Why We Need Humane Education: We Protect What We Love

Image copyright Institute for Humane Education
During a recent presentation to students from the University of Richmond, I led a Wonder Walk, an outdoor activity in which people lead each other, in pairs, on an experience to awaken the senses. They take turns bringing their partner – whose eyes are closed – on a walk in a beautiful outdoor setting.

Gently guiding them, they tap their temple to invite them to open their eyes to see something they’ve noticed and want to share; touch their nose after leading them to something to smell; their ear to pay attention to a sound; their lips to invite them to taste something (such as a sprig of wild mint or a blueberry); and place their hands on objects to touch (in my case, my fingers were placed on the fuzzy, kitten-like seedpods of a lupine flower). What usually happens when people experience the Wonder Walk is that they find themselves deeply connecting with the natural world. I often describe this as “falling in love” with nature.

After sharing the Wonder Walk with them, I told the students that my reason for doing it with people is that I believe that we protect and care for what we love. While intellectual commitments to justice are motivation enough for some to work to preserve the natural world, change their destructive habits, and commit to being changemakers for justice and sustainability, for most of us it is our hearts that are the big motivators. We are willing to do much more on behalf of that which we love. And if we love the natural world and the other species with whom we share it, we may be willing to do much more than if we don’t.

Within hours of leading this activity, I read this quote from Baba Dioum in Sailesh Rao’s book, Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies:

“In the end, we conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We understand only what we are taught.”

If ever there was a quote that reinforced my belief in the importance of humane education and providing people with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be conscientious choicemakers and engaged changemakers, it is this.

~ Zoe

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDxConejo talk: "Solutionaries"
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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