The Sustainability Principle
 of Energy


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This website is devoted to revealing the essence of energy so humanity may thrive and our daily lives be filled with wonderment and awe. 
It is a labour of love, dedicated to our children.


Enhanced Hopes from  Shake Up!
 (Reflections on the 2014 NZAEE National Conference 
held in Christchurch Jan 15-17)

Place Christchurch. My place 1966-1986 from age 18 – the latter 17 years as a postie and a meter reader biking and walking all its streets, visiting tens of thousands of households year-in-year-out. I used to be immersed in the stuff of this place and now it informs so much of my being.

January 2014 and my arse is sore from biking this place. Grass flourishes and summer weeds flower where footpaths and mail boxes and meter boards used to connect households to the world. I still see the lives of the people who used to dwell in these streets of non-existent houses.

My first student flat has vanished. In 1968 my flat mate and I inadvertently set off the largest student demonstrations in NZ history when we discovered NZ's little known involvement in the US Omega Guidance System might make us a nuclear target because the Polaris Submarine fleet probably used it.

Our home at Creekside Community for six years awaits demolition. 
The land in this area of Christchurch has dropped 600mm while river bottom levels have risen 500mm.

I walk through my last home in Creekside community. Like other houses there, it is vacant awaiting the bulldozer, covered with messages of love from past inhabitants. Graffiti that resonates with rare meaning for me. (I am a school caretaker and I cannot afford to know the meaning of graffiti that I clean off the school walls and signs. It may communicate greater wisdom than our education system does and to know this would tear me up.)

Acres of barren, dusty, stony desert where Christchurch CBD used to be. I return to this blitzed area of the city many times. Alone. Just what is this deep, profound silence I experience in this place? I know I walk where many people died in the earthquake. I know so many households were transformed into confusion and anguish in a few twitches of the earth. It is almost as though I am listening for something. Meaning? Time for connections with my memories to occur?  Distant voices? Or is the silence a response to the enormity of the change?

People warned me of the latter, “You will be shocked how the place has changed since the earthquakes”. “You will be stunned and disoriented,” they said. “You will have troubling finding your bearings. I do”. They were wrong and perhaps I am listening to the silence for an explanation. Am I unfeeling? It is possible I lack compassion – that capacity is inherent in all human beings and the ego is ingenious at disguising it.

I feel the sun, watch the clouds and listen to the wind. The sun still rises over the Heathcote estuary and sets over the Southern Alps. The wind from the Antarctic is still cold and clean. The wind from Pegasus Bay is still cool and insistent. The wind from the Tasman Ocean and the Alps is still dry, hot and dusty. I have always been tuned to these heavenly bearings in this place.

Perhaps the answer lies beneath my feet? I resided on the various volcanic rocks, shingle beds, swamps, aquifers and sand-dunes that this city is founded upon. I remain aware of the geological mix and tectonic change that makes this place unique. Perhaps the resulting sensations of impermanence accounts for my lack of shock at the change?

Old timers living in the marshlands and coastlands back in the seventies had told me how these were known as the “badlands in the east” - places humans should not live but the rich elite in the well drained west of Christchurch found it convenient to house their labourers there.
Old market gardeners told me how their grandparents took drays loaded with vegetables across the city to the Market at Addington and returned from the adjacent city horse stables with their drays loaded with hay and manure to make the swamps more fertile. Old timers recalled Maori lore warning against living on these spaces while advising of their considerable food potential.

When I returned to this place in 2000 I was shocked to see this wisdom ignored on scale. The population increase had exploded. (1966 240,000, 1986 290,000, 2001 335,000) Acres of new roofs and tarmac motorways covered the jelly sand-dunes and fertile garden soils alike. And by 2000 I had become aware of the probability that human activities are destroying the balances of the skies and oceans that sustain us. I now knew that an enhanced tidal surge from some turbocharged storm in Pegasus Bay might soon reach Cathedral Square and suck the foundations from any buildings in its path. (2013 366,000 with nearby towns fast growing since earthquakes.)

So here I am standing in the CBD desert by Latimer square watching the seeming endless stream of cars flow by. Perhaps I am not so shocked and displaced by the demolition as many are because my bearings are more rooted in the skies and earth? How many of these people insulated in their speeding capsules are aware of where their food and water comes from and how their vehicle is exquisitely designed to convert the immense wealth potential of mineral oil into air pollution in most efficient way?  Probably over 12000 New Zealanders have died in car crashes since I lived in this place. Ten times that number have been crippled. Already this century countless others have been murdered, maimed and starved in the conflicts over access to the mineral oil required to sustain cars. Perhaps my mindfulness of this carnage gives me a radical perspective of the earthquakes?

My state of being on Tuesday evening when I bike to CPIT to register for Shake Up! is this: awe at the transient state of all things; silence as I reflect on the needless death and misery caused by the human ego with all its ingenious deceits; wonder at the existence of life; a sense of keen listening for answers to questions I cannot consciously formulate and a sore arse from the hours of biking the streets of this place. The tribulations I experienced at previous NZAEE conferences seem distant, insignificant, even hilarious, in this state. I feel open to anything. What will I learn? Will my beliefs be shaken up? Will NZAEE be shaken up?

A night’s sleep. Wednesday morning. Suddenly I am back in the Polytech marae being welcomed by the conference organisers. They all wear the high visibility vests worn by all the workers dismantling and reconstructing the city. Is this a sign NZ Environmental Education is being reconstructed too?
My diplopia makes it difficult to decide which of the duplicate faces I suddenly see as I draw close to people to share the breath during the hongi. I bang a couple of heads. My belated apologies now.

The Ngai Tahu panel discussion provides a fascinating insight into the state of our society. They are the next younger generation to mine and are articulate, passionate and knowledgeable. They are aware of the irony and humour in many situations. For instance, one member, a cousin of Education Minister, Hekia Parata, spoke of how in the 1990s  Ngai Tahu could not even get cheque books from the banks and sought the help of a PR consultancy. They were advised to strip away symbols of their Ngai Tahu identity and promote themselves as a modern corporation, which they did. She with her commerce degree became an icon of the new corporatised Ngai Tahu. This advice worked in that many doors now opened for Ngai Tahu.

Her wry smile indicated she could clearly see the implicit power play and denigration. However it became evident she is now part of this unsustainable, privatising corporate culture as she enthused about creating a year 1-13 campus for 1000 Maori students as a  response to their poor performance in Christchurch schools.
There are many reasons why Charter Schools are unsustainable. They tend to destroy a sense of place. They are also founded in the related delusions that there exists eternal cheaply extractable mineral oil and that we can convert the wealth potential of this amazing mineral into air pollution without care. In the last two decade New Zealand has accumulated billions of dollars of debt to provide the needless transport of students out of their places to distant schools.
At the same time Maori are some of the most itinerant people in this city, the education system here fails them on scale and they are most negatively impacted by NZ society’s abusive use of mineral oil.
It will be interesting to see if the Conference tackles this conundrum.

Another panel member alludes to the Age of Enlightenment. Now this is getting really interesting. I, like him, had been taught this had heralded a great era for humanity. My education is summed in this wiki, “The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals  beginning in the late 17th- and 18th-century Europe emphasizing reason and individualism i rather than tradition Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method...”  

An engraving from the 1772 edition of the Encyclopedie; 
Truth, in the top center, is surrounded by light 
and unveiled by the figures to the right, Philosophy and Reason."

Enlightenment? Reason? Now my work researching the deeper psychology and physics of our place in the life of our planet suggests this era may have heralded an age of unprecedented barbarism: the Anthropocene founded in waste and global despoliation. Such can be the superb trickery of the ego. Smile.

We are our symbols and our use of language simultaneously reflects and generates our state of being. The meaning of the “enlightenment” symbol was perverted in the 18th Century so the word became more associated with the freedom to enslave, extract and exploit. The “reason” symbol became less associated with sanity and more associated with the supremacy of logic and thought, thus enabling the ego to generate new dimensions of self-deceit.

As I track the etymology of the language of our modern Green Movement back to the reactions of the Romantic Poets to the early excesses of the Industrial Revolution and then back to Descartes I am increasingly reminded how the ego can so easily make us each our own worst enemy. I am repeatedly confronted with the question: could it be the “Environmental Movement”, which I hold so dear, is fundamentally unsustainable?

A Ngai Tahu panellist quotes an ancient kaumatua, “The Scottish and the Irish are Maori but the English are hard people.” The McArthur clan in me nods in agreement. Ah yes, those brutal English. Unlike Maori, we did not commit our whakapapa to spoken memory. Rumour is that when the rapacious English dispossessed us in the 17th Century they burned the Scottish Church registries to obliterate our Celtic culture. I can never prove my direct links to the legendary King Arthur now...

In the rosy glow of this shared experience it is easy to forget my English whakapapa. My mother, a “war bride”, was born and bred close to the City of London – nerve centre of perhaps the most brutal global empire in human history. It was she who taught me so much about the value of frugality, stewardship, truth and compassion in general. My righteous glow becomes tinged with humility.

English, Scottish, Irish, Maori. I am vitally informed by all these cultures in this place in the Great South Pacific Ocean where my family has lived for seven generations now. Maybe this conference will ask the deeper questions? Why have we adopted a use of the “science” symbol that strips it of any associations with compassion? Why do we embrace a use of the “arts” symbol that obscures the learning process? Why do we employ the “environment” symbol so it disconnects us from all? Perhaps, just perhaps, people are ready to explore for principles that explain this unsustainable behaviour?

Lunch: The sun. A tree. Food. A fellow human being. A confluence of these vital needs leads me to meet David McKay. Other delegates sit in circles in the sun. David sits alone, resting against the trunk of the lone tree on the lawn. I join him in the sweet shade of the tree. Soon our conversation is so stimulating I am forgetting to eat. We come from very different approaches.
His work on sustainability is informed by his explorations of the wisdom of Maori culture.
My work on sustainability is informed by my explorations of the ancient Indo-European wisdom of the English language and how we might transcend the trickery of the ego using the insights of the great principles of physics.
We are both concluding the Eurocentric model of education is fatally flawed and Environmental Education is, at best, unhelpful. We both propose radical solutions.
That scene on day one – the sun, the lone tree, food, the man alone – seems to portend something. I am not surprised that David’ presentation on the Friday morning is for me the most important one of the conference.

I choose the community garden tour for my Experiential Journey. It is not just because I have been involved in establishing one adjacent to Houghton Valley School. My experience is that community gardens can offer powerful insights into the socio-politics of a place. They can also be sources of hope. Our guide is such a source. Bailey Peryman is young, tall, gangly and weathered. He is wearing worn, leather boots that are broken open at the toes so they constantly seem pursed to take part in our conversations. I find myself addressing my questions to them too.

