Philosophy & Vision of TEFNA
& the Ecostery Movement
This statement reflects the views and values of the members of the Board of TEFNA
early in its history. This articulation is at times too directive and not
flexible enough for the larger
ecostery vision. It is an evolving document.
To Promote Diverse Ecosophies and Ecosteries
This document sets forth the rationale for promoting ecosophies and
ecosteries. It is a Statement of Philosophy and Vision for TEFNA and the Ecostery Movement. It
sets forth some suggested guidelines for the use of terminology in the ecostery movement.
Certain basic principles and standards are outlined herein. This document is the result of much
discussion and thought, but is still incomplete and evolving.
Ecosophies are lifestyles which aim for ecological wisdom and harmony with
Nature. An ecostery is a place, centre, facility, stewarded land, or Nature sanctuary, where an
ecosophy is learned, taught, shared and practiced. TEFNA promotes the establishment of
ecosteries, whether formed by local groups or individuals in both rural and urban areas. Some
ecosteries will administer rural and urban land for centers that promote ecosophies. Ecosteries
can be formed as nonprofit societies or corporations, private or accessible to the public.
Creation of both kinds of ecosteries is encouraged by TEFNA. Ecosteries promote environmental
research and education, restoration and preservation of land; they are devoted to the
cooperative cultivation of ecological knowledge and values.
TEFNA's main purpose is to promote the creation of ecosteries all over North
America, so that they can act as catalysts for cultural change toward ecologically wise
practices. Such practices are created by free people who are able to work closely with Nature.
Working closely and in harmony with Nature is most probable, when humans reach a transpersonal
level of development, so that they understand the ecology of human and wild self.
Ecosophic practices are based on learning the wisdom of the Earth. Ecosophy
is the wisdom dwelling in a place. It is also the wisdom to dwell in a place in harmony with
Nature. TEFNA sees ecosteries as centers from which ecosophies grow into the surrounding society
through citizen participation in first -- hand experience of Nature.
Some ecosteries will be directed and cared for by guardians, caretakers and
ecostewards, who will help others to learn ways to know Nature intimately, so as to create
sustainable local practices. The elements of new ecosophic cultures, appropriate to the Age of
Diverse Ecosophies, will be created by people who have intimate understanding and respect for
Nature. Ecosteries will help to cultivate this awareness and the appropriate attitudes and
practices relevant to our places.
Origins, Precedents, Location, Ways of Knowing, Sanctuaries
Gil LaFreniere, of Willamette University, formed the word
"ecostery" by combining elements from "monastery" and "ecology".
For TEFNA, "ecostery" connects the meanings of "ecosophy,"
"ecology," and "monastery." "Ecosophy" implies a comprehensive
sense for, and sensitivity to, ecological processes, functions and communities of the Earth.
"Ecology" implies interrelationships and interconnections, symbiosis, community and
complementarity, as well as the study of these relationships. "Monastery" implies a
place where spiritual discipline and practice are a central purpose. For ecosteries the focus is
Earth spirituality, since the environmental crisis reflects a breakdown in the spirit of
inclusive community that encompasses humans and other beings.
The ecostery ideal derives some of its sense from the monastic traditions of
East and West. Just as some European monasteries provided sanctuaries of sane and careful
living, which prepared the way for the civilization of the higher Middle Ages, so today
ecosteries will be centers of ecologically sane, careful, and respectful living, which will help
prepare the way for cultures in harmony with Nature. The monastery ideal in the East is often
associated with the practice and mastery of various martial and other arts. The contemporary
concept of ecostery draws from these backgrounds, as well as from studies in ecology and
ecophilosophy. In creating and maintaining ecosteries, those who participate will contribute to
healing humans and the Earth. An ecostery is a centre dedicated to ecosophy
(ecological wisdom and harmony) as both pursuit and practice.
In urban and rural settings centers of ecosophy will provide city and country
dwellers with access to knowledge and experience of ways to live low-impact life-styles.
