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A Psycho-Evolutionary Theory of Outdoor Education James Neill University of Canberra Tonia Gray University of Wollongong Jason Bocarro University of New.

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Presentation on theme: "A Psycho-Evolutionary Theory of Outdoor Education James Neill University of Canberra Tonia Gray University of Wollongong Jason Bocarro University of New."— Presentation transcript:

1 A Psycho-Evolutionary Theory of Outdoor Education James Neill University of Canberra Tonia Gray University of Wollongong Jason Bocarro University of New Hampshire Graham Ellis-Smith Kadjinny Enterprises Ricardo Sierra Earth Mentoring Institute Kaushal Desai Adventure India

2 Overview n Evolution: What has really changed? n Psycho-evolutionary theory (PET) n Intra-indigenous consciousness (IIC) n Implications of PET for Practice n Implications of PET for Research

3 “Ishi was sure he knew the cause of our discontent. It stemmed from an excessive amount of indoor time. 'It is not a man's nature to be too much indoors.”

4 "If today I had a young mind to direct, to start on the journey of life, and I was faced with the duty of choosing between the natural way of my forefathers and that of the... present way of civilization, I would, for its welfare, unhesitatingly set that child's feet in the path of my forefathers. I would raise him to be an Indian!"

5 What has really changed?

6 Hunting: Hundreds of Years Mountaineering: Hundreds of Years The Wall: Tens of Years

7 What has really changed? Canoes: 100,000 years? Sail rafts: 20,000 years? Seakayak: 30 years

8 Sources of Food 2,000,000 years40 years

9 Tool Usage Copper/Iron: 3,000 years Computers: 20 years Stone/Wood: 500,000? years Industrial Machines: 150 years

10 What has really changed?

11 n Technology in its myriad forms intercedes between direct experience and daily intimacy with nature n Human’s inbuilt sensitivities and capacities for acquiring knowledge about nature are under-utilised n We are yet to understand the impacts of humans living en masse in radically artificial environs

12 Psycho- evolutionary Theory (PET)

13 Psycho-evolutionary Theory Proposition 1: n Human beings have a genetic predisposition towards “life-like” or “nature” processes (Biophilia Hypothesis)

14 Biophilia Hypothesis Edward Wilson, an etymologist proposes that: humans have an instinctive affinity with life- like processes i.e., nature, due to our evolutionary history

15 Psycho-evolutionary Theory Proposition 2a: Everybody is indigenous. Proposition 2b: Rediscovery of indigeneity can occur through experiential reconnection with elements of nature and experiences which were significant to one’s ancestors -> unlocking of intra- indigenous consciousness (ICC)

16 Psycho-evolutionary Theory Proposition 3: Lifestyles of domesticated humans in the 21 st century AD have been altered so far from that for which humans were equipped by evolution that humans are suffering for lack of direct contact with nature and the associated activation of intra- indigenous consciousness that arises from direct contact with nature.

17 Howard Frumkin n Literature review of the positive physical health effects of nature (in American Journal of Preventive Medicine) n Uses biophilia hypothesis as underlying the apparent positive benefits. n Research reveals positive, healthy effects of nature-based experiences e.g., effects of animals, nature scenes, adventure therapy, etc.

18 Example evidence of “nature’s” imprint on consciousness… n 90% of children’s stories, cartoons, etc. feature animals as the main characters n Photos and artworks of nature and natural scenes adorn our homes, work- places, used as screen savers, etc. n Dwellings with views of nature (e.g., ocean views) are highly valued

19 Psycho-evolutionary Theory n Proposition 4: 21 st century Western society exhibits a paradox : Each citizen consumes and pollutes the environment in an unsustainable manner in order to service lifestyle indulgence. Ironically these citizens are also driven to experience relatively unadulterated nature- based & indigenous-culture based experiences & get mental & physical benefits from doing so.

20 Psycho-evolutionary Theory n Proposition 5a: Outdoor education is a form of ritualistic or compensatory cultural adaptation to deal with the recent, rapid divorcing of nature from daily life. n Proposition 5b: Outdoor education occurs in industrialized lifestyles in order to reconnect people with nature, simple living, and the corresponding activation of IIC.

21 Psycho-evolutionary Theory n Proposition 6: The rift between evolution and culture could be bridged by re-connecting people with nature and natural processes, thereby activating IIC.

22 What if we could experientially grasp our evolutionary heritage?

23 e.g., via indigenous Rites of Passage What if we could connect to the knowledge of our ancestors?

24 Practice Implications n PET suggests that by engaging people’s IIC, a powerful source of knowing can emerge i.e., people can genuinely come to understand themselves as part of, not apart from, nature and begin to act accordingly, potentially dealing with the critical post- industrialized “apartness”. n Outdoor education could be more directly engaging in activities and processes which facilitate the unlocking of IIC.

25 Example Methods for Developing Intra-Indigenous Consciousness n Walking with awareness (next simplest to ‘being with awareness) e.g., Sacred Run n Minimum technology / basic tool experiences n Workshops/ceremonies to unlock connections with nature, e.g., Council of All Beings n Inner symbology & altered consciousness activities, e.g., Vision Quests, sweat lodges, etc. n Experiential indigenous-reconnection programs such as Rediscovering Your Indigenous Heart

26 Research & Theory Implications n Occam’s Razor (parsimony) in modern science suggests the simplest explanation which fits the data is preferred n PET is yet to be disproven; it is a simple theory for guiding research and practice n Potentially profound implications for society, education and outdoor education n PET could inject OE into society as a vital component for our evolution; but OE must genuinely evolve a focus on unlocking ICC

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