An example is the land-grab that is currently taking place, when huge portions of land are being bought from poor countries, people need to leave the area and often need to find new livelihood. Often water is also drawn into the equation. One could see the Malibya 100’000 hectares hybrid rice project in this light though they are keen to point out that they want Mali to strenghten its food needs. (link)  It is hoped that this will be the case, as precious water from the Niger river will be used for this, a 40 km canal being planned for irrigation of the rice-pads.

The list of links is by no means exhaustive and there are a number of other UN Human Rights Bodies, these links can be easily accessed. Unfortunately, the people most at risk are those without any help to outside sources and it is in these circumstances that the work of UN Agencies, NGOs and other organisations is so crucial. The UN OHCHR has a field presence on each continent and where human rights abuses are being perpetuated the UN OHCHR can be invited by a country to do so. When not invited by a country where severe human rights abuses are taking place, the country can be deferred to the UN Security Council. To do this requires that these abuses be proved and catalogued.

This takes time and people and organisations committed to do this work in dangerous conditions need to be protected. This work is crucial and individuals that are part of such international organisations as the International Federation of the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal, Amnesty International, Medecines and Reporters Sans Frontieres and the many people and organisations involved in this area are to be applauded. Those who are ready to be counted as defenders of human rights are invaluable champions, especially in times when many human rights abuses are being perpetuated in various parts of the world.

Environment and Education
To many people in developing countries education is not available. They are busy trying to earn a living and consider ‘education’ to relate to all that is important to individuals, their communities and their culture. The family is considered the most important schooling environment for small children and later on all activities the family is engaged in become the venue for teaching the required skills needed to earn a living – be it herding, agricultural, manufacturing, trading, healing, artistic, military or spiritual. Over many generations certain families develop lineages of specialised knowledge, many of these becoming places of excellence and offering instruction. On a more collective level the medieval guilds in Europe are such an example.
The natural environment will determine the activities individuals and communities are engaged in, and individuals will learn the skills that will be most needed. All the needs of a community need to be addressed, be this hunting, herding, building, clothing, food preparation, healing, etc. The number of individuals needed to cover specific needs will depend on the size of a community. The family and/or the Elders will often determine an individual’s career or this might also be determined through initiatory rites. In the majority of cases this will involve the male population. The women learn agricultural and herding skills, food preparation, bringing up children, sewing, fetching water and firewood.

Learning Environments

To many people education is not available, busy as they are trying to earn a living and for them ‘education’ is related to all that is important to individuals and what needs to be known in order to contribute to their families, their communities and their culture. The family is considered the most important schooling environment where children learn social interaction and learn to live in a particular natural environment while helping mum or dad with little chores. With time the young person takes on more work or takes responsibility for a certain area and in this ways learns from doing things while the more experienced person teaches and explains why it is done in a certain way and when, depending on circumstances. It is often from within the family environment that the required skills are taught and learned, be this herding, agricultural, manufacturing, trading, healing, artistic, military or spiritual. Those of the same trade would often meet in company and exchange views, and the modern term Company still denotes this educational impulse: of learning by doing. Another term, Union, also stems from the coming together of those of the same trade to safeguard their interests. These few examples already denote how education and trade are related and the requirement today of needing educational qualifications in order to even consider applying for a job, shows that education and the job market are inter-linked.

Cultural considerations: it is paramount for a nation to safe-guard this very important heritage which springs from its own unique environment, its peoples, animals and vegetation, imparting that unique blend of qualities which created those cultural characteristics and which are not replicable elsewhere and which are its greatest gift to humanity.

Learning environments are not related only to a social context but also to natural environments having evolved from these, and so we look at these within the context of education and learning. Contents:

Learning Environments

Formal and non-formal Education

Education in the Past

Education Today

Environment and Cultures

Environmental and Social Influences

Natural Education


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