In an article on the Center for Ecoliteracy‘s web site entitled the “New Facts of Life” , Fritjof Capra writes that ecological principles “in a nutshell” can be stated thus: “nature sustains life by creating and sustaining communities.”
He continues, “Sustainability, then, is not an individual property but a property of an entire web of relationships. It always involves the whole community. This is the profound lesson we need to learn from nature. The way to sustain life is to build and nurture community. A sustainable human community interacts with other communities—human and nonhuman—in ways that enable them to live and develop according to their nature. Sustainability does not mean that things do not change. It is a dynamic process of co-evolution rather than a static state.”
The article goes on to explain that a framework for approaching the new facts of life and the challenges facing the world today must be based on systems thinking: understanding the relationships, nested systems, cycles, flows and interconnectedness of individuals and communities.
The “new facts of life” naturally fit within the aspirations of world language curricula (and vice versa).
The ACTFL standards reflect a parallel shift away from a focus on the pieces and parts of language and toward an understanding of communication within the contexts of communities and cultures. Systems thinking (“understanding relationships” and considering the “interconnectedness of individuals and communities”) is our business. What better way to develop empathy and appreciation of multiple perspectives than learning to see the world through the lens of another language and cultures? The standards of comparisons and connections open the door to tremendous opportunities to explore ecological principles and discover the dynamics of places and communities.
From this can flow the skills, knowledge, heart and imagination needed to create healthy, sustainable societies.