Courses Overview >> Short courses >> Gaia and Symbiosis

Gaia and Symbiosis

Course dates: 
Monday, 12 March, 2018 to Friday, 16 March, 2018

With Stephan Harding, Merlin Sheldrake and Phoebe Tickell

As the ecological crisis gathers pace, there is an urgent need to develop ecological ways of living that are relevant for our times.
Ecology is the study of life’s relationships between Earth’s diverse organisms, rocks, atmosphere and waters. It is these relationships that constitute Gaia: our self-regulating, living Earth which has been hospitable for life over billions of years.

Symbiosis, the intimate living together of vastly different organisms, has been a key component in life’s long evolutionary journey, to the extent that Gaia has been characterised as ‘symbiosis seen from space’.  In this course, we ask what we can learn from both Gaia and the sciences of symbiosis that might help us to effectively navigate our way through the current crises.
This short course will introduce you to the details of some of the most striking symbiotic relationships in the biosphere, including an exploration of the bacterial and fungal symbioses which are so critical for the health of our planet. We’ll explore the principles of Gaian self-regulation, and will discover how symbiosis has made hugely important contributions to the creation and maintenance of a liveable Earth both today and over geological time.  We’ll consider how a deep understanding of Gaia and symbiosis impacts our  ethics and philosophy, our social organisations, our politics, our responses to climate change and even the  ways in which taxes are collected and distributed.

The course is for both scientists and non-scientists who want to learn what the latest scientific understanding about the living dynamics of our planet can teach us about how we can best deal with climate change, biodiversity loss and social disruption, and about how nature can inspire us to lead more fulfilling, more richly connected personal lives.


Stephan HardingStephan Harding

Stephan Harding is Programme Coordinator of the MSc in Holistic Science and resident Ecologist at Schumacher College teaching on the MSc core modules and on most short courses at the College. He holds a doctorate in behavioural ecology from Oxford University, and before coming to the college taught ecology at the National University in Costa Rica. He is a close associate of James Lovelock and an expert in the study of Gaia theory and deep ecology. He is the author of Animate Earth and Grow Small, Think Beautiful: Ideas for a Sustainable World from Schumacher College.

Merlin Sheldrake Merlin Sheldrake

Dr Merlin Sheldrake graduated from Cambridge in biological sciences and history and philosophy of science. He recently completed his PhD on the ecology of fungal networks at Cambridge and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, where he conducted extensive fieldwork as a Smithsonian Research Fellow. He is a keen brewer and musician.


Phoebe Tickell

Phoebe is a biological systems scientist turned social alchemist, motivated by translating the teachings from the scientific world into a language for how we can create a life-sustaining society. Having explored the potential of solutions in science and technology, she’s now taking those learnings and applying them to human systems. She started off her academic career at the University of Cambridge, where she specialised in plant, algae and microbial systems - before researching algal genetics at Imperial College London. She finds the biological world fascinating and awe-inspiring, especially by its 'pattern language', and the behaviour of biological networks, communities, symbioses: i.e. the biology of relationships - from the micro to the macro. She’s exploring what it might mean to exhibit ‘biological leadership’ - learning to lead from a place of deep wisdom of Nature’s patterns and gestures.She is part of various systems-change projects where she puts her understanding of networks, systems and cooperation into practice: Future Farm Lab, which creates learning opportunities and experiments that re-wire the food system, and Enspiral, a de-centralised and DIY social enterprise network. She is also a facilitator of Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects.


£ 795.00
Course fees include all meals, field trips, materials and all teaching sessions. The programme will run from Monday to Friday afternoon, and includes four nights private accommodation and all vegetarian meals from the first lunchtime you arrive through until the lunchtime before your departure. We recommend attending this course as a fully residential participant however for you may choose to book as a non-residential participant. Please call 01803 847237 for more details.