Our group exploring Agropolis

Whether we are gazing at a bed of vegetables or standing in one of the many gravel deserts of the CBD or sitting on the Avon River Bank, Bailey exudes dreams and questions of how we can engage people to repair these soils and waters so each place can again become a food source. There is never dispute in our group that each place can become sustaining again. Always the discussion soon moves to the invisible labyrinth of greed-driven institutions that control each place, to the people who use their power to capitalise on ignorance and catastrophe, to the deeper, often sad history of each place. I find hope in Bailey’s humour and the way he embraces impermanence. I am sustained by his quiet persistence in finding the potential for good amidst the destructive mania of the Christchurch oligarchy.

Our four-hour tour passes quickly. We have only walked a few blocks and yet I feel we have journeyed through many mountains and valley of this place. Such is the physical nature of culture in our minds. Suddenly I am seated in the cool cocoon of an air conditioned lecture room at Ilam. Dr Rod Carr, Vice Chancellor, is welcoming us to Canterbury University, my alma mater. The chilled air nips my sunburned skin. The contrast somehow keeps me mindful me of the reality I have experienced all afternoon in greater Christchurch and how different it is to the reality of this university room. Listening to the Vice Chancellor I marvel at the capacity of human beings to see the same thing so differently.

Dr Carr also speaks of change and opportunity. He speaks of how young people are flocking to Canterbury University because the old order of the city has been swept away and the city is now a blank slate. Young people no longer have to adapt to the status quo or leave. He speaks of how they now can be part of exciting opportunities created by the earthquake.

???! I know well that old order through working for the Christchurch City Council and visiting tens of thousands of homes across the city for decades. I have been bitten by the corgis as I crunched my way up the neat gravel paths bordered by box hedges to the Fendalton mansions where the entrance foyers are bigger than the Sydenham slum cottages I just visited. Feudal Britain transplanted in the antipodes.
I have watched with great sadness as that old oligarchy has used the trauma of the earthquakes and other events to strip away the civic structures I knew. My long-time friends here confirm the old order is now even more deeply entrenched. I hear the phrase "Disaster Capitalism" more than once.

How can such an erudite man be so oblivious to the truth of this place? I know the answer but still I wonder. I know the ego can easily deceive the most literate, numerate and articulate person but I still marvel at its ingenious trickery. Rod confirms my suspicions that my alma mater remains fundamentally feudal and is incapable of communicating the value of civics. It occurs to me that the corporate nature of these sophisticated, insular institutions is a triumph of the ego’s capacity for trickery – the notion that they are “universities” is a most hilarious deceit. They cannot sustain new generations of students.

Thursday and Friday morning are filled with key note speeches and seminars. It so happens that my choice of seminars means I do not need to stir from the main lecture room for any of the continuous presentations. They merge into a blur of talk, ideas and powerpoints. What follows are snippets that impinge on me so I think to jot them down. These vaguely literate notes fail to reflect the thoughtfulness and insights of the presentations. Anyway we are promised these will be available online soon.
Also what follows are my responses to these snippets, as I reflect on the sustainability of the conference.

I can say now that even as the presentations accumulate and merge into each other a significant change becomes clear amidst the blur. I become aware that a considerable transformation of the Environmental Education culture has occurred somehow.  My sense of excitement for our children grows as I listen to speaker after speaker, whether from New Zealand or overseas, conveying the same message. This message is summed up in one word. Place.

Now I feel I have to pause here and explain the enormity of this change before I note my responses to the snippets.

My background is different to most Environmental Educators in that in 1998-99 I came back to formal education after three decades of direct involvement in communities. The Environmental Education Guidelines  document was launched that year while I was at the Wellington College of Education. I can be described as a long-term greenie and part of me embraced the Guidelines document, for I appreciated its fine intentions and welcomed its focus on our care of the ecology that sustains us. I too railed against our policy makers for not making Environmental Education mandatory.

At the same time the Guidelines document failed to resonate with some deeper element of my psyche. It was formed nonsense I could not identify or articulate. I sensed something about it is deeply unsustainable. This became more apparent to me in 2000 when I was given the task of revising the world-leading Energy Action programme, which community institutions had funded into about 1400 of our primary schools.

I had intimate and extensive experience of the nasty surge of greed, brutality, secretiveness and deceit that occurred throughout the 1990s with the corporatisation and privatisation of the community-owned MEDs and Power Boards. What had been “service-driven” became “profit-driven”, enabling criminals and speculators to flourish. Also in 1993 the practice of energy efficiency was effectively made illegal and it was heartbreaking to witness the consequent destruction of so much of our most sustaining national potential.

2000 and it would be such relief and so healing to work with service-driven people again. Surely those who work in the Environmental Education industry would be people who are inclusive and love sharing ideas; who thrive on learning and exploring the truth; who value stewardship and strive to be sustainable...

I was not prepared for the deceits, corruption, exclusivity and conniving I encountered as I sought support for the revised Energy Action programme. I soon learned that the unofficial policy of the NZAEE is “There is room for only one national environmental education resource and that is Enviroschools!!”
Shades of the past. This was the 1984 Labour Administration at its worst with its mantra TINA – There Is No Alternative. This was the Roman Catholic Church of my youth with its incantation that the Pope is the exclusive means of salvation.

It had taken several months of hard work for me to realise how and why Energy Action contained fatal flaws that work to deny the great principles of physics and destroy civics. No one, not even the top educators in our Government Departments, our universities and our Royal Society had seen them.
The errors became obvious to me because I had a unique experience of the vital role of language in our lives. As a meter reader, I had found each generation knew me differently – as the Electric Light man (1920s), the MED man (1940s), the Power man (1960s) and the Energy man (1990s). I had witnessed the process by which greed-driven bankers and their agents in “the energy sector” had re-engineered our prime symbols, reshaping our notions of energy, power, electricity and fossil fuels to serve their own short-term interests. I now suggest the excesses of the Industrial Revolution can be summed up in our adoption of the following fatally flawed equation:
Energy = fossil fuels = power = electricity = Bulk-generated electrical products.

Page one from a search on "energy sector" 17 Feb 2014.

Every element of this belief system is flawed and when combined in this equation they form a potent recipe for hopelessness and misery.

The revised Energy Action challenged this belief system to the core by founding all notions of energy in the Conservation Principle of Energy. This great principle of physics, which has never been disproven despite the most intense scrutiny, teaches us that energy is bounteous, ever changing and comes in myriad, finite forms. It is perhaps the most sustainable symbol that humans have ever generated.
 The revision also expanded Energy Action’s world-leading focus on climate care, which had NZ primary school children in the 1990s calculating the carbon emissions of their school’s activities.  

It so happens I became peripherally involved in 2000 in early drafts of Enviroschools. It took only a few questions to be able to predict it would be the perfect vehicle for propagating the above fatally flawed energy equation into our schools. My concerns were dismissed. 

It took Sir Jonathon Porritt, keynote speaker at the 2006 NZAEE conference, to point out the obvious – Enviroschools omitted any real reference to our extremely dangerous abuse of our carbon potential. It provided little or no useful guidance to quality air care. I shall never forget how he paced up and down, sweating, searching for words as he related his distress from reading The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock on his flight to New Zealand and then discovered in a two hour introduction to Enviroschools  there was not one single mention of the overwheming issue of our times - our use of carbon. I spontaneously began applauding with relief that I was no longer alone in this observations and then became aware of a very strange sound. It was the lonely echoes coming back to me of a single person clapping in a crowded hall. Smile.

Theme areas:  Living Landscapes. Zero Waste (A great denial of change- all our actions involve waste). Energy! (A denial of change - energy enables all things, including living cells, buildings and water). Ecological Building.(??) Water of Life. (And where is air, without which we die in minutes, and where is language, without which humankind cannot exist).

It is fair to say I was denigrated and ostracised till well after 2006 for attempting to alert people to the possibility that the Environmental Education industry, including Enviroschools, works to destroy the state of science in our communities and thus civics. I mention this in kindness for I continue to have much cause to be grateful to the obstacles I encountered. Very early on I learned every act of dismissal, deprivation and isolation turns out to have been a stimulus that takes my work to previously unimaginable worlds.

These worlds include the ancient Greek-Indo origins of much of our spoken language, the mindboggling conjunction of physics and psychology and that hilarious place within each of us where conscious and unconscious self awareness interact – the domain of the ego.

Initially I explained the unscientific work and uncivil behaviour of very well-meaning Environmental Educators as that of good people caught up in and compromised by the desperate scramble for funds to enable their projects to exist. However I came to realise a more subtle psychology is at work.

Each of us is our own symbol – our lifestyle is our ultimate message. Our individual state of being is simultaneously reflected and generated by our use of language. Similarly our education system simultaneously reflects and generates New Zealand’s general culture. Currently we have an extremely unsustainable culture and this is reflected in all our language systems, including our schools. The basic driver of this unhelpful behaviour and associated language cycle is the ego’s tendency to deny change/stewardship i.e. to deny the finite nature of all forms, including the human form i.e. our mortality. 


This denial is manifest in our personal actions and in the learning activities of our schools. It works to disconnect us from our place, within and without.

The Environmental Education industry is particularly vulnerable to the deceits of the ego. This is because its members have an enhanced sensitivity to the negative impacts of their activities on the balances and flows that sustain us. Life involves paradox. In this case the paradox is that this enhanced sensitivity results in the ego generating even more sophisticated and deceitful systems of denial of stewardship. Our means too easily become our ends.

It has not been easy observing the consequences of the inability of these passionate, well-meaning people to transcend this paradox of the ego. Enviroschools is now a potent force in our communities. The Environmental Movement has played a pivotal role in ensuring pollution taxes were rejected and New Zealand adopted the Enronian Carbon Trading regime in 2008. It has also played a pivotal role in the disenfranchisement of all New Zealanders and the associated destruction of our electrical and solar potential this last three decades. At least twice this last two years we have experienced the phenomenon of our teachers’ unions often headlining the national news with their proclamations of how great our democracy is on the very same days our Government was stripping away yet another right and privatising another vital national asset. Smile.

Why smile? All this unhelpful behaviour is enabled by a very subtle psychology, best understood with compassions and a sense of humour. Certainly it gives much reason to weep. However there is a funny side to the way our grand denials of change/stewardship are manifest in Environmental Education programmes that fundamentally work to promote unsustainable language, undermine our state of science and obscure the vital role of civics in our lives. There is a funny side to the paradox that even as our ego limits us, there are no limits to its trickery. The ego is so incredibly ingenious at self-deceit and it is hilarious to observe the ends it will go to in its efforts to trick us into be our own worst enemy.

