EcoLabs @ The Subtle Technologies Festival
June 3-6 2010, Toronto

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Artists, designers and other visual communicators have an important role to play in building an understanding of complex environmental problems and creating a momentum for change. Due to the fact that many of the necessary responses to global environmental imperatives are social and political rather than merely technological, cultural producers are key to catalyzing a transition. Yet before we swing into action to save the world from cataclysmic climate change and other converging environmental crises, a new type of learning must be embedded in our practice. This presentation will explore the emergent concept of ecological literacy (eco-literacy) as a starting point for an engaged cultural producer.

American physicist Frijof Capra and educator David Orr defined the concept of ecological literacy in the early 1990s as an understanding of the organizing principles of nature. Ecological literacy has since been developed into a new educational paradigm creating a conceptual basis for integrated thinking about sustainability. Ecological literacy requires that an understanding of natural process become an educational staple. It creates a foundation to enable industrialized societies to re-invent sustainable ways of living.

Ecological literacy is epistemic learning, it depends on critical analysis of our cultural assumptions. The associated concept of transformative learning implies that ecological literacy can only be developed with a process of engagement and through putting new ideas into practice. This presentation will demonstrate how visual communicators can use the concept of ecological literacy to contribute to the development of new cognitive skills, map new intellectual territory and help disseminate new information at a time of rapid societal change. I will present various projects from my practice based PhD research and my work with EcoLabs, a non-profit ecological literacy initiative.