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Ecology and Spirituality


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Course dates: 
Monday, 8 January, 2018 to Friday, 26 January, 2018
Ecology and Spirituality

With Dr Stephan Harding, Dr Andy Letcher and Eve Annecke

Explore the connections between ecology and spirituality in some depth. We’ll challenge received wisdom and ask difficult questions, examining some of the root causes of our ecological ills and investigating ways in which we can act to make positive change and ask which of a diversity of spiritual responses to the ecologic crisis is the most appropriate for our particular pathway in life.Today, many share the intuition that the world’s ecological problems are due to a spiritual crisis in the Westernised world. Science, modernity and an excessive emphasis on rationality have disenchanted our world with dire consequences for both people and planet. Our task now is to restore the connection between ecology and spirituality by placing spirituality at the heart of our relationship to the natural world within which we are indissolubly embedded.

At A Glance

  • Restore the lost connection between ecology and spirituality
  • Find your particular spiritual response to the ecological crisis
  • Deepen your appreciation of the roles of spirit and mind
  • Join postgraduate students from the Ecology and Spirituality programme

About This Course

In this short course we’ll explore the connections between ecology and spirituality in some depth. We’ll challenge received wisdom and ask difficult questions, examining some of the root causes of our ecological ills and investigating ways in which we can act to make positive change.

We’ll ask which of a diversity of spiritual responses to the ecological crisis is the most appropriate for our particular pathway in life.

We’ll also explore issues such as whether there is a truly universal spirituality that might guide us, or whether spirituality has itself fallen prey to the machinations of the marketplace. Can we even define spirituality or must it by necessity elude intellectual analysis?  Do Western ways of knowing  offer genuine solutions to the ecological crisis or must intellectual abstraction always leave us distanced from the world? Is mainstream ecology wedded to a disenchanted materialism or is a more holistic ecological vision of life possible?

This is a three-week intensive delivered as part of our postgraduate programme in Ecology and Spirituality which is also open to external participants. It will take place in the elegant surroundings of the Elmhirst Centre at Dartington Hall.

Week 1: Stephan Harding will introduce ecology as the scientific discipline concerned with the interactions between living organisms and with their environments. We will explore the Cartesian split between mind and body, how ecology emerged from the Scientific Revolution and ask whether more holistic perspectives such as Gaia theory and Deep Ecology can help heal our Western dualism. Stephan will also lead us on a Deep Time walk, introducing us to an embodied way of learning about  our Earth’s 4.6 billion year history.

Week 2: Andy Letcher will take us into a deeper exploration of spirituality. We will question a widespread assumption that monotheism in general and Christianity in particular are responsible for our ecological ills, and ask whether the contemporary turn away from religion towards spirituality provides the solution. Marta Garcia Larriu, director of the Madrid Environmental Film Festival, will be talking about how the screen shapes our perceptions of ecology and spirituality, and will be showing four films over four successive nights with a post-film discussions.

Week 3: Eve Annecke invites us to find a new synthesis between ecology and spirituality. We will enquire what an ecological spirituality could look like in practice and how it might move us to act in the world so as to create and embrace change. Can a new marriage of science and spirit place ecology back at the heart of things?


Dr Stephan Harding FLS

Stephan Harding

Stephan oversees the MSc in Holistic Science, teaching on the core models and as part of several of the short courses at the College. Stephan was born in Venezuela in 1953, and  came to England at the age of six with his father and housekeeper, with whom he spoke Spanish (his mother tongue).  Since childhood Stephan has had a deep fascination with the natural world, and his scientific cast of mind lead him to do a degree in Zoology at the University of Durham and then a doctorate on the behavioural ecology of the muntjac deer at Oxford University. After completing his first degree he returned to Venezuela where he was a field assistant for the Smithsonian Institute, studying mammalian diversity in the rainforest and in the lowland plains. After Oxford Stephan was appointed Visiting Professor in Wildlife Management at the National University in Costa Rica, where he lived for two years before becoming a founder member of Schumacher College in 1990.  The College’s first teacher was James Lovelock, with whom Stephan has maintained a long-lasting friendship and scientific collaboration that lead to their joint appointment as founding chair holders of the Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo.  At Schumacher College Stephan has taught alongside many of the world’s leading ecological thinkers and activists, including Arne Naess, Fritjof Capra, Vandana Shiva, David Abram, James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis.

Dr Andy Letcher

Dr Andy Letcher is writer, performer and scholar of religion who began life as an ecologist, completing his D.Phil in Ecology at Oxford University. After a spell as an environmental activist during the 90s, especially during the anti-roads protests, he moved across to the humanities, completing a PhD at King Alfred’s College Winchester. He is an expert on contemporary alternative spiritualities, especially modern Paganism, neo-shamanism and psychedelic spiritualities. A writer known for his critical approach, he is the author of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom and a range of academic papers on subjects as diverse as fairies, animism, folklore, bardism and Druidry. He wrote the companion volume to The English Magic Tarot. A folk musician, he plays English bagpipes and Dark Age lyre, and for ten years fronted psych-folk band, Telling the Bees.

Eve Annecke

Eve Annecke is a teacher, writer, and social ecologist. She works in transformative learning, exploring what it means to be human in the 21st century. In South Africa she co-founded Lynedoch Development, the Sustainability Institute and the Lynedoch EcoVillage. Her masters’ level teaching at Stellenbosch University is in sustainable development, leading transitions, ecological ethics and other ways of knowing. She is the co-author of Just Transitions: explorations of sustainability in an unfair world (2012). Her work at Schumacher College includes as participant, facilitator and teacher in Becoming Indigenous, and the MA in Ecology and Spirituality.

Marta Garcia Larriu

Marta Garcia Larriu created and directs Madrid’s annual environmental film festival, Another Way. After pursuing her master's degree in international economics, she went to New York for a number of years to work in film, television, and other media. A passionate filmmaker and an inspirational speaker, she works towards raising collective awareness about current environmental and social issues.

£ 2 200.00
NOTE: Course fees include all vegetarian meals, field trips, materials and all teaching sessions. The programme will run from Monday of the first week to Friday afternoon the last week, and includes twenty nights private accommodation from the first lunchtime you arrive through until the lunchtime before your departure. This course is part of Schumacher College's MA Ecology and Spirituality postgraduate programme. It is open to external participants who would like to deeply explore this subject material and can join us for the whole three-week programme.