Earth Talks: Joy of Six catch up

An online talk series, delivered by Schumacher College in partnership with Dartington Hall, in which speakers explore how human wellbeing and the wellbeing of the Earth are two sides of the same coin. Our latest talks – both virtual and otherwise – can be found here.

These talks were delivered through the Gift Economy, but donations are crucial in helping us deliver our programme and any contribution is appreciated.

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Series 2

‘Seizing the opportunity for radical transformation’

Talks become available to watch one week after broadcast. Register to watch talks live here.

Humus, Humility, Holism

With Charles Eisenstein

More about this talk
For hundreds of years, modern society has conceived of progress in terms of an increasing ability to exercise control – over nature, over enemies, over bad people, even over ourselves. Despite decades of development, when Covid-19 hit, holistic medicine was ignored. Similarly, holistic agriculture remains marginal despite urgent ecological need for it. This session will explore the limits of the material and social technologies of control. We will bring in data points that that way of seeing the world excludes. And we will conceive a future in holistic terms and peek at some other modes of “technology” that may be part of it.

About the speaker

Charles is a speaker and writer focusing on themes of human culture and identity. He is the author of several books, most recently Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible, and his newest book, Climate: A New Story.

His background includes a degree in mathematics and philosophy from Yale, a decade in Taiwan as a translator, and stints as a college instructor, a yoga teacher, and a construction worker. He is the father of four and currently writes and speaks full-time. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Gaia’s Lessons

With Fritjof Capra and Stephan Harding

More about this talk

From a systemic and ecological perspective, the Covid-19 pandemic can be seen as a biological response of Gaia, our living planet, to the ecological and social emergency humanity as brought upon itself.

In this Earth Talk, Fritjof and Stephan will discuss the valuable, life-saving lessons Gaia has offered us with this pandemic, and the urgent need to also apply these lessons to the climate crisis.

About the speakers

Fritjof Capra, Ph.D., physicist and systems theorist, is a founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California, and a Fellow of Schumacher College. Fritjof is the author of several international bestsellers, including The Tao of Physics and The Web of Life. He is co-author, with Pier Luigi Luisi, of the multidisciplinary textbook, The Systems View of Life. Fritjof’s online course is based on his textbook.

In 1990 Stephan Harding was one of the founding members of Schumacher College where he worked closely with James Lovelock, with whom he has maintained a long-lasting friendship and scientific collaboration. They were jointly appointmed 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, Brian Goodwin, Vandana Shiva, David Abram, James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis. He is now the Deep Ecology Fellow.

O brave new world, that has such people in it!

With Margaret Wheatley

More about this talk

As we observe and participate in our brave new world, what do we behold? Are we like Miranda who experiences only wonder? “How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is!” Or are we like Aldous Huxley who saw a world of technological domination, pacifying its citizens yet utterly meaningless?

At this present moment, we know who we are, we know the world we want, but what is the world we have? What is possible now, and what is hopeful thinking? Using the patterns of history, how do we see more clearly in order to act more wisely? Who do we choose to be as we face reality, claim our role, and offer more sanity to this world?

About the speaker

Margaret Wheatley began caring about the world’s peoples in 1966, as a Peace Corps volunteer in post-war Korea. In many different roles– speaker, teacher, consultant, advisor, formal leader – her work has deepened into an unshakable conviction that leaders must learn how to invoke people’s inherent generosity, creativity and need for community. As this world tears us apart, sane leadership on behalf of the human spirit is the only way forward. She is co-founder and president of The Berkana Institute, an organizational consultant since 1973, a global citizen since her youth, and a prolific writer.

She has authored nine books, from the classic Leadership and the New Science in 1992 to Who Do We Choose To Be: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity (2017).

The Gods of the Discarded: Where do we go in liquid times?

With Bayo Akomolafe and Andy Letcher

More about this talk

As the coronavirus pandemic opens us up to the impossible, an insurgency of the erstwhile invisible is unsettling the paradigms of whiteness that offered stability and progress. Progress is halted, at least temporarily. Where do we go from here?

In this conversation with Andy Letcher, Bayo Akomolafe suggests we need new gods. He points out that the God of the Cotton Plantation is woefully undone and incompetent in the face of the many upheavals we are with-nessing. All He can promise is justice in the long run. But ‘justice in the long run’ is the name of our shackles. And ‘justice now’ – the balm on our ankles to make the shackles less angry – isn’t more appealing. What we need is a wild dispersal, a theology of the discarded. A fugitive arrangement.

We need to make like thieves and steal away in the dead of night to where Bacchus and Pan and Esu dance with moss-covered stones, drawing their wine from the genius of cryptogamic civilizations and their phosphorus poetry.

