Eco-education or ecotherapy?

I see facilitating change for sustainability as a therapeutic process – one concerned with identity and healing, that is to say with “the self” and “becoming whole”. Facilitating this type of change is therefore ecological therapy – ecotherapy. At once it heals the self and the whole. It has to, they a completely interdependent.

There has been a lot of tension over the years – not least in my own heart – about whether or not the work I do is education or therapy. The answer is simple, it’s both.

It’s eco-education because it intends to ‘bring forth’ (from the Latin ‘educāre’). To allow people to bring themselves into the world and receive what it has to offer. A dialogue that creates a better understanding and experience of life. In eco-education this naturally leads to an integration of self with the rest of nature.

It is ecotherapy because if we are to survive on this planet we must understand that we are part of it. Our psychology reality has to align with our ecological reality. This means that we have to inhabit a much wider sense of self. Ultimately this is a process of becoming complete, or whole. The etymology of healing is ‘to become whole’.

This creates a huge amount of confusion. Am I facilitating social change or helping people with issues like anxiety and depression? Both. Simultaneously. They require each other.

I have seen huge releases of creative energy and activism emerge exactly because someone has been able to face personal trauma through their experience of the wild. I have also seen personal trauma healed through learning how to face into the loss, despair and fear felt from ecological traumas like climate change and species extinction.

Ultimately both these processes: learning or healing, education or therapy are about the same thing. They are all about quality of relationship and that is where the work actually lies, whatever it is called.

Ecopsychology (Online)

My online ecopsychology course is now into its fourth year with around five people enrolled at any one time. The flexible and bespoke format of the course has proved really popular. The inclusion of self-guided outdoor sessions has become a central element for most participants, providing an experiential foundation for their theoretical exploration.

It’s fascinating that almost half the course participants are from overseas including from South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Sweden and Australia. The flexible session times fit around time zones and the learning process allows a diversity of cultural contexts.

Participants have brought a huge range of aspirations and interests to the course. It’s been a inspiring journey working with such a rich mix.

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New Natural Change Project Report Published!

I’m very excited to announce that the WWF ‘Natural Change: Catalysing leadership for sustainability’ report was published by WWF Scotland today.

The report was launched at an event at the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, where project participants talked about their experiences and how the project has influenced their leadership work in the education sector in Scotland.

Co-authored by Margaret Kerr and I, the report is available online and in print.

Download a PDF copy of the report…

Email for a printed copy of the report…

Visit the Natural Change website…

Email the report’s authors…

 

Beware the Pseudo-Environmentalists!

First published in The Great Outdoors Magazine.

One of the first things I do when I run an eco-education course is introduce the “Environmental Spectrum”. One end of the spectrum is ‘grey’, the other ‘deep green’. Points in between get progressively less grey, and increasingly greener. The object of the spectrum is to help people understand differing perspectives and viewpoints that exist towards environmental matters – even within the ‘environmental’ movement.

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Education for the Real World

It is time for you to learn how to drive a car. The driving instructor takes you into a room full of tables and chairs, the walls covered in shelves lined with books, at one end of the room is a black-board. The instructor takes a book off one of the shelves and hands it to you. The title is “How to Drive a Car”. The instructor then leaves.

After you have read the book, you go outside, get into your new car and drive off. Within five minutes you have crashed.

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Go with the Flow

I am poised leaning backwards out over a 60-foot drop into a roaring abyss. My harness tightens around me, the rope taught between my abseil device and the deeply rooted tree around which it has been wrapped. I take a few more steps backwards, fighting through dense undergrowth, and I am free.

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