a felt sense
Hilary Whitehouse (2000) writes: "I wish to explicitly recognize the existence of multiple possibilities for shaping knowledges within and without (human) discursive practices, and to slip, momentarily, away from what I see as the curse of anthropocentrism" (pp. 12-13; see also, 2002).
Throughout her doctoral research, Whitehouse and her research participants spoke of a felt sense of embeddedness in the natural world. Yet it was for brief moments only that they managed to move beyond the social constraints of their own subjectivities to find language through which they could articulate this embeddedness. Also, when Whitehouse transgressed the boundaries of appropriate human, and, in the midst of an 'invasion' of worms in her body described herself as a 'wormbag,' she encountered category maintenance. Her friends chastised her, wanting her to maintain 'appropriate' human boundaries (Whitehouse, 2000).
Perhaps part of the task here, is to provide more exposure to instances of human-Earth boundary crossing (see, for instance, Abram, 1996; Haraway, 2004b). Yet both research practices, and category maintenance supported by daily speech and action, maintains these boundaries. Not only does criteria for assessing environmental education research remain "essentially anthropocentric" (Reid, 2003, p. 25), but it too infrequently challenges Western ontological assumptions or engages in discussions of ontology put forward by systems and quantum theorists such as Laszlo (2008), and Goswami (1993).
Many (e.g. Bai, 2009; Capra, 1982) argue that the Cartesian dualism and growing emphasis and reliance on science as a primary and privileged way of knowing was the cause of the separation between humans and the natural world. Abram (1996) suggests that the development of the phonetic language was a big part. Still others (e.g. White, 1967; Berry & Tucker, 2006) point to Christianity and the anthropocentric undercurrent of its storylines. It is likely that all had some part to play. These storylines, and more, place humans in the privileged position of the unmarked norm and allow humans to live in relative comfort. Yet they, and the discourses embedded in them, also make it much more difficult to access ways of knowing supported by porosity – ways that can open one to a sense of deep connection with the more-than-human world and support the shift in consciousness many (e.g. Berry, 1999; Korten, 2006; Stirling, 2007) claim is necessary to achieve environmental sustainability.