Eco-Human Theory and Practice
ISSN 2713 – 184x
Eco Art Therapy
Ecological Education
The "Green" Arts


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Alexeyev Sergey Vladimirovich

Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences, Professor, Head of the Department of Environmental Education, Safety and Human Health, St. Petersburg Academy of Postgraduate Pedagogical Education

(St. Petersburg, Russian Federation)





The article explores environmental culture from the perspective of the humanities, using an eco-human approach in education, for the study of the socializing potential of environmental education, in particular. The eco-human approach is considered as a new methodology in science and culture, applicable to the social sphere and education. The unity of learning and educational processes to establish an ecological culture of human beings and society as a whole is discussed. The author demonstrates the unity of ecological (natural) and educational (cultural, artificial) systems, and emphasizes an "educational ecosystem" concept. The application of an eco-human approach in a wide range of inter- and transdisciplinary studies, is also outlined, as well as the trend towards convergence of science and culture’s main concepts, in respect of their meaning as well as the technologies and approaches they use to assess their effects.


Keywords: environmental education, environmental culture, human dimension, the eco-human approach.



2019 was declared the Year of the Theatre in the Russian Federation. I immediately recall the famous lines by Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Indeed, Shakespeare went on to say:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances

And one man in his time plays many parts…

An earlier version of this idea can be found in the aphorism by the ancient Greek writer Petronius, “Mundus universus exercet histrionam” (The whole world is engaged in acting), which adorned the pediment of the building where Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was located. Voltaire also connected the Earth and the Theatre in his expression:

The Earth is a huge theatre
in which the same tragedy is played
 under various names.

Recent years in Russian Federation were declared to be the years of drawing attention to social and environmental issues as well as to sustainable development:
• 2007 - Year of the Russian language;
• 2008 - Year of the Family;
• 2009 - Year of Youth;
• 2010 - Year of the Teacher;
• 2011 - Year of Cosmonautics;
• 2012 - Year of Russian history;
• 2013 - Year of Environmental protection;
• 2014 - Year of culture.
• 2015 - Year of Literature
• 2016 - Year of the Cinema
• 2017 - Year of Ecology
• 2018 - Year of the Volunteer
• 2019 - Year of the Theatre

These are vectors reflecting society’s efforts to implement its Sustainable Development Strategy as a “co-evolution of society and nature” (according to N.N. Moiseyev). Each vector is directly or indirectly related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals approved in 2015. Over the past thirteen years, two years have been devoted to problems of ecology and environmental protection, and were aimed at forming an ecological culture. Ecology, originating in biological science, has become an integrative science with significant potential for the development of human qualities in human beings. The French ethnologist and sociologist Claude Levi-Strauss once used a phrase that many scholars in various fields of scientific knowledge quote today: "The 21st century will be the century of the humanities or it will not exist at all."


Figure 1. Claude Levi-Strauss (1908-2009)

I believe that he was right. The tension and uncertainty in politics and international relations, the global problems of the modern world, the environmental, cultural, educational and other issues all invite us to consider the current foundations of the humanities as possible ways to resolve these issues. Scientists in the field of philosophy, sociology, pedagogy and psychology, as well as ecology, cultural studies, and humanities in general (A.V. Yablokov, N.F. Reimers, V.P. Zinchenko, M.M. Bakhtin, V.G. Kostomarov, V.S. Soloviev, V.I. Slobodchikov, N.M. Mamedov, A.D. Ursul, G.A. Yagodin, N.N. Moiseev, L.A. Verbitskaya, V.I. Danilov-Danilyan, S.I. Bogdanov, E.I. Kazakova, I.A. Kolesnikova, V.A. Yasvin, V.I. Panov, and others) emphasize the development of civilization according to a human paradigm.

At one of the conferences devoted to environmental education, the famous Russian economist, ecologist, and statesman, V.I. Danilov-Danilyan, expressed his position as follows: “Culture cannot grow without environmental culture, and ecological culture cannot take place at all without appropriate cultural conditions. This is the human position of the ecologist!”