Fortunately it is probable we can transcend the grand deceits of the ego and the limitations of paradox by seeing the humour in our situation and by embracing the great principles of physics. Thus though I am dismayed as I observe the large scale destruction of our children’s potential, I am sustained in hope by sensations of compassion and the insights of what I tentatively call 
The Sustainability Principle of Energy

A symbol used in acceptance of change enhances the capacity of the user to mirror reality and enjoy harmony. A symbol used in denial of change destroys the capacity of the user to mirror reality and know harmony.

I know our children are born into a considerable state of science and thus civics.  

These are the unique experiences and radical perspectives, beliefs and insights I come to this conference with. Will the conference identify the ways our systems destroy this precious state of being we are all born into? Will delegates embrace strategies that sustain the compassion inherent in every child?

Mike Brown: Place-responsive outdoor learning

“Good education is needed... Current approaches promote individualism..disempower learners and teachers...impoverishes opportunities for learning...outdoors is a blank space on which we ascribe social and other values...Places teach us about how the world works and how our lives fit into the spaces we occupy... the primary task of all education is to cultivate a sense of place”

Response: Hey, good start. Yes. Individualism is all about disconnection – the deceits and denials of ego run rampant. Hmmm. I wonder if cultivating a sense of place is actually a secondary task of education?  Perhaps the primary task of all education is to ensure it does not destroy the state of compassion we are born into? This said, developing a sense of place is vital in that it promotes all manner of connections.

“The transience of our population is a problem...”
Response: So true. So damn true. It gives rise to speculation, exploitation, corruption, alienation and despoliation. Indigenous wisdom and associated civics are destroyed. The most psychopathic and psychotic corporations thrive in the extreme transience of populations. They can rewrite history, including language, to serve their own short-term interests.  Transience makes people malleable for amoral purpose.

Between 1999 and 2008 New Zealand’s population exploded from 3.8 million to 4.4 million people – the years of the Labour Green Administration. Add this flood of immigrants to the exodus of those people born here. Then calculate the number of New Zealander’s born after 1975 who have no adult experience of the civics that prevailed before 1990. The majority of New Zealanders now have no practical knowledge of how the institutions, grids and connections that form our place came to be. Is it any wonder so many people accept the privatisation and destruction of our most vital assets, including our intelligence? Any Labour Green petition against asset sales occurs in an alien culture and civic vacuum of the parties own making.

Bronwyn Hayward – Sustainable social handprints: Nurturing resilience, resistance and democratic imagination in times of upheaval.

 “... Should we discuss politics with children? ...Yes – children are citizens! ...The Ministry of Education has failed in its duty for care of the children of Christchurch.”

Response: Yes. Children are citizens. They have an unparalleled capacity to learn every language known to humankind. They enjoy a rigorous, honest sense of inquiry that few adults know. Their sense of justice is keen. Indeed they are probably our greatest teachers of civics. Hmmm.

The Ministry of Education “fails in its duty of care”. “Fail” is probably too mild. The Ministry is a major agent of the excesses of the Industrial Revolution and actively destroys the state of science all our children are born into. 


All the modern graphics do not alter the fundamental message of the NZ NEC Framework, as illustrated in the isolating compartments of a nautilus shell. 
Language, text and behaviour are symbols.

The Ministry's NZ National Education Curriculum Framework is hostile to true learning about the sustainable learning process because the Framework destroys our capacity to comprehend that science is the state of being that enables us to develop all manner of skills (arts), including language and civics. 
See how it teaches that science is just part of the learning process rather science is the essential learning process. 
It teaches that science is just an amoral way of thinking rather than a profoundly moral way of being. It deems that less than 1% of us are “scientists” or “artists” and thus disempowers our children on scale.

Bronwyn “Resilience” “Empathy” “Growing inequality”  “Weakening democracy”  “Climate research” “..from ecological footprints ... to social handprints”

Response: Ah, this is in many ways fine music to my ears. This conference is getting very interesting indeed.
Perhaps soon people will be making the big connect that sustainable lifestyles are enabled by civics, which is born of the state of science, which in turn is born of the state of compassion?
Perhaps people are working towards the realisation that we are our climate and our breath is our greatest teacher, if only we give the time to learning from it?

Bronwyn “Economy” “energy consumption” “neoliberal” “environment”

Response: Alarm bells here. The meaning of all these symbols has been diminished and even destroyed since the advent of the Industrial Revolution.
- What we call an economy now is a system founded in planned obsolescence and waste with frugality deemed unhealthy. It is more helpful to speak of New Zealand being a “diseconomy”.
- The notion we can “consume energy” denies the great principles of physics, which teach us that energy is conserved. Human can only consume forms of energy. There is a universe of difference between humans destroying energy and humans destroying the forms, flows and balances that sustain us.
- The “Neoliberal” symbol is commonly used interchangeably with the  “Neocon” symbol, whereby we destroy the meaning of the “conserve” symbol by associating it with some of the most wasteful human beings on the planet. This use of the “Neocon” symbol denies the reality that the true conservatives among humankind are those who more truly conserve the flows and balances that sustain humanity. It involves grand deceit in that the “liberal” symbol is associated with freedom from responsibility for our actions. Our trades are unfettered from our sense of morality in the Neoliberal ethos.
- Contemporary notions of environment work to disconnect us from the universal potential, which is continuous transformation. Too often now we speak of “humans and the environment” rather than “humans are the environment”. We have Parliamentary Commissioners and Ministries “for the environment” while civics languishes. Too often since the 1950s we associate environment with ecology and obscure the role of our psyche in our place.

Frustrated agency Environment exclusive Authoritive decision making Retributive justice Silenced imagination i.e. FEARS – the authoritarian handprint of fears.

Self-help agency Market Participation A priori, universal justice Representative decision-making Technological transformation i.e SMART –the environmental handprint of Smart Environmentalism

Social agency Environmental education Embedded justice Decentred deliberation Self transcendence. i.e. SEEDS –the social handprint and seeds of ecological citizenship

..not just focussed on physical environment... sense of place.. sense of justice lived every day - the hard part.. how do we rate social democracy and shared connections?”

Response: Wow. There is a lot summed up in these acronyms.
At a personal level each of us experiences the ego with its tendency to deny change/stewardship (our mortality). The ego is ingenious at generating FEARS.
At a societal level the FEARS of the ego are reflected in the structure of the modern private corporation, which has all the rights of an individual but none of the responsibilities. As such modern private corporations are the pure manifestation of the capacity for psychopathy and psychosis that resides in each of us.

SMART Hmmm. Careful here. There exists a very big difference between smart and intelligence systems. Smart people, systems and technology can too easily be very clever, exclusive, amoral, authoritarian, centrist, devious and plain dangerous. Our education system produces many smart people who lead extremely unsustainable lives. How superbly smart are the complex algorithms of the top Harvard and Stanford graduates that drive the deluded derivatives trading system?
An intelligent system, by comparison, is founded in humility, democracy and inclusiveness, enabling all those involved in the system to share equally in the conversation.

I do like SEEDS – especially notions of self transcendence. This is exciting stuff. Perhaps soon people will understand how the Sustainability Principle of Energy enables us to embrace the great principles of energy so our use of symbols enables us to transcend the limitations of thought and the trickery and self-deceits of the ego?
Mind you, the Sustainability Principle of Energy does remind us that without care all language contains within it the seeds of our destruction. Just what is “Environmental Education”?  “Social handprint”? “Ecological citizenship”? 
Perhaps these separate questions obscure a common answer?  What if we understand that science is a profound moral way of being born of compassion that enables us to develop sustaining skills? Then we discover the sustaining studies of physics, psychology, sociology and ecology form a great confluence, merging to form the central study of the art of civics. And what is the art of civics? It is the development of the knowledge of one’s place amidst the universal flux so we each are better able to lead lives that sustain the flows and balances enabling humanity to exist.

And how do we measure our lives so we enjoy “a sense of justice lived every day”? A few measures spring to mind:
By embracing the tools provided by the principles of physics and knowing all forms are finite.
By knowing the place of our culture within the broad frame of humanity and being students of the civics of our language.
By knowing the place of democracy, which involves understanding that our votes at the petrol pump, the airline counter, the electrical meter board and the supermarket checkout determine nearly all that we can vote for at the ballot box.
By enjoying compassion.

Brad Harasymchuk - Place based Education: Challenging the neo-colonizing processes of the New Zealand and Canadian schooling systems.

“British Industrial schooling models...teachers are becoming aware that the values...(of)... the current systems ... are founded in European American culture.”

Response: Please don’t leave it there, Brad. Elaborate. I have been deceived all my life by our teachers and I want to know the truth. I am a product of the British Empire. I am only now discovering how totally the City of London–Wall St axis controls all our media, including our education system. Please elaborate how the visions of unfettered expansionism that resides at the heart of the British Empire is manifest in our exponential population growth, our despoliation of the planet’s ecology and our destruction of precious minerals. Just how does our British colonial culture inculcate so thoroughly the imperial values of planned obsolescence and waste in our children? 

Surely no other education system has ever produced such a global diseconomy in known history?

Brad “PBE = Place Based Education...the critical pedagogy of place..aims.. education ..oppressive power relations and put them into local contexts and situations...curriculum: thematically integrated, student centred, project based, experiential, inquiry-based learning, peer assessment/evaluation..”

Response: Oh well, at least it wonderful that the importance of place is being recognised to the extent it is even being given an acronym –the “PBE” symbol. However I see little evidence that our teachers and pedagogues are experiencing greater awareness of how our New Zealand education curriculum is primarily designed to demoralise and disempower our children so they can be better commodified and, if necessary, converted to cannon fodder to serve the short-term interests of our City of London-Wall St oligarchy.

We seem to have learned little from the global wars of last century. Most of our teachers speak the language of this oligarchy – a language characterised by denial of change/stewardship, by rejection of the great proven principles of physics. Most drive cars and fly in jets as though it is their God-given right to destroy in most wasteful way the unique, amazing wealth potential of mineral oil/gas. Come to think of it – where are the primary and secondary teachers at this conference? Rumours are that there are only three or four teachers here out of the 150 or so delegates...come to think of it, I wonder if there are any delegates from the upper echelons of the Ministry of Education?

Brad “Concluding ...there is a shift from Outdoors Education to PBL..the beginnings of the critical education of place.. decolonisation involves resistance...
What I don’t know...the question I am interested to know the answer to is: does rehabilitation lead to a re-colonisation?”

Response: I approach Brad after his presentation. He affirms that he really wants to know the answer to this question. I tell him the answer is almost certainly yes and I can prove it.
We were a British Colony for a century till WW11 when a more overt American colonisation occurred. Since the mid 1980s our state can be characterised as being a colony of the City of London-Wall Street Banker oligarchy. This is manifest in the firesale of our critical national assets in order to fund a vast new array of hidden subsidies to car, truck and jet users –all of which this oligarchy makes massive profit from.

