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meant to suggest that the problem goes much deeper than our environmentally informed educational, economic, religious, and political systems have been able to address thus far. That is also not to say that the environmental movement has no potential to effect further change. But the persistence of institutions that contribute to social and ecological injustice is troubling.
The rise of obesity and diabetes (including in young children) due to increasingly sedentary lives and un- healthy nutrition is troubling. The replacement of “biophilia”, which Edward O. Wilson described as “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life,”2 with videophilia, “the new human tendency to focus on sedentary activities involving electronic media,”3 is troubling. And the apocalyptic, violent, militaristic, and individual strength-glorifying content of much of the video material is equally trou- bling. It is also worrisome that, as a recent poll indicated, although ecological literacy has increased over the last 40 years in terms of introducing a recognizable ecological vocabulary into the English lexicon, the meanings and implications associated with that literacy have not been internalized enough to translate into understanding basic ecological challenges we face today, such as global climate change, habitat loss, pollution, water and food scarcity, and overpopulation.4 These persistent trends in American life suggest that the environmental movement has not had a serious-enough effect on the American culture. Our core orientations to the world are persistent in leading us astray. We might do well to consider that the problem is not merely a matter of getting the facts right. Although they entail both intellectual and visceral dimensions, the issue lies at the core of our self-understanding and worldview.
“We achieve the presence of the world around us,” claims Alva Noë.5 This is to say that we play an active role in the way in which the world is present for us. Our core concepts about the world and our place in it function to interpret our sensory data. Experience and perception are the result, therefore, of both the presence of the world around us, and our own processes, conscious and subconscious, of making sense of it. The “sense” that we make is grounded in the core metaphors that literally define how we see the world – that inform our concepts of how the world works, what it means, and what part we play in it. That core metaphorical structure is built upon by further experience. It is mutable, but for the most part we tend to adhere to our worldviews, and we interpret our experience in ways that cohere with our core conceptual structures.
George Lakoff helped shed light on this phenomenon in his analysis of liberal versus conservative worldviews. The former, he claimed, used a core metaphor of nurturing parent, while the latter used that of a strict father. Unless one understood the underlying terms of the language being used and the metaphors employed, one could not counter the arguments effectively (he was speaking to liberals who struggled to contend in a conservative framed debate). He claimed that people tend to vote according to their identitites and values, even what it could be con-
trary to their own economic self-interest.6
How, then, do core symbols change? How do we alter the core perceptual tools we use to interact with the world around us? A teaching approach is not sufficient. First-hand contact with the complex communities of life around us can, for those who are still open to it, provide that revelatory breakthrough that allows understanding to follow. Understanding follows love, which both lays the ground- work for deeper knowledge gained through respectful interaction, and in
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