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
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 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.
Earth 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.
Earth 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
If we don’t, humankind will drift into
“ultimate catastrophe.” Earth Literacy’s budding curriculum is about
awakening from that delusion.
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
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
You are the being in whom Earth is
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 and irrepeatable.6
1No Limits to Learning:
Bridging the Human Gap
James W. Botkin et al, Pergamon Press.
2Earth In Mind,
David W. Orr, Island Press.
& the New Science,
Margaret J. Wheatley, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Dream of the Earth,
Thomas Berry, Sierra Club Books; The Universe Story, Thomas Berry
and Brian Swimme, New Story Productions.
Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads, Gil Bailie, The Crossroad Publishing Company.
of the Earth” audio tape, Miriam Therese MacGillis, Global
Literacy Notebook by Mac Smith