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 The "Environment" Symbol
(Enhancing and Conserving the potential of this valuable symbol.)

Posting on NZ Environmental Educators List (EEList) 11 June 2009


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The Compassionate
Curriculum Framework


Sustainability Principle of Energy


Link here 

 for examples of the application of Sustainability Principle. 
(List of symbol uses that promote acceptance/denial of stewardship amidst change.


Hi EElisters


In 2006 I noted that there was no Wikipedia entry for Environmental Education and posted some suggestions to members of EElist. I observed that NZ Environmental Educators used the “Environmental Education” symbol in a very exclusive way: Environmental Education is the communication of how “biomass  out there works”.


The example I gave was the widespread support of NZ and other Environmental Educators for the proposed Marine Education Centre on Te Raekaihau Point here in Wellington. The submissions for the proposal lacked analysis of, for instance, the impacts and costs of

  • Planning and Construction,
  • Maintenance and Disposal,
  • Transport demands
  • “Hidden curriculum” in design
  • Leverage off sponsorship

Supporters correctly argued there is a great need to communicate how seashore and ocean life works but the analysis literally stopped at the sea’s surface. There was no recognition, for instance, that major sponsors such as the Wellington City Council, StageCoach, the Wellington Airport Authority (Infratil) et al would lever off the education resource to promote highly wasteful and polluting tourism or the siting of such a resource on the Point needlessly distant from mass transit taught a powerful message about our stewardship of our carbon potential .


I argued that Environmental Education need be inclusive and educate of the nature of human systems for without this self awareness the Green Movement becomes very vulnerable to becoming simply a prime conduit for all the Greenwash, Banker Speak and Energy Gobbledygook of the our most psychopathic institutions. Indeed my website contains a mass of evidence indicating that the Green Movement is such a conduit. 


In fact the Sustainability Principle of Energy suggests that the Green Movement with its pivotal role in promoting societal transformation may well pose the greatest risk of all to humanity. This Principle suggests that the Green Movement destroys science on a massive scale.


The Principle inverts our fondest beliefs and I too find this notion that the Green Movement might be so destructive very inconvenient indeed. I am well aware of how well meaning members of this movement are and very much enjoy their company. However if the Sustainability Principle of Energy is indeed born of science then I know I am wise to accept its truth as best I can, no matter how inconvenient.


A couple of weeks ago I published on EEList the links to an inventory of symbols uses. Each symbol use is analysed according to whether it accepts or denies change/stewardship and, if the Sustainability Principle is correct, this provides us with a good guide as to whether the symbol use is sustaining in the longer term. I have no idea what EElist members made of it and as I said, if you did catch a glimpse of its insight I hope you did so in a state of compassion.


I have long been troubled by our current use of the  “Environment” symbol and have wondered if this use might reflect the psychopathic and psychotic elements present in each of us. Could our use of the symbol place Civics in a framework of denial of Civics? Is this a more civic world now than forty years ago when the Green/Environmental Movement emerged as a separate entity in our consciousness? Is it possible that the Green Movement has been pivotal in the promotion of fossil fuel burning, Electricity Industry Reforms, Carbon Trading, Water Trading and other commodifications of precious resources?


The escalation in the consumption of the planet's resources by the human species certainly suggests something is amiss.  


There is now a Wikipedia entry on Environmental Education.  


A quick peruse suggests it contains little more than my 2006 offering and I do not find it very helpful. The learning activities it promotes are simply the ones we should be enjoying in all our learning endeavours. If they are applied successfully to the development of civic beings then we would automatically embrace with joy our roles as stewards amidst the flux. We would enjoy far greater harmony with all the balances and flows that sustain us.


So I have now applied the Sustainability Principle to the “Environment” symbol and these are my tentative conclusions:




Symbol: Environment

Acceptance: Environment = the aggregate of surrounding things, conditions, or influences; surroundings; milieu; and which includes the observer. (The environment symbol expresses great paradox: the observer is part of what he or she is not part of.)

Denial: Environment = the aggregate of surrounding things, conditions, or influences; surroundings; milieu. (That which the observer is not)



Note: It is now common to see the use of the “Humans and The Environment” symbol.

The following description of the use of the “human being” symbol in denial may puzzle some.

New Zealand provides a classic example of the denial of the role of human beings as stewardship. Both the “energy” and “power” symbols have been redefined as tradeable commodities (See inventory), in 2008 our Parliament with the exception of the Maori Party endorsed legislation enshrining carbon as a tradeable commodity and today (10 June 2009) Radio NZ reports strong moves afoot to make water a tradeable commodity. In all these mechanisms we divorce our roles as stewards and divest them to abstract social constructs such as the “Energy Market”, “the Electricity/Power Market”, “the Carbon Market” and “the Water Market”. We come to believe that these abstract entities will decide the value of resources for us. They will take care for our children and us. They will be our stewards. Thus:




Symbol: Humans

Acceptance: Humans = A human is a member of a species of bipedal primates in the family Hominidae (Taxonomically Homo sapiens—Latin: "wise man" or "knowing man" and coming with this capacity for knowledge is the condition that humans are stewards of the flows and balances that sustain them on Earth.)

Denial: Humans = any living or extinct member of the family Hominidae characterized by superior intelligence, articulate speech, and erect carriage (This superior intelligence giving them the right to use and trade the resources of the planet as they please)


Symbol: Humans and the Environment

Acceptance: Humans and the Environment = Non existent (The act of experiencing existence means we humans are participants in all that we are not i.e. our lives are born of paradox.)

