Environmental Awareness

I use the term "environmental awareness" frequently in my work-- in lectures, in essays, even in the mission statement of my art activities and website.  In the introductory chapter of Gardening: An Ecological Approach I have set out to define the term:

"An 'environmental awareness' is a basic scientific understanding of the physical and biological entities, relationships, and context that actually enable us to live and thrive. This comprehension of context includes recognizing and knowing about environmental features such as our specific geographic location on this particular spinning, tilted, orbiting planet; such as the geology and soil parent materials under the soils upon which we stand; such as the history, topography and climate of our place on Earth; such as the plants, fungi, microbes, and animals that interact in the diverse ecological communities within which we have established our homes and our economic communities; such as the very human actions and artifacts that affect, for better or worse, all of these contextual elements."

"Environmental awareness acknowledges that the two transcending transactions that have maintained life on Earth for the past 3.7 billion years are the thermodynamic beneficence of perpetually flowing solar energy and the on-Earth cycling of materials that permits continual birth and renewal."

"Environmental awareness recognizes and celebrates our intimate and inextricable connection to a set of relatively stable conditions: an atmospheric oxygen concentration of about 21%, a mean global surface temperature of about 59 degrees F, atmospheric and oceanic currents that circulate energy and materials, a benign (until recently) atmospheric 'greenhouse' mechanism, etc.  This level-headed awareness confesses our total dependence on myriad ecological functions, processes, and interactions. These include, for instance, photosynthesis and the fixation of solar energy, decomposition and the recycling of nutrients, soil formation, pollination, climate moderation, water purification, the operation of critical biophysical stabilizing feedback loops, etc.  And, of course, this awareness instills in us a deep affiliation with, and respect for, all other organisms whose participation in these vital processes we can neither assume nor replace nor live without."

--From Gardening: An Ecological Approach, p. 21, © Fred Montague, 2009