Blog at


Welcome to Multifaith Conservation Curricula of the Heart!
A production of Resilience-UK

1 Introduction

Three ideas emerge from human social evolution;

  • the idea of an Earth designed for the use of human kind;

  • the idea of the influence of environment on culture;

  • and the idea of a system of values about how to handle nature for the sustainable distribution of just shares.

These ideas are best handled within a spiritual framework of 'multifaith conservation curricula of the heart'.

"For education, the sense of heart which we have been considering primarily implies the importance of a holistic approach. We have seen that heart encompasses feeling, knowing, loving, and is our access to one another. It is also the deep well of our full human meaning -- of whoever we may be at last. An educated heart would be educated in the practice of self-knowledge. An educated heart would be educated about affections, and the ways of interaction. It would also have to understand the requirements of participation and the necessity, for that possibility to be realized, of democratic association. It would understand the anatomy of courage and be responsive to its call. The heart of education is the well-being of community. For the educated heart, the need of a functioning community is the concrete impetus for using and evaluating the ways of knowing and creating we have inherited, as well as the challenge to invent new intellectual and aesthetic vehicles of its justice. An educated heart, as the place in ourselves and in others where we must especially allow hearing room, would respect transcendence at the horizon of our own self-meaning".

A guide to educational practice generated by sensitivity to the education of the heart might include aims like these:

  • to encourage habits of critical self-awareness
  • to valorize openness to interiority
  • to accept the equal right of all individuals to the autonomy of their emotional lives
  • to encourage the development of individual voice; and, as the practical condition of its possibility, develop the capacity for hearing the voice of the other
  • to learn what and how the other wants (the real justification of multi-culturalism is equality of access to one's own emotional life; simple empathy for each other is not enough)
  • to accept mutuality as the form of the learning environment
  • to acknowledge the educability of emotional life and develop its practice
  • to acknowledge the limits of conceptualizable vision
  • to encourage openness to the unknown, and humility and courage in its presence
  • to develop appropriate tolerance for ambiguity to fully integrate expressive creation into the educational mainstream to study the requirements of democratic responsibility
  • to promote habits and techniques of collaboration
  • to focus assessments of educational quality on citizens' capacities to function within the requirements of democratic responsibility

It seems important to add here, in the light of Macmurray's observations on how we gain personal knowledge, that outcomes-assessment for the education of the heart cannot evade a strong measure of dialogue. The achievement of individual voice or of an atmosphere of mutual openness is not detectable without personal confirmation. Self-examination, honesty, truthfulness, mutual patience, and mutual trust will heavily mark the habits of inquiry by which we care for and measure progress in the education of the heart. Establishing what we decide to commit ourselves to, in a manner consistent with the priority of heart, favors the modality of consensus building, whose inner life is dialogue. Communion is the fullest communication and communion is only verifiable within its achievement. Personal testimony will provide the major evidences for the successes and failures of education that is sensitive to the heart. Learning the skills for translating experience into growth relies heavily on a culture of dialogue.
Thomas Taaffe

2 Attitudes to nature

Despite the fascinating and still very active question of whether 'the environment' only exists as a mental construct for present purposes it is assumed it is a material reality. Abstract ideas about the relation of humans and their surroundings seem to have emerged from the everyday reality of getting a living. Such abstractions arose in the very early days of human cultural development when people thought about their major means of subsistence. The Upper Palaeolithic cave paintings of southern France and northern Spain include pictures representing their relationships with the non-human world. It is likely that these were the beginnings of a long-standing urge to explore and account for the origins of the universe and of our place in it. From early times origins of humankind and Cosmogenesis were enshrined in myths, which have semi mathematical models of the 'big bang' and the 'black hole.

There was also the desire to understand people's relationships with nature and with some kind of Absolute which lead to hunters propitiating the spirit of the actual animal they killed or a tutelary deity of all animal spirits in order to avoid 'blame' for their act and to ensure the sustainability of this form of subsistencs. This spiritual relationship The right type of relationship was also thought to bring prosperity and fertility to their community. Nature has often attracted a religious focus, such as the habits of peasants who burn candles before rocks and plants and honour streams by placing bread upon their waters. Indeed, one Christian eschatology saw the earth as over-populated and full. Other Christians, had a sense of the recreational powers and potentials of nature: there was a fear of the forests, the moor, the fen and the sea: all those places we now call wilderness. There was for those people no assurance that nature would not reclaim their fields and village.

3 The designed Earth

From antiquity to the 18th century three themes have been persistent. The first of these is the idea of a designed earth: one especially fitted for the human species. This is part of the wider concept of an overall creation with a particular purpose which was usually divine. However, it also represents an attempt on the part of western thinkers to create an holistic framework which to a scientific turn when the first models of evolution and of ecology became debated.

