Earth Literacy offers ever-greater understanding of
the evolution of the Universe and the interconnectedness of all
being. Rooted in evidence-based knowledge, this cosmological context
informs a worldview, guides all fields of study, and inspires social
change. Earth Literacy recognizes Earth as educator and honors the
wisdom found in Earth systems as well as the mystery and numinous
beauty within the Universe. Earth Literacy allows us to discover our
role within the story of Earth and the Universe, transforming our
beliefs and actions so as to create mutually-enhancing, sustainable,
resilient relationships with Earth’s community of life.
What is Earth Literacy
(Founder of the Earth Ethics Institute in
gives students great power to manipulate and control the natural
world. But it does not give them an ethic for wisely using that
Literacy is an environmental movement in which life on earth is
seen to be at a turning point. The turning point is a
crisis in our perception of reality. To respond to that
crisis, we are beginning to rethink the way we live our workaday
lives. The shift to Earth literate living requires a
radical change in perception – as radical as the change our
ancestors made from seeing themselves as a part of a flat,
earth-centered, unchanging universe. To live at such
a moment of change is a gift and an honor.
Literacy grew out of a “communion” agreement made when
individuals from three farm-based learning centers, two colleges
and a university, met to build relationships that would enrich
the Earth in the bioregions where they lived. The term
“communion” was chosen because it described the binding force of
the Universe in Thomas Berry’s new cosmology.
Literacy is a budding curriculum aimed at freedom. Albert
Einstein said that we are prisoners of a delusion.
Delusion causes us to endanger our species and our planet.
When we entered the modern scientific age, all of reality
changed except the way we think about it. Our old way of
thinking is our prison. We think we are separate. We
do not calculate nature’s losses as our losses. We imagine
we are in control of the natural world. We try to
manipulate and fix nature as we would a machine. That is
why Earth’s capacity to sustain and regenerate life is
diminishing. For humans to continue on Earth, Einstein
said we will have to master a new manner of thinking.
we don’t, humankind will drift into “ultimate catastrophe.”
Earth Literacy’s budding curriculum is about awakening from that
The literacy crisis is most severe
in prestigious universities and colleges. The best
educated people are most imprisoned by the delusion Einstein
described. Education gives students great power to
manipulate and control the natural world. But it does not
give them an ethic for wisely using that power. Earth
Literacy expands the meaning of literacy. It measures our
ability to participate constructively in Earth’s evolutionary
process. It teaches us to become conscious members of the
wonderful society of all living and non-living beings.1
Evolution has readied us for this
moment in life’s story. The truth we need is inside us.
It is a truth that must be felt, not merely analyzed. The
root word for education, educe, means to draw out.
Education’s task is to draw out our affinity for life. It
is to “open our souls to love this glorious, luxurious, animated
planet.” The bad news is that industrial-utilitarian
education is too bewildered (wilderness-severed) to draw out the
truth that is in us. The good news is that our own nature
will help us awaken to that truth, if we let it.2
Quantum physics, self-organizing
systems and chaos theory are teaching new ways of thinking about
reality. The new ways are like the first chart books and
maps used by early explorers. The maps point in new
directions. They describe landmarks never seen before.
They challenge us to reshape our fundamental world view.
They help us understand our bewilderment.3
The human story is one climax in a
14-billion-year journey. We are participating in the
creation of an ecological age. Whether humans continue to
exist in that age will depend on new relationships:
relationships between humans and the natural world, between
humans and the cultural world, and between humans and the
violent world. We must recognize the role sacred violence
has played in creating and maintaining our world.4,5
You are the being in whom
awakening and becoming conscious, aware and self reflective.
You are the Universe thinking about itself. Your
consciousness, the human consciousness, is switching Earth from
automatic to manual control. On automatic control, Earth’s
finely balanced creative processes kept life sustainable.
The most profound questions we face is can humans achieve the
wisdom and maturity needed to do on manual what Earth did on
automatic for billions of years. As one tiny, fragile
person, your life is significant. You are irreplaceable
Limits to Learning: Bridging the Human Gap
James W. Botkin et al, Pergamon Press.
In Mind, David W. Orr,
& the New Science, Margaret J. Wheatley, Berrett-Koehler
Dream of the Earth, Thomas Berry, Sierra Club Books; The
Universe Story, Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, New Story
Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads, Gil Bailie, The
Crossroad Publishing Company.
of the Earth” audio tape, Miriam Therese MacGillis, Global