Saturday, 16 July 2016

Education as if the earth mattered: Green Universities, Permaculture and Centres for Positive Change

Education of a different kind, for the whole person, for a positive and peaceful, ecological future is what the world needs. Over the past 25 years I have spent time in many amazing places that offer this kind of educational experience. They have transformed my thinking, my attitudes, my direction in life, sense of purpose, my capacity for action and my passion for life.

Around the world there are a number of centres that fully engage you intellectually, practically and emotionally.  I call them centres for positive change and below I've provided links to some I personally know.

One of the most transformative experiences for me was spending about a year at Schumacher College in England, as a student in 1992 and as a guest scholar on a course called Design for Life in 2003 with Janine Benyus (biomimicry). The course I ran was also a Permaculture Design Course. Schumacher College is essentially a green university - I love it!

Back in 1992, I so was incredibly inspired by learning at Schumacher College with people such as Fritjof Capra, Vandana Shiva, Helena Norberg-Hodge and Satish Kumar.  Immediately after taking courses at the college I made a pilgrimage around the UK to places such as Findhorn, Scotland and the Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales.

I had also arranged with Helena to volunteer in Ladakh with her at the Ladakh Project (Local Futures). While in India, I also visited Vandana's Navdanya Project (since evolved into Bija Vidyapeeth or Earth University). My mind was exploded and my heart sang with possibilities.

A few years later, I visited Fritjof Capra a few times in Berkeley California. He introduced me to the Center for Ecoliteracy which he founded and the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center  - places rethinking education and supporting teachers to change. Creating opportunities for children to experience connection with nature and to be exposed to ecological systems thinking has been at the forefront of my work since. (Fritjof had also been a regular teacher at the Esalen Institute.)


Back at home, I have been persistently passionate about creating similar opportunities here in Australia for locals and for people around the world who would love to come together to:
  • connect with nature, community and self
  • deepen our understanding of the ecological paradigm 
  • explore thinking and ideas that will help guide us towards a sustainable future
  • experience a different, more connected way of living and thinking 
  • learn very practical skills for living simply and sustainably
  • nurture young leaders in sustainability
  • offer nature connected education for children
After many years - helping to start Northey Street City Farm, the Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network, school garden projects,  Local Futures study circles, offering permaculture education in 20 countries, I am now focussing all my efforts on creating a space for head, heart and hands learning, predominantly based here at the ecovillage.

This is what my organisation the Ethos Foundation, a not-for-profit charity, is all about. I have created programs such as Nature Kids, Young Ethos Scholars, and Permaculture Life and will be offering a few Permaculture Design Courses (PDC) each year. I see the PDC is an amazing door to a more sustainable way of life.

Ethos Foundation Permaculture Design Course - August 29 - Sept 9

I hope you can join me from August 29 - Sept 9 for an excitingly practical, intellectually stimulating and incredibly relaxing time here at Crystal Waters, where I have been living for the past 18 years. This course integrates my learnings from Ladakh, Schumacher, and all the other centres. I will be joined by indigenous leader Wiruungga, the amazing Robina McCurdy from New Zealand's Tui Community. We'll visit Maleny's amazing coops including: Maple Street Organic Food Cooperative and the Maleny Credit Union. We'll explore the ecovillage at Crystal Waters, the wonderful neighbouring Baranbali Farm, and visit school and community gardens in the region.

More information about the course will be uploaded to this website very soon. Please contact me for more information.

Films about amazing centres for learning: 

Here are a few of the places which significantly influenced my thinking over the decades:

Schumacher College England

(with Vandana Shiva and Satish Kumar, Polly Higgins, Stephan Harding, Terry Irwin)

Earth University, India

Findhorn Foundation, Scotland

Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, California

Local Futures (A short version of their recent film, The Economics of Happiness)

Center for Ecoliteracy (school garden program)

Esalen Institute, USA


  1. Good morning Morag, I am simply in awe of what you have seen, learnt and been part of, in your life. It has made you an incredible women with so much knowledge and compassion. Your zest for life and all it encompasses is so infectious that I want so badly to make this my life as well. I seem to be a bit stuck in between wanting to live a wholesome permaculture life and what daily life throws at me. I am unable to do the permaculture course this year and maybe even next year but hopefully 2018 will see me in Crystal Waters completing a permaculture course and beginning the life I so badly want to lead. I do what I can now like growing some fruit, veggies n herbs, being mindful of packaging and reusing and recycling everything I can. I am not a shopper or a big consumer and try to live a small simple life. I know this is the start of permaculture and know it takes practice and an open mind to be the change I want in my life. Thankyou for all the information you generously give, I read it all and try to put it into practice. Have a wonderful weekend. I hope you get some rain where you are, we are very dry at the moment. Redcliffe always seems to miss the rain.

  2. Wow Morag, you have really stood on the shoulders of giants. What a life broadening experience. I hope your August PDC is an outstanding success.

  3. Thanks for a very interesting post Morag.
    Before moving to Australia my husband and I lived on the Black Isle in Scotland for twenty years.(Not quite an Island, but almost). We would occasionally visit the Findhorn community which was only about an hours drive down the coast from us. A very interesting community in a beautiful location. I don't miss the Scottish cold and wet but the quality of the light was magical....