EcoJustice Education

Toward Diverse, Democratic, and Sustainable Communities

2nd Edition

Conceptual Toolbox

Animal Industrial Complex:  The vast industrial network that exploits animals for profit, turning their bodies into meat, science experiments, and entertainment—commodities produced to satisfy corporate visions of human “needs.”

Anthropocentrism: Centric form of thinking that positions humans at the center and at the top of a hierarchy of all living and non-living beings.

Barter: The exchange of goods or services for goods or services in return. This process cuts out the exchange of money. Barter is a strong practice that revitalizes the commons and strengthens local communities.

Bio-diversity: The natural world is multi-layered and interdependent—from the ecology of micro-organisms to the ecology of plants, animals, and humans; renewal of species is dependent upon the diversity of living systems; biodiversity as the basis of life; to undermine it is to undermine life itself; the opposite of an anthropocentric way of thinking

Bisexuality: Sexual attraction to both males and females.

Biotechnology: The application and molecular modification of biological organisms for developing or improving commercial products.

Centric thinking: The tendency to give higher value to a concept that is more “central” than another, as in the example, androcentrism (male-centeredness), which puts man as more central or important/valuable than woman.

Class: A group of people who share similar social and economic relationships in a
hierarchized society, and thus similar identities and experiences.

Class reproduction: The version of reproduction theory that investigates the ways which schools and other institutions serve to maintain the class divisions through a variety of hidden assumptions and practices, such as tracking.

The commons: The non-monetized relationships, practices and traditions that people across the world use to survive and take care of one another on a day-to-day basis. This includes both the “environmental commons,” such as air, water, seeds and forests, and the “cultural commons,” which include practices, skills and knowledge used to support mutual well-being.

Cultural ecological analysis: The understanding that both ecological and social crises have intertwined cultural roots in the deep assumptions of modernity.

Culturally Responsive (or relevant) teaching: Instruction that includes and connects to the strengths of a child’s home culture as a way of inviting the child to learn. It is directly opposed to deficit approaches.

Deficit approaches: Flawed ways of discussing students or others who don’t succeed academically or economically by pointing out what the individuals lack. Deficit approaches may blame lower intelligence, cultural deprivation, cultural modes of behaving or poverty, for example.

Discourse: The exchange, internalization, and creation of a set of valued and shared cultural meanings; the exchange of cultural root metaphors that work together to create a powerful set of related and assumed meanings, such as individualism, based in root metaphors such as “individual is key,” “community as oppressive.”

Discourses of modernity: The specific set of discourses that together create our modern, taken-for-granted value-hierarchized worldview, including anthropocentrism, progress, individualism, science/rationalism, mechanism, and so on.

Discourse of racism: A culturally created way of thinking, speaking and acting that is rooted in seeing some people as inferior to others. Note that the discourse of racism rests firmly on a foundation of anthropocentrism.

Diversity: The condition of difference necessary to all life and creativity.

Earth democracy: The decision-making power of local communities to protect the basic foundations of life, and the future of their children.

Ecocentrism: Putting the entire natural world at the center of a culture’s meaning system. Humans are seen as living within the natural world with all other living species as moral equals, deserving of the same respect as humans.

Ecology of mind: The living, generative system in which bits of information in the form of difference are created and exchanged as various elements interact with each other (as opposed to the assumption that “mind” is purely contained within the individual being).

EcoJustice: the understanding that local and global ecosystems are essential to all life; challenging the deep cultural assumptions underlying modern thinking that undermine those systems; and the recognition of the need to restore the cultural and environmental commons.

EcoJustice Education: Educational efforts of students, teachers, and members of the local community learning collaboratively while engaged in revitalizing the local commons. EcoJustice Education is shaped by an understanding that local and global ecosystems are essential to all life; challenging the deep cultural assumptions underlying modern thinking that undermine those systems; and the recognition of the need to restore the cultural and environmental commons.

Economy: The organization and exchange of goods and services in order to meet the needs and wants in any community.

Educating for the Commons: Curriculum and pedagogical relationships that support the local community. Education that specifically engages in the steps defined in the previous concept.

Enclosure: The practice of privatizing that which was once freely shared as part of the commons.

Gender: Historically and socially constructed ways that men and women come to identify as masculine or feminine.

Globalization: The ways that the culture of modernity has been exported across the world, and the economic, ecological, and cultural impacts that it is currently having on human communities and their surrounding ecosystems.

Hegemonic masculinity: Representations of manhood that carry the most power and thus are dominant—the big strong football player, the successful, fit corporate manager.

Heteronormativity: The notion that heterosexual relationships are the “norm” and thus the pathologizing of all other forms of sexuality.

Heterosexism: The dominating assumption that heterosexual relationships are natural and normal and thus that all other forms are abnormal.

Homosexuality: same-sex attraction.

Ideology: A shared system of belief that may serve the interests of some more than others; often perceived as “natural” or “just the way things are.”