I provide Brad with proof of this re-colonisation process in the form of a printed index of the language used to subtly disempower New Zealanders and imprison us in ignorance and debt of all kind. I tell him the list is drawn entirely from the literature of the Green Movement, of which I am part, and it indicates we probably spearhead the re-colonisation of our communities. Brad does not seem very surprised at this suggestion.

Glynne Mackey & Jeanne Williams. Sharpen up, shake up and stand up! Young children as agents of change.

GlynneEnviroschools works perfectly –empowering students by providing civics, learning for sustainability, Maori perspectives, respect for the diversity of people and sustainable is based around science and nature...”

Response: Enviroschools works perfectly? Well perhaps it does but not in the way its authors think it does? I am reminded of Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth saying that for fifteen years he has been articulating his message of the science of climate change and still cannot get it across to people. The human ego is ingenious at subverting our best intentions by creating powerful, hidden curriculum. The inconvenient truth is Al gets his message across perfectly but it is not the one he thinks it is. Indeed the film is perhaps the most perfect advertisement ever made extolling car and jet use and the Carbon Trading ethos. As predicted, in the period after the film’s release here NZ car imports reached record highs, NZer’s overseas jet travel increased 16%(?) and pollution taxes were rejected in favour of Carbon Trading – all against a background of rapidly rising mineral oil prices.

Similarly Enviroschools communicates its message perfect well. The “enviroschools” symbol teaches that the school is the universe, which is very different to seeing the universe in a school. The prevailing association of the “environment” symbol with ecology is further limiting in that it works to exclude the role of our psyche amidst the universal potential. Enviroschools forms an elegant exemplar of one of the greatest tricks of the ego, which is its ability to blind us to negative spaces. The ego easily makes us oblivious to silences. The most dominant messages do not reside in what the Enviroschools framework speaks of but rather in what it does not speak of. It is silent about the prime role of language, the sacred gift of mineral oil and the Warmer Trace Gases of the atmosphere that enable life to exist on Earth.

Thus well-meaning Enviroschools teachers have signs on their doors exhorting our children to “Conserve energy” and “Save Power”, thereby denying the great sustaining principles of physics and propagating Banker Speak.
Two years ago I asked a few teachers what was missing in their school’s Environmental Education programme. Eventually I resorted to hints by giving great sighs of mock exasperation at their inability to see the vacuum. Only then did they bang their foreheads with their hands  in exasperation that they were so oblivious to the air they need constantly breathe. 
While Enviroschools focuses on healthy water and solar tubes, it does not promote the teaching of the civics of the ownership of our local water, electrical grids and other community systems. Indeed here in Wellington 95% of adults can no longer tell you who owns our local 230 volt grid (a Hong Kong property speculator – Ka-Shing Li) and on the day the Government announced the privitisation of Meridian Energy the leaders of our primary and secondary teachers’ unions swamped the headline news with proclamations of what a great democracy New Zealand is.

The inherent message of the Enviroschools symbol can be very clear. I recall when the principal of an Enviroschool referred a BOT member to me a few years ago. The member worked at NIWA and was keen to make the school an exemplar - New Zealand’s first “carbon neutral school”. He became visibly upset when I suggested the notion of “carbon neutrality” is nonsense or non-science.  Surely we are Carbon Beings in that we are part of the universal carbon flux?  Surely our actions are always moral and can never be neutral in the context of the great flows and balances of carbon? Do we wish to deny our children this reality?

Photo on NIWA page explaining "carbon neutrality".  
Surely each driver is transforming some of the dwindling reserves of 
carbon in the form of mineral oil into carbon in the form of atmospheric gases? 
How can this destruction of mineral oil ever be a neutral act?

After a bit of a stalemate he suggested we could at least get the students auditing their “energy use” and carbon emissions. He was, of course, equating energy with a couple of electrical and mineral gas products. I waved to perhaps the most potent learning activity of the school – the rows of cars and SUVs lined up in the streets and in the school’s main entrance, some of which had been driven some kilometers past several schools in the transport of children.

His face creased in frustration, for he probably could do the sums better than I.
Private cars are their infrastructure.
Each private car requires tens of thousands of dollars in public subsidy each year.
Each car destroys at least two or three barrels of mineral oil a year transporting children to the school... that is 4-5000 kWh – about the energy equivalent of a person labouring 8000 hours or eight hours a day for 1000 days or four years.
Well over 95% of the fuel destroyed is transformed into waste heat and as little as 1% is used to actually move a child.
The inefficiency and waste of the school’s car fleet dwarfs that of the classrooms.
We both know such an audit would profoundly question the school’s viability and the teachers’ lifestyles.

“Perhaps we just do audits within the school gate? After all this is an Enviroschool”, he suggested. I recall being a bit lost for words and looking above the trees and through the utility wires to the sky for guidance. I think I mumbled something about the school having to decide how much it wants to teach the truth. Thankfully the school did not become an exemplar of “carbon neutrality”, I don’t recall us ever speaking again and often wonder how an Enviroschool facilitator would have responded.

Glynne: “It is now four decades since Environmental Education began in New has come a long way... a cause for celebration...”

Response: Ah yes, smile, we human beings are funny old creatures. How easily we forsake the state science and become our own worst enemies. First we stripped the “science” symbol of its associations with compassion and moral being and enabled the excesses of the Industrial Revolution. Then the Romantic Poets reacted to these excesses by redefining the “arts” symbol as the antithesis of science rather than the vital sustaining product of the state of science. This confounded and denied the essential learning process by which we develop all manner of skills (arts) including language and civics. Smile. To think these poets were some of the finest wordsmiths of the English language and some of the most sentient of Britain’s landscapes and skies.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The term science is a relatively new usage derived from its parent natural philosophy. The call for a new terminology was given on June 24, 1833, at the third meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. There, the famed poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge declared that the body should abandon the older label of "natural philosopher" as unbefitting men engaged in the practical pursuit of unlocking nature's secrets for the benefit of all. It was Whewell who suggested that if "philosophers" seemed too lofty a term then "by analogy with artist, we may form scientist" (p. 3.). The change was not immediately accepted, but Whewell set in motion a sea change that would become permanent and secure itself within our modern lexicon. More than a mere replacement of words, the change signified deeper and more fundamental transformations, - See more at:
The term science is a relatively new usage derived from its parent natural philosophy. The call for a new terminology was given on June 24, 1833, at the third meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. There, the famed poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge declared that the body should abandon the older label of "natural philosopher" as unbefitting men engaged in the practical pursuit of unlocking nature's secrets for the benefit of all. It was Whewell who suggested that if "philosophers" seemed too lofty a term then "by analogy with artist, we may form scientist" (p. 3.). The change was not immediately accepted, but Whewell set in motion a sea change that would become permanent and secure itself within our modern lexicon. More than a mere replacement of words, the change signified deeper and more fundamental transformations, - See more at:
The term science is a relatively new usage derived from its parent natural philosophy. The call for a new terminology was given on June 24, 1833, at the third meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. There, the famed poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge declared that the body should abandon the older label of "natural philosopher" as unbefitting men engaged in the practical pursuit of unlocking nature's secrets for the benefit of all. It was Whewell who suggested that if "philosophers" seemed too lofty a term then "by analogy with artist, we may form scientist" (p. 3.). The change was not immediately accepted, but Whewell set in motion a sea change that would become permanent and secure itself within our modern lexicon. More than a mere replacement of words, the change signified deeper and more fundamental transformations, - See more at:
The term science is a relatively new usage derived from its parent natural philosophy. The call for a new terminology was given on June 24, 1833, at the third meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. There, the famed poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge declared that the body should abandon the older label of "natural philosopher" as unbefitting men engaged in the practical pursuit of unlocking nature's secrets for the benefit of all. It was Whewell who suggested that if "philosophers" seemed too lofty a term then "by analogy with artist, we may form scientist" (p. 3.). The change was not immediately accepted, but Whewell set in motion a sea change that would become permanent and secure itself within our modern lexicon. More than a mere replacement of words, the change signified deeper and more fundamental transformations, a complex story that Snyder tells with engaging clarity. - See more at:

To quote from Evolution News

"The term science is a relatively new usage derived from its parent natural philosophy. The call for a new terminology was given on June 24, 1833, at the third meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. There, the famed poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge declared that the body should abandon the older label of "natural philosopher" as unbefitting men engaged in the practical pursuit of unlocking nature's secrets for the benefit of all. It was Whewell who suggested that if "philosophers" seemed too lofty a term then "by analogy with artist, we may form scientist" (p. 3.). The change was not immediately accepted, but Whewell set in motion a sea change that would become permanent and secure itself within our modern lexicon. More than a mere replacement of words, the change signified deeper and more fundamental transformations, a complex story that Snyder tells with engaging clarity..." 

The excesses of the Industrial Revolution were amplified in the 20th Century by our newfound ways of extracting mineral oil and addictive use of it. In the 1950s the Banker oligarchy responded to the consequent global wars by redefining energy itself as a commodity – namely fossil fuels and Bulk-generated electrical products. They re-engineered the “economy” symbol so it becomes associated with systems of exchange founded in “planned obsolescence” – diseconomy becomes symbolised as economy.
The spiritual descendents of the Romantic Poets in the 1956 then reacted to the consequent enhanced despoliation of minerals and resources by redefining the “environment” symbol as ecology, thus further disconnecting us from reality. The “Green Movement” was born, as was the “Energy Conscious Age”.

The ego is so ingenious. Reaction tends to perpetuate and enhance that what is being reacted against. Smile. Today Glynne is asking us to celebrate one of the most potent, dangerous, ongoing tricks of the ego this last three centuries as it works to deny us our place amidst the continuous, universal change.
The public credibility and well-meaning of Environmental Educators can so easily becomes our greatest liability when we destroy the state of science in our communities by propagating unsustainable language.
How can I begin to communicate this complex psychology to Glynne and all those around me applauding the advent of Environmental Education? The discussion of such inconvenient truths requires immense compassion. Question for the universe(s): How can words express that degree of compassion?

Jeanne “ kindergartens...create a culture of care not based in gloom and doom..informed about everyday life experience...allowing children to become agents of change...promoting democratic principles and processes...”

Response: Hmmm yes...increasingly I am concluding that our preschool centres are our truest universities and young children are our greatest teachers. I marvel at the rigour and scale of their inquiry and experimentation, their keen observation and wonder at the smallest details of our existence, the unconditional nature of their learning and their innate compassion. Children so often remind me of the state of science I was also born into. I must again listen to the wonderful interview on Radio New Zealand: Feature Guest - Alison Gopnik ( 31′ 11″ )

10:08 Professor Alison Gopnik has spent more than 30 years studying babies and young children to answer some of the great philosophical questions around learning, consciousness and morality. Her books include The Scientist in the Crib (co-authored with Andrew Meltzoff and Patricia Kuhl) and The Philosophical Baby and she has written more than 100 journal articles.