4 Environment determines culture

The second great theme is that of environmental influence on culture. This derives initially from the contrast between the variety of environments and local custom in different places. This analysis came to be used in interpreting the great array of human cultural and biological differences leadidng to the view not only the influence of different environments but also the limitations which the earth imposed on social development. Carl Ritter’s theme (1779-1859) was that the physical environment was capable of determining the course of human development. His ideas were strengthened by the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859, with its emphasis on the close relationships of organisms and their habitats, and the notion of the pressures of natural selection. Thus arose a 'scientific' type of environmental determinism which accounted for such features as migrations and the national characteristics of particular peoples.

Huntington (1876-1947) tried to seek out objective evidence of the effect of the physical environment, and in particular climate which he regarded as an important influence on human behaviour. He suggested that the 'best' climates for work were those in which there was variety and in which the temperatures fell within a certain range. Taylor (1880-1963) suggested that although the physical environment led inexorably in a particular direction, societies could control the rate at which they progressed through the various stages of development. This was likened to a traffic control system which determined the rate but not the direction of progress, and so it became known as 'stop and go determinism'.

5 The environment offers possibilities

The nineteenth century also saw the rise of an alternative to determinism, usually labelled 'possibilism', associated especially with the French school of geography. The physical environment was seen as a series of possibilities for human development. Except perhaps in regions of extremes like deserts and the tundra, the actual ways in which development took place were related to the culture of the people concerned, The historian Lucien Febvre (1878-1956)asserted that initiative and mobility of man worked against as against the passivity of the environment. Among those influenced by this type of thinking was H.J. Fleure (1877-1969) who tried to formulate world regions based on human characteristics rather than the traditional climatic-biotic regions. He invented a scheme which included 'regions of effort', 'regions of hunger' and 'industrialized regions'. But because he recognized in his scheme regions of 'lasting difficulty' and 'debilitation' he too saw the relevance of the influence of the physical environment.

Possibilism has also been influential in the rise of the school of cultural geography associated with Carl Ortwin Sauer and the University of California at Berkeley, and with the development of the idea of human ecology. The founder of this latter notion was H. H. Barrows (1877-1960), who stressed the importance of the type of relationship between human and particular physical factors. Some historians, too, have moved in a more ecological direction, notably F. Braudel, who delineated the end if tge eighteenth century as a watershed when vast areas of the earth were still a Garden of Eden for animal life.

Now we see that determinists and the possibilists both have useful points to make but they are valid at different scales. The environmentalists in the 1960s saw quite distinctly that there is an overall limit to certain kinds of human economic activity in terms of the biophysical persistence and resilience of the planet's biophysical systems. So the planetary economy provides Earth with a finite physical or ecological envelope. Within this, human technology and knowledge allow a variety of adjustments to the natural resources of the planet. At the very largest scale we can be determinist, whereas at more local scales we can see the virtue of possibilism. Nevertheless the technological achievements of humankind are such that we can now contemplate the replacement of some of the biophysical systems of the planet with man-made ones, providing that enough energy is available. Knowledge of the planetary economy might make us even more intent upon living within it. This is the new determinism of the living sustainably.

6 The Western world view


The Western world view represents the third ancient strand of thought about our relationship with nature. This is the set of views that sees man empirically as the modifier of nature but where nature in turn affects the perceptions of human societies. The evolving western world-view has entrained the notion that nature may be seen as a set of resources to be used to satisfy human demands. This idea may be traced from its state where God was an artisan who left the creation unfinished and man became the collaborative finisher by draining marshes, reclaiming wild lands and generally making the rough places plain. It was developed optimistically in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with forecasts of a tide which would carry men to ever greater heights of perfectibility. In the nineteenth century there came a pessimism when the deleterious effects of some of the efforts of the finishers became all too obvious.

Marsh was a US diplomat who lived abroad for much of his life and his book Man and Nature, or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (1864) highlighted what he saw as the upsetting of a balance within nature by unwise human action. He was not only a chronicler of man-induced environmental change but a judge of it as well. His influence has persisted in many fields of study and in 1954 a commemorative symposium was held, published in 1956 as Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth (edited by W. L. Thomas). In many ways, Marsh can be seen as the immediate antecedent of today's environmentalists, and the type of work found in the 1956 volume has been expanded many-fold to give us more details of human impact upon the environment for both the past. The US National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) of 1969 with its requirement of Environmental Impact Statements seems a logical successor to Marsh's concerns.

