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Ecoliteracy: First principles for radical change

Photo: Azul Thome

March 28 – April 8, 2011

One and two week options

Course update: A new Ecoliteracy course begins at Schumacher College this Autumn. Cultivating an Ecoliterate Worldview: Person, Place and Practice
Two week intensive within a six month online study group: October 2011 to April 2012. Click here for details

Changing the way we live and work on the planet is vital, and to do that we need a whole new set of skills to enable us to act effectively – and urgently. Understanding Ecoliteracy will help students to appreciate and act with a greater ecological awareness in both local and global situations.

Teachers include:

Fritjof Capra (by videolink), Satish Kumar, Gustavo Esteva (by videolink), Stephan Harding, Philip Franses, Julie Richardson, Mark Burton, Jon Rae, Terry Irwin (by videolink), Antonia Spencer, Bethan Stagg, Anne Miller, Hal Gilmore, Emily Ryan (course facilitator)

Course now open for bookings.

Course overview

This course provides students with a solid foundation of understanding that is fundamental to leading a more ecologically literate life. It will enable students to view all aspects of their world from an ecological perspective, and will demonstrate how those ideals can be applied to their own work and activities.

Ecoliteracy is founded on the belief that valuable lessons about how to secure the future of the planet can be learnt by looking to nature for inspiration. Ecosystems found in the natural world successfully co-exist, adapt and sustain themselves. Students will explore what we can take from this, and how these messages are applicable to current society. This course is an opportunity for people who want to make a real difference in their lives and work and want to gain a deeper understanding of theory and practice in this area.

“Nature’s principle for supporting life by communities and networks was a “big lesson” that I will take with me forever. This is relevant in almost every field of life: in a company; thinking about employees’ relationship; in your own family; in your neighbourhood; with friends… Realising that all these fields are live systems, we have to take care of our relationships and guarantee that life conditions with be preserved for the future.” Course participant, Ecoliteracy: First principles for radical change, October 2010

An integrated, embodied knowledge of the first principles of ecoliteracy is essential to every individual, no matter what form their work in the world takes.
Emily Ryan, course facilitator

In the first week, participants will explore what constitutes an ecological world view and will focus on key concepts from nature – such as self-organisation, resilience, connectivity and adaptation, and will look at how these measure up to the global challenges we face.

In the second week, students will look at how these concepts can be applied in areas such as design, social activism, energy and food production, and what impact they, as an individual, can have in supporting the transition to a more ecoliterate future.

Week 1

Learning to think and feel your way into an ecological world view is a big undertaking, but it has never been more important that we begin this process.

Week 2

Discover how to maximise the positive changes that you, as an individual can make to improve the way we all live and work in the future.

Photograph: Daniel Thistlethwaite

For full details and biogs of course teachers, click here.

This course is intended for: Everyone who wants to engage with ecoliteracy and a deep understanding of why and how it can help transform our way of living and working. This course acts as a standalone programme, but is also an exciting and valuable introduction to any other Schumacher course in specialist areas such as new economics, business, design and science. Through this course, those new to Schumacher College can gain a foundation in the central themes of the College and Schumacher alumni have the opportunity to reconnect with holistic thinking in a new context.

What is Ecoliteracy?

Fritjof Capra defines ecoliteracy as follows: The great challenge of our time is to build and nurture sustainable communities …The first step in this endeavor is to understand the principles of organisation that ecosystems have developed to sustain the web of life. This understanding is what we call ecological literacy. Teaching this ecological knowledge will be the most important role of education in this century.

That our society is not sustainable in so many ways is self-evident. Most examples result from the optimisation of one or a few aspects of a system without appreciation of the whole. Learning to think and feel your way into an ecological world view is a big undertaking, but it has never been more important that we begin this process.

