Teaching Ecological Imagination with David Orr

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"Imagine a national effort to remake every school in the country so they're powered by renewable energy. Have young people engaged in that process from the earliest grades right on through Ph.D. Use the campus not just as a place that looks decorative and has to be mowed and sprayed, but as a place for gardens, so that the food in the school cafeteria is grown largely on site. Imagine schools designed to spark ecological imagination in young people." This is the vision of ecologist and educator David Orr. In a world on the brink of ecological disaster, he is hopeful that we can still turn the tide if we recognize that the people who will create the sustainable society of the future are sitting in our classrooms today. However, if we hope to be educating the Rachel Carsons and Aldo Leopolds of the twenty-first century, he cautions, we must design our schools and our curricula accordingly. His strategy for doing that, and his musings on the value - or lack thereof - of passion, television, and rites of passage, make for a fascinating and inspiring dialogue. (hosted by Michael Toms)  Part of the Reimagine Growing Up Series.


David Orr, Ph.D. is Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Chair of the Environmental Studies program at Oberlin College, and cofounder of the Meadowcreek Project, an environmental education center in Fox, Arizona. He is widely recognized for his groundbreaking work in ecological design and in promoting environmental literacy in higher education.

A prolific author, his books include:

  • Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect (Island Press 2004)
  • The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention (Oxford University Press 2004)

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • Why we need to organize a "jail break" for our kids
  • How ecological education helps develop your child's self-esteem
  • How fertilizer spread on a farm in Iowa contributed to the devastation of hurricane Katrina
  • Why shopping malls are educational
  • Why your next family camping trip should include an element of risk
Host: Michael Toms     Interview Date: 10/12/2005      Program Number: 3115