On April 18, 1972, Karen, a
high school junior explained to her principal why she was quitting
school. "Dr. Miler," she said. "Neither you nor
the faculty can teach me what I want to know because what I want
to know is how not to be like any of you. What you teach is insane.
It perpetuates our destructive personal, social and environmental
Karen's words come to mind
more and more as I watch well-intentioned folks I love hurt themselves,
each other and the environment. Their best thinking about how
to solve our crucial problems has proven not to be as thoughtful
as it needs to be.
had decided to drop out of school after many attempts to "adjust."
She excelled as a student and Dr. Miler pleaded with her to remain.
He pledged that if she did, he would teach her anything she wanted
to know. That's when she told him he did not have the ability
to do that. She explained that the harmful effects of his thinking
and relationships depressed her. They showed that neither he
nor the faculty knew what she wanted to know, no less how to
teach it. That knowledge was unavailable to the public in 1972.
It is available now.
Today, most of us suffer from
denial. Although crucial information that enables us to improve
our relationships has become easily accessible, we seldom use
it because we are psychologically addicted to thinking we don't
need it and, in the name of normalacy, we deny having this addiction.
However, we also know that in the thirty years since 1972 the
destructive impact of how we think and relate has dramatically
increased. The population has doubled from three billion to over
six billion people. The mining and use of natural gas and oil
has more than doubled as have CO2 emissions. Earth's temperature
has risen one degree. Land conversion for growing wheat, corn
and soybeans has more than doubled. Almost half the Earth's wetlands
and forests are now gone. Crime, narcotics and abusiveness have
increased along with mental illness. Over 50 wars are taking
place right now. How sane is this? Costs are soaring. Where are
Although Karen's faculty played
their role well in school, they were a cross section of society
then and today. For example, despite the warning labels, 30%
of them smoked cigarettes. Because they protected others from
the smoke by providing themselves with a smoking area, they were
within their legal rights. Smoking was not, and is not, illegal.
Karen felt that if cigarettes became illegal, smoking and its
adverse effects would not stop. In her social studies paper she
wrote "It would be like deer hunting. In many states more
deer are poached illegally than are legally killed during hunting
season." In that paper Karen also said "We can't make
sense of how our society educates, governs and socializes us
simply because it is not sensible. I must stop learning how to
think like you think."
Karen discovered what most
people tell me they know. With respect to helping us sustain
happy, responsible lives out of harms way, our education and
socialization is no more effective than the warning label on
cigarettes. Karen was different than many students because, in
counseling, she learned something extra. She discovered the integrity
and value of her subconscious thinking. She found that she wanted
and deserved more than school provided. She began to realize
that the world and its people were at risk. Her paper said, "We
are in jeopardy. We don't just need information, we need an effective
process that enables us to build responsible relationships with
ourselves, each other and our planet. I want to learn how to
build supportive and cooperative, not competitive, relationships.
That is not happening in this school." She wrote, "To
teach it or learn it, you must live it. I have tried, in vain,
to achieve this here."
At a meeting, the faculty pleaded
with Karen to stay in school, for she was exceptional.
"I'm afraid to stay" Karen said. "The abusiveness
in the world scares me." She choked, "We are on the
brink of nuclear war. And the natural environment is deteriorating
so quickly there may not be a world for me to live in."
Her tears flowed freely. "There is nothing abnormal with
me feeling depressed at times. The hurt I feel is real. It comes
from knowing and watching people being killed and bird species
decline. I am tired of putting medicine on that hurt in counseling
and thinking there is something wrong with me personally. That
hurt will only disappear as we stop assaulting the world and
as sensitivity, peace and birds reappear. That is not happening
here. This school is contaminated; it's a subculture, a breeding
ground for our problems."
Mrs. Cook tried to speak. "Let
me finish please," Karen said, and continued, "The
school has just bulldozed the natural area on the building's
west side to build still another lawn. That area was not only
a nesting and feeding habitat for birds. It was a womb for all
forms of life, a place that I loved, where I could find peace
at lunchtime and after school. Compared to being in class, or
even in counseling, that place made sense. It was beautiful;
it felt right. I could go there depressed and safely feel all
the beauty and life that flourished there. In just a few minutes,
I would feel much better. I refuse to be touched by the thinking
here that has been bulldozed into such stupidity as to bulldoze
that natural area."
Dr. Miler interrupted, "Karen,
there was no choice. That was part of a legal contract from years
ago. We had to fulfill that contract or be sued. And some students
smoke marijuana in that area."
"I don't smoke marijuana,"
said Karen, "I feel sad for those that do. I feel even sadder
that the law says that I must spend half of my waking life indoors
in school. This environment is leveling paradise to make still
another lawn. Dr. Miler, you once told me that we learn more
from the world around us than we do from books and lectures.
I simply refuse to trash paradise or learn to do it. I refuse
to let you rub off on me any further. What's wrong with that?
It makes sense to me. Why aren't
you delighted?" She seemed stronger for her statement and
"Earth and its people
are at risk," Karen continued. "Every year in this
country, five thousand square miles of nature are bulldozed into
our built environment. How can you possibly teach us to deal
with such a massacre when you are engaged in it? What are you
thinking? What sense is there for me to sit in Social Studies
class to discover that our nuclear generating plants are dangerous
yet their total electrical output equals the energy this country
uses just to run hair dryers? That makes no sense. What do we
learn here that helps us stop using hair dryers? To be accepted
here, I feel pressured to use one, not to desist. Where is the
sense in that? In Biology, we learn that a decade ago Rachel
Carson showed everybody the danger in using pesticides and chemicals.
