(1) Knowledge about the interactions of people with the workings of nature is accumulated by thought, observation and experiment. This knowledge is organised in the form of physical laws which explain the way nature works; and spiritual/ethical laws which define the ways we should behave towards other people and the rest of nature.
(2) Spiritual and ethical laws are studied and applied to manage human production (the subject of political economy) : i.e. political economy defines the way people are governed in their everyday lives through political and economic understanding.
(3) Improvements in political and economic understanding are applied through social welfare and education to increase social well-being.
(4) Increased social well-being stabilises human production.
(5) Physical laws are applied to manage natural production (the subject of natural economy) i.e. natural economy defines the way people process physical and biological materials to meet their needs and wants through environmental understanding.
Together political and natural economy make up the subject of consumermatics, the body of knowledge which defines the forces of consumerism which since Kingsley's day have determined the pace of world development.
(6) Improvements in environmental understanding are applied through public health, nature study, and care for nature, to increase environmental well-being.
(7) Increased environmental well-being stabilises natural production.
Unfortunately his efforts, together with those of some of his contemporaries, notably John Ruskin, to encourage the growth of an embryonic generalist education system, which covered this holistic perspective, were swamped by the national priority for the training of specialists to control nature and exploit an Empire. Kingsley's contemporary, Henslow, a Cambridge professor began this process in his village school by getting pupils to dissect flowers and learn scientific terminology. They helped Darwin in his botanical experiments. The impact of these revolutionary ideas at the start of state support for education certainly turned the heads of the inspectorate towards single- subject teaching.
In contrast, Kingsley's starting point was the study of 'civilisation'.
"...give me the political economist, the sanitary reformer, the engineer; and take your saints and virgins, relics and miracles. The spinning-jenny and the railroad, Cunard's liners and the electric telegraph, are to me, if not to you, signs that we are, on some points at least, in harmony with the universe; ".
In this broader context Kingsley offers an educational model for modern times where we require a broad view of society and environment to absorb the educational implications of sustainable development.
The period of Kingsley's life was a triumph of invention and applied science which brought about great changes in the appearance of the British countryside. In the main, these changes were results of applied science, first to allow mass transport of people, and then to promote the spread of new ideas through mass communication. Kingsley described science as a 'good fairy' which could increase human well-being, providing it was harnessed to a political system which aspired to develop the latent potential in everyone.
It is convenient to define this period of rapid socio-environmental change as the 72 years spanning the opening of the first public railway line in 1825 to the first experiments in wireless in 1897. People born in the first decade of the 19th century would have experienced the benefits of mass production of goods and services in the 'age of steam', and from the launch of the penny post in 1840, would have been able to respond to overnight news about people and events throughout the world. They might have used the first public telephone exchange in 1878, and seen the first motor cars in the 1880s. A person born in 1825 might have lived into their seventh decade to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1897, the year in which the first plastic records entered people's homes. Kingsley saw the early benefits of applied science but died prematurely in 1875. He lived long enough however to become intensely aware of the human and environmental disbenefits of unchecked industrialism organised for maximum profit, and the social disfigurement it caused through substandard housing of urban workers .
Kingsley was one of the first to value nature study as a worthwhile hobby. He was an amateur sea-shore ecologist, and in the Water Babies he used the cleansing power of detritus feeders in rock pool food chains as a metaphor to preach the need for proper water management.
"Only where men are wasteful and dirty, and let sewers run into the sea, instead of putting the stuff upon the fields like thrifty reasonable souls; or throw herrings' heads, and dead dog-fish, or any other refuse, into the water; or in any way make a mess upon the clean shore, there the water-babies will not come, sometimes not for hundreds of years (for they cannot abide anything smelly or foul): but leave the sea anemones and the crabs to clear away everything, till the good tidy sea has covered up all the dirt in soft mud and clean sand, where the water- babies can plant live cockles and whelks and razor shells and sea-cucumbers and golden- combs, and make a pretty live garden again, after man's dirt is cleared away. And that, I suppose, is the reason why there are no waterbabies at any watering-place which I have ever seen".
The notion of conserving living resources, from rare species to valued landscapes, means managing their use so that vital stocks of plants, and animals are maintained for the benefit of succeeding generations. But progress in educating for sustainable development has been lamentably slow, largely because it has been seen as peripheral, and sometimes as a hindrance, to humankind's continuing quest for social and economic welfare. 
From the building of the first coal-powered factories and mines a century before Kingsley, it was clear that unchecked industrial enterprise is incompatible with nature. Linnaeus, for example, on his Royal fact finding tour of Sweden's natural resources in the late 18th century, reported on the poisonous fumes from copper smelters which had destroyed vegetation down-wind of the factories. However, it was not until the middle of the next century that commentators began to agitate for something to be done about the environmental impact of a rapidly developing industrial society. John Ruskin, for example, railed against the ugly impact of tourism on Europe's mountain landscapes. This was exacerbated by the pollution from holiday resorts, which even then had begun to defile Alpine streams. Charles Kingsley summarised his two-pronged attack on the socio-environmental effects of industrialism in a sermon preached in 1870 when he spoke of 'human soot' as a by-product of competitive investment in mass-production.
