We started Eco Practicum because we knew that most colleges weren't properly preparing people to live in a world that is rapidly changing, and urgently in need of new thinking and ways of being. That kind of learning doesn't happen in the classroom, it happens out there, in the world, knee-deep in the problems being confronted and solutions being proposed, within a community of committed and passionate peers.
We are a desk-free school for ecological justice based in the Catskill Mountains. We provide hands-on programs to bridge the gaps between learning and doing. We produce a variety of experiential learning opportunities for college students, recent grads, and young professionals, andalso run a creative residency program for artists seeking to incorporate regional environmental themes in their work. Through collaborations with program participants, alumni, and partner institutions, Eco Practicum improves ecological literacy, increases leadership capacity, and promotes initiatives building a regenerative bioregion.
Our programs are interdisciplinary, rooted in complex systems theory, and place-based. We support our alumni and partners in grounding their individual aspirations in the service of collective goals in order to strengthen systems of commoning, mutual aid, and dialogue.
Eco Practicum isn’t just programs, it’s a community of shared purpose.
Because learning is not an action, it is a practice; a state of being and becoming. Because it can (and does) happen just about everywhere. Because our surroundings, so full of mystery and complexity, give us every opportunity to engage, grow, and participate … if we pay attention. Rather than building a classroom, we build the capacity to observe and interrogate, and use that capacity wherever and whenever we can.
Because it keeps us honest. Because it gives us space to follow our passions and curiosities as they shift and evolve over time. Because holding a space for learning and teaching gives us tools for building a new culture. As a school of learning and school of thought, Eco Practicum holds these spaces as bridges between teaching, learning, and living. To do this effectively, the way we run the school reflects the way we teach and what we teach, so that Eco Practicum as an organization is as transparent, collaborative, and democratic as its programs.
Why Ecological Justice?
Because it’s based on the applied knowledge of home. Because it celebrates the interdependence of social and environmental health, and is a key frame for capturing holistic visions for better ways forward. Because the Earth and its ecosystems are complex and fragile, and that the world, of which humans are a part, exists as many interconnected and interdependent systems within a larger whole known as the Earth System. In this web of existence, human ingenuity and activity must be founded on prudence and care. Because it demands that we recommit ourselves to place, and during this period of human migrations and population growth, Ecological Justice is a call for redefining notions of place and belonging to better enable a process of re-indigenizing and re-committing to place.
Why Arts and Ecology?
Because creating an ecologically just civilization calls for inspiration, resourcefulness, imagination, and camaraderie. Because responding to the urgency of the present global inequities and environmental degradation requires determination, solidarity, knowledge, and skills from each of us. Because to change our systems, we need to change our culture, and to do that, we have to change our stories and the way we tell them.
Eco Practicum was founded in 2010 as a project of Arts and Ecology Inc, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, which was formed to conduct research and produce programming designed to create cultures and technologies for regenerative environmental stewardship.
Why do we do what we do?
Because slavery is still legal in America. Because of our role in this era of mass extinction. Because a change will most certainly come, but not through apocalypse or salvation. Eco Practicum brings together students of all disciplines to radically expand notions of the possible and take creative risks in building a just and regenerative society. Because dignity is worth fighting for. Because our 12,000 year-old civilization does not define the 200,000+ year human experience. Because we are all indigenous to place, and we better start acting like it.
What does Eco Practicum aim to do?
To act as a container and hold different, divergent, contradictory ideas. To create circumstances for genuine encounters between people who genuinely disagree with one another. To go beneath inherited pronouncements and dominant myths to understand deep meanings and root causes. To make idealism practical, and reveal the utter impossibility of the status quo. To ask and ask and ask and value the unknowns above all else. To reflect that the places in our world that are most diverse and full of life are the places where two ecosystems meet; and so the place where two stories meet is bound to be fruitful too.
What's our vision for success?
Our county with a new story, where makers, growers, and healers scaffold a vibrant culture. Our region of immeasurable abundance, with urban / suburban / rural forming a contiguous fabric of diversity, divergence, and cooperation.