The Field Environmental Philosophy Methodological Approach

After two decades of continuous research, educational, and service activities at Omora Park, researchers have developed innovative methodological approaches that integrate sciences, arts, policy, and ethics (understood in a broad sense) into biocultural research, education, and conservation. In order to better relate basic biocultural principles to human affairs, in 1998 the lead author of this chapter developed the methodological approach of field environmental ethics (Rozzi, 2001). However, ethics is often understood in a narrow, normative sense, and

The Links among Specific Habitats, Co-inhabitants and Their Life Habits (“3Hs”)

Figure 15.1 The Links among Specific Habitats, Co-inhabitants and Their Life Habits (“3Hs”)

Source: Figure modified from Rozzi (2013)


The sectioned circles show that each of the “3Hs” includes biophysical dimensions, symbolic-linguistic-cultural dimensions, and institutional-socio-political dimensions. For example, with regard to habitats, the biophysical dimensions scale up from local ecosystems to the global biosphere, the symbolic—linguistic-cultural dimensions scale up from vernacular languages to the global logosphere, and institutional-socio-political dimensions scale up from local institutions to the global technosphere. The external circle makes explicit the value of the ecological worldviews of Native American and other non-Western cultures, of pre-Socratic and non-mainstream Western philosophies, and of contemporary sciences.

for that reason we subsequently decided to call it field environmental philosophy (FEP) (Rozzi et al., 2010).

Since 2000, FEP’s methodological approach has been adopted in formal education at preschool, elementary, and middle school and the university level, as well as in informal educational activities with members of local communities (members of indigenous communities, park rangers, tour operators, tourists,

Navy personnel, and other citizens). Over 1000 workshops with government authorities and decision-makers have applied FEP’s methodological approach. It has been included in; (a) undergraduate and graduate curricula at the University of Magallanes, five other universities in Chile and over ten universities in Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Italy, Germany, and the USA; and (b) annual elective courses at elementary and high schools in the Magellanic Region of Chile.

FEP’s methodological approach comprises a multi-directional four-step cycle (see Figure 15.2).

Step 1: Interdisciplinary ecological and philosophical research. Participants conduct philosophical, ecological, and ethno-ecological research. This includes research on the diversity of values and perceptions about biocultural diversity held by participants from different disciplines, institutions, and socio-cultural groups, who speak different languages and have different forms of ecological knowledge and practices.

Step 2: Composition of metaphors and communication through narratives. Participants compose metaphors and narratives with two complementary intentions. First, they integrate ecological and philosophical findings (Step 1) through analogical thinking that leads to a conceptual synthesis of facts, values, and action in biocultural education or conservation. Second, they establish an engaging and clear dialogue with the general public. For example, the composition of

The Four-Step Methodology of Field Environmental Philosophy

Figure 15.2 The Four-Step Methodology of Field Environmental Philosophy


The methodology’ integrates ecological and evolutionary’ sciences and biocultural ethics into conservation, adapted to develop the educational and special interest tourism activity’ of “ecotourism with a hand-lens." The four steps are based on the conceptual model of the biocultural ethic (see Figure 15.1).

metaphors such as “miniature forests of Cape Horn” facilitates the understanding that the diverse communities of mosses, hepatics, lichens, and other associated organisms form small ecosystems, and that mosses and other organisms are living beings. As such, they can be considered as co-inhabitants with human beings, rather than only as “natural resources” freely available for use without regulation or care.

Step 3: Field activities with an ecological and ethical orientation. For participants in FEP, the experience of direct or face-to-face encounters with living beings in their habitats has been essential for understanding biocultural diversity not only as a concept, but also as an awareness of co-inhabiting with diverse human and other-than-human beings. Ecologically and philosophically, guided field activities transform not only the knowledge about biocultural diversity, but also the ethics of living together with the diverse inhabitants with whom we coexist in regional ecosystems. For example, through field activities guided by philosophers, artists, and ecologists, the field activity of “ecotourism with a handlens” (EHL) was created to appreciate the aesthetic, ecological, economic, and ethical values of the “miniature forests of Cape Horn.” Today, EHL helps citizens, teachers, and decision-makers discover the beauty, diversity, and socio-ecological importance of this small flora that regularly goes unnoticed. EHL not only amplifies the view of mosses and other organisms in the miniature forests of Cape Horn, but also provides a conceptual hand-lens that broadens our mental, perceptual, and affective image of biodiversity and our relationship with it. Through this activity, participants are able to understand scientific concepts of the diversity and unity of life, and the ethical implications that broaden the narrow economic vision that currently prevails in the relationship of contemporary society with nature.

Step 4: Implementation of areas for in situ biocultural conservation. FEP requires participants to contribute to biocultural conservation actions: for example, the implementation of in situ conservation areas. This conservation fieldwork fosters a sense of responsibility as citizens who are ecologically and ethically educated proactively participate in care of the diversity of habitats and their various forms of life. For example, participants have contributed to the creation of the “Miniature Forests of Cape Horn Interpretive Trail” at Omora Park. Today, this trail allows visitors to observe and enjoy the diversity of habitats, species, and ecological interactions. In addition, during guided visits to the trail FEP participants invite various institutions and members of society to join initiatives to protect the diversity of habitats and their multifaceted communities of small and large co-inhabitants in Cape Horn and/or other regions of the world. In this way, FEP has helped to establish an institutional platform at Omora Park that integrates scientific research, education, and ecotourism, at the same time that it (re-)integrates philosophy with sciences, arts, and humanities.

As illustrated in the description of the 4-step cycle, a particular formal and non-formal education activity created with FEP’s methodological approach is

EHL. In 2001, former President of Chile Ricardo Lagos visited Omora Park and experienced FEP and EHL, accompanied by researchers who explained the relevance of the little plants and biota he was looking at, and highlighted their beauty and rarity. Later, President Lagos supported the Omora Park research team in their proposal to establish the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (CHBR), which was created by UNESCO in 2005 to protect nearly five million hectares of marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

FEP’s methodological approach has allowed philosophers to participate in transdisciplinary projects to integrate the biocultural ethic with ecology' and sustainable economics. The 2010 Development Plan of Chile identified “Tourism of Special Interest” as a priority economic area. In order to contribute to this sustainable area of the country’s economy using the FEP methodological approach, Omora Park’s research team focused on ecotourism as a major thematic area that encompasses cultural, social, and economic dimensions. In the following section, we examine how this approach has been developed for the design and implementation of EHL.

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