"Capital is accumulated more rapidly by wasting a certain amount of human life, human health, human intellect, human morals, by producing and throwing away a regular percentage of human soot-of that thinking and acting dirt which lies about, and, alas ! breeds and perpetuates itself in foul alleys and low public-houses, and all and any of the dark places of the earth.
But as in the case of the manufacturers, the Nemesis comes swift and sure. As the foul vapours of the mine and manufactory destroy vegetation and injure health, so does the Nemesis fall on the world of man-so does that human soot, those human poison gases, infect the whole society which has allowed them to fester under its feet. Sad; but not hopeless. Dark; but not without a gleam of light on the horizon."
Kingsley was also prophetic in his vision of more enlightened times when society would demand that the countryside and human lives wasted by industrial development should be cleaned-up.
"I can yet conceive a time when, by improved chemical science, every foul vapour which now escapes from the chimney of a manufactory, polluting the air, destroying the vegetation, shall be seized, utilised, converted into some profitable substance, till the Black Country shall be black no longer, and the streams once more run crystal clear, the trees be once more luxuriant, and the desert which man has created in his haste and greed, shall, in literal fact, once more blossom as the rose.
And just so can I conceive a time when, by a higher civilisation, founded on political economy, more truly scientific, because more truly according to the will of God, our human refuse shall be utilised like our material refuse, when man as man, even down to the weakest and most ignorant, shall be found to be (as he really is) so valuable that it will be worth while to preserve his health, to the level of his capabilities, to save him alive, body, intellect, and character, at any cost; because men will see that a man is, after all, the most precious and useful thing in the earth, and that no cost spent on the development of human beings can possibly be thrown away".
The growing conflicts between economic development and quality of environment took more than a century to come to a head in the Rio Environment Summit. This assembly of world leaders in 1992 highlighted a global imperative to promote inter-disciplinary systems thinking, and encourage communities to express their concerns about quality of life in local environmental action plans. In the context of modern environmentalism, the world of Charles Kingsley is an exemplar for constructing appropriate holistic knowledge maps about the connections between the technical, biological and spiritual components of sustainable development. He was one of the first people to offer an overview of world development that took account of applied science, its detrimental social and environmental impacts, and the need to consider the spiritual dimensions of 'place' and 'change'. His novels are imaginative and popular interpretations of his ideas presented on various stages, some of which were contemporary, and others were set in more exotic places and distant times. His messages were the same: to urge government to action, and to calm social strife through the 'eternal goodness' of religion.
"And now, my dear little man, what should we learn from this parable?
We should learn thirty-seven or thirty-nine things, I am not exactly sure which: but one thing, at least, we may learn and that is this-when we see efts in the ponds, never to throw stones at them, or catch them with crooked pins, or put them into vivariums with sticklebacks, that the sticklebacks may prick them in their poor little stomachs, and make them jump out of the glass into somebody's workbox, and so come to a bad end. For these efts are nothing else but the water babies who are stupid and dirty, and will not learn their lessons and keep themselves clean; and, therefore (as comparative anatomists will tell you fifty years hence, though they are not learned enough to tell you now), their skulls grow flat, their jaws grow out, and their brains grow small, and their tails grow long, and they lose all their ribs (which I am sure you would not like to do), and their skins grow dirty and spotted, and they never get into the clear rivers, much less into the great wide sea, but hang about in dirty ponds, and live in the mud, and eat worms, as they deserve to do.
But that is no reason why you should ill-use them: but only why you should pity them, and be kind to them, and hope that some day they will wake up, and be ashamed of their nasty, dirty, lazy, stupid life, and try to amend, and become something better once more. For, perhaps, if they do so, then after 379,423 years, nine months, thirteen days, two hours, and twenty-one minutes (for aught that appears to the contrary), if they work very hard and wash very hard all that time, their brains may grow bigger, and their jaws grow smaller, and their ribs come back, and their tails wither off, and they will turn into water-babies again, and, perhaps, after that into land-babies; and after that, perhaps, into grown men.
You know they won't? Very well, I dare say you know best. But, you see, some folks have a great liking for those poor little efts. They never did anybody any harm, or could if they tried; and their only fault is, that they do no good-any more than some thousands of their betters. But what with ducks, and what with pike, and what with sticklebacks, and what with water- beetles, and what with naughty boys, they are 'sae sair haddened doun', as the Scotsmen say, that it is a wonder how they live; and some folks can't help hoping that they may have another chance, to make things fair and even, somewhere, somewhen, somehow."