Ecosteries are non-partisan and non-sectarian centers of Earth spirituality. They include all
ways of knowing and respecting the Earth, scientific, spiritual, aesthetic, and
technological. They facilitate communal understanding of ecological processes and promote
wholesome nurturing of humans, other beings, and the Earth
-- our common home. Urban and rural ecosteries provide people access to networks of information and
persons with state-of-the-art knowledge of ecosophic technologies and leading edge ecological
information, as well as access to ecophilosophers and artists with deep ecological
sensibilities. They provide ways for people to contribute their local wisdom to the development
of sustainable practices in daily life. These unique ecosophies are shared with other ecosteries
through networks, newsletters, shared undertakings, cosponsored ceremonies, and other
Public use will be regulated by ecological constraints based on
ecostery zoning plans, designed to preserve the land's integrity. Ecosteries provide means for
humans to contact the fundamental creative forces of life on the Earth, to gain intimate
knowledge of Nature in their places and areas. Ecosteries will facilitate public discussions in
conferences, meetings, and workshops on environmental issues of vital local concern. They will
work to increase public awareness of global environmental issues by helping citizens to explore
ways they can contribute to resolving such problems at the local level.
Ecosteries have many options for practices that increase deep ecological
sensibilities by means of first-hand contact with the natural world. To mention some of them,
Earth pilgrimages, Nature meditation, group vigils, natural selection management, holistic
resource management, natural farming and gardening, appropriate technology practices, solitary
and group forest contemplation, wilderness travel, music, poetry, painting, dance, participatory
theater, and a variety of spiritual disciplines such as Aikido and Tai Chi. Some might engage in
only a portion of these activities, just as some ecosteries might have only guardians, who will
care for a particular forest, grass or desert land as a sanctuary ecostery, where human
activity will be primarily contemplative. Some ecosteries will be created on private land, for
example on a family farm. Some ecosteries might have only one person, and some will be
hermitages, or places of solitude for ecomonks. Ecosteries should contain sanctuaries which
honour the wild and are Nature preserves in rural settings. In urban settings they might consist
of a room set aside in which to honour, contemplate, respect, and celebrate Nature. Sanctuaries
can be very small to very large.
Nonviolence, Transpersonal Ecology, Levels and Zoning
The Ecostery Movement is dedicated to nonviolence in all
relationships. TEFNA recognizes that unsatisfied, vital human needs can not in the long run be
met by consuming each other and the planet. Vital human needs can be met in ecologically
responsible ways, without degrading the Earth.
Understanding the ecology of the human self involves mature human
consciousness at the transpersonal level. Transpersonal awareness enables communion with other
beings and access to diverse ecosophies. (Insofar as other beings live in harmony with the way
of Nature, they have diverse ecosophies. Their story tells us their ecosophy.) From such
maturity there follows ecologically wise and compassionate actions.
Rural ecosteries are usually one of three main levels: Level One
ecosteries are totally devoted to forming a Nature sanctuary, where the creative spirits of
Nature thrive. Some sanctuaries have no paths, while others have only a few paths and meditation
benches. All sanctuaries exclude activities that disturb Nature. By helping to acquire, secure,
maintain and care for sanctuaries people deepen their respect and care for Nature and each
other. Level Two ecosteries will contain land of two (out of four) zone classifications:
Nature sanctuary, and then forest, marsh, range or desert lands managed by natural
selection-gathering methods. Level Three ecosteries have four land zone
classifications: 1. Nature sanctuary and wildland, 2. natural selection managed land, 3.
tree-crop-permaculture land, and 4. naturally farmed and gardened land. In the last two zones
some buildings may be built, provided they are consistent with ecosophic criteria.