Methodological basis and research

This section aims to elucidate an eco-human approach as a new methodology in science and culture, in particular, within the social sphere and education. I.A. Kolesnikova noted that in the human sciences, the main reference point is the human being in his/her movement in time in relation to him/herself. I believe that specifically human qualities need to be "nurtured" in the human being, in particular, in the younger generation in order to make sustainable development possible. The humanities’ perspective is characterized by the ability of a person to enact human qualities in his/her life. I.A. Kolesnikova emphasized that the humanities are the meaningful attribution of human relations with nature, and can be perceived as the embodiment of a, - “humanistic principle of humanity in the system of thinking, behavior, relationships, and the content of professional activity." [5. p. 39]

In other words, when we speak of human qualities in the personality, we should bear in mind the ability of a person to correlate his/her actions with the highest measure that nature has “assigned” him/her. That is, what is “allowed” to the animal is not allowed to humans: the animal always acts on the basis of biological laws, and for humans there is a different grid of determination and orientation. All this means that in order to be a human being, a person needs to establish a dialogical connection with his/her human potentiality [5].

Returning to the idea of ​​humanization, according to V.A. Kozyreva, the concept of the humanization of education should solve the problem of revealing the meaning of being a human in the world, through understanding the human’s place and role in the natural world as well as in culture. She believes that the main goal of education is to support the constructive person's place in the world and his/her skills to master the ways of interacting with it [4].

In the Introduction to “Human Qualities,” Aurelio Peccei, the first president of the Club of Rome, writes: “The uniqueness of the human being as a species compared to all other living species is that he/she adapts to a changing environment and environmental conditions more at the expense of cultural than genetic mechanisms. Moreover, this is the only type of living creature that can cope with this kind of mutation, because it is the human being who is now the main factor in all changes on Earth. ” [11]

“Rethinking Education: Is Education the Welfare of All?” is the title of the 2015 UNESCO Report. The answer to the question is given by the ex-Director General of UNESCO I. Bokova in the introduction to the report: “The world lives in turbulent times. The world is getting younger; more and more people are linking their aspirations with human rights and human dignity. There are great opportunities for sustainable and inclusive development, while serious and complex problems remain. The world is changing, and education must also change ... Education should teach people how to live on our planet, which is under tremendous pressure today, learn cultural literacy based on respect and equal dignity, helping to bring together the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable development. ” [9]

The Environmental Code of St.-Petersburg defines environmental culture in the following way: Environmental culture is an integral part of human culture. It represents the level of moral development of society, including moral and ethical standards of human behavior at work, at home, and on vacation, formed in the process of life and work of generations through a continuous environmental education, contributing to a healthy lifestyle, the spiritual growth of society, sustainable socio-economic development and environmental safety [1]. This definition is sufficiently capacious and systemic, but the question arises: How can this ecological culture be established, and is it possible?

It seems that as far as the human dimension of environmental culture is concerned, it should include the following components:

- environmental knowledge (knowledge in the fields of natural, technical and social sciences, etc.);

- ecological consciousness, i.e. the ability of a person to think about the environment and take environmental interests into consideration;

- environmentally sound behavior characterized by the ability of a person to bring environmental knowledge and environmental consciousness into their daily action;

- a culture of feelings, i.e. moral “resonance”, empathy, experience, and reverence for life (according to A. Schweitzer) [2].

The first component of environmental culture, environmental knowledge, is easy to measure by taking into consideration one’s response to tests or other tasks on knowledge of the fundamentals of modern ecology. The second component, environmental consciousness, can be assessed by observing how a person solves situational problems (cases). The third component, environmentally sound behavior, can be assessed by the methods of pedagogical observation and studying the activity of people in environmental activities (actions, contests, forums, movements, volunteering, etc.). A serious problem arises with the fourth component of environmental culture, the culture of environmental feelings: one’s ability to empathize. It is this component that must be given more attention in environmental education, and developed through human technologies, communication, culture and the arts.

I would like to refer to another quote from Claude Levi-Strauss, “A scientist is not the one who gives the right answers, but the one who poses the right questions.” It is possible to transform this sentence in the following way: Is it possible to use some environmental concepts and directions developed not by ecologists, but by representatives of the humanities for the environmental education of people?

Most often, new directions arising in modern science are analyzed from the standpoint of ecology, the ecological approach, and this, from our point of view, is valid. In recent years, complex concepts have emerged in which ecology (an ecological approach) is defined as having a certain relation to the human sciences. These attempts are often perceived negatively by professional environmentalists. However, we are trying to understand the justification of the concepts and the directions they indicate. We can consider two concepts widely known to the population: the ecology of literature and the ecology of culture.

