In my previous posts on sacred places, I have claimed that:
1) Sacred places in our past are crucial for making us appreciate nature and formulate an ecological consciousness. So they are crucial for environmentalism.
2) Sacred places are readily available in our present lives, not isolated to extreme or remote locations. So if we want to save the wilderness/wildness in nature and the wildness in people, then we have to recognize and sanctify the nature in our lives and the nature in ourselves.
Now (for the sake of time), I would like to say a bit about sacred places future.
How can we ensure that our children and those beyond have places that they can hold sacred? Obviously, on a general level we have to continue (increase!) efforts to preserve species, habitats, resources, and overall biological diversity. That goes without saying. I want focus here on how we can ensure that our children will be sensitive to nature–that every future generation can be a Generation W (Wild) filled with lots and lots of little green men and women.
Even as we fall more and more under the tyranny of technology, even as we enter a “brave new world” that is more like the one Huxley envisioned than Shakespeare, there are many possible sacred places for future children. But I think some of the most will be green homes, green schools, and green screens.
You can make your home a green home whether or not you have a house, with an actual yard. Do anything and everything that you can to make your home place, inside and out, a sacred nature place that your children will always remember and return to.
Try to make at least one day each month an unplugged day. Kick the rugrats out of the house, lock the doors, and tell them, “Go play!”–and then go outside with them! Try to have at least one day each month when you do something together in nature. Take a picnic lunch and go to a local park. Plan, plant, and profit from a family vegetable garden in the yard. Go for a family hike or camping trip.
Even if you are urban or suburban, you can make nature part of the foundation of your family structure. Set up a potted herb garden in your windowsill and put potted plants in other places. Start bird watching with your kids–and see if you can spot more than just pigeons. Point out lone trees or flowerbeds shooting up from plains of concrete.
All of these things can help children find the sacredness of nature and the nature all around them. These things can help make children’s’ homes green homes, sacred places alive with and teaching about nature.
Unfortunately, a nurturing family is one of the many endangered species nowadays, and not all home places are safe places, let along green and sacred. These sad facts only make it more essential that schools become green schools.
It seems, however, that many school systems are turning to technology rather than embracing “living education”–which remains an alternative rather than a readily available option in most places.
Schools, then, must do more to incorporate education about nature that occurs in nature and somehow makes use of nature.
Hold class outside. Take a field trip. Redesign classrooms to make them more visibly sustainable and natural. All schools, and the educational system as a whole, can go green by seeking to live with nature and function like nature; school can become a place where we can tell children to go and “Let Nature be your Teacher.”1
I think that even schools can become sacred natural places for children if they become green schools,, more “natural” on all levels–from the structural to the curricular.
Surprised as I am to say this, I do believe that even technology and the mass media can facilitate nature experiences for our children.
In particular, nature can and should be fun in the virtual world so that children might be more inclined to find fun in the natural world, too. And perhaps it can give them some guidance on how to get that real, green fun, how to interact with and enjoy and sanctify nature as it runs according to its own lovely program.
Perhaps we could have video games dealing with environmental issues and representing the Earth in a positive, not predatory, way. For example, SimCity-type games could focus on sustainable development, handling crises, etc. The various and ubiquitous devices themselves could be more “natural” looking, too. Cell phones, iPods, laptops, and so much else could actually look “green” in various ways, from green cases/shells to images of leaves and birds and butterflies and all that other nature stuff.
And the mass media can contribute by focusing more on nature-related programming for children. Most important, nature programs and environmental issues must not be limited to PBS and a few specialty cable channels. More popular channels and shows, along with other media outlets, can bring nature and “green living” into children’s awareness in profound, yet startlingly simple, ways.
Simply put, get the green on the screen! For with green screens, children will be more sensitive to and aware of the sacred things nature, and so they will be able to go out and find sacred places in nature.
If we want to have places in the future that our children can hold sacred, and if we want our children to be able to live happy, healthy lives on this planet, then I believe we need green homes, green school, and green screens. Without these, I fear we may see the extinction of possibility for a Generation W. Without these, I fear we may lose our sacred places past, present, and future…and we may ultimately lose our children themselves.
Image credit: Florence Devouard at Wikimedia Commons.
1. Wordsworth, William. “The Tables Turned.” Selected Poems and Prefaces by William Wordsworth. Ed. Jack Stillinger. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965. 107.