Enlivened Learning

Navigation Menu

Learning the abundance of a gift economy

Learning the abundance of a gift economy

Posted by on ene 30, 2014 in all posts, Brazil, on the road | 0 comments

During our second week in Rio (Brazil), I received an email from my good friend Manish Jain, one of the founders of Shikshantar and Swaraj University, in Udaipur, India.  Manish was writing to give me the name of Edgard Gouveia – someone we ‘really should try to connect with’ as he was doing some really exciting and inspiring work in Brazil.

Hand-drawn sign inside house, Paraty, photo by Kelly

Hand-drawn sign inside house, Paraty, photo by Kelly

Following through on our principle of openness to what-arises-along-our-journey, I contacted Edgard right away and told him something of Enlivened Learning – what we were doing and why. Edgard responded within a day and invited us for a visit with him at the small and magical coastal town of Paraty, located about mid-way between Rio and Sao Paulo.  He was there co-creating and co-developing a game project – ‘Play the Call’ which he said he would tell us lots more about once we arrived… Udi saw that we could stop and visit Edgard on our way back to Rio after visiting the Landless Movement University, which was only an hour from Sao Paulo.  We were a bit concerned about finding a place to stay, especially with costs.  I emailed Edgard and asked for accommodation suggestions.  His response came – ‘we are exercising gift economy as much as possible’ … plenty of space in exchange for us cooking a few meals!

Hand-drawn sign inside house, Paraty, photo by Kelly

Hand-drawn sign inside house, Paraty, photo by Kelly

I first came across the ideas and language of ‘gift economy and gift culture’ when I visited Shikshantar: Rethinking Education and Development in Udaipur, India in 2008.   Manish and his wife, Vidhi co-founded Shikshantar in 2000 as an open space for gathering together, co-learning and co-creating alternatives to mainstream ideas and practices of education and development (so-called progress). Aside from the many activities I engaged in while visiting Shikshantar, all of which included a generosity of time, creative spirit and skills, I spent hours delving through the deluge of donated books, magazines and other texts stacked on shelves that lined the walls.   In particular, however, there was a stack of self-designed, ‘copy-left’ booklets on a range of topics that Shikshantar had self-published on a back table. One of them, Reclaiming the Gift Culture (edited by Manish and his sister, Shilpa) caught my eye.  It became my first encounter with the language and ideas of gift culture, or gift economy, as it is often called. Reclaiming the Gift Culture   The Shikshantar booklets were available through contribution (whatever anyone feels moved to give).  I donated a small amount of money at the time to take several of these publications home with me. I found them inspiring and engaging –  I used several of these booklets and incorporated them into different classes I taught at the University of Bath.   ………. Back to Brazil ……….   We arrived into Paraty after a day of bus travel from the Landless Movement University.  We were without a phone and about 3 hours later than we had said we would arrive.  All of us were tired, hungry and a little car/bus sick from the hours of travel. Paraty is a beautifully preserved Portuguese colonial town along the Costa Verde (Green Coast), a lush green section of coastline in the state of Rio de Janeiro, south of the city of Rio de Janeiro.  The town looks much like it did when it was settled during the Portuguese colonial days – the buildings are all refurbished, left over from the colonial era, the majority of the streets have not been paved and have unique forms of large cobblestone.

Entering the old and historic section of Paraty on a rainy night, photo by Udi

Entering the old and historic section of Paraty on a rainy night, photo by Udi

It had been raining when we arrived and some of the streets were nearly flooded.  The pedestrian-only streets of Paraty consisted of large stones where we had to either hop or take large steps between them, because of the rain.  Not such an easy mode of transport carrying heavy bags and feeling tired and sluggish.  However, we all felt a burst of new energy as we walked/hopped deeper into the town in search of the house with the address where Edgard was staying. We finally found the address at a huge corner house, one block from the sea.  We rang the doorbell and no one answered.  Suddenly around the corner came three people.  We heard a loud, booming voice, ‘Kelly?  Udi?’  Edgard was suddenly there with two other friends.  He enveloped each of us into a big hug (quite easy for him to do as he is 2 metres tall!) and ushered us into the house. We entered into an exquisitely beautiful house that looked as if it could still be the 1800s.  The floors were dark wood, high ceilings and lots of windows.

