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SOCIAL ECOLOGY AS FUTURE STORIES
Professor Stuart B. Hill
Department of Social Ecology
University of Western Sydney-Hawesbury
s.hill@uws.edu.au


This is a very personal account of social ecology. In this essay I will endeavour to discuss what social ecology means to me at this moment, place it within the vast smorgasbord of frameworks for understanding and action, share some critical moments in my evolving love affair with it, and talk boldly about where I believe it can make important contributions to our future, from the individual level to that of the species, and from the local to the global.
BREAKFAST WITH BOOKCHIN
SOCIAL ECOLOGY AT HAWKESBURY
MINIMAL COMPETENCIES FOR WORKING AS AN SOCIAL ECOLOGIST
DEFINITION
INCLUSION OF THE PERSONAL, SOCIAL & ENVIRONMENTAL
SUSTAINABILITY & CHANGE
ECOLOGICAL, HUMANISTIC & COMMUNITY VALUES
SPIRITUAL VALUES
IN CONCLUSION
                BREAKFAST WITH BOOKCHIN                   

First let me say that social ecology at UWS-Hawkesbury is significantly different from the usual text book descriptions, which invariably refer only to the writings of Murray Bookchin (e.g., Eckersley 1992, Merchant 1994). Marshall (1992), however, notes that the American ecologist E.A.Gutkind (1954) was the first to refer to social ecology in a publication, although Bookchin was the first person to develop it into a field of study with a set of principles. These, which we broadly embrace, include unity in diversity and complexity, spontaneity, complementary and mutualistic rather than hierarchical relationships, active participatory democracy and bioregionalism. Although Bookchin has written a lot about a lot of things, he is most known for his dislikes -- notably hierarchical systems, mysticism, primitivism, postmodernism and deep ecology (Bookchin 1995). We tend to be much less judgemental in these areas. 

Bookchin is a passionate ecoanarchist and ecolibertarian who is eager to warn people about the dangers of most aspects of our current society and to provide us with a critical view of our political history (Bookchin 1982). His central historical position is that domination of nature has its roots in the domination of humans by other humans, first on the basis of age and gender, and later also race and class. Whatever their origins, because all of these 'dominations' have been systematically institutionalised and integrated into most cultures, an acknowledgment of our interdependent relationships with nature, and of the need for the promotion of non-hierarchical cultures, is particularly challenging. 

Despite the difficulties of fully understanding Bookchin's position (Biehl 1998, Clark 1997, Watson 1996, see also many papers in Light 1998 for a philosphical and historical analysing of Bookchin’s social ecology), he has enjoyed a significant following, particularly in the New England States where he has inspired students at Goddard College in Montpellier, Vermont, at which degrees in social ecology have been offered since the 1970s.
 

Living in Montreal (1969-1995) and being active myself in a range of alternative movements I got to hear and was also inspired (and frustrated) by Murray many times, mostly at organic farming conferences in the region. He would usually talk about what was wrong with everything and I would usually ask him what he was proposing in its place, and he would usually continue on down his list of woes. Smith (1998) has also noted Bookchin's tendency to focus on the problems rather than on their resolution and prevention. One day, however, after persistent questioning, he answered 'town meetings' (to facilitate face-to-face grass roots democracy within confederated libertarian municipalities). So for many years for me social ecology was primarily about town meetings. Social ecology, however, seemed to keep cropping up. I had read one of Murray’s earliest books -- 'Our Synthetic Environment', published under the pseudonym Lewis Herber the same year (1962) as Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' -- and found it quite useful when I was preparing a course on the Physical and Biological Aspects of Pollution. Whereas Carson’s single issue book is widely credited as having given birth to the environmental movement, Bookchin’s much broader analysis is sadly
 

This is an edited version of an earlier draft of this paper that appeared in "A Social Ecology Journal’ 1999, UWSH, Richmond, NSW. Feedback is welcome. 

poorly known, and this has angered him since then. I had a friend who was in Goddard's social ecology program in the late '70s, and she was very enthusiastic about it. I also had another friend who was forever encouraging me to read what for many is still Bookchin’s most important book, 'Post-Scarcity Anarchism' (1971). Then in 1981, when Murray was sick, I was asked to teach in the summer program at Goddard, and I got a chance to interact more extensively with the social ecology staff and students. Murray turned up one day and while we were eating our granola breakfasts, he shocked us all by sitting down to a breakfast of white bread, Pepsi and Valium (apparently on the instructions of his doctor ? to avoid irritating roughage, obtain potassium and kill pain respectively!). My only other disappointing contact with Murray was hearing him state publicly that when he wrote his 'Open Letter to the Ecology Movement' (1980), which was published in a magazine called 'Tilth', not a single ecologist had replied, when in fact my reply had been published in the next issue. So it was with mixed expectations that I learned, from a past student who had moved from McGill University in Montreal to UWS, of the existence of a social ecology program at their Hawkesbury Campus. And if their School of Agriculture, where I had come to spend my 1993 sabbatical leave, had not offered its postgraduate coursework Residentials in conjunction with the School of Social Ecology I might never have come to know and value this amazing holistic oasis in the vast academic disciplinary desert.

