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ECOSOPHY Ecological Philosophy in the Classroom

Had I not spent long hours lying on the grass, watching or listening to those tiny beings, my brothers, perhaps I should not so well have understood how alive is also that vast earth which bears in its bosom all those infinitely small creatures, and carries them away with us into unfathomable space.

Élisée Reclus. The History of a Mountain, page 11.

Ecosophy is a term coined in 1972 by philosopher Arne Naess, pioneer of the concept of “deep ecology”. It derives from the Greek words Οίκος (“ikos”), meaning home or house, and Σοφία (sophia), meaning knowledge or wisdom, and expresses the idea that the sciences of ecology lead us to wisdom about our own existence. In expounding this new philosophical science, Naess was influenced by author Rachel Carson and her revolutionary book Silent Spring, which even as early as 1962  spoke of living in harmony with Nature rather than dominating it. Ecosophy is a set of theories, hypotheses, ethical values and activism all centred on harmony and communion with the global environment.

It sees the planet Earth as our home, our Oikos: a “home” that refers to much more than our town, city, region or nation. All the planet’s inhabitants share this Earth-Home, or, as Fuller described it, Spaceship Earth. This last idea was adopted by Élisée Reclus in his book The History of a Mountain, a celebration of life aboard a planet Earth that’s carrying us all on a journey through space. Explaining Sustainable Architecture in primary and secondary school from an ecosophical perspective helps us create thought processes which seek causes and effects inside and outside the local context, creating bonds between reasoning and commitment, between social/political activism and Nature.

My objective when teaching about architecture and sustainable cities in schools is to awaken the ecosophical awareness in each one of us through reflection, debate and analysis of our daily behaviour. Once we understand that everything is connected and we ourselves form part of Nature, there will be unity of purpose in all the acts we perform as citizens: all our actions as consumers of “things” will be coherent.

If I’m teaching about sustainable mobility, I won’t stop at the action of banning traffic movement or requesting such a prohibition: I’ll talk with the children or teenagers about why cars exist, the right to breathe clean air, the right to walk in safety, and the causes of haste and lack of time. Because it’s precisely TIME that people who can’t devote twenty minutes to holding their children’s hands and walking to school with them, laughing and joking, either don’t have or don’t want to have. We’ll also include workshops for building and drawing objects, but we shouldn’t let these distract us from the idea of shaping the way our students think. We must first teach them to THINK, and then to DO.

Another proponent of ecosophy was Felix Guattari, whose “molecular revolution” concept – the idea of fomenting “micro-revolutions” in minority groups to bring about revolution on a larger scale -is fascinating. One of those minority groups could be our pupils: we could start our own molecular revolution in our schools and colleges. Let’s take ecosophical conversation, debate and action into the classroom.

León Ferrari. Heliografías.

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Semisótano está formado por Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido y Juan José Ruiz Martín. Tienen más de 12 años de experiencia en la realización de proyectos de muy diversa escala: desde edificios públicos a pequeños trabajos de interiorismo. Atesoran varios premios de arquitectura internacionales y nacionales. Actualmente, residen en Londres donde combinan su actividad como arquitectos con el diseño de un programa educativo en la Architectural Association (Little Architect) con el que introducir la enseñanza de la arquitectura en las escuelas de primaria de todo el Reino Unido. La labor del estudio ha sido también la de acercar la arquitectura y el arte a la sociedad, impulsando proyectos culturales de toda índole. Son Co-fundadores, de la plataforma, SCAN, (Spanish Contemporary Art Network) que promociona artistas emergentes españoles en UK. Son miembros activos de ASA (Asociación Sostenibilidad y Arquitectura) y orgullosos padres de dos niños.

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