Colonial architectural splendor inside house in Paraty, photo by Kelly

Colonial architectural splendor inside house in Paraty, photo by Kelly

The walls were adorned with signs and posters from what I was assuming were drawn by the different people that had been joining Edgard to co-create the game project.

Shot from inside the house with poster of 'Play the Call' - photo by Kelly

Shot from inside the house with poster of ‘Play the Call’ – photo by Kelly

We all sat down in the huge main room and a long conversation ensued.  The friends that were with him – Chris was leaving the next morning and was just passing through town as Udi, Marina and I were.  The other friend, a lovely woman called Adrienne, had been there several months offering her time and creativity on their game project, ‘Play the Call’. The intent of the game is to involve young people to engage more directly in making change within their community.  It had evolved as an online, virtual game that is carried out in real life.  Young people over the age of 8 are given a series of ‘missions’ to plan and carry out, each one more challenging than the previous.  In order to move to the next mission, each player also had to engage with others about what they are doing and why, take a few photos to exchange the story of how they had accomplished each mission – and have it ‘liked’ by many on facebook, before moving on to the next mission.

Hand-drawn poster, 'Play the Call', photo by Kelly

Hand-drawn poster, ‘Play the Call’, photo by Kelly

The entire project had been completed almost entirely without monetary exchange. The aim was for the game to be entirely accessible, for anyone and without any barrier-of-entry due to some financial requirement. The idea was that the planning, creating and establishment of the game should be completed in the same way.  In other words, all stages of ‘Play the Call’ (from its conception to its full functionality) were to become part of a gift economy and culture. Edgard had been experimenting with various possibilities of a gift economy to not only provide access to the game, but to set it up as well.

View of Paraty town from main room in house, photo by Marina

View of Paraty town from main room in house, photo by Marina

Edgard made the point that if you are clear in what you want and open to asking and giving (through acts of reciprocity) things open up, often beyond what you think is possible.  The idea of ‘Play the Call’ aspired to contribute to a more peaceful and just society.  But, to get things rolling, Edgard needed a place to stay, to host other people, access to food, technical expertise and people who could help co-create the specificities of the game.

Posters hanging in the house - made by co-creators of 'Play the Call' to organize process and intention, photo by Kelly

Posters hanging in the house – made by co-creators of ‘Play the Call’ to organize process and intention, photo by Kelly

Most of us are completely dependent on money to ‘do the things we want to do’.   I hear this statement all the time.  If ONLY I had the money, I could…. I would… Again and again – before embarking on this journey, and during this journey, we have met many people who stopped projects because of the lack of financial resources ‘it just became impossible because we did not have enough resources’. Yet, many, many others along our journey have used their lack of financial resources as a welcome opportunity to imagine alternative forms of resources to be more creative and further enhance what it is that they want to do – to reach out – building communities and learning (and exchanging) time, creativity, energy, hospitality, new skills in the process.  At the base of this, it has seemed to me is a willingness, a confidence and a courage to re-define what is meant by ‘resources’ and to see the abundance of what is around you, immediately available (if you can see it in this way), rather than seeing most of the world through a perspective of scarcity.

Goethe quote hanging inside house as point of inspiration, Paraty, photo by Kelly

Goethe quote hanging inside house as point of inspiration, Paraty, photo by Kelly

Udi and I have been trying to do this as well – where we can.  Coming from research backgrounds where institutional money is spent much more freely (e.g. – hotels, restaurants, taxis) during time spent in the field conducting research, we have been unlearning on this journey — by being committed to engaging in gift economy practices as much as we can.  Although there are obvious costs associated with flight travel that are difficult to negotiate (especially long flights between countries), we have been taking many long (15+ hour) bus rides, staying in homestays and with friends– as well as couchsurfing (rather than staying in hotels).  We have also been offering our skills with filmmaking and photography from a ‘copy-left’ (what is mine, is yours) perspective when we can.