I always smile at the ingenuity of the ego when Alison suggests children are “like little scientists”. Here is a highly educated person who has observed in great detail the considerable state of science that exists in a baby. Yet Alison seems to remain blind to the truth staring her in the face and so fails to articulate the reality that science is a way of being, not just a way of thinking as our education system insists.

The truth is that children, like all of us, are both scientists and non-scientists to varying degrees. Every action we make involves varying levels of science and non-science. In this context, it is difficult to perceive any science in the exclusive claim that one person is a scientist and another is a non-scientist. However it is possible that children enjoy the greatest state of science, as proven by the phenomenal rate they can learn sophisticated movement, language, social and other arts. The gift is to conserve that precious state so civics can prevail and we can most truly know our place. Surely we are all agents of change, though our egos may deny it? Yes. Perhaps young children can teach us all how to become agents of sustainable change?

Claudio Aguayo – A model for developing education for sustainability websites for communities.

“Predesign research most important... survey existing sustainability conceptions and website preferences...involve end users..trial pilot..set up system of complementary websites...need administration team... updates critical.. videos better than text..”

Response: Yes. Yes. Yes. This seems eminent valuable, sound advice. I giggle as I think of my two poorly researched websites built with 1999 Front Page, places I dump draft texts and drawings in the hope I will one day have the time, skills and support to refine them. I console myself that at least the ideas are out there. I know their propagation will take just one person in the right place in the right time, someone more articulate and reputable than I am.

Niki Hare – The politics and psychology of change.

“Look to yourself – do what you do best, which is what the world wants most”.

Response: Ah sage advice and/but it sure involves a lot of trust and seeming inconvenience. How can I truly know what I do best? I am constantly asking this question.
I sense intelligence in the great principles of physics as manifest in awesome interplay of multitude of the stars in the universe. Part of my psyche embraces the notion that I am stardust.
I know greater wisdom resides in the myriad cells constituting my body for they have sustained their fundamental form through billions of years of solar, tectonic, climatic and other eonic change.
I regularly ask this cosmic yet intimate intelligence and wisdom in the most open way possible, “What would you have me do? Where would you have me go? What would you have me say and to whom?”
Inquiry is a requisite for the state of science to exist. I know of no greater form of inquiry than this open prayer. It seems to release me so I am more open to seeing answers I could never have consciously imagined. Something about this process seems to work.

Often the answer is in the form of a question that opens me to unexpected insights. For example:
-What if I decided to never own another car or fly in jets again?
(Answer -My changed lifestyle opened me to a whole new, amazing language and the realisation that we are our symbol.)

-What is energy?
(Answer -The universal potential, which is so vast and bounteous that it can usefully be called a constant even as it is continuous transformation)

-Why do climate scientists and Environmental Educators believe Earth’s atmosphere works like a greenhouse?

(Answer -The ego is incredible as it is ingenious in its capacity to deny change/stewardship. The advent of the Greenhouse religion enables the excesses of the Industrial Revolution and works to obscure the exquisite thermodynamics of the atmosphere that enable our every breath).

How can we better symbolise the exquisite thermo dynamics of the atmosphere?
(Answer -By understanding the power of leverage and how changes to trace elements of a system can generate enormous change.)

-What is the ego and how can we transcend its incredible capacity for self deceit?
(Answer -The element of our psyche, born in the schism of self-awareness, that acts as intermediary between our trace conscious and our vast subconscious. We can transcend its limitations and aversion to notions of universal change (human mortality) by embracing symbol uses founded in the great principles of physics. Hence the Sustainability Principle of Energy)

-What is science?
(Answer - A profound state of moral being that only exists when we experience all these requisite states: sharing, inquiry, trust, humility, forgiveness and inclusiveness – all of which so happen to be qualities of compassion. Follow this link to view what a Compassionate Curriculum Framework might look like. 

Note: This draft graphic fails to make it clear the experience of compassion occurs when all these qualities are present. The absence of any of these qualities means the state of science diminishes, the state of non-science is enhanced. 

-Who knows what I do best? Sometimes I wake in the night doubting the value of this work I do. I remind myself to rest my consciousness in my out-breath, that great teacher of trust. When I am able to do so I am reassured. It soon seems OK that I only know that the evocation of a sensed greater wisdom and intelligence seems to bring wonderful riches even as my waste and pollution diminishes.

Niki “Three key ideas:
(1) People are happiness seekers – we tend to shy away from fear...anger does not create new and just attacks the old ... our happiness enables us to become attractors......a paradox of human change is that when people are feeling positive they are more able to embrace negative information...
(2) People are what you hope others will do... draw attention to positive norms..tell tales of joy...produce images of yourselves being as you would like to be...
(3) People want to be good... studies show children have strong sense of fairness and protecting innocent do we work with people’s desire to do good? It is important to have moral conversations.. frame issues in moral terms...”

Response: My notes are sparse and my gratitude to Niki is deep. I am one of the several thousand people who have watched her 15 minute video Psychology for a Better World.

I am grateful for her work synthesising the research reminding us of the core psychology that has sustained human kind since our first glimmerings of consciousness. Just hearing her speaking of her work refreshes and affirms my own work. I am glad for our children even as I am inspired by them. I am excited as I see possibilities of how I can build on the insights that Niki provides.
Indeed I am enthused by all this talk at the conference of the value of developing a sense of place. We now seem so close to embracing civics as the central pillar of our society.

Sure the ego deceives us with false hopes and can easily make an inch a mile. Smile. This conference is a trace element of our national consciousness. However maybe, just maybe, people can now catch glimmerings of the bounteous vision of existence that is inherent in the Sustainability Principle of Energy? Can there be a greater tale of joy?

And all these reminders that we are moral beings. Surely embracing our essential moral state provides the greatest connection we can know with the universal potential? Perhaps, just perhaps, people are close to embracing the Compassionate Curriculum Framework, which liberates us in the awareness and celebration that we all scientists to some degree and consequently we are all artists to some degree. Thus true creativity and civics can flourish. 
Perhaps soon we will smile at the trickery of the ego as we recall how the NZ’s National Education Curriculum Framework once deemed 99% of us are non-scientists and non-artists while producing some of the most unsustainable people in the history of humankind.

Robina McCurdy – The importance of school grounds as enriching learning environment.

“Quote from Terry Krautwurst - Our challenge isn’t so much to teach children about the natural world but to find ways to nurture and sustain the instinctive connections they already carry.  ...bringing nature into school grounds... learning through landscapes.. . seed programmes... rongo in playgrounds... localising food project..”

Response: Right on, Terry, though perhaps I might rephrase it to say our challenge is to remain mindful we are the natural world. I am a school cleaner/caretaker involved in recycling, composting, chooks, adjacent community garden, reforestation and similar activities. 

click to view 

Part of a project to make Houghton Valley a work of fine art in knowing one's place and enjoying resilience. 

I am attending this seminar because I am keen to learn ideas of how these learning opportunities can become more sustaining. Thank you for your nuggets, Robina. Much appreciated.

However I wait, pen poised, for insights into the importance of school grounds as enriching, learning environment. I gradually realise they will not be forthcoming. Perhaps it is because I see school grounds as places that simultaneously reflect and generate the wider society. It is not so much a matter of “bringing nature into school grounds” as of using school grounds to study our place in the universe(s).

So what is perhaps the greatest lesson that my school, and most schools in New Zealand, teaches? They teach it is most important to own a private car! It is so important that the main entrance is usually devoted to “free” carparking, as are the surrounding streets. Few teachers venture to the place of cars in our lives and inspire students to ponder the big questions. What right has this generation to burn such a rare and valuable gift as mineral oil? Who really pays for the car’s extensive and costly infrastructure? Is it better to spend over $250,000 providing three “free” carparks on the nearby street or would that money better be invested in a new classroom or retrofitting the school with more energy efficient systems?  Why do parents drive their cars through the front fence, the main gate post, the entrance frame and over safety cones?

Similarly few teachers discuss the school’s place in the sun and our nation’s ecology. Why did our ancestors in the early 1930s construct the original classrooms aligned to the North with roofs shaped to flow with the prevailing winds? Why does every building constructed since then increasingly align away from the sun and destroy the school’s solar potential? Why are most buildings constructed since 1990 prone to water leaks?  What has changed in our minds? What is the place of the wires and pipes of the local utility grids and how do they connect us to the lands, waters and air? Who controls those grids and what reason do their owners have to care whether we live or die?
We know that sun-sourced lighting significantly improves our learning capacity – so what is happening now as we further darken classrooms to make modern electronic screens more visible?  Are we not at greater risk of our classrooms becoming Plato’s allegory of The Cave?


And what about the lessons provided everyday for years on end by “Meridian Energy” frisbees lying around and by the stickers and posters that adorn school buildings imploring students to “conserve energy”, “save power”, “save the planet” etc. Is energy just a product or a corporation? Since when can humans save energy? Whose notion of energy is this?  What do the great principles of physics inform us of the nature of energy? Whose notion of “power” is it? What is the real relationship between energy, power, fossil fuels and electrical products? And surely the planet can survive without humans? Should we not be more concerned that our own actions conserve the balances and flows that sustain humanity?

Robina “Jason Clarke ... first NZEE conference in Hamilton in 2002..”

Response: Robina’s mention of Jason’s address warning us of the “dark side”, which is our contemporary PR industry, sends me sitting bolt-up right with keen attention. However few in the room seem to know of or recall Jason’s insights and the discussion dissipates.

I will never forget my excitement back in 2002 as Jason detailed to the 300 delegates present how the PR industry is founded in amorality and while teachers focus on communicating through the intellectual elements of the brain, the PR industry bypass this completely and communicate directly to the emotional and primal centres of the brain. I recall the audience nodding knowingly and so I expected a great flowering of the awareness of how vulnerable the Environmental Education industry is to being the spearhead of our psychopathic corporations into our communities. A decade on, his insights remain unheeded. The mean ethos of the private corporations now fills the vacuum caused by the absence of the study of civics in our schools. Our graduates are more unsustainable and at risk than ever.

Matt Morris – Shaking up the Sustainability Curriculum at UC

“...very difficult to establish a degree in sustainability here at Canterbury University... so what we have done is selected subjects from both the Arts and Science degrees so that together they form a shadow degree in sustainability...”

Response: Nope. Not much hope here. The first thing I encountered at the conference were banners proclaiming “Education for Sustainability. Taking action for our environment.” I am doubting my memory now that they were UC banners. Matt seems painfully aware that the notion of a “shadow degree” is not very sustaining.  

I originally came to Ilam campus in 1966 when builders were still constructing this lecture room, the surrounding paddock was mainly empty and only the Engineering faculty was fully resident at Ilam. I came here because I wanted to live closer to the Southern Alps and because a very influential teacher had convinced me “you cannot go wrong by studying to be an engineer”. I soon discovered I was not the engineering type and defaulted to the only arts type subject at Ilam – psychology.

