I added the extra “ness” because understanding the interconnected nature of, well, nature is becoming increasingly crucial. Sort of like our lives depend on it. Because they do. But it isn’t just the interconnected nature of nature that matters. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Try this. Close your eyes. Well, not quite yet. Read this first. When you are stressed, scared, and needing a momentary break and respite, where do you go when you close your eyes and imagine yourself in your “happy place?” Where do you imagine yourself walking, sitting, pausing as life accelerates around you? Okay now, close your eyes and do that for a moment.
For me, I’m in a canoe on north woods lake. Most individuals picture themselves in a serene setting of some kind. So then, why is it that while most of us recognize the absolute necessity of such natural spaces, when it comes to choosing who represents us, policies we support, actions we take, we first choose expansion of gross domestic product, economic expansion, and convenience before we choose preservation of such spaces? Because we’ve been told we have to and we’ve been taught to deny the reality of the interconnectedness.
Actually, it doesn’t matter if you choose such spaces as your preferred place of respite or if you prefer a crowded metropolis where the only other life you readily see is other humans. You are still equally interconnected within the biological and geological systems that support life on the planet. I could write a book describing the depth of those interconnections. In fact, I have, so I’m not going to dig deeper into that here. Most of us know this, even if you don’t know the proper scientific names, theories, and systems, you know it. We just are good at denying it. Because that’s easier.
But, we’re heading in a dangerous direction. And this is getting back to interconnectednessness (connectedness beyond nature). It builds on what I wrote about last week in Now is Not the Time for Safe Mode. There is an intersection between climate change as well as other environmental issues and equity, racism, economics, politics, and education. Every environmental issue that impacts us here in the “developed” world has a greater impact on those in the “developing” or “third” world. Every issue that impacts those in the upper class and caste in this country impacts those in the lower caste and living in poverty first, more so, and for longer in the foreseeable future when and if remedies for such issues are actually implemented. They’re the first harmed and the last helped.
This connects then to education in two direct ways. First, we do not provide equal education throughout this country. Those with more means get an education that is more enriching, is more creative, more interdisciplinary, more authentic, and well more progressive (even if that label isn’t used) and therefore leads to individuals with stronger skills of critical thinking and in understanding interconnectedness. And those that are not so fortunate get back-to-the-basic drill and practice of reading and math.
This has been our mode the last 30 years in attempts to close the achievement gap. Slow down and teach less to those that are already behind. This means that they will never catch up. This is now what we are shifting to more and more to for all of our students, at least those in public education. To make it worse, we now have individuals (most of whom I suspect are the product of elite private education and send their own children to such schools) are attempting to reduce even further from the curriculum any teaching of history, and I am sure science is next, that makes an honest account and critique of our history and attempts to then develop thinkers able to build on and use scientific thinking to address ecological, societal, and political issues.
The danger is that fewer and fewer will have the education, wealth, and access to natural resources, and more and more will be subject to those with power that comes with all that privilege.
Are you familiar with the adage that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water it jumps out, but if you put a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly heat it, it will stay in the water even when it gets too hot and so will eventually die? I’ve never tried it, but I doubt it’s actually true. The frog’s lower brain (pretty much all it has) will sense the danger and put it into flight or fight mode. It will flee the pot.
Humans have this same lower brain. In fact, as I wrote last week, this lower brain takes over and interrupts any learning when it detects danger. We’re the frog in the pot. And our lower brain is telling us that we’re in danger and we need to focus on getting to safety first. But in this case, our upper brain is telling us no, to not trust our lower brain. In this metaphor the upper brain is the segment of our population with a vested interest in continuing the status quo, and so invested in their own short-term wealth and power acquisition they are denying the reality of our interconnectednessness.
I want to leave you with a song by Eliza Gilkyson titled Runaway Train. This is a song from 2008. We’ve known for a long time the issues we face. The water is nearing a boil, and we can continue our denial, or we can dig in, face it, which includes beginning early in teaching our children to see connections between systems and not just decode language and do arithmetic.
Runaway Train © 2008 Eliza Gilkyson
Everyone knew she was gonna be fast
Everyone said they could build her to last
10, 000 tons of hurtlin’ steel
Screamin’ round the curves nobody at the wheel
Everyone said don’t pay it any mind
There’s a pot of gold waitin’ at the end of the line
Just move with the eye of the hurricane
You’ll never get off this runaway train
Nobody cared when they piled on board
And the doors snapped shut and the engines roared
They pushed to the front
Some fell to the back
Buyin’ and sellin’ every inch of the track
Deep in the engines fire in the hole
Dark skinned workers shovelin’ coal
All singin’ their sad refrain
We’ll never get off this runaway train
Up in the diner everybody decked out in their finery
Can’t see the wreck comin’ up ahead
With their bellies full of wine
It’s the last thing going through their minds
So proud of the engine proud of the speed
Call for the porter give them everything they need
Stare through the glass feel no pain
Don’t even know they’re on a runaway train
Long after midnight a pitiful few sound the alarm
Don’t know what else to do
Bangin’ on the doors of the cabin and crew
Hey we gotta slow down or we won’t make it through
Sleepy riders don’t want to wake
Or suffer the shock when they put on the brake
Don’t want to question , don’t want to complain
Rather keep ridin’ on this runaway train