Urban ecosteries will be created on urban land which might have a
building on it. The buildings of urban ecosteries should be restored and renovated so as to
illustrate the best methods of energy conservation, waste management, recycling, house care, and
the like. In caring for their grounds all ecosteries will be outstanding examples of ecosophic
ways to garden and landscape. Urban ecosteries do not burn refuse and garden material, nor do
they use herbicides, insecticides, toxic cleaners, or other biocides. They manage their
activities, as do the rural ones, with exemplary environmental care. In some cases, an urban
ecostery might be housed in a large building without surrounding land. Even so, they will create
a Nature sanctuary and exemplify ecosophic practices. A Nature sanctuary is a place where
wild Nature is honoured, and human activities limited to contemplative, aesthetic and ceremonial
Nonprofit Corporation, Guardians, Caretakers, Ecostewards
Ecosteries will be nonprofit entities, but may (where appropriate) earn
enough to pay their costs, buy additional land, and contribute to various environmental
projects. They may invest any funds raised so as to protect the principle, provided these
investments and deposits meet criteria of social responsibility and are consistent with ecostery
philosophy. Ecosteries can accept gifts, donations, bequests, parcels of land, facilities, and
equipment. Those who give to ecosteries may publicly announce their gifts, but they may not
commercially exploit such donations for purposes of promoting their products. Each ecostery will
have as one of its objectives helping to establish other ecosteries, as Nature sanctuaries,
centers for research, education, experimentation, community ecosophy, sources of information,
and networks of consultants, which exemplify wise practices, and harmonious living.
Communal ecosteries will have guardians, caretakers, and ecostewards
who manage their affairs, care for their grounds and maintenance, and who teach others about
Nature through ecostery lands and programs. The guardians look after the daily
administration and oversee the organization of ecostery programs; the caretakers look
after the maintenance of the ecostery and work to develop the facility and keep it operating;
the ecostewards oversee and run the educational and outreach programs. In many instances,
one and the same person(s) will serve in all three capacities. Ecosteries that are public can be
overseen by an administrative council elected by the active members. All members will have one
vote, and there will be no proxy voting. All members should be able to serve in any capacity
Participation in the activities and training programs of the ecosteries will
be free of all prejudice: ecosteries may not discriminate on the basis of sex, religion,
political affiliation, handicap, color, race, ethnic origin, sexual preference, or life style,
except to exclude activities inconsistent with their mission and the cultivation of ecosophies.
The members of ecosteries will inform others of the purposes of the Ecostery Movement.
Sometimes the guardians, caretakers and ecostewards will live in an ecostery as permanent
residents. In cases of pure Nature sanctuaries they can live on adjacent land that is managed to
provide oversight and buffer zones for the sanctuary. Sanctuaries with highly sensitive habitat,
plant and animal communities should always be surrounded by buffer zones.
The education of guardians, caretakers, and ecostewards involves
learning up-to-date details of forest, grass land and other community ecology. They need mastery
in wilderness travel and ecological research. In addition, they should practice a
spiritual discipline consistent with respect for humans and Nature. The Japanese martial art of
Aikido and the Chinese art of Tai Chi are good examples. The meditative disciplines of Zen, and
the contemplative practices of some Christian monasteries are others.
In sum, guardians, caretakers and ecostewards need an understanding of
current environmental problems, skills in the design of alternative technology practices, and
holistic resource management skills. They need detailed knowledge of all aspects of the
ecosteries for which they are representatives and protectors. They need skills as communicators,
facilitators of community processes and mediators of environmental conflicts. The ecostewards
will work with outreach programs and conduct off-ecostery activities, such as wilderness travel.
They will help others to join the Ecostery Movement and promote ecosophy in daily life.
Ecosteries should cultivate multi-cultural awareness by inviting different
groups to present their philosophy and describe their practices, as these relate to ecosophy in
their places. Ecosteries should encourage multi-faith dialogues and exchanges on Earth wisdom.
Ecosterians will work to facilitate the nonviolent evolution of sustainable human cultures. They
will promote cooperation between the peace, justice, environmental and alternative technology
movements at the local, regional, national and global levels. In these and other ways,
ecosteries help to create communities that meet on the common ground of the Earth as the
learning focus and nurturing locus.