About the speakers

A lecturer, speaker, and proud diaper-changer, Bayo Akomolafe curates an earth-wide project for the re-calibration of our ability to respond to civilizational crisis – a project framed within a feminist ethos and inspired by indigenous cosmologies. He considers this a shared art – exploring the edges of the intelligible, dancing with posthumanist ideas, dabbling in the mysteries of quantum mechanics and the liberating sermon of an ecofeminism text, and talking with others about how to host a festival of radical silence on a street in London – and part of his inner struggle to regain a sense of rootedness to his community.

After a brief spell studying physics and astronomy, Andy Letcher completed a degree in Ecology at Sheffield University, then a doctorate in Ecology at Oxford. It was as an eco-activist in the 1990s that he was invited to do a second PhD in the Study of Religion at King Alfred’s College, Winchester. He is especially interested in the tangled and sometimes tortuous relationship between science and spirituality, and in so-called dark green religion. He has written papers on: the distribution of mammals across continents; fairies; mysticism; and psychedelic spirituality. He is the author of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom.

New directions for agriculture and family orchards

With Dr Rupert Sheldrake

More about this talk

The current disruption of most of our normal habits encourages us to think afresh in many areas. One of the most urgent is the realm of agriculture, on which we all completely depend.

Rupert Sheldrake used to work in agricultural research and has been thinking about new possibilities including:

– Rediscovering and testing traditional practices, including mixed cropping
– Enhancing the microbiome of the soil, particularly in relation to mycorrhizae
– Using human wastes, rather than wasting them
– Establishing family orchards

In this talk, Rupert will discuss these possibilities and suggest how they could be implemented in practice.

About the speaker

Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, is a biologist and author of nine books, including The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry (called Science Set Free in the US). He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and a Research Fellow of the Royal Society. He was then Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California and a Fellow of Schumacher College.

Mindfulness, Healing And Racism: Cultivating Right Relations

With Lyla June Johnston

More about this talk

Lyla June will share a speech, poetry and music that gives her perspective on race as an Indigenous (Diné/Navajo) person and ways that we might come into right relations as a species.

From the vantage point of a Diné person, she shares historical context which can guide us in how we show up today for racial healing and justice.

About the speaker

Lyla June is an Indigenous musician, scholar and community organizer of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages. Her dynamic, multi-genre presentation style has engaged audiences across the globe towards personal, collective and ecological healing.

She blends studies in Human Ecology at Stanford, graduate work in Indigenous Pedagogy, and the traditional worldview she grew up with to inform her music, perspectives and solutions. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree, focusing on Indigenous food systems revitalization.

Series 1

The first online version of Schumacher College’s long-running series of Earth Talks saw our expert speakers discuss their specialist subject – but in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Transformative Resilience in a time of Covid Crisis

With Dr Chris Johnstone

More about this talk

Resilience is a strength, skillset and capacity that helps us deal with difficult times.

With the extraordinary challenges we face in this current covid crisis, we need to draw upon and develop our resilience perhaps more than ever before. Yet there is a need for more than simply bouncing back to how things were before. Crisis can be turning point, and transformative resilience is about making the turnings we hope for more likely.

In this online Earth Talk, resilience specialist Dr Chris Johnstone:

  • Maps out the ‘me, you and us’ model of resilience that combines self-care, supporting others and acting together for collective wellbeing.
  • Looks at the difference between hoping and active hope when nourishing physical resilience to virus infection and Gaian resilience to climate change
  • Draws upon psychological, relational and eco-spiritual models of resilience in looking at what helps us rise to the occasion of this historic moment.

About the speaker

Chris Johnstone is a resilience specialist and online educator living in the north of Scotland. His books include Seven Ways to Build Resilience – strengthening your ability to deal with difficult times, and, co-authored with Joanna Macy, Active Hope – how to face the mess we’re in without going crazy. He has websites at and

Seizing the Opportunity After the Pandemic

With David Holyoake

More about this talk
David Holyoake, Founder and Creative Director of Swarm Dynamics around the sweet spot where political economy meets with the arts.

We live in extraordinary times where many of the apparently immovable, non-negotiable certainties of our socio-economic systems are up for grabs. The vulnerability of brittle, extended supply chains and of under-resourced health and other support services is brutally exposed. The homeless are being taken off the streets. Community and the state expand to take up the slack as universal basic income races up the policy agenda. Yesterday’s impossibles are becoming today’s inevitables in front of our eyes. But what can we do to ‘occupy’ this moment and avoid Power reinstating its hegemonic narratives in relaunching the economy when it’s over?

In this context, among the most powerful tools at our disposal is our capacity for radical imagination. As with many turning points in history, the arts have a critical role to play here, enabling us to reveal and transcend the hegemonic frames, metaphors, frames and narratives that lock in place old, tired and unhelpful ways of seeing the world, and playfully elaborating newly felt possibilities. In this conversation, we will explore how some powerful ideas from alternative economics and communications could be welded to strategic effect in the current moment; and how the arts can help to advance and elaborate this. The strange chemistry generated by the bringing together of these two disciplines can help spark and shift the frames of our own thinking and activism at this potent moment.