                SOCIAL ECOLOGY AT HAWKESBURY                     

For me, as for most staff and students at Hawkesbury, finding social ecology was like finding home, a home that many of us had almost given up believing might really exist, having had to settle for so much less for so long. This unwillingness to settle for less and a passion to go further, particularly in our understanding and action relating to sustainability and change, is for me one of the most attractive features of social ecology at UWS. This is partly enabled by social ecology’s integration of the personal, social and environmental (discussed below) in most of its teaching and research. I was also attracted by its emphasis on experiential learning, participatory action research and other qualitative methodologies, its recognition of the importance of context, and its acknowledgment of diverse ways of knowing (including women’s and indigenous ways), the importance of diversity and of learning to collaborate across difference, of working for equity and social justice, particularly in relation to issues of power, gender and race, and of learning how to work with and design complex mutualistic systems, recognising chaos as an important precondition for creativity, development and coevolution, and not something to be quickly controlled and simplified. Social ecology brings together so many poles that rarely meet: the arts and sciences; critical thinking, reflexivity, passion and intuition; rationality and spirituality; the stories of the ancients, systems theory and chaos theory; plus an extensive list of disciplines. Social ecology is a transdiciplinary metafield that is particularly informed by ecology, psychology and health studies, sociology and cultural studies, the creative arts, holistic sciences, appropriate technology, post-structuralism and critical theory, ecofeminism, ecopolitics, ecological economics, peace and futures studies, applied philosophy and spirituality.

               MINIMAL COMPETENCIES FOR WORKING AS AN SOCIAL ECOLOGIST                     

Thus, to work effectively as a social ecologist one requires competencies in a number of areas that are rarely grouped together in educational programs, particularly at the tertiary level. These include, I believe, certain minimal understandings in the following four areas. 

1. Personal: what it means to be fully alive as a member of our species and of one’s communities, and as an active, responsible and creative partner in relationships (Shem & Surrey 1998), how our bodies and minds work (see especially the ecological epistemology provided by Bateson, 1972; also Harries-Jones, 1995), how we learn and develop, the relationships between the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, between organism and environment (and sense of place), self, others and society, and physiology and psychology. 

2. Social: including the nature of our various institutional structures, instruments and processes (politics, economics, religion, the arts, science and technology, education etc.), and our history, particularly our psychosocial history (see especially deMause, 1982, for a challenging view of this). 

3. Ecological: biodiversity (Dale and Hill 1996), biophysical processes, time and space, niches, roles and multifunctionality, limits and thresholds, non-linearity and cycles, mutualism and synergy, ecological succession and coevolution, and self-regulation and maintenance. 

4. Processes of Change: relations between personal, social and environmental change, the driving and restraining forces and how to strengthen and add to the former, and weaken and remove the latter (Lewin, 1935), how to work with 'memes' (Beck and Cowan, 1996), imagination, creativity and visioning, collaborative inquiry (Heron, 1996), participatory action research (Reason, 1994), soft systems methodology (Checkland & Scholes 1990) and mutuality or the ‘we’ as Shem and Surrey (1998) refer to it.

In gaining understanding and competence in each of these areas it is necessary to have opportunities to learn through personal experience and through exposure to mixed outcome case studies and diverse models2.

                DEFINITION                     

Because of the richness referred to above, it is difficult to find a definition of social ecology that is widely accepted within the Hawkesbury community, partly because the parts of it that are emphasised by each individual vary with their current interests and contexts. For me, at the moment, it is concerned particularly with ‘the study and practice of personal, social and environmental sustainability and change based on the critical application and integration of ecological, humanistic, community and spiritual values’. I am aware that all of these terms are hotly contested. However, I am choosing to use them, with some degree of discomfort, until I find better ways to describe my position.
 

