Colegiul National "Moise Nicoara" Arad

A transdisciplinary approach of the Earth

A Transdisciplinary Approach of the Earth


Prof. Ana Boariu,

„Constantin Ioan Motaş” High School, Mediaș


The contemporary world is full of paradox, simultaneously being a world of knowledge and fear. The exaggerated scientism, the globalization, the cutting of the bonds with the sacral drove us to the rise of a man apparently free, but off the beam, because he lost the guiding marks. The transdisciplinary education could be a way of recapturing the „inner man” who got lost in the present’s chaotic avalanche.

The project „A Transdisciplinary Approach of the Earth” can contribute in accomplishing the four desiderata of the 21st Century, giving a helping hand to the reconstruction of the inner being, in order to harmonize it with itself an with a part of our world – the Earth.

Key-words: earth, transdisciplinry education, harmony


„The alternative to the contemporary unwisdom cannot be but […] the contemporary goodness. And the contemporary goodness depends on bordering the devices it offers us, through purposes and ideals which go beyond it, which come from the bottom of our age.”

H.-R. Patapievici, The Recent Man

„The human being feeds the humanity’s being, and the humanity’s being feeds the human being.”

Basarab Nicolescu, Transdisciplinarity


The world today is a paradoxical one, simultaneously filled with knowledge and fear. It is complex, full of challenges and problems, mutations and radical transformations, which do not fail to alarm us.

Among the diversity of books which sound the alarm regarding our existence, Basarab Nicolescu’s „Transdisciplinarity – Manifest” is undoubtedly a ‘must read’ through the new worldview it offers and through the perspective it proposes as an answer to the contemporary, apparently insurmountable problems.

First of all, the informational boom is without precedent, getting us to the alarming multiplication of disciplines, a fact that limits and fragments the knowledge; this gives us disciplinary insulations, due to the lack of bonds. The act of knowledge – something that was gained/ reached after long, all encompassing  research in the past – is now dominated by a reeling speeding up, impossible to deal with for the human being.

Encyclopaedism is not possible anymore. At the same time, the excessive scientism – Basarab Nicolescu warns us – is a double-barrelled weapon, which man can use for his own destruction:

„For the first time in its history, humanity has the possibility of self-destruction, with no way back”[1]. Another disorienting world-wide problem is globalization, as the human’s migration from a country to another, from a familiar, well-known world (defined by mentalities and traditions assimilated from the very beginning of one’s life), to a new world (defined by traditions and beliefs to which one has to adjust) is frequently traumatizing. In this case, we are not talking about knowledge in a scientific way anymore, as the integration problem demands another type of knowledge: self-knowledge – one’s own capabilities and limits -, as well as knowing and accepting the others – one extremely difficult goal, as nowadays’ proliferating intolerance and aggressiveness  prove by the daily destruction of lives and goods.

Another worrying problem is the disappearance of the sacred, of the holy – as a result of scientism, high technology and the throwaway society brought by them – as it brings loss of reference points and senses. As Horia-Roman Patapievici named it, we are living in a metaphysical coldness. What we get out of it is “an Earth without Heaven/Sky, deliriously given itself up to all the magic/ conjurations considered as heavenly-designed in days of old, which nowadays flow free through the world, just like a Golem”[2]. These conjurations, “heavenly-designed” in a time when the being-divinity bond was the very essence of our existence, are translated today into false, counterfeit, free-of-charge superstitions and mythologies which generate extreme apprehensions and fears.

The most severe consequence of all these, is a new image of the ordinary human being, more barbarous and helpless as ever before. H.-R. Patapievici draws a dramatic portrait:

“Today’s humans are the best fed, the most flourishing, the ‘freeest’ (freedom of movement) of them all. At the same time, they are the most faint-hearted, the most addicted to comfort and consumption, the biggest vassals of the freedom of the will’s self-will, the least independent in their own judgements , the most gregarious (regarding the State) humanity has ever seen”[3].

Scattered in a noisy, “mutant” world which is losing its sacral essence as a trade for the clampdown and intolerance’s very productive germs, always eager to be ‘on the wave’, changing “depth for surface, reflection for speed, effort for pleasure”[4], they become unhappy, empty shells. Once shed out of its poliphonic, agitated frontage, always looking for sensational and visibility, for abusive consumption and impatience, the actual, contemporary world shows its emptiness: boredom, tediousness, vexation, dullness and, finally, lack of sense. The experience “through delegation”[5] annihilates “the inner man”, the genuine one, leaving nothing behind. And when “the inner space is reduced to nothingness, the exterior can become monstrous”[6].

This phenomenon of mutation has not failed to show its fruits. The contemporary world is not a happy one, it is a world of fear and stress, of all kinds of anxieties. An example for this fact is the 450th issue of ‘Dilema veche’ social revue, where the main subject is anxiety, seen as “an unwanted effect of social progress” by Mugur Ciumăgeanu[7].