The project "Ecology of Literature" appeared on the channel "Russia K" and is dedicated to the most eminent writers of the twentieth century, and their life and work. The project website gives an explanation of the name of the program: The writer in the modern world is a cult figure, a creator of many significant events in the society. The Ecology of Literature, step by step, explores the space of literary thought.

The program studied the works of Russian and foreign writers such as Thomas Brussig, Tina Ubel, Yuri Koval, Nikolai Frobenius, Norbert Niman, Monica Maron, Andrei Makin, Vladimir Tendryakov, Yuri Trifonov, Konstantin Simonov, Rimma Kazakova, Boris and Andrei Strugatsky Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, Anatoly Rybakov and others from the position of the environmental approach that takes into account moral, ethical, humanistic, and human dimensions of ecology.

“Ecology of culture” is a concept introduced by academician D.S. Likhachev. In his book “Native Land” (1983), he included a section called “Ecology of Culture.” Under the ecology of culture, Dmitry Sergeyevich suggested that we understand “the science of the unity of phenomena in the cultural space of a country inhabited by one culture-forming people, of the mutual influence of cultural and material space, of the peculiarities of the culture of regions inhabited by other nations that are part of the cultural space of a multinational country.” [6]

This scientist designated the unity of culture and proposed to apply an ecological method of analysis of a multilevel system to the cultural space, developed in ecology over one hundred and fifty years, for objects of the biosphere. In the academician’s work, the goal of cultural ecology coincides in many respects with the goal of environmental science. If ecology serves as the theoretical basis of many sciences for society’s protection and rational use of the natural environment and its various resources, then an ecology of culture is the theoretical basis for the preservation of culture throughout the cultural space, including architectural monuments and cultural landscapes.


Figure 2. D.S. Likhachev (1906-1999)

The theoretical principles of cultural ecology, according to D.S. Likhachev, are as follows:

- Cultural ecology is a system, which is visible from the interconnectedness of its individual branches (music, architecture, literature, agriculture, crafts, etc.), as well as from the interconnectedness of the cultures of related peoples;

- Basing the national culture on a material medium, the people;

- The possibility of the existence of the people as a carrier of traditional culture only in the safe natural conditions of the national territory.
The scientist proposes that national literature, painting, and theatre in many respects express the peculiarities of the natural conditions in which the life of a nation proceeds. A number of articles in the almanac "Ecology of Culture" (Moscow. 2000), are devoted to providing evidence for this view.

Such an idea of ​​culture is most fully reflected in the concepts of homo-sphere and ecology of culture specially introduced by D.S. Likhachev. In the article “Ecology of Culture,” he wrote: “I have long been talking about the fact that our ‘home,’ in which humanity lives, consists not only of the natural complex (which includes man as part of nature), but also of the cultural complex . We live in the midst of historical monuments, works of art, technical achievements, etc. Therefore, ecology, from my point of view, consists of two parts: part of nature conservation and part of preservation of culture. The latter is important as it concerns the very essence of man.” [6]

Meanwhile, the question of moral ecology has not been studied. Certain types of culture, the remnants of the cultural past, the restoration of monuments and their preservation are studied, but the moral significance and impact on the person of the whole cultural environment as a whole, its acting force, are not studied [7].

World Heritage is an international megaproject proclaiming that outstanding cultural and natural values ​​are the property of all mankind. In 1975, the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage came into force. Nature and Culture is a unity that requires understanding as a value and the only way into the future of mankind. The monograph “Ecological culture of the population: The view of Petersburgers” notes the regional specifics of environmental education, as manifested in the following directions:

  1. Urban cultural and historical environment as an educational space for the environmental education of the population, creating a psychological and emotional climate aimed at the formation, creation, and development of an environmental culture;

  2. Urban research as a source of environmental education and a basis for the development of safe production technologies;

  3. The natural environment (the suburbs of St. Petersburg) as an educational environment providing opportunities for implementing a variety of organizational and methodological forms of environmental culture in natural conditions [12].

A new term, the educational ecosystem, also needs to be considered here. It is a product of the ecosystem approach within the social sphere, including education. A study by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI) notes that the modern educational ecosystem is a multidimensional space that covers a wide range of human educational needs throughout life.

From the student’s point of view, the educational ecosystem can be viewed in at least two dimensions:

- The locality / globality dimension means that the educational process should be connected with the local situation and relied on physical contact (for example, urban education, local projects in schools), but, at the same time, it must be based on the global context and implemented in global interaction (for example, using global educational platforms);

- The person / technology dimension means that some educational experience can be obtained only by personal communication with a mentor or cannot be digitalized [8].