                INCLUSION OF THE PERSONAL, SOCIAL & ENVIRONMENTAL                     

Such a condensed definition needs some explanation. Let me say first, however, that by stating my latest provisional thinking on the values that I consider central to social ecology I am hoping to encourage others to do likewise, partly to help me to further develop my own understanding. I am making the following statements not to say that this is how it is or must be, but rather that this is how it seems to me at this moment in time. It is my current story, my collection of narratives that make some sense of my experiences as a social ecologist. Working with such embodied stories is also central to my practice as a social ecologist.
 
 

The first and, for me, most important point is the explicit inclusion of the personal, emphasising our relational self (Shem & Surrey 1998). Most comparable so-called holistic frameworks for sustainability and change use as their three main categories economics, society and the environment. I believe that this privileging of economics, as being more important than all of our other social constructions ? more important, for example, than politics, religion, the arts, science and technology, education, systems of values and ethics -- is part of our problem. It helps to perpetuate a narrow monetary system of decision making. And, by doing this, it concentrates the power in the hands of those with large amounts of money. A broader and more diverse base for decision making would be more compatible with, and supportive of, a participatory democracy. Also, the common neglect of the personal supports the widespread perception that our problems can only be solved by heroes (mythologised rather than real people), particularly politicians and scientists, rather than problem solving (and, more importantly, prevention) being a collaborative project that requires all of our contributions. Money, along with our other institutional structures, instruments and processes, is, I believe, better regarded as a ‘tool’ that needs to be designed/redesigned and used wisely to help us to implement our values. Such tools need to be subservient to and supportive of our collective broader values, and not the other way round. Taking such an approach would cause us to pay much more attention to the development and clarification of our values and to their centrality in our day-to-day discourse, decision making and action. So many of the crises reported in the news each day provide clear feedback that most of our institutional structures, instruments and processes are in urgent need of redesign. Yet there is an enormous resistance to acknowledging this, and to embarking on the necessary task of transformation.
 
 

My own vision of a preferable society, based on my present limited level of understanding, would have the following features. A right to meaningful work and access to the ingredients needed to construct healthy and creative lives would gradually replace our current view of 'labour' as a cost to be minimised and even eliminated. This might help us to recognise this current dominant attitude as just one expression of our enslavement to a manipulated, deceptively simple economic bottom line (when the absolute bottom line is ecological). With a more widespread recognition of the importance of ecological limits and opportunities, solar and appropriate technologies could be emphasised, and non-renewable resources conserved for higher priorities than running cars and heating houses. And the value of conserving the rich biodiversity with which we share this amazing planet would be much easier to understand. This contrasts with our current oversimplified division of nature into resources to be managed and sold for profit, and pests to be eliminated with the vast chemical arsenal that we have assembled to, tragically usually non-specifically, eliminate life. What is most amazing about this situation is that most people seem to assume that they are somehow immune to these non-specific attacks. We should expect, rather than be surprised by, the common increases in degenerative diseases, immune system breakdown and associated behavioural problems. Indeed, these should be regarded as indicators to be responded to at the causal level, rather than as new 'enemies' to be subjected to the same faulty thinking and overkill technologies that got us into this mess in the first place. Most of the new biotechnology 'solutions' are sadly being conceived within this same deceptively simple construction of nature. This time, however, the ability of naively reconstructed organisms to multiply themselves and conduct their own 'experiments' could lead to much greater crises than our naive physical and chemical experiments.
 
 

Norgaard's (1994) coevolutionary framework for sustainable development and change similarly stresses the importance of values. It also highlights the tendency of our overemphasis on powerful institutional structures, such as global economics and the transnational corporations that it serves, together with certain powerful technologies, to colonise and compromise our values, diverse knowledge systems, and the health of our environment, our communities, our relationships and ourselves. He argues that genuine sustainable development requires a tick in each of these areas without such compromise.
 
 

My experience of working with a diverse range of populations over the past 30 years has led me to conclude that situation improvement projects are most effective and sustainable when they work in an integrated way with the personal, social and environmental. Such a framework is most conducive to participation, collaboration, personal development and creativity, responsibility and ownership, and a sense of place, purpose and meaning (Hill in press). Thus, for me the difference between highlighting the personal or economic is far from trivial. It has important consequences, not least of which is the imperative for developing the competencies noted above in each of these three broad areas, and an understanding of the ways in which they are interrelated.
 
 

                SUSTAINABILITY & CHANGE                    

I regard these two concepts very broadly. For example, at the personal level I regard most psychotherapy as being concerned with sustainability (recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction and maintenance, especially of mutually beneficial relationships) and change (transformation and development). Similarly, within societies most of our institutional structures, instruments and processes are preoccupied with these often apparently contradictory pulls. Sustainability and change are also central issues in the functioning of all ecosystems.
 

