Our goal is to help students perceive and understand where they live. When they know where they live, and how their friends and family are what makes that place theirs, they are moved to love and care for it.
Where we live is who we are; and by learning our place, we learn who we are. > We are more than we have ever been taught.
We walk in cities, in suburbs, in parks and in wilderness, opening our senses and getting good exercise. As we explore the place we are in, absorbing its natural and cultural history, we learn to read it.
Environmentalism literacy, knowing the language of how our world is constructed, is key—for what is written can be rewritten. Philosophy is key, too—for what is rewritten, the world we live in, is written by all of us who share, and are part of, the biotic commonwealth of life on Earth.
Places are stories we live in. Field Environmental Philosophy invites us to read and be an active co-creator of, our story: our place.
Biocitizen was incorporated in 2009 to provide educational services within the field of environmental philosophy, including operating a school that teaches this subject in both traditional indoor classroom settings and outdoors at local, national and international sites. To ensure its educational services are of the highest quality, and reach as large an audience as possible, Biocitizen conducts scholarly research, develops curricula and syllabi, trains teachers, and performs public outreach through a website, the giving of lectures and presentations, and through the creation and dissemination of educational materials in print and other media.
The school admits students of any race, color, and national or ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at our school and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, and national or ethnic origin in administration of our educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school administered programs.
What is Biocitizen?
Biocitizen is the only school in the world that is fully dedicated to Field Environmental Philosophy
The word “biocitizen” is a contraction of “biotic citizen,” a term Aldo Leopold (1887–1948) used in A Sand County Almanac. One of our nation’s first wildlife managers, Leopold co-founded the Wilderness Society and is widely celebrated for conceiving the “land ethic“:
A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
Leopold reached this conclusion while serving as the Forest Supervisor of the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. Following the standard game management practices of the early 20th century, he exterminated wolves to increase the deer population for hunters. Without predators, the deer population skyrocketed—and crashed due to overgrazing and desertification. Leopold was shocked to see what he had done. When the thunderstorms came, he watched fertile topsoils wash down from the mountains into the rivers, there being no living plants to stop the erosion. Knowing the management strategies he learned at Yale had failed, a chastened Leopold looked upon the wolf with profound respect, appreciative of its key role in sustaining the “biotic community” he was paid to care for. The wolf, he realized, was a better wildlife manager than he was!
This discovery (made outside, not inside) led him thereafter to question untested assumptions about how humanity fits into the designs of nature. He used what he learned to help his culture to discover and value biodiversity, and the larger family of life on earth that we belong to.
Leopold distinguished between two ways Americans relate to nature, one typical of pioneer culture and one newly emerging that is dedicated to inhabiting land sustainably. We “see repeated the same basic paradoxes: man the conqueror versus man the biotic citizen; science the sharpener of his sword versus science the searchlight on his universe; land the slave and the servant versus land the collective organism.”
His biotic citizen is our biocitizen, a person who enacts the land ethic in everyday life, behaving as a “plain member and citizen” of a biotic community that “include[s] soils, waters, plants, animals, or collectively: the land.”
Drawing upon Leopold’s legacy of ideas and intentions, which in turn are rooted deeply in Western philosophy, Biocitizen provides students a hands-on introduction to the “ecological interpretation of history” at sites where they can perceive themselves and the land as a “collective organism.”
A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.
It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
The biocitizen is a person who abides by this ethic. Our school creates them through an inquiry-based FEP curricula that combines book-learning and teacher instruction with directed exposure to environmental subjects, anywhere.
We inculcate students with the ecological, cultural and existential information they need to understand that 1) “where they are is who they are” and 2) that their place is alive, a part of a land organism (a watershed-, ecoregion-, biome- habitat). With that understanding, the land ethic makes sense and can be abided by.
Biocitizen exists as a non-profit corporation to employ teachers who are capable of using it as a conceptual space for heuristic, pedagogic and educational experimentation, to achieve the Leopoldian goal of promoting a biocultural, historical way of understanding reality while culturally instilling the land ethic.
At this time, our nation’s epistemology (its structure of knowledge and values) is disintegrating, and Biocitizen can play a leading role in developing and executing FEP curricula. FEP is important because most people do not know where they are (e.g, where their essential resources come from, what the history of inhabitation is, etc.). As the megamachine, our current blend of humanity and technology combined, falls apart, the bioregional perspective we cultivate will be very valuable. To survive in a place once meant knowing it; biocitizens (will) know their place.
We teach to learn.
We teach in classrooms with texts in the traditional manner, but what makes our school special is our FEP curricula takes students into outdoor classrooms— “places”—and, through the peripatetic method, investigates its biocultural history.
No matter the age of our students: we are on a treasure hunt; we are detectives; we are hunter-gatherers; we are story-tellers; we are active, interpreting the place physically, intellectually, aesthetically, emotionally. We can raise the subjects and inquiries, or we can let the students raise them—but teachers must orient the investigation so it reveals the biocultural history our students’ own story is nested in.
Biocitizen teachers are masters of the story of the place the class investigates. Teachers must know as much of the biocultural history of the place as they can, and part of that knowledge is knowing: what is the best, most interesting and challenging, way of walking through it? Where will our students discover the most? That is where they are taken.
An FEP curricula can be executed anywhere, in wilderness or the city; because it is a reading of signs expressed naturally and symbols expressed culturally. The story of the place is articulated through these signs and symbols: that is what biocitizens (learn to) read.
We teach the environment the same way English teachers teach literature: by reading it with students, and getting them to write about it (i.e., to re-present through symbols what nature expresses as signs). The environment is not a book, though. It’s reality itself. And when we teach it, we curve everything back to the land ethic, imagining and fashioning the story we want to live in, because we live in stories as much as we live in the land organism. We teach as readers, and writers, of reality; that’s how we teach. That is what makes us and our school special.