Biocitizen LA offers Field Environmental Philosophy (FEP) programs for students 5-16 in outdoor classrooms throughout the Los Angeles area and beyond.
Our days are fun and active, and designed to “unplug” the learner by bringing them into direct, participatory contact with the ecosystems, infrastructures and histories that surround them.
The essential activities of FEP are engaging with and reading our environment. This environmental engagement increases our students’ perceptual abilities, stimulates their critical inquiry, and inspires creative imagination. Walking in the wild directly counteracts the effects of “nature deficit disorder” and brings students to their cognitive, intellectual, and physical edges. It is there—on those edges— where growth can be found.
Wonder – through active physical and mental engagement with our living systems, students experience wonder: the thrilling joy of exploring and engaging with the wilderness.
Connection – when ecological analysis is added to our natural wonder, students connect their own health and pleasure with the health of the environment. In this way, biotic immersion reveals how we are constituted by and express our environment.
Stewardship – When this connection is made, the ethic of self-preservation extends beyond the individual to the biotic community. We then are able to tap into our natural calling to care for the living systems that sustain us.
Through FEP exercises, our students expand their awareness of themselves outwards, to the other living organisms that make our lives possible. They learn stewardship – the care of places – while deepening their connections to these places through meaningful experiences of wonder. That is what it is to be a Biocitizen.
The word “biocitizen” is a contraction of “biotic citizen,” a term Aldo Leopold (1887–1948). One of our nation’s first wildlife managers, he 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 realized this 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’s actions shocked him. When 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 saw the wolf with new and 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: one 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.”
Leopold was an instrumental ecologist, forester and environmentalist and co-founded the Wilderness Society. In 1949 wrote his landmark, A Sand County Almanac, a collection of essays describing the land around his home, Sauk County, WI, for advocacy and the responsible relationship between people and the land they inhabit.
BiocitizenLA is a 501(c) non-profit educational organization that provides immersive and experiential learning for ages 5-16, via Field Environmental Philosophy (FEP).
Biocitizen LA is the West Coast arm of Biocitizen, Inc.. 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.