The highlighting of sustainability and change emphasises the two dominant features of all living systems: maintenance, into which most resources and energy are naturally channelled (usually over 90%), and development, transformation, adaptation and coevolution. These also relate to two interrelated ways of being in the world that are essential for wellbeing: 'knowing' (necessary for action) and 'unknowing' (necessary for learning). The key is to be able to move flexibly and appropriately between these two in an emergent spiral, not getting stuck for too long on one or the other. If we become stuck on 'knowing' we are in danger of becoming boring, oppressive and controlling 'know-it-alls', with well developed defences against new learning. People stuck on 'unknowing', on the other hand, often present themselves as perpetually apathetic, lost, searching, postponing or hyper-critical 'unknow-it-alls'. Learning to work flexibly and spontaneously with knowing and unknowing, the rational and the mystical, science and spirituality, the modern and postmodern, order and chaos, goals and plans and visions and dreams, and sustainability and change is one important expression of the essential competence of being able to embrace, learn from and work with paradox, an essential competence that remains largely undeveloped in our society. Rushkoff's (1996) book 'Children of Chaos' provides a paradoxical, challenging and hopeful view of how many young people, by playing with chaos, creativity and ‘shadow’ material, and with computers, are already intuitively preparing themselves for creating a more benign and caring future.
 

With respect to sustainability -- the rehabilitation, conservation and maintenance of ecological and cultural capital, including especially mutually beneficial relationships -- it is important to recognise that whereas ecological sustainability is dealing with absolutes, such as the air, water and nutrients for life, together with a vast range of mutualistic relationships, the requirements for social and cultural sustainability are relative and much more flexible. Because money has no comparable requirements, economic sustainability, in contrast, is dependent primarily on the wisdom of our decisions and actions (hardly comparable with resources like air and water). Thus, economic sustainability must serve firstly ecological sustainability, and secondly socio-cultural sustainability, and not vice-versa and Yeomans 1958 for a systematic approach to working ecologically (see Savory & Butterfield 1999 for a systematic approach to decision making and its application particularly to range management).
 

The absolute nature of ecological sustainability has important legislative, legal and regulatory implications. Thus, interventions into ecosystems (simplification, harvesting, waste disposal, release of novel chemicals and genetically modified organisms) must be regarded as 'guilty until proven innocent', with much reliance on the precautionary principle (Harding & Fisher 1999, Rattensperger & Tickner 1999). Similarly, risk studies need to be conducted with reference to ecological absolutes and socio-cultural values, and not based simply on economics. Currently, as part of a tendency to preserve the status-quo (or extrapolations of it), most risk studies, which should be providing us with valuable feedback for necessary 'redesign', are concerned only with problem measurement and assessment ? what I call 'monitoring our extinction' -- rather than with risk reduction and avoidance (see also Raffensperger 1998).
 

With respect to change, it is important to distinguish between ‘deep’ sustainable change, which usually requires fundamental redesign of the systems involved, and of our relationships with them, and ‘shallow’ adaptive, substitutive and compensatory change, which usually unintentionally protects and perpetuates the very structures and processes that are the sources of the problems that we are endeavouring to solve. In my work I distinguish between 'efficiency', 'substitution' (shallow) and 'redesign' (deep) approaches to change (e.g., Hill 1998). Although this 'E-S-R' model was first developed for re-conceptualising pest control (from inefficient to efficient use of pesticides, to the use of substitutes such as biological controls, to the integrated redesign and design of complex agroecosystems -- to favour the crops and natural controls and not the pests, e.g., Hill 1990; Hill et al. 1999), I have found it to be more widely applicable. Within this model, 'efficiency' and 'substitution' strategies may serve either as stepping-stones or as barriers to the ultimately essential 'redesign' approaches. This tendency to suspect that a phenomenon detected in one part of a system might also be operational in other parts of the system -- in generically similar but specifically different ways -- is one expression of the 'holographic paradigm' and of ‘holonomy’ (Harman & Sahtouris 1998), which are also central to my approach to social ecology.
 

I have also found when working with social change that it is important to meet people where they are, acknowledge their past and present relational efforts, support their 'next small meaningful steps', and if appropriate to celebrate their progress and completions publicly to facilitate their contagion. This is in contrast to the more common overemphasis on ('Olympic' scale) mega-projects, heroes, experts and heavy handed technological and legislative interventions. Using the former approach with Quebec farmers interested in adopting more sustainable systems of farm design and management led to much higher rates of change than had been achieved elsewhere using the more conventional top down approaches (Hill & MacRae 1992).
 

