The Center for Ecoliteracy offers a radical vision, writes cofounder and executive director Zenobia Barlow — "radical in the sense of being essential, fundamental, and deeply rooted. It is founded on a conviction that the best hope for learning to live sustainably lies in schooling that returns to the real basics: experiencing the natural world; understanding how nature sustains life; nurturing healthy communities; recognizing the consequences of how we feed ourselves and provision our institutions; knowing well the places where we live, work, and learn."
This vision begins with the insight, articulated by Fritjof Capra, that societies are sustainable to the extent that they honor and cooperate with the principles and processes by which nature sustains life.
Of the many principles that govern the natural world, we have identified a core set that can form a basis for ecological understanding. Interestingly, observes Capra, these concepts are aspects of a single pattern: nature sustains life by creating and fostering community.
Systems thinking, another fundamental, is also a tool for understanding relationships and context: "Thinking of a collection of things as a system draws our attention to what needs to be included among the parts to make sense of it, to how its parts interact with one another, and to how the system as a whole relates to other systems" (American Association for the Advancement of Science). Adopting this perspective has important implications for teaching.
Finally, if we have practiced schooling for sustainability well, how will we recognize success? What will our graduates know, believe, and be able to do? The Center has identified fifteen competencies, described in the Discover section of this website. They embrace skillfulness of head, heart, hands, and spirit — qualities of well-rounded people prepared to be effective members of sustainable communities.