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of capitalism has resulted in dramatic improvements to the welfare of scores of people in industrialized nations. At the same time, our infatuation with these ways of

thinking has resulted in many of the global ecological and social crises we see today. It has legitimized the side-effects of “progress”—deforestation, overfishing, etc. We concede that modern science’s conception of the laws of nature, rooted in Judeo-Christian religious thought, has fuelled European expansion and the decimation and devaluation of indigenous peoples worldwide.4

As Gregory Bateson has pointed out,

“The major problems in the world are the result of the differ- ence between how nature works and the way people think.”

Shining a light

Leonard Cohen sings: There is a crack, a crack in every- thing. That’s how the light gets in. By showing students the “cracks” of ecological thought, we can offer them the potential to see the world in entirely different ways.We can explore with students other viable ways of thinking to balance those to which we currently oversubscribe. Of course, there is no need to vilify particular beliefs among our students. But the thoughtprints which may serve us best in the long run as we seek true sustainability may well be the most varied and complex. Recently I attended an educational tour of a watershed.

The site interpreters were highly skilled in communicating the need for greater appreciation and conservation of such a precious “commodity” as water. However, they failed to challenge the modern cultural perspective on water— that “it” is a mere non-renewable compound for human exploitation, a secular substance without any inherent purpose beyond utility for consumption, process and profit. Participants did gain information, but they left with their thoughtprints—and hearts—untouched. However, when we experience stories such as Teka-

hionwake’s (E. Pauline Johnson) The Lure in Stanley Park, we begin to open up to possibilities of diverse cognitive relationships with the elements of Nature. In this tale, the

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author describes a Coast Salish traditional view that what some might simply consider a so-called resource—a tree—is actually the embodiment of pure goodness. Trees, she writes, are “the kindly people, the humane, sympathetic, charitable people” transformed by the Great Spirit.5

Through criti-

cal contemplation of the beliefs of various societies, young people can discover that we are not chained to one lone way of thinking about the world or to any single story of truth. This brings us back to Plato’s allegory. To the cave

dweller, the shadows on the wall may be all that she or he has ever known, but they are not enough. The shackled cave dweller is not complete; nor are we as educators and students if we do not openly face ourselves. If that troubled young man came back now to ask, “What

can I do?” I would still tell him to change his proverbial light bulbs. After all, behaviour change is a certain part of any lasting ecological relationship. But I would also welcome and accompany him on a transformative educational journey to boldly confront our ecological thoughtprints.

Stephen Goobie is Vice Principal and teacher at Bodwell High School, an international school in North Vancouver, Brit- ish Columbia which promotes cross-cultural understanding. He is also a director of Cool North Shore, a regional climate change advocacy group, and is currently developing the Ecological Thoughtprint Analysis Tool for use by educators. Stephen may be contacted at stephen


1. Plato, Republic (“The Simile of the Cave”), Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974, pp. 240-48.

2. S. Goobie, Yes We Can: Sustaining a Language for the Land in Education (M.Ed. capstone paper), 2009.Website: < ing%20a%20Language%20for%20the%20Land.pdf>.

3. C. Ponting, A Green History of the World, London: Sinclair-Stevenson Limited, 1991.

4. S. Harding, “Is Science Multicultural? Challenges, Resources, Opportunities, Uncertainties”, in D. T. Goldberg (Ed.), Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1994.

5. E. P. Johnson, Legends of Vancouver, Toronto, Canada: McClelland & Stewart, 1961.


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