The other key to sustainable change is to be imaginative in integrating personal, social (including institutional), and environmental approaches, while also being aware of their limited substitutability. For example, the provision of a benign environment may, even in the absence of personal change initiatives or the fundamental redesign of institutions, lead to benign behaviour and health. This was achieved most dramatically in the Peckham Experiment in the UK in which over 1,000 families, who had access to a supportive recreational centre in Peckham between 1935 and 1950, experienced no marriage breakdowns, no violence, little interest in competitive games, the widespread formation of mutually beneficial relationships and a dramatic improvement in health and well-being (Stellibrass, 1989, Williamson and Pearse 1980). Similarly, there are numerous examples of individuals in deep psychotherapy, or who have been members of a supportive peer counselling or relationship counselling group, in the absence of environmental or institutional changes, significantly transforming their ways of being and relating in the world and similarly achieving dramatic improvement in their health and wellbeing (Gruen 1988, Jackins 1992, Janov 1971, Mahrer 1978, Rowan 1993, Shem & Surrey 1998, Stettbacher 1991). The greatest gains are likely to be achieved, however, when mutually supportive and potentially synergistic initiatives are being taken in each of these three areas.
 

Conversely, it is not surprising that in a culture that emphasises growth, greed, individualism, power over, hierarchy and compensatory, stimulatory consumption (particularly through commodification and manipulative advertising), and other characteristics listed in Table 1, that disempowerment, relationship breakdown, apathy, irresponsibility, addiction and violence will be common. Clearly, if we are to achieve sustainability and benign change, we will need to pay much more attention to the neglected and blocked expressions of humanity listed on the right of this table.

Dominant Grand Narrative of ‘Progress Neglected/Blocked
· Production (regardless of cost) · Maintenance, caring
· Growth, no limits · Sustainability, limits (resources, ecological....)
· Competition · Collaboration, mutualism, synergy
· Wealth · Sense of enough
· Individualism · Community, mutualistic relationships
· Consumerism (emphasising compensatory wants) · Conserver society (meeting basic needs)
· Homogenisation, simplification · Maintenance of diversity
· ‘Controlling’ science (‘understanding’ science and arts as a disposable luxury) · ‘Understanding’ science and arts
· Powerful technologies (often centralised, imported, inaccessible, unrepairable) · Appropriate technologies (decentralised, locally accessible, repairable)
· Market forces (manipulated demand, excessive advertising) · Values based decisions (participatory democracy)
· Economic rationalism (monetary system of values) · Meeting the greatest ‘good’ (social justice....)
· Transglobal corporate managerialism · Regional self-reliance and responsibility
· Mobile, disposable work force (disconnected from place) · Sense of place, right to meaningful work
The myths that these are embedded in are inadequate for securing a "good" future for most in present and future generations. We need to search for new life-promoting myths that can accommodate these characteristics: some can be found within nature (and ecology)

Fig.1. Dominant pressures and areas of neglect in industrialised societies.

                ECOLOGICAL, HUMANISTIC & COMMUNITY VALUES                    

As reference to these have been made throughout this article, only certain contentious points will be highlighted here. These values need to be considered together to avoid arriving at conflicting imperatives. As indicated above, however, it is essential that at every level our species recognises the primacy of those ecological values that are concerned with our survival, health and wellbeing. Because these are currently being compromised within our societies by so many political, business and personal decisions, this point cannot be overemphasised. I have previously assembled a list of ecological values (Hill 1980a), and I have spent over 20 years endeavouring to apply them, particularly to the design and management of sustainable food systems (e.g., Hill 1998, 1999).
 