Resuming, the contemporary world seems doomed, as, progressing unabashed, it destroyed its sacred basis, and “in the age of triumphing rationality, the irrational is more active than ever”[8], leading to “a triple destruction: material, biological, and spiritual”[9].

The Chance of Transdisciplinarity. Transdisciplinary Education

Is this a no-way-out situation? There is a way out, but only if we act till it is not too late, and if, beyond our usual anxieties, we get to reposition ourselves towards ourselves, towards the world, an towards God. Transdisciplinarity can be a way, a model, “without transforming itself into a new religion, a new philosophy, a new metaphysics, a new science of sciences”[10]. Its final goal is understanding the world, its imperative is cognition’s oneness, leading to harmony between ourselves and the world. A new culture, based on the trans-cultural, is necessary for creating bonds between the different cultures, as the human beings are, by all means (physical, biological, spiritual), identical, no matter which culture they belong to. This new culture cannot be done without a transdisciplinary education. An education we must assimilate, in order to succeed in teaching our children its ways. We must re-find our “presence”, and we can do it through science and conscience – “the two pillars of future universal democracy” which “back each other up”[11] -, in order to gain harmony by understanding the present world, together with our place and purpose in it. “We have the technology, but we lost our senses” says H.-R. Patapievici. It is time to re-find our goals, as what we will become derives from what we want to become.

What can and must school do for our becoming and real integration, without changing our essence?

The Jaques Delors Report (The International Commission of Education for the 21st Century, UNESCO) underlines the new educational model’s four pillars: to learn to know, to learn to do, to learn to live with/ beside the others and to learn to exist. For all these four contemporary education’s desiderata, transdisciplinarity offers practical solutions, as ‘transdisciplinary attitude assumes both cogitation and inner experience, science and conscience, effectiveness and emotiveness/affectionness”[12]. I would like to underline the word(s) “emotiveness/affectionness”, as Basarab Nicolescu considers it/them special, essential, because “they insure the liaison between us and our selves”, going over reality’s levels, probably being the most reliable bridge of our known existence/reality.

Back to Nature. A Transdisciplinary Project

One of the topics Basarab Nicolescu approaches is the death of nature (chapter “Death and Nature’s Resurrection”), in which he finds the origin of the other contemporary concepts regarding death: “death of God, death of man, death of ideologies, death of History”[13]. The human vision regarding Nature has changed a lot throughout the ages. The historians of sciences consider that there existed many Natures, an that the commonplace of all these natures, successive in history, is the human being itself. “The way people look at Nature within a given age”, says Basarab Nicolescu, “depends on the age’s predominant imaginary, which depends in sequence, on a large variety of parameters: the level of scientific and technological development, social organization, arts, religion etc.”[14]

In the following lines, I will speak about the way the present/actual/contemporary human being relates to nature, hence, I will speak about ourselves, too.

The fact that human’s existence cannot be separated from nature’s existence is well known; that nature has influenced all the details of human’s life: arts, sciences, religions, social life etc. Even though, the attitude regarding nature in Romanian contemporary reality proves the existence of a breach, a departure from it, or, rather, an indifference towards, a passing-by nature, as if it would be a fact of life which doesn’t need attention and care xxxx. Despite the ecologist movements and the laws which aim at protecting the environment, the human beings’ life identification with nature is lost. This absence of this connection generates another anxiety, in defiance of the outgoings, which have nothing to do with the earth’ rituals.  Regarding city life, the concrete, endless walls cut any contact with the earth, the green areas being marginal.

In these circumstances, approaching this subject in school becomes necessary, as the pro-nature education must begin as early as possible and must go on throughout a human’s lifetime.

In Mediaș, apart from all the ecological activities which engaged both teachers and pupils, some ANPRO members – together with teachers of different subjects – have thought and edited a pluri- and interdisciplinary guide, “Through literature, back to nature”, in an attempt to offer a methodological frame – based on literature – for activities regarding the attitude towards the environment. The four fundamental elements were taken into consideration: water, air, earth and fire, as well as beings. This step can be continued and developed through a transdisciplinary approach.

In what follows next, I will suggest a scenario for a project regarding the earth in a transdisciplinary approach.

The Living Earth

As Howard Gardner said, “no subject can be exhausted from the perspective of a single discipline”[15]; at the same time, “science is not the only, an not even the most important domain of cognition. It cannot form a adequate education on its own”[16]. The purpose of this project targets many aspects: experimentation of an inter-, pluri-, transdisciplinary methodology; the development of an integrating vision of knowledge concerning  the Earth; the understanding of the tight bonds between human and earth; cultivating positive values and attitudes to harmonize youngsters with the life of the planet and to increase the quality of life.