View of the sea and mountains from the room we slept in, Paraty, photo by Kelly

View of the sea and mountains from the room we slept in, Paraty, photo by Kelly

Edgard had been searching for a place in which he could host people to help create and support all aspects of ‘Play the Call’.  A friend of his let him live in a house of theirs for 4 months, for free – a house that accommodated many people at the same time.  To feed himself and the people who came to help, Edgard reached out to local restaurants and food businesses and asked that they donate meals during the months they were creating and finishing the game.  For the technological expertise needed to create and complete the game, Edgard invited people he knew – to then reach to more people that they knew – to locate interested and technologically skilled people to come and give their time and energy. All of these steps of reaching out worked.  Gifts of accommodation, food, skills and creative energy were exchanged in this way through reciprocity.  The abundance that is there, literally right at Edgard’s doorstep – was not out of reach.  It just had to be located and asked for.  The reason it worked?  Edgard’s humility, energy, commitment and passion for what ‘Play the Call’ could be … would be … once completed.  Not just for the young people participating, but for their communities – and as a huge network of individuals and communities across the globe. As Edgard explained – ‘who can say no to the earnest and innocent energy and courage of children? — as adults, we are far more likely to listen to the views of children than other adults’   This was a fledgling, but very much living gift economy that Edgard helped to setup in the local community of Paraty around his project.  These gifts were actually alive – providing sustenance, energy… as Lewis Hyde describes the ideal of a gift in his wonderful book ‘The Gift’.

Another inspiring quote (this one by Williamson) hanging up in the house, photo by Kelly

Another inspiring quote (this one by Williamson) hanging up in the house, photo by Kelly

The gifts exchanged as part of the ‘Play the Call’ gift economy were imbued with a spiritual energy surviving the consumption from those individual participants – these gifts literally, kept the creation and development of the project alive… and they created new networks of community relationships out of individual heart-felt expression of hope toward the project.  These gifts as part of the ‘Play the Call’ gift economy were simultaneously material, social and spiritual. A gift economy or gift culture focuses on exchange as any economy does – but this exchange avoids typical exchanges that we are used to within a capitalist system.  In other words, beyond money … money is seen as one form of many different types of exchanges, rather than the ONLY form.  A gift economy and culture exchanges services, skills, time, non-commodified labor, care, hospitality, love…

From left - Edgard, Marina, Kelly and Adrienne - walking in the streets of Paraty at night, photo by Udi

From left – Edgard, Marina, Kelly and Adrienne – walking in the streets of Paraty at night, photo by Udi

… and as Edgard taught Udi, Marina and me, a gift economy increases the livingness, the value of the gift by creating community and bringing forth abundance where it might not have been seen or experienced previously.  Typical to gift economy or gift culture, there was the avoidance of the interaction of money or consumer good as the center point of the exchange. Gifts exchanged within a gift culture or economy, are centered on relationships between those exchanging gifts (which again Lewis Hyde beautifully describes in his book). Imagine if learning communities that emerged from gift culture were commonplace.  Imagine if our learning was to imagine, create and experiment with different forms of gift culture and reciprocity.  How much richer could our worlds be?

Flower petals in Paraty cobblestone, photo by Marina

Flower petals in Paraty cobblestone, photo by Marina

There are communities all over the world that are experimenting with different forms of gift economy – places like Universidad de la Tierra (University of the Earth in Oaxaca, Mexico), Swaraj University (that emerged from Shikshantar in Udaipur, India), transition towns creating local currencies and time banks, home-schooling communities tapping into the wealth of local knowledge and skills that are within walking distance of their homes… In various forms, each of these places are experimenting with gift culture and economy.   Last October, Manish and many others organized a ‘Giftival’ in Istanbul, Turkey followed by another Giftival held in Kerala (India).  See this link for a detailed blog posting about the Giftival event in Turkey. I hope to write much more about our continued learning and encounters with gift economy and gift culture as our journey continued… Edgard taught us about the possibilities of taking a brilliant idea and creating a living project and community — by finding the abundance that is right around you and engaging in a reciprocal gift economy.  We did cook those few days with Edgard — and he gave us the invaluable gifts of courage, wisdom, hospitality and friendship, to inspire us to notice the abundance around us – and to spread that awareness and inspiration with others….

Read More

“All Education is Environmental Education…”

“All Education is Environmental Education…”

Posted by on nov 19, 2013 in all posts, on the road | 0 comments

David Orr author of, Earth in Mind, once wrote ‘all education is environmental education…’

Five words.

Direct statement.

Simply stated. Yet, is it simple?

Hardly.It is stated as a fact, something that is.

But how is this understood as a fact?

How is education approached as environmental education? Or perhaps more significantly, how is it not?

