Cultivating Ecological Perception: Creativity within Undergraduate Explorations of Human Ecology and Ecological Agriculture

Hi all. I’m posting this link to an article I’ve just had published in the Plumwood Mountain Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics because it’s clearly relevant to the topics of non-nativist landcare and Flood Creek.

You can read the whole article by following this link:

Cultivating Ecological Perception: Creativity within Undergraduate Explorations of Human Ecology and Ecological Agriculture.

It is an exploration of several themes which emerged during my engagement with the subject ‘Human Ecology’–an integral part of the Ecological Agriculture degree at Charles Sturt University. These themes include human ecology, ecological agriculture, nativism, ecosysnthesis, rewilding, auto-rewilding and the anthropocene. The assigned task was based on Laura Sewall’s five tenets of Ecological Perception(1).

The Human Ecology subject encouraged students to utilise creativity whilst interacting with a living organism or place. It was an opportunity to investigate our personal subjectivity and ecological connectivity in an intuitive and expressive mode, allowing wide-ranging and interdisciplinary reflections to emerge. This mode of investigation can be contrasted with the more ‘objective’ and reductive methods of the ecological (and non-ecological) sciences utilised in other subjects of the Ecological Agriculture degree.

Throughout the degree, a strong emphasis was placed on the need to integrate these two modes of scientific investigation(2)–the reductive and the holistic–to facilitate ecologically informed approaches to agricultural endeavour(3).

Today, I’m full of admiration for the academics involved in creating this learning opportunity. I’m sure it was not an easy task. Further descriptions and justifications for the degree and its various subjects can be accessed via the references section of the article.

In this perilous era of human existence many voices call for new perspectives and new approaches in agriculture and elsewhere. These will not emerge without opportunities for creative exploration of possible alternatives. Hats off to those who labour to provide those opportunities.


Post references:

(1) Raman, Anantanarayanan (2013). Linking Holistic and Reductionist Approaches: Teaching of the Undergraduate Subject Introduction to Ecological Agriculture The Agricultural Education Magazine, 85 (4), 22-24

(2) Sewall, L. (1995). The skill of ecological perception. In T. Roszak, M. Gomes, & A. Kaunder (Eds.), Ecopsychology: restoring the earth, healing the mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

(3) Cochrane, Kerry (2007). Artistic Expression as a Means of Creating Holistic Thinkers in the Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, 3 (1), 63-70

3 responses to “Cultivating Ecological Perception: Creativity within Undergraduate Explorations of Human Ecology and Ecological Agriculture

  1. Thanks Ben. One of many questions that came to mind reading your informative study is, how many people per acre will be required to service your productive landscape if we are to increase output levels inlign with rising population predictions, not to mention living standards… I think I am in favor of a ‘free for all diversity’ in Permaculture back yards but I can’t see how that translates to an increase in output. Robots in the wild maybe!

    • Hi Rob, not sure I can answer your question regards people per acre. It comes down to specific techniques, in specific landscapes, with specific non-human species components, which isn’t what the article addresses. Whatever we’re personally in favour of, it needs to accord with evolutionary and ecological logic and function. Feeding all those people in a way that doesn’t address these fundamental aspects of our biotic reality won’t cut it for very long. Not sure I understand regards the robots, but I’d say a tech fix for a lack of ecological function might be a bit of an oxymoron.

  2. Love this Ben!

    As someone who has compulsively slowed to observe and feel their environment and expressed these perceptions (since at least age 5) through an artistic practise I revel in your explorations and the valid ‘scientific’ observations that have ensued.

    The East was all over this a long time ago of course with the Samurai utilising Zen mindfulness (for the last millennia) for the very real (observable/scientific) benefits it bestowed (e.g.; surviving armed combat!)

    The Arts of the Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy, Ikebana and Martial Art all employed and deliberately exercised our mind’s capacity for looking beyond the black & white to see the Ying in the Yang (and vice versa) with the ‘grand labour towards integration’ eloquently captured in the philosophy of Taoism.

    True to your experiences Life’s ‘self organising’ quality and Nature’s ‘deep order’ are evident when we look beyond the ‘object’ and let go of our cultural bias and preconceptions to see the harmonious symphony of plants and other organisms (non – native and native alike) such as you find in the forest that has created itself by Flood Creek.

    Any strategies for stretching our intellects can only be celebrated as an opportunity to move beyond the mire of a ‘wilfully limited understanding of reality’ as exemplified by the environmental barbarism on Monkittee Creek and beyond.

    Loved your poetry too.


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