Enlightened humanistic values (Bookchin 1995) ask that we live up to our potential as human beings. There is currently much confusion and polarisation in this area. Social ecology has been labelled by some of its critics as overly anthropocentric and contrasted with the supposedly more biocentric deep ecology perspective of Arne Naess and followers (Naess 1989). My version of social ecology is, however, critical of both positions. Because all healthy humans naturally have a survival instinct we are, in this respect, innately anthropocentric. To value another species above, or exactly equal to, that of one's own might even be indicative of a deeper problem of transference or projection. For example, if as a child one's 'animal' nature was not acknowledged, nurtured and integrated into one's personality, one adaptive compensatory response might be to seek alternative external ways of keeping this alive, perhaps through an excessive concern for other species. My point here is that by raising children to value their 'animal' nature (along with their other natures), they are more likely to be proactive in valuing the richness and diversity of nature as a whole, and to be consistent in acting on this knowing in responsible ways. In contrast, compensatory preoccupations tend to be relatively temporary and the energy invested is often more cathartic than constructive. The other extreme adaptive response to such deficient child rearing might be to largely deny one's 'animal' nature and, in so doing, also the value of external nature. A parallel argument has been applied to valuing and nurturing the feminine, as well as the masculine, in males, and the masculine, as well as the feminine, in females (Shem & Surrey 1998). Certainly we live in a world dominated by patriarchy, androcentrism, extreme anthropocentrism, technocentrism, racism, agism, and a range of other uncaring and irresponsible prejudices, and these must be addressed if we are to not disadvantage future generations and further diminish the planet's biodiversity and quality of habitat. Trying to resolve these problems by fanatically focussing on a particular type of 'otherness' tends to lead to further problems, not least of which is a common lack of respect and heightened competition between those committed to different ‘others’. The key, I believe, is to develop our understanding and caring for both our selves (our diverse natures) and otherness. Part of the common concern for making these equal (rather than equitable), simply by taking from one and giving to the other, may come from an assumption that there is not enough caring to go around (another common lesson from childhood). The personal task is to respect, value, support and develop mutualistic relationships with others so that their needs may be satisfied and their creativity and ‘gifts’ to the world expressed. The social task is to create contexts that are supportive of doing this, and especially of nurturing humanistic values and mutualistic relationships in children. Key child rearing and personal development references that integrate this awareness include Josselson (1996), Sazanna (1999), Shem & Surrey (1998), Solter (1989) and Stellibrass (1989).
 

The importance of community values follows from the above, for children need to be raised in diverse interactive communities in which they feel cared for and can form meaningful relationships. Although the current widespread loss of community, unlike the loss of species, is reversible, it is nevertheless a source of immense pain and diverse compensatory consumptive and impacting behaviours. It is also an example of an externality that is rarely considered in our obsession with short-term economic efficiency and associated economic rationalism. A hopeful development is the growing literature on cultural and social capital (e.g., Roseland 1999). For me there are parallels between caring for and maintaining the soil within ecosystems (Hill 1989) and communities within societies. The tragedy is that not only are we rapidly eroding soils and communities, we are also losing the knowledge and skills and institutional structures and processes that are needed for their on-going creation and maintenance.
 

One approach used by many social ecologists to help address such problems involves supporting the formation of learning communities (Senge 1992) and collaborative inquiry groups (Heron, 1996). These may then provide the ground within which the needed benign structures and processes can coevolve. Hunter et al. (1997) have integrated these and other approaches into what they call co-operacy, which they see as the next stage after autocracy and democracy. Central principles within a co-operacy might include caring and sharing, transparency and access, inclusiveness and participation, comprehensiveness, responsibility and proactivity.
 

               SPIRITUAL VALUES                     

The final inclusion in my short definition of social ecology refers to spiritual values. Here I am concerned that spirituality function as a spontaneous and integrated expression of our core nature, and not as compensation or escape. For me, spirituality is concerned with the 'rest', the mystery, the unmeasurable wonder and amazingness of it all -- from our still largely unknown origins to our unknowable futures. As such, spirituality is related mostly to the 'unknowing' side of the spiral referred to above. It is not something that needs to be explained and organised in great detail. Rather it is one expression of being human -- a source for our creativity and openness to learn. In our distressed state, however, we have subjected spirituality to the same organising and controlling forces that we have applied to our other social constructions -- hence the existence of so many religions. Although claiming to cater to our deep spiritual needs, most religions are more obviously designed and managed to meet the superficial compensatory desires of their constructors and followers. I believe that such over-organisation of spirituality is robbing so many of us of contexts within which to develop our sense of wonder, so necessary in turn for the development of our values, respect, caring and responsibility.
 

               IN CONCLUSION                     

In conclusion let me say that I believe that social ecology frameworks, such as that described above, are able to provide the breadth and depth of understanding that is needed to carry us forwards to the next stage in our psychosocial coevolution. To do this we will need to work with rather than against the narrower disciplines, and be more pro-active in collaborating with the other metafields, such as those concerned with sustainable development, peace and futures studies.
 

Professor Stuart B. Hill
Department of Social Ecology
University of Western Sydney
s.hill@uws.edu.au
 
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