Photo of the Earth - http://www.freefever.com/wallpaper/1920x1080/lovely-earth-hd-from-space-p-anomaly-warzone-17909.html

Photo of the Earth – http://www.freefever.com/wallpaper/1920×1080/lovely-earth-hd-from-space-p-anomaly-warzone-17909.html

Many times along this journey, I have been lost in my thoughts considering these questions – turning them around, stretching my mind (and heart) to answer these in different ways. I am continually amazed by the ingenuity and courage I keep encountering within the places of learning that we are visiting as to how groups of individuals have put their creative and inspiring thoughts into transformative action – to bring these two (‘education’ and ‘environment’) supposedly separate entities, into one intertwined being.

Because I have been thinking about environmental education for such a long time (through my studies but also through teaching and activism work that I have done), the forms of education and learning that we keep encountering on this journey continue to challenge my understanding of not just what ‘environmental education’ is, but equally what ‘education’ is and can be, and, where ‘the environment’ actually is.

My initial idea of what constitutes the ‘environment’, was very much the non-human environment. Before I had ever thought very deeply about it, ‘the environment’ for me could be found in its ‘pure’ form where it was that human beings were not.

 

I was trapped in the dualistic world within which the vast majority of us live and learn. Dualistic in the sense that nature and the environment were just down the road, out of town, separated from the rest of us human folk.

 

What I have come to learn through all of these 20+ years since I left home, is that the root of the multiple problems and crises we all face, are directly related to this perceived separation between ‘me’ the human and ‘the environment’ and ‘nature’. This might be quite a serious jump to make, in fact such a leap that it might seem preposterous and somehow archaic, but I keep ending up facing this conclusion. And, this journey has escorted me to that edge within every place of learning we have visited.

 

I grew up on the edge of a small town in southern Oregon called Klamath Falls. The closest store to my house was 5 miles away. If I walked up the large hill behind the house, I could continue walking for 20 miles or so in undeveloped wilderness.

Photo from - http://gr8ful.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html Taken from the center of Klamath Falls, Oregon, showing Mount Shasta in the background (Mt. Shasta is 60 miles to the south).

Photo from – http://gr8ful.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html
Taken from the center of Klamath Falls, Oregon, showing Mount Shasta in the background (Mt. Shasta is 60 miles to the south).

To the east was the vast Cascade Mountain range that runs all the way from southern British Columbia down to Northern California. Growing up just west of this majestic mountain range, I could see the high and snowy peaks of Mt. Shasta and Mt. McLoughlin from town and I was just 45 minutes south of the richest blue imaginable, emanating from Crater Lake, the 7th deepest lake in the world.

Photo taken at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, by Udi summer 2011

Photo taken at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, by Udi summer 2011

This was nature, the environment at its best. It was an environment for me to visit, learn from, engage with and be inspired by. To many of the people living in Klamath Falls, these natural places (excluding Crater Lake as that is a preserved National Park) were seen as an environment to manage – to cut down, dam up, extract from – through which to earn profit. In fact, the profit motive for natural resources, particularly timber that surrounds this town goes beyond individual and family accumulation – fuelling the very public and government services of the region.

Photo of felled timber in Klamath Falls - taken for an article in the New York Times in 2007 - http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/05/us/05timber.html?_r=0

Photo of felled timber in Klamath Falls – taken for an article in the New York Times in 2007 – http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/05/us/05timber.html?_r=0

Revenue from timber receipts have historically funded up to a third of the county’s educational budget. During one of the years that I was in high school, when timber felling and harvesting became increasingly restricted due to environmentally-related policy constrictions, programs were cut, including the bus service through which the majority of students were transported to the school. The rural nature of the location of my high school then came into full fruition — several students rode their horses to school!

 

In spite of the various economic and recreational ties to the environmental and natural abundance surrounding this area – this nature, this environment, was not quite part of me, or else I did not (and perhaps could not) see or experience it as such.

 

Then I decided to study Environmental Studies during my under-graduate years – on the other side of the United States. So economically sensitive is Klamath Falls to ‘conservation of the natural environment’ that I often avoided to fully explain to friends and others what I was studying when I would return home. I discussed all that I was learning in history, philosophy, sociology, science…. avoiding the centrality of ‘environment’ within these various disciplinary perspectives.

