An underlying ethic of the Learning Environment is the intention to behave in ecologically authentic ways. We believe it's really important that our behaviour, structures, and processes mimic the natural processes of life. This intention guides the way we approach the world and how we organise ourselves.
We acknowledge that the natural processes on Earth have resiliently sustained life for an exceptionally long time. They are processes that create life. At a time when humans are engaging in behavioural processes that are damaging life, the Learning Environment considers it necessary to look to life-creating processes to guide us in our personal and collective transformation.
This idea is not new. Biomimicry is a concept that has inspired people to look to the natural structures of the world and mimic them. However, often the idea of biomimicry is limited to the mimicking of static outcomes rather than processes.
We're guided by the idea that whatever we create will never be life-creating if we do not mimic life-creating processes. For me, this idea has been largely informed by Christopher Alexander and the design conversations I have been having with peers and colleagues in light of his ideas (some of these conversations can be explored more at makingpermaculturestronger.net).
“In principle, every social process which plays any role at all in the formation of the environment is potentially a living process… All extant processes may be scrutinized, tested, examined for the degree to which they are life-creating or not. And it is reasonably clear that all types of processes, since they all have some impact on the formation of the environment, should be made more living…” Christopher Alexander, 2002, p.506
I suggest that to transform contemporary human processes into life-creating processes, we will need to change the way we see and interact with the world around us. The enormity of this task cannot be underestimated. This may be the great challenge of our time. I suggest that it is in our social processes – the ways we interact with each other, the ways we form our identities, the ways we learn, the ways we organise – that the most critical transformations must occur.
A social mindset of separation and mechanisation restricts modern social organisation to life-destroying processes.
“In order to institute a widespread, overall living process in our 21st century, this [mindset] must (slowly) be swept away. We must find ways to transform, through society, our mental ways, our processes, our ways of thinking and doing, in every field that touches the environment.” Christopher Alexander, 2002, p.529
To be an ecologically authentic space for learning, the Learning Environment must be guided by organisational processes that mimic life-creating processes. The research I began in 2018 and continue today seeks to both inform the organisational processes of the Learning Environment and inspire the kind of social transformation we may depend on to survive and thrive. I invite to read on about the things we've been experimenting with, and the learning we have been enjoying.
“Like the organisms in a biological ecosystem, organizations must adapt when faced with rapid fluctuations in their environment or they will eventually die. The way organisms adapt, including organizations, is through a process of selection, such as natural selection in a biological ecosystem. For organizations, this involves knowing enough about what‘s happening in the environment to innovate and experiment with new forms and then learn enough from these experiments to adapt to the changes.” Borawski & Ward, 2005, p.5
Alexander, C. (2002). The Nature of Order - Book Two: The Process of Creating Life(11th ed.). Berkley: The Center for Environmental Structure
Borawski, P., & Ward, A. (2004). Living Strategy: Guiding Your Association Through The Rugged Landscape Ahead. Journal of Association Leadership, Winter.