Indigenous knowledge: Knowledge that has been passed down through generations regarding how to live successfully in a particular place. It is generally spiritually-based and includes a variety of interrelated dimensions: physical, biological, linguistic, spiritual, social, and economic.

Indigenous People: Those peoples who predate any other groups living in a particular region, and who define themselves through a “spiritual link to the land."

Individualism: The belief that humans are independent autonomous units, that pursuit of self-interest leads to the greatest good, and that competition is natural (this is different from individuality, which recognizes each person’s unique attributes and contributions).

Interdependence: The dynamic of being mutually responsible to and dependent on others; participating in a network of relationships in which the members rely upon and support each other. Interdependence includes the relationships among humans and the natural world.

Intersex: Refers to combinations of physical features (genitalia) or to describe an individual who has biological characteristics of both the male and female sexes and thus cannot be classified as either one or the other.

Lesbian continuum: A continuum of relationships and bonding among women.

Liberal democracy: A representative form of democracy moderated by a constitution that emphasizes the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals and diminishes the role of citizens in democratic governance.

Logic of domination: The system of thinking based on the assumption that those “higher” on the hierarchy have the right to dominate or control those that are “lower”, e.g. humans over animals.

Meritocracy: A system of rewards based on hard work and talent; the idea that our position in the socioeconomic system is natural and deserved; a flawed way of explaining academic achievement as rooted in individual merits of the student. To say “the U.S. is a meritocracy” means to say that most of the people who succeed do so because of their own ability, morality and hard work.

Metaphor: Using language to describe an aspect of reality that is likeanother. A metaphor illuminates some characteristics and hides others. For example, the conduitmetaphor of communication illuminates how information can be passed from one person to another, but hides the importance of context.

Monoculture: Growing of a single species in an ecosystem, as a form of industrial agriculture. As the opposite of biodiversity, monoculture destroys diversity.

Neoliberalism: An economic and political theory that emphasizes private rights over public interests through deregulation, privatization, and a redistribution of power and resources from democratic governments to private corporate interests.

Oral traditions: The Indigenous practice of passing on knowledge and moral instruction through verbal modes such as storytelling.

Pathologizing: An effect of deficit thinking that suggests that those who don’t succeed have some sort of disease or flaw rather than trying to understand the behavior on its own terms. An example would be “pathologizing” a student who doesn’t do homework as lazy, without knowing what their life outside of school is like.

Pedagogy of shame: The processes through which women (and other marginalized groups) learn and internalize a sense of themselves as inferior beings.

Pluriverse: Rather than universe, the multiplicity of cultural perspectives, worldviews, traditions and ways of being in the world.

Political: The negotiation among humans around conflict.

Race: A culturally created discursive category used for the express purpose of defining some people as biologically and culturally inferior to others.

Racial microaggression: Everyday insults, indignities, and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages sent to them.

Revitalizing the Commons: Acting in collaborative local democratic efforts to strengthen local decision-making in ways that ensures the continuation of healthy sustainable aspects of the local commons and revitalize aspects that have been enclosed. This process is a key step in taking sustained action in strengthening community. The process can be broken into steps: (1) identify aspects of the commons in our daily lives; (2) evaluate those aspects of the commons as to whether they support living systems or support killing systems; (3) take action to strengthen those aspects that support living systems.

Root metaphor: A metaphor that is foundational to a culture, and usually taken-for granted, such as the concept of the autonomous individual.

Sex: the specific biological differences between males and females—differences for example, in genitalia, chromosomes, hormones, reproductive organs, and so on.

Shaming:  Psycho-social processes by which an inferior or diminished sense of self is internalized.  “It requires, if not an actual audience before whom such deficiencies are paraded, then an internalized audience with the capacity to judge, hence internalized standards of judgment” (Bartky, p. 227).

Strong democracy: A modern form of participatory democracy that emphasizes participation, responsibility, and the common good.

Sustainable communities: Communities whose members recognize the essential interdependence among humans and the natural world and thus make decisions to protect the ability of natural systems to regenerate.

Tracking: A school practice of dividing students, supposedly by ability, into different sequences of classes. Lower tracked classes usually have lower expectations, a less challenging curriculum and less-qualified teachers.

Transsexual: A person who identifies physically, psychologically, and emotionally as the opposite gender and may seek to alter his or her body through hormones and or sexual reassignment surgery.

Value-hierarchized thinking: A way of thinking that depends on a ranking system where we value some and devalue others. Hierarchized thinking makes racism, sexism, and anthropocentrism, for example, possible. Seeing some groups or cultures as having more value than others; or seeing humans as having more worth than any other species.

White privilege: The mostly hidden benefits that accrue to those who identify as white, based on the assumption that white is “normal.” Examples include the ability to go shopping without being followed or harassed, and the likelihood of having school materials that reflect their people’s culture and history.