Photo from website - http://photos3.meetupstatic.com/photos/event/b/5/4/c/event_193786412.jpeg

Photo from website – http://photos3.meetupstatic.com/photos/event/b/5/4/c/event_193786412.jpeg

The wonderful thing for me at that time, was that I was learning through all of these perspectives – although they were centred on ways of understanding, managing, stewarding and valuing ‘the environment’.  Though largely intellectualized, it was my initial entry into multiple worlds. I began to perceive the area I grew up differently – I was more critical, more nuanced – and felt a deeper intrinsic value for these beautiful and awe-inspiring places. I was thrilled at the various thought-provoking doors that kept opening.

 

I was (finally) in an educative learning space that enabled me to consider the environment. Yet, I was still perceiving through a separated lens – a lens that separated me from this land, particularly in that I was learning about all of this from such a geographical distance. It was, however, the first time thoughts about how to teach and learn about the environment crossed my threshold of consciousness.

 

I was not studying ‘environmental education’ but I was in an educative space learning about the environment – about the varied interests and coinciding philosophies underpinning these interests. From there, my path was put on a slight hold for a couple of years as I dallied in the corporate world as a paralegal and then as a waitress in New York City looking for work. I ended up having a primary school teaching position (located in the Bronx) fall into my lap and from that point, it seems, there was no turning back. I have been either working in or studying some aspect of education and learning ever since.

Photo of the Bronx and Manhattan, taken from New York City (shot from above the Bronx) published on flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/dandc/2836519688/

Photo of the Bronx and Manhattan, taken from New York City (shot from above the Bronx) published on flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/dandc/2836519688/

Teaching year 6 is great because you teach all subjects to the same children. For 2 years I had the responsibility of teaching 25+ 11-12 year olds math, social studies, reading, science, spelling, health and religion. The best part was that I could combine these into inter-disciplinary projects. I did this very often. It made learning and teaching much more fun – for the students and for me. I also incorporated quite a lot of environmental ‘knowledge’ and ‘experiences’ into it. I felt there was a need to bring these students out of the intense (and often hostile) urban environment they were living in, to learn about different plants, biomes around the globe, environmental issues such as deforestation and water pollution – and to experience being outdoors in beautiful open places. In addition, I became acutely aware of the perversity of environmental and social injustices experienced in the day to day life of my students living in an area of the South Bronx where enormous quantities of waste is held and incinerated (more than 80% of my students each year had asthma which is directly linked to incineration smoke).

 

Simultaneously, during the second year of teaching, I enrolled into a Masters program at New York University called ‘Environmental Conservation Education’. During those years of study, I took several Environmental Philosophy courses which opened my mind to new world views of the ways in which we as humans relate to the environment, what in fact the ‘environment’ is and how our perceptions of it can have profound effects on how we treat the world around us, including each other. I also took courses in Environmental Health, Environmental Justice, Botany and Environmental Journalism.

 

Although I had explored some of this in my undergraduate years, this took it a step further, opening up yet more pathways to engaging with the complexity of inter-disciplinary and systemic issues – particularly how they related to education and communication.

images-2

 

I then worked as an environmental educator for an environmental non-profit organization in NYC, working with secondary schools across the city, teaching in various science and social studies-related classes and designing semester-long projects with different students and teachers. These projects brought everyone outside, engaging with not only the non-human environment of NYC, but also learning about the treatment of sewage (I think I visited all of the sewage treatment plants in NYC), the transfer of the city’s water, the health of the river and creek systems. We became more politically active – doing tabling events, holding seminars, inviting local politicians and media sources – and speaking with local businesses.

 

During all of this time, my engagement with the world, human and non-human expanded. I began to see myself more and more embedded within the environment in which I was living my day-to-day life. Yet, I still struggled to merge these worlds together in my work. It was not learning that I had experienced through my university studies – rather it was learning I was developing independently through a non-profit framework.  And, it was still somehow a ‘special’ and ‘extra-curricular’ activity to get students and teachers outside of the school building to learn first-hand about various aspects of the world outside and about how their basic needs were met (i.e. sewage, waste, water and food) and how this connected to where they lived.

 

What I discovered with those students, was the all of us felt more alive, more connected during the hours that we explored and learned outside the walls of the classroom. We were all somehow more ‘home’ during that time.