             THE   PARALLELS   between   Greek   and  Indian
        literature,  mythology,  and  philosophy   have  been
        stressed   often   since  the  days  of  Sir  William
        Jones,who  drew  an elaborate  and forced  comparison
        between  the Hindu  philosophical  systems  and their
        supposed counterparts in the Greek schools and the
        days of Colebrooke, who also had some concise remarks
        to  make  on the  subject.  Recent  scholars  have
        restated   some   of   the   evidence,   notably   S.
        Radhakrishnan and attention is being increasingly
        directed  to the channels  by which Indian  influence
        reached  Greece.
In terms of who or what we are the Greeks took the view that:
Reason is at the core our being
Our reasoning ability sets us apart from other animals
Reason controls emotions & appetites
We may act like animals at times, but only because we are not using reason to control the other parts of our being
Humans alone are capable of living according to reason
In the dialogue“Phaedrus”, Plato presents the allegory of the charioteer to explain the tripartite nature of the human soul or psyche.
The chariot is pulled by two winged horses, one mortal and the other immortal.

The mortal, black horse is deformed and obstinate. Plato describes the horse as a “crooked lumbering animal, put together anyhow… of a dark color, with grey eyes and blood-red complexion; the mate of insolence and pride, shag-eared and deaf, hardly yielding to whip and spur.”

The inmortal, white horse, on the other hand, is noble and game, “upright and cleanly made… his color is white, and his eyes dark; he is a lover of honor and modesty and temperance, and the follower of true glory; he needs no touch of the whip, but is guided by word and admonition only.”

In the drivers seat is the charioteer, tasked with reining in these disparate steeds, guiding and harnessing them to propel the vehicle with strength and efficiency. The charioteer’s destination is the ridge of heaven, beyond which he may behold the Forms, Truth and absolute Knowledge. These essences nourish the horses’ wings, keeping the chariot in flight.

The charioteer joins a procession of gods, led by Zeus, on this trip into the heavens.

The ride is turbulent. The white horse wishes to rise, but the dark horse attempts to pull the chariot back towards the earth. As the horses pull in opposing directions, and the charioteer attempts to get them into sync, his chariot bobs above the ridge of heaven .

If the charioteer is able to behold the Forms, he gets to go on another revolution around the heavens. But if he cannot successfully pilot the chariot, the horses’ wings wither from lack of nourishment, or break off when the horses collide and attack each other, or crash into the chariots of others.

When the chariot plummets to earth, the horses lose their wings, and the soul becomes embodied in human flesh. The degree to which the soul falls, and the “rank” of the mortal being it must then be embodied in is based on the amount of Truth it beheld while in the heavens.

The degree of the fall also determines how long it takes for the horses to regrow their wings and once again take flight. Basically, the more Truth the charioteer beheld on his journey, the shallower his fall, and the easier it is for him to get up and get going again.

The Tripartite Nature of the Soul and theAllegory of the Chariot

Plato conceives of the soul as having (at least) three parts:
  1. 1. A rational part (the part that loves truth and knowledge, which should rule over the other parts of the soul through the use of reason)→ The Charioteer represents man’s Reason
  2. 2. A spirited part (which seeks glory, honor, recognition and victory) →Thewhite horse represents man’s spirit.
  3. 3. An appetitive part (which desires food, drink, material wealth and sex) →The black horse represents man’s appetites.

7 Other faiths

So far, only western philosophies and world-views have been mentioned. At an abstract level, non-western views may be very different from those of the West, especially those which emphasize quietism and non-interference, or which reject the western dualism of man and nature in favour of equality of standing and value and where change is to be expected of both. But the results in operational terms do not seem to be very different from those in the West. Deforestation under western materialism can be matched with deforestation under Buddhism and Taoism; conservation of forest lands for hunting or as sacred groves in Europe and the Mediterranean can be set alongside the sacred trees of India (Ficus religiosa was worshipped as early as the third or fourth millennium BC), and the forest sanctuaries of Japan and the Philippines which may be pre-agricultural in origin. It is therefore scarcely possible to equate non-western philosophies with different environmental outcomes at those levels of generalization. This is not to say that particular societies did not achieve very delicately balanced relationships with their surroundings.

As far as the present is concerned, we should add that much of the world is under the sway of the western world-view: it has been adopted directly and consciously by states which want to 'modernize', accepted as an inevitable part of aid policies by others, and taken in unknowingly by yet more as part of the price of allowing the operations of a transnational company. Alternatives to the western outlook are found mostly in the western countries themselves where a particular level of affluence has allowed the rise of 'alternative' lifestyles based on a low-impact relationship with nature. But no great harm to truth is done if we regard the western world-view to be today's most strongly pervasive set of operational processes. As J. M. Roberts puts it, 'the story of western civilisation is now the story of mankind.'

On the other hand there are non-western ideas glamering to enter the curriculum. For example, the Sathya Sai Education in Human Values programme is an international programme focusing on children throughout the world through self-development. It aims to nurture and develop the innate goodness of the child by developing the basic universal values of: Truth, Love, Peace, Right Conduct, and Non - violence.

Notions about 'nature'

Meeting god

What does Hinduism teach us about ecology

List of Faith Plans