18 - Education for global responsibility  pp. 281-291

Education for global responsibility

By Mary Catherine Bateson

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Individual human beings affect the global story: small actions in the microcosm have consequences in the macrocosm. The climate change now under way represents a systemic disruption that is the greatest threat on the human horizon, requiring basic changes in habits of thought that link global change to individual and local behavior. Such changes in ways of thinking or acting are costly both economically and psychologically, and will occur only when the threat to the integrity of planetary systems is felt as deeply relevant – as directly connected to the individual. Raising the awareness of climate change in adults and children is not only a matter of conveying the facts of temperature or composition of the atmosphere or the threats that changes in these present. Unless individuals begin to identify themselves as part of the process and identify with it, they will not be willing to change.

Human beings do typically live and act in multiple worlds, each one providing a context for the development of a sense of identity-in-relationship, each one potentially more inclusive. The infant begins with a sense of herself as part of the mother–infant dyad and gradually becomes aware of being distinct within it, developing through households and communities and all the contexts of life. The goal of education for global responsibility must be to give each child a continuing sense of his or her value and responsibility as a part of these larger contexts.

Bateson, G. (1942). Social planning and the concept of deutero-learning. In Steps to an Ecology of Mind, ed. Bateson, G. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, pp. 159–76.
Bateson, M. C. (2004). Willing to Learn: Passages of Personal Discovery. Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press.