 

Over the next 13 years, as I entrenched myself further and further into the academic/university world in the UK (after leaving NYC), I felt an increasing alienation from any sense of ‘home’. This was not just because I was living even further away from southern Oregon by staying in England. It was because I felt myself becoming more and more of a slave to the expectations of what it meant to stay working in academia. Which, is essentially to be disconnected and disengaged – from the local surroundings, from the passions that drove me to work in academia in the first place, from the people I was working and learning with – basically, from myself.

Photo taken by Udi in Rio de Janeiro at one of the public universities (January 2013).

Photo taken by Udi in Rio de Janeiro at one of the public universities (January 2013).

The vast majority of universities have been imposed onto the land on which they exist ( in other words, they did not arise from that particular local context). They are environmentally-orientated in that they exist on the land. Yet, for the most part, the learning is completely dis-engaged and detached from the environment, from that local context. Learning is about making your brain bigger – as well as your hands (to type) and your bum (to sit for longer periods of time). It is not about enhancing your heart (emotions) and the rest of your body for learning – moving, making and creating.

 

The purpose of the university these days is fundamentally about contributing to the global knowledge economy – that which is measurable and therefore profitable. This core purpose is now universal. The connection is about economic growth, disconnecting us for what makes us most human.  The concept of ‘localization’ is just a mere concept that might be encountered, but beyond that, there is no practice of localized learning and action as such.

 

I yearned for connection – to my deepest self that makes me a human being, to learn and grow from that perspective, rather than contribute to the growth of the knowledge economy. So, I finally made the move. I found the courage to step out, to exit and move forward, to learn to let go of that alienation which had rooted itself into my soul and to go down the path of re-connection and unlearning on this Enlivened Learning journey.

 

As time has passed, moving around as much as we have (we have not unpacked in months), I feel in many ways ‘back home’ regardless of where we are visiting. Perhaps this ‘back home’ sense is because our intention is to connect – within ourselves to where we are – and also because we are simultaneously learning about how others are so creatively connecting themselves through the learning they are doing as part of these higher education initiatives. All of these places of learning that we are visiting, are emerging from the context they are in. They are organic, deeply rooted and connected intimately to the cultural, ecological and historical past and present within which they are a part.

Symbol for Enlivened Learning designed by Udi, 2012.

Symbol for Enlivened Learning designed by Udi, 2012.

It is relatively easy to see each of these places as environmental education, environmental learning – or even better, learning that is embedded in the environment. And this is evident in a myriad of ways. Learning is essentially about connecting to who we are as human beings – separately yes (in terms of connecting with your ‘inner’ self), but most importantly, how we are connected to each other and to all aspects of the world around us. The environment comprises everything – it is not just ‘extra-curricular’.

 

For example, in Alberta, Canada with the Blackfoot, we learned about the simplicity and profound impact of committing time to a specific place, to learn the land or through a better explanation that Ryan and Adrienne described, to ‘let the land learn you’.

 

In Terrace, British Columbia, with the First Nations carvers at the Freda Diesing Northwest Coast Art School, we learned about the stories, symbols that have been documented through carving as forms of literacy that are intimately inspired by, and connected to non-human beings and relationships existing all around. As outsiders, we might refer to this as ‘art’ whilst for thousands of years, carving was, in fact, localized forms of literacy.

Totems in Kitselas canyon, British Columbia, taken by Udi when we visited the Freda Diesing Northwest School of Art, October 2012.

Totems in Kitselas canyon, British Columbia, taken by Udi when we visited the Freda Diesing Northwest School of Art, October 2012.

At Unitierra, in Oaxaca, Mexico, we learned about the fluidity of learning needs and desires coming together through groups of individuals working as a community — committed to collective autonomy centred on food, water, shelter, waste, communication and festival.

 

With PRATEC in Peru, we learned about Quechua indigenous forms of agricultural practice that are inseparable from their spiritual cosmology which animates relationships with all non-human beings.

 

In Brazil, with ESPOCC, the School of Critical Media, we learned about how people living in favelas, or shantytowns, are taking control of their own image and identity – by becoming more deeply acquainted with their local cultural, social and ecological surroundings and portraying these to the local and outside worlds through various forms of media – of their choice and through their authority (rather than it coming from the outside).

 

Also in Brazil, we visited the Landless Movement University that brings together individuals and communities living within Landless Movement camps (that were settled to occupy and use unoccupied land) or belonging to kindred social movements or organizations engaging with issues of social and ecological justice.

