There are two gateways to education and socialization for human life — the family and schools. From the family we inherit a sense of welcome and self-confidence (from the mother) and a sense of limits and understanding of ethical values (from the father). In addition to transmitting information, schools set a goal of creating conditions for the formation of autonomous persons with the ability to shape their own destinies and to learn to live together as participating citizens. From this perspective, education is centered on the human being and society.

This rightful purpose is insufficient today. Since the ecological paradigm irrupted, we have become aware of the fact that we are all eco-dependent. We cannot live without the environment, with its ecosystems which, including the human being, form the whole environment. We are one piece of the biotic community. The human race is not ahead of nature nor over it — as its owner — but within it as an integral and essential part of it. We participate in a community of interest with other living beings who share the biosphere with us. The fundamental common interest is to maintain the conditions for the continuity of life and Earth itself, conceived as a living super-organism — Gaia.

The new fact, absent until recently from the collective consciousness of the vast majority of people and scientists as well, is that the whole system of life is in danger. It is the consequence of the productivist/consumeristic/materialistic civilization that has predominated in recent centuries and is worldwide today. It made Earth lose its fragile equilibrium and its capacity for self-regeneration. We must stop Gaia from entering into a process of chaos, seeking a new equilibrium through it but at a cost of huge ecological sacrifices such as the disappearance of millions of species, cataclysms, droughts, floods, food insecurity in vast proportions, and, eventually, the disappearance of innumerable human beings.

Henceforth and without delay, education should include the four major branches of ecology: environmental, social, mental and whole or deep (that which addresses our place in nature and where we fit in the whole framework of cosmic energy). This perspective increasingly prevails among environmental educators: to teach the art of living in harmony with nature, and determine to share the resources of culture and sustainable development equitably with others.

We have to be aware that it’s not just about introducing corrections into the system that created the current ecological crisis, but educating for its transformation. This implies overcoming the reductionist mechanistic view still in effect and adopting the culture of complexity. This allows us to see the interrelationships in the living world and the eco-dependency of human beings. Such a realization requires treating environmental questions in a global and integral manner.

The ethical dimension of responsibility and care for the common future of Earth and humankind derives from this type of education. It makes us discover the human being as caretaker of the Garden of Eden that is our common home, and as the guardian of all beings. Democracy, in addition to being "endless" as Boaventura de Souza Santos would logically have it, would also be "socio-ecological" democracy. Along with citizenship (which comes from "city") would be forestship ("florastería" which comes from "forest") which the PT government tried in the state of Arce, Brazil. Human beings and nature belong to each other and jointly should build a non-destructive way of living together.

(Free translation from the Spanish provided by Anne Fullerton. Done in Arlington, VA in cooperation with Refugio del Rio Grande, Texas.)