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The Little Prince: It’s a Question of Discipline

May 15, 2018

‘It’s a question of discipline,’ the little prince told me later on. ‘When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet,” writes Antoine de Saint-Exupery in his classic novel The Little Prince.

The semester at Ventura College where I teach writing is coming to a close. It’s been an amazing semester, one where we’ve learned a lot about loving kindness, compassion, community, and yes, about tending our planet, our home.

We’ve been studying ecology.

The term ecology comes from the combination of two Greek words: oikos meaning “home” and logos meaning “the study of.” So, the word ecology means “the study of home.” You can think of a home as the place that meets your needs.

In our ecological studies, we’ve faced many of the problems troubling our planet and examined our role — what can we do to address climate change? Plastic pollution in the ocean? Nature deficit disorder? Technology addiction?

It is a daunting task. And it is easy to get depressed.

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise,” writes Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac.

This semester we have actually learned that we do NOT live alone in a world of wounds: we live in community. By working in community, we can together be the doctor that sees the mark of death in communities that see themselves as well enough and we can guide out communities along the path to wellness.

I appreciate the willingness of my students to travel this path with me this semester. Not only did they learn how to be better writers, researchers, and critical thinkers but together we are making a difference. Of that I am very proud and happy.

 

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