Tuesday, 1 February 2011

State College, PA - Faculty Q+A: Christopher Uhl, Professor of Biology

Why did you write the book, Developing Ecological Consciousness: Path to a Sustainable World?
 Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, this book was gestating in me for more than two decades. The gestation process began in 1982, when I began teaching at Penn State.
Prof. Uhl of PSU
My first teaching assignment was an environmental science course specifically targeted for non-science majors. At the outset, my dismay with the deteriorating condition of Earth infused every aspect of my teaching —lectures, assignments, readings, assessments. With time my own darkness began to lead me toward depression. It is always separation that lies at the root of depression. In my case, I was at odds with myself as manifest in my addiction to work; I was divorced from nature as evidenced in my constant rushing.
Years passed and I eventually stopped to reflect on what had brought me to ecology and environmental science in the first place. It was then that I recalled my awe, curiosity, longing, affection and exhilaration when wandering the wild. So began a concerted effort to bring different questions to my teaching, to invite myself and my students into a different way of being. I have come to call this different way of thinking-seeing-feeling-knowing relational consciousness.
Sadly, most school settings do little to help young people understand and experience their relationship to the Earth and Cosmos. What is really needed is an approach to education that encourages young people to develop a relationship — a deep bond — with Earth marked by a sense of profound belonging. These realizations provided the impetus for writing Developing Ecological Consciousness