 

All of these places of learning we have visited so far – and the myriad of places we are visiting post-Brazil all offer an incredible richness of opportunities to learn about different forms of education and learning. Education is inseparable from context – completely embedded within all aspects of ‘the environment’. It is not just learning about the environment or for the environment. They are one and the same. There is no separation.  Whatever is needed and decided to be learned about is directly connected to the world around that particular learning space.

Sunset just outside of For MacLeod, Alberta, Canada, taken by Udi September 2012.

Sunset just outside of Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Canada, taken by Udi September 2012.

To me, these inspiring places of learning mirror the true purpose of education – to be fully realized through and within all that we are a part of – ‘the environment’.

 

The full quote by David Orr reads: “all education is environmental education. By what is included or excluded we teach students that they are part of or apart from the natural world. To teach economics, for example, without reference to the laws of thermodynamics or those of ecology is to teach a fundamentally important ecological lesson: that phyics and ecology have nothing to do with the economy. That just happens to be dead wrong.”

 

For the most part, conventional schooling at all levels, helps us learn how to be further apart from the natural world. To me, this deprives us of the capacity and potential to live as more fully responsible, ethical, passionate, disciplined, generous and loving human beings.

 

If we are to become more fully human as the Blackfoot are trying to teach at Red Crow Community College – we must learn to adapt ourselves to our environments as indigenous people have done for thousands of years – to learn through reciprocity – rather than the other way around – through this sense of detachment.

 

Significantly, after so many years of schooling and education, I realize now, that I’ve only just begun to really learn…

Bow Lake, Alberta, Canada (inside Banff National Park), taken by Kelly, October 2012.

Bow Lake, Alberta, Canada (inside Banff National Park), taken by Kelly, October 2012.

Read More

(English) Creating in the GIft Economy

(English) Creating in the GIft Economy

Posted by on jun 14, 2013 in all posts, on the road | 0 comments

enlivened learning indiegogo.jpg

Friends,

Our journey has met, experienced and reflected on different forms of de-institutionalisation and de-professionalism, with other ways of practicing teaching and learning. Now we are experimenting with how this might apply to obtaining resources, through a gift economy, for learning, writing and filmmaking and communicating. We are launching a crowd-funding campaign on indiegogo to raise funds to finish the documentary we have been making along our journey. We have also added some perks such as high resolution downloads of the film and extra features when we have finished the documentary, photographic prints from a selection of our best photos in this journey and a silk screen print made by the team.

We passionately believe in the importance of this project and up to this point, have funded ourselves. However, to complete the documentary we need a further $25,000 – for remaining travel expenses and basic living expenses during editing for our team.

We have 6 months left of our journey and will visit more inspiring initiatives and people in India, Europe and the US. To do this we need to cover costs related to travel and expenses. Once we have completed shooting, we will need at least 5 months to edit over 100 hours of material (spoken in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hindi). In this period we will be working with another editor, a post-production designer, a sound mixer, composer and a web designer. We will also be working with a team of transcribers and translators in the initial languages stated above.

All of this requires funding to at least cover travel and basic living expenses of the team which we have budgeted at $25,000. All these people, including ourselves, are gifting their time (in other words, not receiving a salary) as we all believe in the purpose of the project. Our intention is to encourage accessible and critical debate on education around the world and open up imaginative possibilities of what learning can be. Any funds contributed will be supporting us in this process.

We are also taking this crowdfunding experience as another aspect of the journey, of how to engage with resources and money in a more creative way. We hope we reach our target of raising $25,000 in 40 days, which we have budgeted is what we and the whole team would need to finish the documentary by next May and make available for free online on a new specially created website. But whatever happens we have been learning a lot in the process! I am sure we will have much more to write about regarding this.

Distribution of the film

The film Enlivened Learning will be distributed (freely or by donation) online through a project website and we also plan to screen the film across a number of international locations and festivals. We will translate the film into English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi and other languages, depending on request. Our intention is to encourage accessible and critical debate on education around the world and open up imaginative possibilities of what learning can be. Any funds we gain through indiegogo will be supporting us and the rest of the team in this process.

How else you can help

We are very keen to have people joining this inter-cultural conversation on what kind of education we, our communities and our planet needs. We understand if financial contribution is not possible at this time. You can help us to get the message out about this film and check out our website and get in touch with us if you want to help out in any way. We are always happy to meet more kindred and creative folk. We’d love to hear from you!

Read More