Taking Stock of the Ecological Thoughtprint

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September 10, 2011 by sgoobie

Every so often, it is important to pause and take stock.  Doing so allows us to summarize ideas worked out so far, and to consider what lay ahead.

The overall aim of this site is to explore and establish the concept of the Ecological Thoughtprint.  It is important to attempt to do this not in isolation but in dialogue with other thinkers and advocates.  Through this dialogue, we must avoid the dangerous mentality that we have all the answers.  We must take an approach full of questions and wonderings.  It’s a challenging, complex, daunting and often bewildering process.  But would we expect tackling some of the greatest issues facing our societies today to be any simpler?  I hope not.

Here then are some of the ideas discussed and established to date:

  1. The main idea behind the Ecological Thoughtprint concept is that our ways of thinking – providing the foundations for our cultures and beliefs – and our ecological actions impacting the Planet are intimately connected. How societies think is related to what these same societies choose to do, how they choose to organize themselves, and how they arrange their relationships with the natural world.
  2. The Ecological Thoughtprint is a description of the specific ways of thinking related to Nature in which societies, organizations and individuals attempt to legitimize their activities (e.g. mining, clear-cut forestry, agricultural practices, etc.).
  3. When we directly challenge the ways people commonly rationalize their actions, we open up the possibility for change.  In turn, when we explore different ways of rationalizing alternative actions, we help to legitimize these new ways of living.
  4. It is important, when considering our shared ecological crises (e.g. climate change), to go beyond the obvious (e.g. carbon emissions), as superficial thinking may lead only to temporary “solutions”.  If our aim is true sustainability of all life, then by any definition it is important to seek actions based on more complete understandings.  “Why?” is a question we need to ask, and to encourage younger generations to ask, at many levels and from multiple directions.
  5. In recognizing our own ways of thinking, particularly those held by industrialized societies, we may realize the inherent consequences of our actions on the air, water, land, and fellow living beings.  We may recognize the need to rebalance extremist ecological views to which modern societies cling.
  6. The Ecological Thoughtprint approach may help us recall and revitalize different ways of thinking, allowing for renewed ways of relating to the natural world and our animal kin.
  7. Although it is a reductive approach, we may generally think of ecological thoughtprints as existing along a continuum of diverse ways of thinking, from modern ecological thoughtprints to alternative ecological thoughtprints.
  8. Modern ecological thoughtprints are grounded in ways of thinking such as scientism, mechanism, dualism, utilitarianism, and so on.  It is in institutions like schools that we generally find young people pledging their allegiance to the modern ecological thoughtprint.  This is problematic if we decide that one of the roles of schooling is to assist future societies in their shift toward sustainability.
  9. We as educators need to question our own assumptions about our relationship with the natural world. Not to do so is to do a grave disservice to our students and our practice.
  10. Absolute faith in modern ways of thinking has left younger generations adrift, as they vainly fill spiritual voids with materialistic, consumerist and technological “drugs”.  Now more than ever, we need to help young people find more meaningful and fulfilling life purposes which do not degrade the air, water and land and put the Planet’s systems at risk.


This has been our journey so far.  What’s next?  There are many areas of discussion which stand out.

  1. How can we understand the ways of thinking of the modern ecological thoughtprint?   Seeing how  scientism is such a central part of this, what are the key assumptions of Western science?
  2. Where did these modern ways of thinking come from?  Why do they persist?
  3. How do these ways of thinking influence our ecological footprints?
  4. What are the alternatives?  Where can we find them?  How do we know that they may help?
  5. How do we steer people to become aware of and understand their own ways of thinking?  How can we help them open up to alternative perspectives and resultant ways of living on the Earth?

There is much to explore, but we can take comfort in the fact that these questions have been asked and explored by many great minds for many, many ages.  Indeed, we must admit that there is little new or innovative about the Ecological Thoughtprint concept.  It too stands on the shoulders of giants.  All considered, the Ecological Thoughtprint is merely a synthesis of many thinkers’ work – past and present.  Nevertheless, we may find it a useful “repackaging” of environmental philosophy which may prove more accessible to educators and their pupils.  Ecological Thoughtprints may, with much mental exertion and devotion, just be the thing we need to take the conversation to the next level.



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