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Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect

30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1559632959
ISBN-10: 155963295X
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Editorial Reviews


"Earth in Mind is a book for all who are committed to a restructuring of institutions of education."
(Wild Earth)

"As a rule economists understand economics, ecologists the environment, and educators teaching. David Orr is one of the rare authors who understands all three, and in these finely etched and admirable essays he delivers the revolutionary credo necessary, in my opinion, for the long-term survival of our species."
(Edward O. Wilson)

"Justly removing the hide with the hair, David Orr here examines the calamitous 'success' of the industrial economy and of the educational system that subserves it....Earth in Mind is also a manual of ideas and possibilities for those who want to work toward a better end than the one now in view."
(Wendell Berry author of The Distant Land)

"David Orr is a seasoned doer as well as thinker, whose primary concern—education—could be the very pivot on which our society turns back toward life. If such dramatic and necessary change in our teaching and learning does begin, much will be owed to the ideas herein."
(Stephanie Mills author of Epicurean Simplicity)

"What does one say about a book that is arguably one of the most important books written in recent years, perhaps ever?"
(Conservation Biology)

About the Author

David W. Orr is chair of the environmental studies program at Oberlin College, and education editor of the journal Conservation Biology  His previous books include Ecological Literacy  and Environmental Responsibility.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press (August 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155963295X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559632959
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,225,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By J.W.K on March 15, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
That the world we now live in is unsustainable goes without saying. Our skyrocketing population puts enormous pressure on the productive and absorptive capacities of the land, outstripping the natural carrying capacity of the planet by some twenty percent. As ever more fisheries collapse, forests shrink, rangelands deteriorate, soils erode, species vanish, temperatures rise, rivers run dry, water tables fall, ozone depletion expands and polar ice caps melt across the globe, the single most important question humanity has faced resonates ever louder: How can we live sustainably?

Orr argues that the ecological crisis is not technological problem that we can fix with some new-fangled gadgetry or updated economic models. Rather, the "disordering of ecological systems and the great biogeochemical cycles of the earth reflects a prior disorder in the thought, perception, imagination, intellectual priorities, and loyalties inherent in the industrial mind." In other words, ecological crisis is a crisis of education. And yet, as Orr makes so clear, "we continue to educate the young for the most part as if there were no planetary emergency."

The effects of our educational system are not only bad for the planet, according to Orr, but bad for us as well. Contemporary "education...alienates us from life in the name of human domination, fragments instead of unifies, overemphasizes success and careers, separates feeling from intellect and the practical from the theoretical, and unleashes on the world minds ignorant of their ignorance." In effect, we educate a society to get straight As and fail Life.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Raymondjack on January 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
I once saw a lecture by James Randi, the skeptic and amateur magician who likes to debunk "miracles" and other mumbo jumbo. He was discouraged on this night, and he relayed his thoughts on how to save rationalism in a seeming advancing tide of superstition and magical thinking. He said something along the lines of, 'Forget trying to work with the adults, it's already too late for them. Concentrate on cultivating rational habits of mind among children, for whom there is still hope.'

This book by David Orr reminded me of that advice from Randi. While progressives and environmentalists make worthy efforts to control the worst aspects of industrial civilization through regulation and policy changes, what often gets short shrift is education. What is the use of treading water in the adult world of environmental destruction, if our children are still being taught to contribute to those very processes of civilization that do all of the damage? Orr reminds us that the most difficult change that needs to happen is one of mindset, of formative ideas. There are plenty of appropriate technologies out there to change the world, but we lack the political will and cultural mindset to implement what needs to be done.

The best way to create that ecological mindset, or worldview, is to teach children from the earliest age that they are part of a wonderful but fragile ecosystem, one that needs their help and devotion to survive. If we don't teach our daughters and sons that the earth is their home, and that processes that kill their home are ultimately suicidal, then all of the policy work and regulatory stop-gaps are worthless. This is good stuff, well worth reading.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Cal Perrine, on August 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
Dr. Orr's analysis of the root causes of our environmental problems is powerful and pesuasive. Rather than trying to address the corrective actions for the symptoms (ozone holes and global warming, for example) he identifies their fundamental sources and focuses his proposed corrective actions on them. The lack of any meaningful educational content on what it means to be a citizen in a closed ecology on a planet with finite resources is at the center of why the environment continues to deteriorate. If you are serious about being part of the solution and not part of the problem, read this book! --and get others to do the same. I've bought twenty copies that I plan to send to the most influential people I know. If they will read it, they will be "hooked" as I was.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Elliott C. Maynard on June 1, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Orr presents an intellectual schematic for bringing "Earth in Mind" into the forefront of Human Conscousness. The Essential Theme running through this incisive and thoughtful book might best be summarized through the author's words: "Commercial television, the breakdown of families, and the culture of violence have made the task of nurturing young minds and hearts far more difficult than it once was." He approaches this fragmation of America's Ideal by presenting a series of in-depth metaphors and perspectives, which answer his question, "How do you create good schools without first creating a good society that values the life of the mind and lives lived with heroism and high purpose? This book is a valuable contribution to the Ecological Literature of the times. Elliott Maynard, Ph.D., President, Arcos Cielos Research Center, Sedona, Arizona.
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