Since then I have worked with many extremely well-meaning engineers, some with a strong interest in Environmental Education. Too often I came to realise the fine intentions of these engineers are completely subverted by their language, especially their notions of energy, power, electricity, minerals and greenhouses. I put my hand up and ask Matt why the Engineering school is not involved in this shadow degree. After all the UC has long prided itself in being a centre of excellence in engineering and engineers shape so much of our landscape, buildings, appliances etc.

Matt replies the Engineering school is involved in many sustainability projects but unfortunately every minute of the Engineering curriculum is already packed out.

Could it be that a “shadow degree in sustainability” is really just a superb piece of corporate spin? Could the exclusive nature of our Engineering school be actually putting its students very, very wrong?  

Friday morning.
Key note speaker Greg Smith – Grounding of sustainability education in place and community.

“...Three principles –
(1) Don’t eat seed corn;
(2) Don’t dump waste in water or air;
(3) Don’t let others have so much that others cannot live secure and meaningful lives.
... we must nurture citizens who understand the nature of humanity’s current circumstances, feel connected enough to their place and community to want to get involved, have the capacity to analyse and solve problems and have the confidence to take action...”

Response: Wow! At the initial welcome the conference organisers spoke of how they hoped it would result in a shake-up in Environmental Education. Well, maybe, just maybe I am witnessing a sustaining expansion of awareness of our place in the universe. I am ticking the box of the use of the “citizen” symbol many more times than I had imagined I would. Greg’s statement is essentially a call for our schools to be founded in the study of civics. I had not thought to include the “place” symbol in my list of boxes for ticking and it has turned out to be the central theme of nearly all the presentations I have attended. Civics. Place. Without a sustaining sense of place, we cannot enjoy civics. Without civics, our place will not sustain us.

Greg “What is missing in the classroom is the relationship with the environment students live in.. what happens outside the classroom comes into the cannot be done by teachers alone.. connecting students to where they live...students expected to bring in experts and develop own community service...USE THE CITY BUS SYSTEM...students learn to identify problems, issues, players, attitudes, beliefs, values, solutions...they are not afraid to ask questions...
Challenges: teachers becoming curriculum creators; linking unpredictable learning experiences; bridging disciplines; Admin must trust teachers and students in non-classroom; expanding the definition of legitimate learning experiences; engaging other agencies... ”

Response: STUDENTS USE THE CITY BUS SYSTEM. I write this in capitals. This is a profound and radical notion in our fear-driven, car-addicted culture in which students are disconnected and insulated from their place by an oppressive structure of “safety” legislation, “school buses”, “adult minder ratios” and private car fleets.

I have interviewed the 80-90 year old graduates of our school. They describe walking miles and travelling on trams by themselves or with small groups of students to go to cooking, woodwork and swimming lessons. They thought it normal behaviour to be selected out as a seven year old and instructed to walk over the hill and down to Lyall Bay, catch a tram to downtown Wellington and then find their way up the stairs of some unknown building at the end of Lambton Quay to visit the dentist. Similarly they would have to make their way to and from the swimming pool in Oriental Bay, the scariest thing being the seaweed that the harbour waves tossed into the pool.
They speak of how as children they used to attend classes on civics in the local community hall. They describe with intense sadness how the advent of the car in the 1950s destroyed much of the local community life and note how little sense of place people seem to enjoy these days.
And with that loss of a sense of place comes FEAR.

During the break I thank Greg for his presentation with its focus on the importance of place and practical examples of how students can develop the art of civics. I offer him a summary booklet of my work with its preface:  

Tzu Lu said: "The ruler of Wei wants you to become a member of his government. What will you work on first?" Confucius said: "The correction of language use [rectification of names]." Tzu Lu said: "You don't mean it! Why should that be your first priority?" Confucius said: "If language is not used correctly, then what is said won't be understood. If what is said is not understood, then the work of the state cannot be carried out successfully. If the work of the state cannot be carried out successfully, then the rules of propriety will not be observed and music [that is, culture] will not develop. If propriety does not prevail, and if music [that is, culture] does not develop, then criminal punishments will not be imposed in accordance with justice. If criminal punishments are unjust, then the people will be disoriented in their actions. Therefore, the Chun-Tzu must see to it that language is used correctly and that what he says is carried out in practice." 

I suggest that above all we need to know our true place in our language/symbol use and the booklet provides unique pointers as to how we can use the principles of physics to transcend the paradox so that our symbol use simultaneously reflects and generates our state of being.
We both seem to agree about the power of words and I add the caveat as we part, “Of course we are our symbols”. Greg smiles ruefully and says, “Yes, I figure this will be my last major trip”.

I guess Greg also knows that modern fMRI technology confirms the existence of potent mirror neuron systems in our brains. These provide extra meaning to that inconvenient ancient adage “Actions speak louder than words” - even as words simultaneously reflect and determine our actions. Our teachers have yet to catch a glimmering of the implications of how their lifestyles are amplified by our mirror neuron systems in the learning process to form their most profound teaching activities. Smile.  

Our mirror neuron systems in action

I hurry to grab a cup of tea before the last presentation of the conference and on the way I run into the man himself. I had determined to attend his presentation within minutes of chatting with that man seated alone under the lone tree on the lawn on the first day. The time has come for David McKay and he stands looking tense in the foyer.
“I’m looking forward to your presentation, David” I say.
“I am nervous because there will probably be some pretty high-up academics in the audience who aren’t going to like what I have to say - they going to be critical of me.” he replies.
I pat his arm and try to reassure him, “Just remember that our universities are stuffed – just don’t take them too seriously. I will support you.”
David does not seem reassured.

By “stuffed” I mean more than the 1913 meaning of “stuffed shirt -"pompous, ineffectual person" (1913).” I mean the institutions are broken, not fit for purpose as universities. Their lack of morality and general exclusiveness corrodes and undermines the integrity of their intellectual endeavour.
I realise I cannot reassure him. I am clearly too shy, inarticulate and radical to be of much help. Also I know David has much invested in being approved a PhD whereas I have come to believe that the global PhD community is one of the most unsustainable groups of people on the planet. These people create the sophisticated devices such as immoral ETS, the exclusive copyright regimes, the deranged derivatives trades, the insane weapons systems, the crippling hidden car subsidies etc. The statistics of their gross waste prove that smart people can be but are not necessarily intelligent. Their cleverness makes them all the more vulnerable to the ingenious deceits of the ego.

As mentioned at the beginning of these reflections, David and I had quickly established during our short encounter on the first day that both of us conclude that the Euro-American education model, including Environmental Education, is unsustainable. It turns out we came to the same conclusions by very different ways.
David is informed by the interviews he did with 14 Maori elders about their notions of sustainability as part of his PhD.
I have been privileged to visit tens of thousands of Christchurch and Wellington households for decades as a meter reader and have used those insights plus the great principles of physics/psychology to analyse the transformation of the English language over millennia.
I am concluding that the evidence of the last three centuries of global European hegemony, this brief period becoming known as the Anthropocene, correlates with the adoption of totally unsustainable language. The Anglo-American education system enabling this system of vast waste and despoliation is the pure manifestation of the elements of psychopathy and psychosis that reside in each of us.

I have not discussed with David how my research indicates the Alma Mater Studiorum of his PhD, the Centre for Sustainability (CSAFE) at Otago University, is an exemplar of this fatally flawed education system. 

Click illustration to see original page.

A quick scan of the use of our prime symbols by CSAFE at reveals they form fundamental frameworks that work to deny change/stewardship on scale. They thus will tend to generate misery. For instance, consider the profound denial inherent in all the following confused statements about the nature of energy:
“CSAFE Centre for Sustainability Agriculture Foods Energy Environment”
“Our research covers the interrelated streams of: Agriculture and Food Environment and People Energy
“ Context Effects on Household Energy-related Behaviour Key topics - Energy-related behaviour and decision-making - Responses to and uptake of new energy technologies -Changing social norms relating to energy”
“Current funded research  Energy Cultures 2  Renewable Energy and the Smart Grid (GREEN Grid)”  
“Postgraduate research Children's Energy Consumption  Household Energy
“..children’s energy literacy (knowledge, attitude, and intended behaviour), electricity usage in everyday life, family dynamics and negotiations...”
“ Completed research Energy Cultures ..”
“The Energy Cultures framework was developed by the research team to help understand the drivers of energy-related behaviours...”
“energy-related problems..”
“(physical aspects of a home including the form of the building and energy-related technologies) and energy practices (energy-related actions)”
“...potential for significant energy savings...”
Co-funders: Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, Z Energy, Mercury Energy...”
“ depth knowledge of electricity networks and power management, to ensure that New Zealanders have access to reliable, safe, and affordable renewable energy.”
“The reliability and quality of power supply, the safety of the electricity network, and the cost of power (as driven by peak demand and energy utilised) all need to be managed in balance with the different types and requirements of electricity generation and demand...”
“... new options for supply of renewable energy...”
“Environment and People”
“Commissioner for Environment”
“...knowledge generated by scientists and social scientists...”

Even this precursory survey of the Centre for Sustainability indicates it is the embodiment of the fatally flawed equation that has enabled the dangerous excesses of the Industrial Revolution:
Energy =fossil fuels = power = electricity = Bulk-generated electrical products.
The institution is perhaps better symbolised as the Centre for Unsustainability.

It is humbling to reflect on this brief survey of the Centre for Sustainability. It forms a reminder of the incredible trickery of the ego, for probably not one of the many well-meaning, highly literate and numerate people at the centre ever pauses to reflect on this pure non-science. Perhaps I should point out that the deceits of the ego are incredible because the trace elements of conscious thought can never countenance the vast scale and influence of the subconscious. These subliminal forces of our psyche are beyond the credence of conscious thought.

These learned professors and doctors are the apex of an education system that produces a people that accepts it is as normal and sane that our Minister’s of the Crown proclaim themselves “Minister of Energy” and even “Minster of Energy and Resources”. Smile. Such is our nation’s complete and utter denial of the Conservation Principle of Energy - the greatest principle of physics. Since when did energy cease to arise again and again and be the ultimate re-source? Since when did the Conservation Principle of Energy not hold?  

New Zealand's first Minister of Energy 1978. He subsumed the The Ministry of Energy Resources (a nonsense) into the Ministry of Energy (an almighty nonsense)

The Honourable Gerry Brownlee
- New Zealand's first Minister of Energy and Resources. Currently Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery

Sheebah Mirisa – Improving bio-cultural conservation through sustainability education in Papua New Guinea.

