Martin Luther King Jr. and The Evil Triplets

Jose-Antonio Orosco, an associate professor of philosophy at Oregon State University, wrote an inspiring piece about Dr. King at the “Common Dreams” newscenter website (https://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/01/06-2). According to him, the Climate Justice Movement has the potential to prove King was right in believing that human beings can build the necessary insights to avoid mass destruction and develop activist resources to radically change morality as it exists in the world.

Change such morality, in order to build harmonious communities, means fighting the evil triplets Dr. King named racism, militarism and materialism. In this sense, ecology and sociology are not dissociated. They are intertwined in different forms of materialized injustice that make some people in economically fragile areas and countries more immediately vulnerable to climate change effects. What is the moral cost of climate change? That was the burning question of the “Philosophy Talk” radio program recorded live at OSU last year, where the hosts discussed the aspects related to changing our ways of life, rethinking life as we know, moving out of social/cultural inertia.

These are pragmatic challenges that have much to do with value placement, as the true costs of climate change are not just economic. Justice then is not just about mass protests in action; it is also about getting to the root of the problem as to build ethical alternatives to social and environmental issues. This morning I attended the 32nd Annual Peace Breakfast and listened to an inspiring speech by Walidah Imarisha, a professor at Portland State University’s Black Studies Department.  She talked about the MLK legacy and about a “revolution of values”, only possible when we break silence and unite in powerful voices.

Much like we have been discussing the divide between questions of science and philosophy, here too there is a divide to be bridged between environmentalism and social justice. The climate justice movement may in fact become the vehicle for dialogue and action grounded in such dialogue. Dialogicality, as we have been discussing in the work of Bakthin, is the key for meaning making.  This is a parallel a see fit here, as reflecting on moral premises for social and environmental change is a business much intertwined with meaning making. It is not only nature that needs healing, but our social and spiritual essence as well, and that requires a vibrant dialogical relationship among humans and with non-human nature.

So, in the spirit of this special day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and OSU celebratory theme “Uniting our Powerful Voices”, lets foster that dialogue and get involved. It is not about what will happen if we do get consciously involved in such dialogue, it is about what won’t happen if we don’t.  Find your call (if you haven’t already); understand your affinities as to where and how you can make meaningful contributions for a better beautiful world and for a better social world.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

Note: There are many activities going on right now at Oregon State as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Here is a link for the calendar of events (http://oregonstate.edu/oei/mlk-events).


Observations from the curious-minded science educator by Traci Reid, Guest Blogger

by Jenny de la Hoz

What role does religion play in science education?  This is a question I have started to ask myself lately.

In my years as a science educator at an aquarium, religion seemed to be a dirty word.  It had virtually no place in the institution I worked.  Organization leaders shied away from the topic, and educators would roll their eyes if a group of religious home-schooled children were coming to visit.

And yet, research by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums shows that some people visit zoos and aquariums as “spiritual pilgrims” with the specific intent of seeking out contemplative/restorative experiences.  According to the Pew Research Center, over 80% of the American population self-reports having a religious affiliation. 80%!

The mission statements of so many zoos and aquariums now involve more than education; there is often a goal to change the attitudes, beliefs, or actions of the visitors to their institutions.  Yet these organizations continue to shy away from that which so many people’s value system has been built upon – their religious upbringing or affiliation.   It’s as though zoos and aquariums have decided that science and religion are incompatible, “therefore we will pretend that religion doesn’t exist.”

How do these institutions expect to foster change if they are not willing or able to have an open dialogue with their visitors, many of whom clearly have a religious affiliation?  How do they expect their visitors to address the internal conflicts that come up when science and religion butt heads?

Members of religious groups ARE opening up the dialogue around faith and the environment.  As a Fellow with the organization Greenfaith, I participate with leaders of a variety of religious faiths as we grapple with questions about environmental justice, the definition of stewardship, and clarify the meaning of religious texts and traditions.

This open dialogue among and between members of all faiths is helping to fill the gap that the science education community has ignored.   I am heartened to see people come together to create a clearer environmental identity.   This is where the free-choice learning is really happening.

To the informal science education community – zoos and aquariums in particular — I say there is a place for religion in science education.  Moreover, if your organization really expects to meet the lofty goals of your mission statements, it is imperative to open up a religious dialogue and directly address the religious attitudes and beliefs of your visitors.  If you really want to change behavior or instill an environmental ethic, make your institution a relevant force in people’s lives.  Foster a truly free choice learning environment by including religion in the conversation.

(Traci Reid is a guest poster to the FCL Blog and a 2013-2014 Greenfaith Fellow.)