We need to change our relationship to nature and the basis of how we study science, economics, business and psychology, in order develop a systemic understanding of how to address current ecological and social challenges. Since 1991, Schumacher College has been running courses that explore, from a range of perspectives, the foundations of an ecological world view, in the belief that if we are to live sustainably on the planet we need to change at a deep level.

Anne Miller: Similar principles underpin both ecoliteracy and creativity: Intuition, questioning, seeing the big picture and recognising diversity are all as valuable for encouraging creativity as they are aspects of ecoliteracy. My teaching on this course will explore how to develop your creativity and use it in addressing ecological problems.

Oliver Greenfield: I see ecoliteracy as the understanding of the interactions between natural systems and human systems. This understanding is important so that we can change the human systems of specifically economy, finance, food, housing, transport and energy, in order that we can live sustainably and well, whilst at the same time maintaining and improving the health of natural systems and the diversity of life.

Emily Ryan: In Ecoliteracy, First Principles for Radical Change, course participants explore a diverse range of theoretical and practical approaches to building a foundation of ecological literacy. The course is designed to have a “something for everyone” feel, with a balance of conceptual and experiential material that is both challenging and inspiring. Perhaps most importantly, participants are invited to inquire into their own unique understanding of ecoliteracy and to experience for themselves what it means to gain knowledge and wisdom into how to live as a part of, rather than apart from, the web of life. They are supported in this endeavor by a community made up of their fellow participants and the entire network of college teachers and staff. Schumacher College is able to offer this potent opportunity for embodied knowledge because it integrates ecoliteracy into every aspect of its learning environment.

Satish Kumar: These days children know and recognise logos and brand names of big companies such as Coca Cola, McDonalds, Nike, Adidas but how many children can recognise trees and differentiate between oak, elm and ash? How many children can recognise and differentiate between wheat, barley and oats? There is a great lack of knowledge about the natural world, if you don’t know nature how are we going to love nature and if we don’t love nature how are we going to respect her and protect her? Therefore knowledge of the eco system is an imperative for a sustainable future. In my talk I will explore how important and significant nature studies are in schools and universities.

“An excellent balance between theory and practice, learning, living and doing.” Course participant, Ecoliteracy: First principles for radical change, October 2009

Transformative educational space to think outside the box: Schumacher College

The course takes place within the holistic educational model promoted at Schumacher College, where practical work, meditation and the development of community are all important parts of the learning experience. Participants, teachers and staff work together to combine and learn from diverse experiences and knowledge. The context of individual and group learning provides a powerful platform for deep and holistic engagement with transformative learning for sustainable living.

The College attracts a diverse participant groups. Our experience has shown that there is also much knowledge within the course participant group, which means that a great deal of learning takes place outside of the actual teaching sessions. For more information about Schumacher College click here.

Eve Annecke, co-founder and director of the Sustainability Insitute in South Africa has been an occasional short course participant at Schumacher College. Seven other members of the Sustainability Institute team recently attended Ecoliteracy: First principals for radical change. Hundreds of miles away from the Sustainability Institute in both distance and context, she talks about the work at Schumacher College as being deeply influential. “In all the creative work we have done in the last 10 years the work we have done with Schumacher has been one of the highlights.” Read more of Ecology and Equity: Transformational learning from Schumacher College and the Sustainability Institute

Course Fees

One week £750, Two week £1,450
All course fees include accommodation, food, field trips and all teaching sessions.


A limited number of bursaries are available for this course. We are particularly seeking applications from the following groups of people:

Click here for more information on how to apply for a bursary.


Book your place now! – click here to access our on-line booking system

Book by fax or mail! – click here to find out how

“I have loved being here, and look forward to coming again. Wonderful experience and will recommend it to others.” Course participant, Ecoliteracy: First principles for radical change, October 2010

For further information about Schumacher College please see About the College

Reserve your place now

To provisionally reserve a place for 5 days, email us your contact details and the name of the course

We will hold the place for five working days for reservations – three weeks before a course or earlier. After five days we will automatically offer your place to someone else if we have not received your application.

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