The Ecological Wisdom and Its Implementation

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The term ecological wisdom or 'ecosophy' was introduced by Norwegian ecologist, Arne Næss in 1972. It is a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium or wisdom of place, or a new name for a human attitude toward nature, which the human species has accumulated in the course of its evolution in nature. It is a wisdom that we need for sustainable participation in life activity and conscious and responsible citizenship in the global community of life.

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However, only in the 1990s, researchers began to recognize the fundamental role indigenous wisdom plays in local resource management and started to consider its capability in providing insights into sustainability. Right now there is a growing interest in ecological wisdom in the field of ecological practice, ecological research, planning, design, construction, and management. This renewed interest is occurring because of acknowledgement that recent environmental problems are based on forgotten environmentally friendly practices or “the right way to do the right thing in a particular circumstance” (Schwartz & Sharpe, 2010). The ecological wisdom is anticipated to revitalize ways for practitioners and researchers to perceive, understand, and interact with nature.

And of course ecological wisdom is recognized by educators. At the same time, reclaiming ecological wisdom through rethinking education does not mean to borrow or reproduce the teachings of those cultures, but to learn what is valuable to us by acknowledging their relevance and immeasurable worth in a time in which modern Western values do no longer offer certainties. With the same attitude, we can see that most of what we need for creating sustainable human communities can be learned from how nature sustains life in ecosystems, which are communities of organisms sustainable by definition. According to many scholars the survival of humanity will depend on our ability to recover ecological wisdom, on understanding the basic principles of ecology and to live accordingly. Reclaiming ecological wisdom points to the possibilities we have to develop a culture that values and acknowledges human interconnectedness with the rest of nature and is able to guide human actions in the light of this awareness. The first fundamental step toward ecological wisdom is therefore to recognize the philosophical and epistemological assumptions and patterns of thinking that, in the increasing globalized industrial consumer culture, are at the basis of the dominant worldview and thus influence our perceptions and relationships to the environment.

Ecological wisdom also found its implementation in politics. Green Parties list ecological wisdom as a key value — it was one of the original Four Pillars of the Green Party and is often considered the most basic value of these parties. In general, Green parties or politics is a political ideology that aims to create an ecologically sustainable society rooted in environmentalism, nonviolence, social justice and grassroots democracy. Ecological wisdom according to this ideology is “whatever we take from the earth, we must give back to the earth.” To uphold ecologically wise values, people must determine what can be done to practice sustainability in their own daily lives and then tackle the vast problems confronting all of us – pollution prevention, waste management, renewable energy and energy efficiency, conservation, liberation of animals from cruel practices, biodiversity, and enforcement of environmental laws currently not in force. For example, Canadian Green Party express ecological wisdom through several statements: we acknowledge that human beings are part of the natural world and we respect the specific values of all forms of life, including non-human species; we acknowledge the wisdom of the indigenous peoples of the world, as custodians of the land and its resources; we acknowledge that human society depends on the ecological resources of the planet, and must ensure the integrity of ecosystems and preserve biodiversity and the resilience of life supporting systems.

But the main question is still opened: how can we combine recent developments of modern technology, science, cultural expression and business-as-usual practices with ecological wisdom? Can we turn societies back to the knowledge which the human species has accumulated in the course of its evolution in nature. It seems hardly possible in our days. Therefore, it is only possible to hope that ecosophy or ecological wisdom should find new expression through environmentally friendly technologies which can help to save the planet which can be expanded with proper values in the societies, as fundamental problems of sustainability are not primarily technological, but rather concerning values, attitudes, and perceptions. If there is no deeper recognition of limits and dependency on healthy ecosystems, more efficient technologies can be used to destroy nature more efficiently, to expand its commodification, and to ensure that an ever-increasing part of the world population takes part in the consumerist economy. Therefore, an ecological education plays a crucial role in preparing responsible citizens who truly care about preserving life and are able to apply their ecological understanding to the re-design of our technologies and institutions, so as to truly adapt human communities to the ecologically sustainable systems of nature.

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