Since then, we have introduced thousands of new chemicals every
year into the environment. What are you thinking when you use
these chemicals on our lawns here? I don't want to learn to think
like that. What kind of a world is school teaching my mind to
build?" she asked passionately.
Dr. Miler calmly advised Karen
that the school did the best it could. If she left, she would
be truant and there would be consequences. She would not be able
to attend college. Karen replied: "I don't care. I choose
to learn elsewhere. It's too stupid here. Here, society sentences
me to live in an irresponsible mold, a change resistant, indoor
learning environment that assaults the natural foundations of
life. This environment is so boring, controlled and stifling
that most students are drugged out or into something that is
outlandish, self-destructive or socially harmful. I'm spending
close to 18,000 hours of my most impressionable, developmental
years in this nature-isolated school closet. That's like growing
up in a destructive culture."
Mrs. Cook, the English teacher,
objected, "I, and other faculty members, have taught you
repeatedly that these things don't make
sense." "Not really," Karen retorted, "You
merely say these things don't make sense. What you really teach
me by forcing me to be in this setting is that I must adopt to
being part of a runaway stupidity, not how to deal with it. Wake
up, Mrs. Cook! You don't know how to stop it so how are you going
to teach that? Am I supposed to just accept your belief that
the communists and minorities cause our problems? At church we
have a conflict as to whether it is right to subdue the Earth
as the Bible says. Isn't there a separation between Church and
State? You are not compelled here to subdue the Earth, so why
do you do it and teach it?" "This has nothing to do
with religion" said Mrs. Cook. "Maybe not to you."
Karen replied, "I have friends for whom that woodland was
a cathedral. Think about it, weren't the lives of our greatest
spiritual leaders shaped by profound experiences in nature?"
Smiling, Mr. Langely, the social
studies teacher said: "Karen, cheer up. You are going to
be the first woman President of the United States." Wiping
her tears, Karen stammered "Oh sure, the first president
with a prison record. State laws say I could go to juvenile prison
if I am truant. That sucks! I don't care, I'll take my chances.
Go ahead, turn me in. The law has me jailed here right now anyhow.
The big advantage to being in this jail is that I can walk out
and find a better way to learn. That's what I'm going to do,"
she stated confidently.
Karen's words bring to mind
a study done by a sociologist in Maine. It shows that the students'
level of morale in a high school is the same as the prisoners'
level of morale in a state penitentiary.
Karen found a solution, an
antidote that is now available to the world via the Internet.
She located a unique alternative school whose curriculum addressed
her discontents for it shared them. Its faculty and students
recognized that the disorders that Karen identified resulted
from people's acculturation within the consciousness and thinking
of industrial society. The school recognized that our indoor-living,
nature-exploitive way of relating and its associated problems
are seldom found in natural systems or in the consciousness and
acts of nature-centered cultures. There, a person's psyche is
genuinely plugged into the energies that natural systems use
to achieve nature's peaceful equilibrium. The relationships in
natural systems produce optimums of life, diversity and cooperation
without producing any garbage, without our insanity, pollution,
war or abusiveness.
school Karen found had invented a remarkable process, a tool
that recognized that natural systems sustain and flow through
us. It enabled its faculty and student community to think and
relate while consciously tapped into the balance and healing
powers of natural systems that thrived in them and in the environment.
Using the tool empowered the school community to build a comparatively
utopian subculture, one whose academics taught them how to benefit
while further using and teaching how to use the tool. Through
the tool, most of the disorders they formerly suffered transformed
into constructive relationships. A key factor in the unprecedented
success of the tool was that it included doing sensory nature-reconnecting
activities, backyard or backcountry.
In 1990 the essence of the
school's unique process was published as an award winning training
book Connecting With Nature. In 1993, the process was
translated into academically accredited principles and activities
that could be learned and applied through the Internet. The Internet
program started out as one basic activity. As people asked questions,
found successes and reported good results the program increased
in size and scope. Since that time it has grown into nine activities
and readings and been successfully taught over 125 times on the
Internet to over 1000 participants. The tool is called the Natural
Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) and it is sponsored by Project
NatureConnect at the Institute of Global Education, a non-profit,
special NGO consultant to the United Nations Economic and Social
The Internet program has now been published in a new book and
course, The Web of Life Imperative: regenerative ecopsychology
techniques that help people think in balance with natural systems."
In it, 36 co-authors enable anybody to master the elements and
enjoy the benefits of the Natural Systems Thinking Process in
12-35 days. (That's what Karen learned to do. She, by the way,
became a successful Environmental Lawyer and sustainability leader.)
The book empowers you with nature's potent antidote to many of
our challenging disorders. It helps you walk nature's socially
and environmentally responsible path to good health along with
rewarding relationships and livelihoods.
The The Web of Life Imperative as a book or Internet
course is described in detail at www.webstrings.org
results and economics order it there or here via www.ecopsych.com/orderbook.html
or by telephone 360-378-6313.
YOUR CHALLENGE: Do you think it makes sense for any person,
organization or cause not to include the Natural Systems Thinking
Process as part of what they do or teach? If i makes senses,
what are you going to do to help them, or yourself for that
matter, begin to use it?