It is ecologization as a methodological approach that is of particular interest for updating modern education. Its essence consists in transferring environmental laws, principles, and rules to the educational system at different levels (from the individual school to the national level) as living, social, open systems.

Returning to the humanitarian aspect of ecological culture is, to quote the poet N. Zabolotsky’s statement, “poetry, painting and music serve as a mirror in which nature sees her appearance more clearly.” From the perspective of the eco-human approach, the role of the arts in contributing to rapprochement and coordination between human and environmental aspects should be emphasized, and there are increasing examples of artists’ participation in promoting environmental ideas.

The pedagogical aspect of museum-based activity is systematically presented in L.M. Vanyushkina’s doctoral research into the theory and practice of extracurricular education [3], in particular, theatrical events. In preschool and among primary school age children, puppet theatres play an important role, and the content of performances gives a special place to the relationship between different animals and humans. The pedagogical aspect of theatrical activities is also discussed in a doctoral study by T.N. Polyakova and is presented in her monograph [10].

The Year of Ecology in Russia (2017) in St. Petersburg opened with the music event “Musicians for the Green Planet” in the Music Hall. The concert program included works by Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and other composers.


Figure 3. Fabio Mastrangelo, artistic director of St. Petersburg Music Hall

The Theatre of Young Spectators Bryantseva showed the ecological performance “The Face of the Earth” (directed by E. Safonova).


Figure 4. The play "The Face of the Earth"

For many years in St. Petersburg, environmental education widely used environmental film contests created by professional experts and amateurs, for example, the Green Look contest, as well as environmental drawing and poster contests, “The lens is the environment,” featuring photographs, together with creative performances by environmental groups, ecological fashion shows and other events.

Animated films, whose main characters are real and fictional animals, are also in demand both by children and their parents. Often, public environmental organizations protest against the participation of animals in circus performances. This is a problem that requires understanding and assessment from the standpoint of environmental ethics.

A person who has ever read the works of M. Prishvin, “Do not shoot at white swans” by B. Vasiliev, “White Steamboat” by Ch. Aitmatov, “White Bim - Black Ear” by G. Troepolsky, or “Grass” by Vl. Soloukhina will never be able to be thoughtless and indifferent to the world of wildlife. “Beauty will save the world,” as F.M.Dostoevsky once said. Nicholas Roerich added two words to this phrase: "Awareness of beauty will save the world." The development of this awareness is a psychological, pedagogical and cultural task.


Concluding remarks

Having opened up discussion of the human dimension in environmental culture, several questions suggest further directions for inquiry.

- What is the educational potential of cultural and arts-based activities in developing the human dimension of environmental culture?

- What innovative forms of ecological education can cultural institutions of St. Petersburg provide today?



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Reference for citations

Alekseyev S.V. The human dimension of environmental culture: The eco-human approach. Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice, 1(1). [open access internet journal]. – URL: (d/m/y)


About the journal

“Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice” is the first international multidisciplinary Journal focused on building an eco-human paradigm, disseminating eco-human knowledge and technology based on the alliance of ecology, humanities and the arts. Our journal aims to be a vibrant forum of theories and practices aimed at harmonizing the relations of mankind and the natural world in the interests of sustainable development, the creation of Eco-Humanity as a new community of human beings and more-than-human world. The human being is an ecological being, not separate from the world. The Ecopoiesis journal is based on that premise and aims to develop a body of theory and practice within that framework.

The Journal promotes dialogue and cooperation between ecologists, philosophers, doctors, educators, psychologists, artists, musicians, designers, social activists, business representatives in the name of eco-human values, human health and well-being, in close connection with concern for the environment. The Journal supports the development and implementation of new environmentally-friendly concepts, technologies and practices in the various fields of health and public life, education and social work.

One of the priority tasks of the Journal is to demonstrate and support the significant role of the arts in their alliance with ecology and the humanities for the restoration and development of constructive relations with nature, raising environmental awareness and promoting nature-friendly lifestyles.

The Journal publishes articles describing new eco-human concepts and practices, technologies and applied research data at the intersection of humanities, ecology and the arts, as well as interviews and conference reports related to the emerging eco-human field. It encourages artwork, music and other creative products related to eco-human practices and the new global community of Eco-Humanity.