Eco-spirituality at the Moment of our Last Chance

With Prof Rupert Read

More about this talk

It is never too late to do the right thing, never too late to make things less worse, and never too late to be. But, argues Prof Rupert Read, it will soon be too late to stop our civilisation from collapsing.

The rhetoric of ‘It’s our last chance’ is one only ever to be used with great caution; don’t cry wolf. But this moment of shared vulnerability, of pause, of inflection, caused by the coronavirus and our collective protective contraction of the economy in response to it, is almost certainly our very last chance to transform this civilisation into something very different, that can be sustained, that will not collapse.

This talk concerns how, though the odds against that transformation being full and deep and fast enough may still seem very high if one faces reality open-eyed, precisely that is our spiritual task at this moment, as ‘contemplative activists’: to look the truth in the eye, tell it without reservation, and rise up to meet the challenge. Everything is in divine order: for we can grow to be as big as the challenge.

The 60-minute talk is immediately followed by a guided 30-minute meditation, led by Skeena Rathor, which will directly complement the themes of the talk.

About the speaker

Professor Rupert Read is one of the definitive spokespersons on ‘The Collapse’ and is the co-author of This Civilisation is Finished. He has been a frequent spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, a role involving meetings with senior politicians from across the political spectrum. He represents Extinction Rebellion on national radio and television, including Radio 4’s Today programme and the BBC’s Question Time and Politics Live. He teaches philosophy at the University of East Anglia, and created and (until recently) led the ‘philosophy of presence’ group in Norwich. He was taught by Joanna Macy, Thich Nhat-Hanh, Richard Rorty and Stanley Cavell.

Co-creating the Emerging Future

With Jenny Mackewn

More about this talk

Jenny Mackewn explores what sort of leadership is needed during and after the coronavirus crisis.

She reviews the experiences of the last two or three months – identifying both the tragedies and the miracles of a global crisis like no other – conveying just how unpredictable and uncertain the future has become. We need a new style of leadership that makes working with uncertainty and unpredictability a priority. A style of leadership which is enquiring, experimental, strong yet flexible, nimble, emergent. co creative and collaborative as never before.

We have been through an unprecedented roller coaster of challenge, despair and opportunity and Jenny invites us to envisage:

• What we now need to let go of;
• What we want to retain;
• What new forms, orders and priorities are beginning to come into existence – which may give us glimpses of the unknown future.

About the speaker

Jenny Mackewn is a creative catalyst who convenes generative events and innovative learning programmes. She is currently leading ‘Co-Creating The Emerging Future’ A Schumacher College Certificate in Leadership; a Focused Training in Constellations with Systemic and Embodied Coaching (ICF Accredited); Facilitator Development Adventure (a training in nature-connected facilitation). She has previously initiated and led a Masters programme in Transformative Leadership and Organisational Development for Middlesex University. She is developing a set of programmes in Holistic Business Development and Leadership for the Earth.

Conscious Evolution

With Manda Scott

More about this talk

Suppose we were part of the web of life of this planet, the web of consciousness? Suppose we were an integral part, with a key role to play and that key role became both urgent and necessary… and possible?

How would we know? How would it look? And – crucially – how would we step into our place as an integral node of the web, both necessary and timely? How would we live this moment’s fullest potential?

About the speaker

Manda Scott is a novelist, podcaster, smallholder, and in the past year, a conscious evolutionary. She believes that we are on the edge of the next evolutionary step and that it is one of consciousness, consciously chosen: that we are now the conscious creators of our own destiny – but that we can only make it if we work as an integral part of the wider web of the More than Human world.

For the past year and a half, her life has been devoted to finding ways to bring the maximum number of people to a point where they can connect with the greater web in a way that is authentic, grounded, coherent, and, above all, constructive. She believed this was timely before the coronavirus pandemic: now, she believes it is urgent. We are the people and the time is now.

Looking at the Pandemic Through the Lens of Transition Design

With Terry Irwin

More about this talk

In this talk, Terry Irwin, Professor and Director of the Transition Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (and graduate of the MSc in Holistic Science, Schumacher College) will introduce Transition Design, an approach for addressing complex systems problems and catalyzing systems level change.

She will also discuss COVID-19 through the lens of Transition Design and look at its roots, the interrelated way in which it affected the U.S. and explore some of the positive and innovative responses that are emerging as a result.

About the speaker

Terry has been a designer for over 40 years and has taught design at the university level since 1986, including as part of Schumacher College’s faculty. She was a founding partner and creative director of the transdisciplinary design firm MetaDesign with offices in San Francisco, Berlin, London, and Zurich. There she directed projects for clients such as Apple Computer, Nissan Motors, Berlin Transport Authority, Audi, Ernst & Young, Sony and Samsung among others.

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