Response: Hmmm. Another arcane English title for these lovely learning activities in PNG that are really very simple –knowing your place in the universe through knowing the language of your ancestors in your particular place on earth and being reminded on the joy of caring i.e. the development of civics

Sheebah “Schooling the World – the White Man’s Last Burden by Greg Smith”

Response: I laugh out loud and Sheebah’s PNG colleagues look at me in puzzled, possibly offended way. No. I am not laughing or diminishing the desecration of their lands and culture by European colonisers. It’s just that as I more understand and embrace the trickery of the ego, the more humour I find in the scale of the self-deceits of us Europeans. We revel in our smug sense of supremacy and enlightenment. We generate such hilarious, sophisticated rationales for saving the world from the morass of problems we create. Greg’s publication sounds like it might be the perfect segue into David’s presention.

David McKay – Living and learning as part of the environment: An epistemology and pedagogy informed by Maori culture imbuing sustainability.

“Living & Learning ‘as’ or ‘as part of’ the environment.” – subtitle on screen
Response: Ah, this looks to be a man who is questioning and struggling with our use of symbols. Perhaps David employs inverted commas to form alerts to make us stop and make us reflect on the possible meanings and the power of the words encompassed. Perhaps they represent a compromise between David and his PhD supervisors, reflecting the worlds of difference between those who believe “Humans and our environment” co-exist and those who believe “Humans are the environment”. The former belief works to demoralise and separate each of us from all. The latter belief reflects acceptance of change/stewardship and thus works to unify us with all.

David “Western constructs...based in reading and writing...Indigenous ways of thinking are the key to sustainability...”

Response: Yeah, this is true when people have lived in a place for millennia and the resources and minerals of that area remain conserved so they can continue to sustain the descendents of the people for millennia. I am concluding this act of conservation is usually a significant sign that their use of symbols is sustainable. The people embrace the principles of physics and thus have a potent sense of place.

David “There has been no meaningful change since Rachael Carsen wrote Silent Spring...The required shift in thinking cannot be made using our contemporary technocentric mainstream... ”

Response: 1962. I am about sixteen years old, a farm boy born and bred amidst the rich Rimutaka forests and lush swamps of Lake Wairapapa. On still nights my dreams are laced with the echoes in the hills and the stars of the murmurings and chatter of my beloved Wairongomai creek. I feel strong and sustained in this world.
1962 and Silent Spring shatters my teenage innocence of the malignant nature of the modern corporation. I, like millions of people around the world, react with horror to realise the silent, unseen ways our minds are being manipulated. The politics of greed and fear, already so manifest out there in the terrible World War 11, the Cold War and the Nuclear Bomb... suddenly it is also manifest in our ecology in ways that infiltrate and threaten us from within the depths of the cells forming my own body.
The modern Environmental Movement was born and became a great force in our lives.

Fifty years on I now understand the ancient wisdom that reminds us of the great paradox that every reaction perpetuates that which is reacted against. Action and reaction are essentially the same. I agree with David that there has been no meaningful change in that we continue to fail to transcend this paradox. This means the Environmental Movement, of which I am so much a part, contains within it the seeds of our destruction. There are deep psychological reasons explaining why the unprecedented waste, the pollution and the destruction of vital minerals of the past three decades correlates with the advent and expansion of the Green Movement. Analysis indicates the various agencies of the Movement are uniquely designed to spearhead the unsustainable ethos of Carbon Trading (the ETS), the Electricity Industry Reforms, Renewable Energy, Environmental Protection, the National Education Curriculum Framework, Smart Technology, the Greenhouse World etc into our communities. The inconvenient truth is these agencies can accomplish what the much reviled Banker-Trader oligarchy can never do.
This tends to be what happens when we fail to embrace the human condition with humility and do not live the great principles of physics

David “...Sixteen questions were posed during face-to-face interviews with 14 tangata whenua participants, 7 male and 7 female, representatives of hapu and iwi throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand...about their ideas of sustainability... one said, “The future is now”.. There is an emergent epistemology –includes notion that is no such thing as education...”

Response: Yes I understand “The future is now.” Every action, including every thought, word and deed, effects the balances and flows of the cosmic flux in ways that alter how energy is manifest to future generations.
And I think I understand how it could be that a society can be sustained without the concept of education.
I am aware of how the notion of “education” easily divorces us from reality by working to diminish both our awareness of the moment and the sensation of every action being a profound moral act and learning opportunity.
Notions of “education” tend to generate the belief that the acquisition of knowledge is an end in itself rather than a way of being. Life and knowledge are separate.
Science becomes a way thinking rather than a state of being. Consequently we forget both how the state of science arises from the state of compassion and how it enables us to develop all manner of sustaining arts such as wise language and civics.

David “..Maori associate energy with potential...”
Response: What?! Did I hear right?  This is so exciting. I have spent thousands of hours this century asking the question, “What is energy?” I soon realised almost everything I had been taught by our education system about the nature of energy lacked science on scale. All the “energy experts” I consulted preached nonsense. Much is obvious corporate spin, such as the prevailing belief in the equation that energy = power = a few commodities. And the equation of energy = fossil fuels conveniently both obscures their finite nature and eliminates the atmosphere from the combustion process.
The notion there is energy and there also exists renewable energy is a complete denial of the Conservation Principle.
The confusion of energy forms with energy perspectives is another great denial of the essential nature of change, as is the symbolisation of kinetic energy as separate from rather than part of potential energy.
Each belief about the nature of energy reflects a denial of change/stewardship. Combined they form a miserable vision of existence resulting in desperate, deluded behaviour. “Energy efficiency” is associated with loss and deprivation.
I too, like these Maori, have concluded that energy is best understood as the universal potential. This realisation of the universal continuous transformation opens up such an amazing, bounteous vision of reality in which stewardship is a joy.

David “...research resulted in the development of a representative model and framework: Learning for Life – this diagram illustrates all the requisite and interconnecting factors that enable resilience to occur: Interconnections and relationships;
Self identity, wellbeing and actualization;
Community Resource wellbeing –involving communication, collaboration, cooperation;
Transferral and Continuance – how knowledge is transferred;
Survival skills -environmental competence (sensitive, aware, literate, capable, critical thinking, practical, adaptive)”

Response: Dang. Can’t convert this complex diagram quickly into coherent notes. Hope David puts it up on the web soon. It resonates deeply in me. It feels holistic. Sure there is a lot about Maori culture that is unsustainable too. It too is expansionist; the mini-ice age of the sixteenth century sorely tested its resilience; and major species that flourished on this land for millions of years perished with the arrival of Maori. However Maori culture, unlike European, did not make a virtue of burning our indigenous forests, destroying the soils, destroying precious minerals, decimating nearby ocean life and polluting the rivers and air on scale. To my knowledge Maori culture did not rate these destructive activities as signs of “a growing economy”, “a healthy GNP”, “proof New Zealand is working” and "a loyal British dominion".

O.K. European academics could easily construct David's diagram but perhaps, just perhaps, this diagram is born of an indigenous wisdom born of a millennia of deep, sustaining connections with the mountains, valleys, plains, rivers, lakes, oceans and skies of this place, Aotearoa in the Great South Pacific Ocean.

David “This cannot be communicated through the Western framework..”

Response: Smile. I imagine at this point David is imagining any high-powered academics present are fuming at the perceived arrogance of this statement, marking his thesis down and getting ready to skewer him with barbed questions at the end of his presentation. I assemble a few questions in case I can get to support this statement.
Question - This Learning for Life framework, or if you like, this model enabling the development of civics, is founded in notions of collaboration and cooperation. Western culture, including these institutions we call “universities”, is founded in the antithesis of this – exclusion, copyright, competition, secrecy and notions that science is amoral. Do you deny this?
Question - It seems implicit in this model that knowledge is our common heritage. By comparison, it is implicit in Western culture, including these institutions we call “universities”, that both knowledge and students are simply commodities and debt generating devices, existing for the private benefit of an oligarchy. I ask you. Surely there is overwhelming evidence that this is so?
Question – The Western cultural framework has generated a society so dependent on the extraction and destruction of one mineral that if it were to become unavailable this morning our society would instantly collapse into chaos and warfare by this evening. I refer to our abuse of mineral oil. Where is the resilience in this?

In the event David finishes his presentation with no time for questions from the audience. I have alarm bells drawn around one note: “Approaches to Environmental Education informed by Maori culture.” I would have like to ask him if the notion of education, let alone the notion of Environmental Education, even has a place in the Learning for Life framework?  Surely Environmental Education reacts to and thus works to perpetuate the fatal flaws of the NZ National Education Curriculum Framework? Surely it obscures and denies the learning process by which we develop the arts of language and civics?

The conference reassembles for an introduction to Open Space Technology format facilitated by Margaret Jefferies. Those who are passionate about some idea or topic of the conference are asked to nominate it and lead a group discussion on it. I am excited when one delegate (a preschool teacher) asks for responses to David McKay’ presentation. Yes, perhaps the shake-up is indeed occurring.

OPen Space “Responses to David McKay’s presentation.”
The format of the group discussion is already operating when I arrive. I am a very slow reflector. So I am surprised and delighted at the space allowed. People respond to each person’s contribution by offering them bows of gratitude and respect. A long silence then ensues before the next person makes an offering.
It is my experience that these gifts of gratitude, respect and silence enable some most meaningful insights. This is because the more introverted, inarticulate and deeply reflective people amongst us only thrive and give voice in places filled with the open space of silence. These people tend to give greater time for reflection. This enables wiser and unthinkable responses to emerge from within.

David uses one of these growing silences to give an exposition of the hongi and how it involves the exchange of the breath. Smile. Before one can share the breath fully one must know one’s own breath.
The student of the breath soon learns the silence at the end of the out-breath is the act of greatest trust we can know. In that place where we have given the breath away we are opened most fully to the wonderful potential of the universe(s). In that moment of great trust when we have given all away we create the space in which we are recharged in energy. While we work hard to create a vacuum, the universe(s) fills it with ease. In the silence between the breaths unimaginable answers can occur to questions unknowable.
There are no more deep silences and so perhaps David does not get to hear the slowest, deepest responses of those present.
We are here in this group because his presentation resonated deeply in us. Perhaps his work speaks truths that do not require defending or explaining? Smile.  

FOOTNOTE:  Link to David McKay's research
University of Otago Centre for Sustainability
Education for Survival, Resilience and Continuance: Mātauranga Taiao, Māori and Indigeneity

Open Space “What are the essential messages of this conference?”
The leader of this Open Space group is keen to assemble them so he can better share them in a succinct way with his home community.
Everyone else seems to have had their say when I arrive. They look to me. I scramble now to remember what I said, just as I scrambled then to find the words. I know I remarked that I am still somewhat stunned to be welcomed into discussions, as at previous conferences I was pretty much persona non grata because I dared to question the role of Environmental Education (including Enviroschools) and to propose alternative education programmes and ways of being.