The project can be organized in five modules:

1. The Sacred Earth:

– Earth in mythology (cosmogonical scenarios): Earth’s plurality (high-grounds, grounds, undergrounds), Roman mythology, Christian mythology

Bibliography: Victor Kernbach, “The Essential Myths”, Luc Benoist, “Signs, Symbols and Myths”, The Bible, The Koran

– Earth in folkloric and religious rituals: the cult of the earth for Romanians (the fecundity and fertility cult, the maternity cult)

Bibliography: Romulus Vulcănescu, „Romanian Mythology”, Simion Florea Marian, “Birth in Romania”, ‘Wedding in Romania”, ‘Funerals in Romania”

– Earth Symbolism

Bibliography: Jean Chevalier, Alain Gheerbrant,”Symbol Dictionary”

– Earth in expressions and phrases

Bibliography: Vasile Breban, Gheorghe Bulgăr, Doina Grecu, Ileana Neiescu, Grigore Rusu, Aurel Stan, „Romanian expressions and phrases dictionary”

2. The Life of the Earth

– the development and the age of the Earth (scientific explanation)

– the Earth layers

– types of earth

– the Earth dynamics (earthquakes, volcanoes)

– the exterior earth: depression, hill, mountain – plants and animals

– the inner earth: metallurgy

– Earth seasons

3. Fruits of the Earth

– the terrestrial world: earth, fertile element: agriculture

– the subterranean world: mining

4. Earth aspects in Literature, Painting, and Music

Selections an rehearsals: popular ballads, poems by Vasile Alecsandri, Mihai Eminescu, Lucian Blaga

Listening: Vivaldi, „The Seasons”

Painting: the Impressionism

5. The Earth – our Home, our Life

– architecture: goods – wood, “dead” (unpolished, raw) stone, “free” (polished) stone, burnt brick

– clay objects: pots, plates, cans, cruses, clay toys

– home – center of the world – the symbolical dimension of house, the meaning of the door and the lintel ; “odd” architecture in Romania

– Earth’s Day – 22nd of April

– The Earth in danger: pollution and its effects; reading: Umberto Eco and Eugenio Carmi, ‘The Gnomes from Gnu”; view: Andrew Stanton’s “Wall-E”

Debate: Terra Mater and Ourselves

The activities of the projects will be coordinated by teachers specialized in different domains (Romanian language and literature, Philosophy, Religion, Geography, Technological Education, Music, Arts, Physics, Chemistry etc.), whereas, for practical demonstrations, architects and potters can be trained.

Within these activities, exhibitions, power-point presentations, drawings, musical auditions, small lyric spectacles and practical workshops in which the young will substantially work with the soil shall be organized.

We recommend a double-purpose approach : recreation and observation of the environment’s conservation. The participants will write down their impressions and they will express them during the debate.

It is very important to follow in this kind of project the reaching of the four desiderata of our century’s education. This can be done through training a number as big as possible of students, awaking, inside their minds, reflection and interrogation over the inner self, over the others, and over the earth we all inhabit. The forth desideratum, “learn to exist”, is “a permanent teaching and learning process for both student an teacher. One person’s development inevitably goes through a trans-personal dimension”[17].

Therefore, the transdisciplinary education’s principles focus on intellectual, affective, and corporal acknowledgement, meant to design the “undiminished man”, who hasn’t lost his essential capability: that is, to wonder in front of all these simultaneous and successive realities.


  1. Baricco, Alessandro, Barbarii. Eseu despre mutaţie, Humanitas, 2009, p.203
  2. Ciumăgeanu, Mugur,  Micuţa chinezoaică, psihoterapia şi anxietatea, în „Dilema veche”, nr.450/ 27 spt.-3 oct. 2012
  3. Gardner, Howard,  Mintea umană. Cinci ipostaze pentru viitor, traducere Radu Ciocănelea,  Ed. Sigma, Bucureşti, 2007, p.70
  4. Nicolescu, Basarab, Transdisciplinaritatea. Manifest, traducere de Horia Mihail Vasilescu, Iaşi, Ed. Polirom
  5. Patapievici Horia –Roman,  Omul recent, Humanitas, 2001


[1] . Nicolescu, Basarab, „Transdisciplinaritatea. Manifest”, traducere de Horia Mihail Vasilescu, Iaşi, Ed. Polirom, p.11

[2] Patapievici Horia –Roman,  „Omul recent”, Humanitas, 2001, p.90

[3] Op.cit., p.17

[4] Baricco, Alessandro, „Barbarii. Eseu despre mutaţie”, Humanitas, 2009, p.203

[5] Nicolescu,Basarab, „Transdisciplinaritatea”, Polirom, p.110

[6] Idem, p.111

[7] Ciumăgeanu, Mugur,  „Micuţa chinezoaică, psihoterapia şi anxietatea”, în „Dilema veche”, nr.450/ 27 spt.-3 oct. 2012

[8] Nicolescu,Basarab, Op.cit.,p.11

[9] Idem, p.12

[10] Nicolescu, Basarab, Op.cit., p.174

[11] Idem, p.88

[12] Idem, p.104

[13] Idem, p.68

[14] Idem, p.69

[15] Gardner, Howard, „ Mintea umană. Cinci ipostaze pentru viitor”, traducere Radu Ciocănelea,  Ed. Sigma, Bucureşti, 2007, p.70

[16] Idem, p.29

[17] Nicolescu ,Basarab, op. cit. , p.159