Denial: Humans and the Environment =  The environment exists separate from human beings.


Symbol: Humans are their Environment

Acceptance: Humans are their Environment = Each human being by experiencing the environment participates in the environment. (Existence is a paradox in which the observer is a participant in what they observe

Denial: Humans are their Environment = impossible notion



Summary of rationale.

The most probable reality is that our universe is constant change, continual transformation. Human beings are of this change and affect this change. As such we need act as stewards if we are to enjoy harmony with all. Humans have a great capacity to accept change/stewards even as we have a great capacity to deny change/stewardship.


The use of the “and” symbol reveals denial as in 1 + 1 = 2. Humans and environment are two separate things.

The use of the “are” symbol reveals acceptance as in 1 +1 = 1


Now to our way of thinking 1 = 1 cannot equal 1 but then our way of thinking finds it very difficult to symbolise paradox in meaningful ways. And the Humans are their Environment symbol is a paradox.


Note: Paradox derives from the Greek  “beyond belief”.


So how do we make sense of the Humans are their Environment symbol to our students?


Our so-called “science teachers” cannot make sense of it. They can tell us, for instance that light is a paradox (It is quantum particles even as it is continuous waves) and that electrons are paradoxes (the change in one electron simultaneously affects change in another electron somewhere else in the universe(s). In other words all atoms reside in an atom. 

They also create false paradoxes such as symbolising the regions of most concentrated matter as “holes”, forms that are almost entirely empty space as “solids” and Earth’s atmosphere as a “greenhouse”. 

All these symbol uses tend to generate dissonance within us. They don’t make real sense.


Possibly it is our so-called “art” teachers who can make most sense of the Humans are their Environment symbol and draw most meaning from its paradox

The drawing teacher can set a many-runged chair on the table and teach how to draw the negative space of the chair so the student eventually can reflect reality accurately as the negative space and the positive space become one. 


Note: In one twenty minute lesson a drawing teacher gave me profound insights into quantum physics. Years of so-called “science” teachers had failed to give me such insight and they had left me confused and disempowered.

Similarly music teachers can teach how the moments of silence are equally as potent the moments of sound until the student hears them as one and can make music that resolves and transcends the paradox.

Similarly the painting teacher can communicate how light comes from dark and dark from light so again the student sees them as one and the painting becomes alive in reality

Similarly dance teachers can teach imbalance to communicate balance.

Similarly the language teacher can communicate paradox through poetry, haiku etc

Most of us sense a truth in Blake's poetry even if we cannot articulate it.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour.


And how does the student learn  to thrive in paradox? It seems to me that always we come back to the experience of the state of compassion and the notion that without compassion we cannot enjoy the state of science. It is compassion that enables us to accept paradox; to learn from our perceived errors; to live in acceptance of change; to acknowledge opposites as complementary and experience them as one; to act as stewards; and to enjoy harmony with all.


The Humans and the Environment symbol denies the paradoxical nature of change. It disconnects the observer from the observed and thus educators who use it work directly against their stated objectives of promoting an integrated vision of reality.


The Humans and their Environment symbol similarly promotes disintegration though the use of the “their” symbol ameliorates it a little. It does evoke some sense of ownership, if not stewardship, of the individual’s environment.


However both uses tend to create barriers to the reality that all is change. It does this by denying the critical element of change, which is that the observer is the change they cause. The observer is no longer a participant and is divorced from change.


These thoughts leave me wondering if there may indeed be great sustenance in the Compassionate Curriculum Framework I proposed on this forum in 2007.


It promotes uses of the “science” symbol that are very inclusive compared to those generated by the New Zealand Curriculum Framework Indeed the latter promotes profound exclusive uses of the symbol and surely inclusiveness is a requisite for science to exist?

The Compassionate Curriculum Framework enables an appreciation of paradox and an acceptance of change, both of which are requisites for giving meaning to the Humans are their Environment symbol. And in this context the Humans and the Environment symbol simply does not occur.


This Framework also gives meaning to the existence of the complex mirror neuron systems that lace our brains. It allows the possibility that they enable us to be our environment so that what we do is at one with what we say. In other words we each form a symbol and when our walk matches our talk of care then we become symbols reflecting  harmony within and without.


All feedback most welcome and most valued – especially any insights into flaws in this work. I find it unhelpful when I am informed that Environmental Educators have been scathing of my work and when I ask. “What was the substance of their argument?” I am told it was not clear.

In kindness.





Link here 

 for examples of the application of Sustainability Principle. 
(List of symbol uses that promote acceptance/denial of stewardship amidst change.)


The Sustainability Principle of Energy

The Compassionate Curriculum Framework

  Compassionate Curriculum Rationale

Return to Update Page

Return to the Welcome Page

The Sustainability Principle of Energy

“When a symbol use works to deny change it will materially alter the potential of the universe (energy) in a way that results in a reduction in the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality. When a symbol use works for the acceptance of change it will increase the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality.”


Without symbols there is no civilisation.


Symbols enable us to communicate and reflect reality.


By maximising the potential of symbols we can enjoy the greatest harmony with all.


Failure to conserve symbols and  the flawed  uses of symbols destroys civilisations.


Symbol use born of compassion works to sustain humanity.