I recall stating that if I am to summarise the great message of this conference in one word, then it is in the word “place” –an idea that was amplified on by nearly every speaker I heard. This, for me, is an exciting and radical change, for the development of a potent, sustaining sense of place in the moment involves us intimately with our psychology, languages, physics, history, future, geography and ecology. In brief, this focus on place-based learning means we are now potentially very close making the development of civics the central aim of our learning processes.

I am aware a Green Party MP is a member of the group. I have long attempted to engage the Green Party hierarchy in a deeper awareness of civics. So I give the example of how a sustaining sense of place involves knowing how all our electrical grids enable us... how they connect us with our most distant skies, mountains, valleys and rivers... how our use of the grids effect the balances and flows of water, air and soils that sustain humanity. Most New Zealanders are now oblivious to how local communities across the nation built and bequeathed on us all a national systems of freehold local electrical grids with democratic governance structures. Often this involved considerable sacrifice. Now not one of these 60 civic structures exists. Our civic rights have been stripped away with the privatisation of the intelligence of our local electrical potential. Not one community owns the intelligence of their local grid anymore. Now the majority of New Zealanders are oblivious to their place because they were either born after 1980 or are immigrants. The knowledge of our history that sustains civics has been destroyed.

I probably mumbled something about the sad role of Green Movement in all this. I would have been thinking of how the burgeoning Environmental Education industry these last three decades with its focus on ecology has helped destroy the state of science in our communities and thus civics. It has done this by propagating language profoundly in denial of the principles of physics and erecting silos of the issues so, for instance, climate care educators and dwelling care educators teach directly against each other. In supplanting science and civics in our schools Environmental Education has created vacuums in the teaching of the history and psychology of place that are filled by greed-driven corporations.
While observing how I have found this sad situation depressing to observe I like to think I made it clear to the group that I find this conference with its focus on place-based learning very exciting for our children. It marks a significant shift towards the study of civics. It’s just a pity so few teachers are present to be part of the change.

So it is true. The rumour that only a couple of school teachers are attending the conference is confirmed at the AGM. The NZAEE executive seems perplexed. The two conferences I have attended were in Hamilton (2002) and Auckland (2006), both sited in our most populated region. Perhaps half the attendees were teachers. However I know as we sit here a legion of teachers and their families are driving and jetting great distances without much thought of how they are converting the amazing wealth potential of mineral oil into air pollution. I manage to attend conferences though it costs a couple of weeks of the take-home pay from my part-time school cleaner job. Many teachers could be here if they really desired.

With no explanations forthcoming I dare to put my hand up in the last moments of the AGM and suggest the absence of teachers is a predictable result of Enviroschools – perhaps it has in some way supplanted the NZAEE. Could it be that Enviroschools now conforms what teachers think Environmental Education is about?
Eyes glaze over and the AGM ends.

My suggestion is founded in over a decade of observation. I observed the single-minded way the NZAEE used its considerable authority to promote Enviroschools at the expense of other education programmes and civic process. Its authority extended deep into political parties, our universities, local authorities and key government policy making circles.

By about 2007 the NZAEE had helped facilitate funding in the tens of millions of dollars for Enviroschools through direct Government funding and through institutions such as our universities and local councils. The programme was becoming both the hallmark and benchmark of civics in many of our schools.
Over the last few years I observed the bi-monthly activities of the NZAEE ceased in my region (Wellington). At the same time I observed Enviroschools facilitating meetings of teachers from local schools to share ideas about “environmental education – meetings to which other NZAEE members were not invited. I have also observed that now even the suggestion that Enviroschools could be flawed is instantly dismissed as impossible by passionate Enviroschools teachers. Could it be that Enviroschools very conveniently is now the teachers’ notion of science, civics and Environmental Education?

“Convenient for whom?” you may be asking if you have skipped most of my reflections. In summary: these reflections are founded in physics (the great principles of physics hold and all information is physical) and psychology (the human ego – the intermediary of our trace conscious and vast subconscious – is characterised by an ingenious, incredible capacity for self-deceit and general denial of change/stewardship i.e. our mortality).

It is an inconvenient fact for many of us to know that an income of $NZ40,000 puts us in the  top 1% of humankind in terms of personal wealth and our lifestyle is profoundly destructive and unsustainable. For instance NZers destroy about 38 barrels of mineral oil a day  per 1000 people whereas the vast majority of human beings destroy about 2 barrels a day per 1000 people. 
The bad news is our unsustainable behaviour is reflected in our use of symbols, for ultimately our actions are our symbols. Enviroschools reflects the state of our culture even as it generates it. Perhaps the “enviroschool” symbol conveniently frames the worldview of our most passionate, caring and sensitive teachers so they do not have to confront the cosmic impacts of our actions? If so, then it is a triumph of the trickery of the ego that just as a growing awareness of the importance of place and civics is emerging in the NZAEE community, teachers are not here to share it.
The good news billions of people lead happy, fulfilled lives without trashing mineral oil as we do.

As we leave a couple of delegates suggest to me that the absence of teachers is easily explained – they are now too busy and exhausted by the demands of the new National Standards. I am aware of the distress many teachers experience as they struggle to comply with the narrow dictates of this brutal regime, especially those who know its focus on numeracy and literacy is primarily designed to convert our children into mindless commodities, if not compliant cannon fodder. However perhaps the inconvenient truth is we tend to get what we teach for and our repressive curriculum is born of our collective lifestyles?

I stand for hours swaying and flowing with the movements, sounds and smells of the train’s open carriage. The warm fug of the diesel fumes overpowers any scents arising from the land around me and I am humbled in the reminder of this destruction of mineral oil. The flat planes of Canterbury give way to the naked, beautiful folds of low hills and gorges. Then suddenly all my senses quicken as I detect the fertile, heavy smell of salt and the Great South Pacific Ocean bursts into sight. Yes.
The snowclad Kaikouras float high behind me while rich, gleaming green native plants hang down the hillsides so close I could reach out and touch them. Seals on the rocks raise their heads as the train roars by and I wave back to children encapsulated in the absurd little bubbles of glass and metal speeding past.

Yes this is my place. How privileged I am to be born in this vigorous land uplifted in the Great South Pacific. I know beneath the ocean’s surface great unseen canyons plunge deeper than the Grand Canyon. The mountains and canyons of our lands and seas are mirrored in the cloud formations above.
On the ferry I lean against the winds of the Roaring Forties funneling through the Cook Strait and feel the energy manifest in this place where the Great South Pacific and the Tasman oceans breathe in powerful concert twice daily.
I see the grids of tarmac, steel rails and wires laced across the denuded landscape. Each is alive with intelligence, reflecting our hopes, aspirations, sacrifices, greed, self-deceits, community, conflict and general connection with the universe(s).

The dots of dwellings appear, dusting the ridges of the hills. I can see my place overlooking the Cook Strait. I am reminded from afar across the waves how ephemeral we are – that speck, my cottage, could vanish with a twitch of the land or a gust of wind.
This is my place under the sun. Aotearoa New Zealand. Raukawa Moana Cook Strait Te Whanganui a Tara Poneke Upoka Te Ika a Maui Wellington. Haewai Te Raekaihau Waitaha Houghton Valley... Such poetry, history and wisdom of my place still remain hidden in our language. I want to know them so I can better live in harmony with all the flows and balances that sustain humanity on this planet. I return home fired up to learn and teach more of my place so all can be sustained. Yes, it’s wonderful to truly sense one’s place in the universe(s).
I am glad I invested in the 2014 NZAEE national conference! Maybe you were unable to attend? Then I hope these reflections inspire you to give the time to browsing the presentations when they are online. Perhaps you too will be reminded, as I was, that we do not have to travel the world to find sustaining insights. The answers we seek as to how we can each lead sustainable lives already exist in our place. They are only a smile away and are staring us in the face. Titiro. Whakarongo. Tauawhi.


Updates and Additions

15 August 2013

Energy ?! - Chapter seven -The Ego and Power

When we understand that there are as many forms of power as there are forms of energy we are opened to a vast sustaining potential.


18 July 2013

Energy ?! - Chapter six -The Ego and Greenhouse World

Our likening of the processes of Earth's atmosphere to the operations of a greenhouse is a giant conceit that puts humanity at great risk.


21 June 2013
REVIEW: Do the Maths
Reflections on Bill McKibben's show in Wellington and why Bill is a genius.


18 May 2013

Energy ?! - Chapter five -The Ego and Global Warming
Our confusion of warming with warming up deprives us of a wonderful, vital dimension of the thermodynamics of the universe(s).


16 April 2013

Energy ?! - Chapter four -The Ego and Potential Energy
Our estrangement from the universal potential by our division of kinetic energy from potential energy.


5 March 2013

Energy ?! - Chapter three -The Ego and Forms of Energy
The grand confusion of forms and perspectives of energy.


26 Jan 2013

Energy ?! - Chapter two -The Ego and the Conservation Principle of Energy

The incredible inconvenience of this great principle.


8 Jan 2013

Energy ?! - Chapter one -Introducing The Ego and Energy
A cartoon exploration of our psychology and the the nature of energy.



22 Sept 2012

The Sustainability Principle of Energy
The Compassionate Curriculum.

(An Illustrated Essay - A brief Historical Overview)



 3 August 2012

Towards a sustainable education system

A graphic comparison of the New Zealand Curriculum Framework with the Compassionate Curriculum Framework with brief comment


31 January 2012

A Practical Guide to Enjoying True Hope

An essay exploring how the great principles of physics can help identify false hope and enable the experience of sustaining hope.


5 October 2011

"An Orwellian Climate"

Letters to Australasian Chief Science Advisors explaining contemporary confusion in climate care communication (Prof Peter Gluckman, Prof Ian Chubb, Prof Tim Flannery, Dr Andrew Glikson ) 


15 September 2011

The 2011 New Zealand Election Campaign

(A letter to New Zealand people alerting them to the dangers of the huge hidden yet in-your-face advertising campaign promoting the sale of our national assets.)


16 March 2011

Thought Experiments re the Carbon Trading Ethos

(Originally designed for the Office of the New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.)


26 February 2011

Letter to Radio NZ

(Contains  reflections on broadcasts and ratings of the sustainability of a wide range of its programmes.)


29 November 2010 
The Joy in the Art of Civics

(Brief reflections on this state of being and the dangers of Environmental Education)


24 November 2010

Celebrating Our Climate   
(Draft one: A climate education framework founded in the Sustainability Principle of Energy offering an alternative vision of how we can communicate the role of humans in Earth's climate processes.) 


13 October 2010

Conversation with NZ Minister of Education (Anne Tolley) re the sustainability of the national education system. Read the Minister's letter and reflections on the flaws inherent in the Education Ministry's response.


4 November 2010

Letter to the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment
Introduction to the Sustainability Principle of Energy  with discussion of the nature of science.