Priorities, Land Holdings, Trusts, Size, Education
To achieve its mission TEFNA will promote the creation of ecosteries
throughout North America and globally through the web. Ecosteries will acquire lands and
facilities through purchase, bequest or donation. They will place the development rights and
conservation easements of their land in trust. They will give high priority to acquiring lands
in areas now subject to intense development pressures, but will not limit their activities to
them. Lands under intense pressure are found in both city and countryside. Some of these are
seen as highly desirable by organizations like TLC, Nature Conservancy, park associations, TIES,
and government agencies, and one or the other of these groups might want to administer them in a
natural or nearly natural state. Other groups might want to put some of these lands, and the
development rights to farm and range lands, in stewardship trusts. Some will want to set aside
land for wildlife habitat and recreation. However, even with these efforts, there will be much
land appropriate for ecosteries that could be lost to subdivision unless saved.
There is a pressing need to preserve large land areas under public, private,
and nonprofit protection, so as to support a cross section of living communities unique to each
region of North America. Current actions by governments and other organizations are not
sufficient. The Ecostery Movement will contribute to the preservation of large land areas for
the major biomes and community types on a continent or island. All together these land areas
will add to the ecological balance and stability of the continent, providing shelter and
encouragement to all natural beings, who together create our shared biospheric life. Large
pieces of land that are spread out in unusual shapes that have a protected, central core, or
undisturbed stream bottoms, or other corridors, are very desirable for ecosteries.
In a rural setting ecosteries can be as small as an acre, but it is
preferable that they be 5 acres or larger. Depending on area, a rural ecostery could be as large
as 2,000 acres. If two or more parcels totalling over 3,000 acres are adjacent to one another,
they can be put under different ecostery names and administration, since 2,000 acres is about
the maximum size a single family size ecostery can oversee. However, in many cases, the size of
an ecostery can be much larger, even a million acres, especially if a large portion of the land
is held as Preserved Nature Sanctuary.
An urban ecostery might be as large as 5 or even more acres, but most
often probably will be on an average size city lot. The facility could be in an old, large house
that has been renovated according to ecosophic design. It could be in a newly constructed
facility specifically built to serve as an ecosophy center. Many local and regional ecosteries
will result from local initiatives, and will remain under local jurisdiction.
All ecosteries will be self-managed, and will work toward self-subsistence.
All will be governed by long-range considerations, the paramount of which are ecosophic
criteria. Such criteria will be stringent with respect to maintaining or restoring natural
integrity, given the zoning limitations of the area. As already stated, ecosteries will not be
just land preserves, but will be centres of education and community sharing of ecosophies.
Greening New Cultures, Private Ecosteries, Democracy
With the spread of ecosteries and ecosophies nationally and internationally,
we anticipate the greening of human civilization and the planet we love. The body of life here
is the Earth, and what we do to It, we do to ourselves. Ecosteries will facilitate the creation
of new ecosophic cultures that revere the wisdom of the Earth, but which also draw from elements
of the Old Ways, traditional and tribal ways. Ecosteries will celebrate and honor the active
cultivation of ecosophies in all settings, regardless of level of development.
The grass roots Ecostery Movement began in North America and has
spread world wide. It will preserve natural lands for the benefit of all beings. Each center
will be the creation, and reflect the character of its own place, neighborhood and region.
Ecosteries will allow individuals and communities to participate directly in activities that
help to create a humane society. They will give people opportunities to gain first-hand
knowledge of the land and its ecology. They will provide opportunities for research guided by
ecocentric values, unhampered by conventional wisdom and bureaucratic red-tape.
Foundation ecosteries will inspire citizens to set up private ecosteries,
using their own farms, homes, forest or range lands as centers where Nature is respected and
cared for, and where daily cultivation of the human spirit is in harmony with the Earth. Private
ecosteries will have sanctuaries and adopt the same zone patterns as Foundation ones. People
will set up neighborhood ecostery programs, so that neighborhoods become zones of ecological
protection, looked after by councils, guardians, caretakers, and ecostewards.
All Foundation ecosteries with public access will be run in accordance with
bylaws that meet the well understood criteria for democratic governance. Ecosteries will be able
to draw support from all levels of society, universities, government, labor, business and the
general public. They will give more people a chance to contribute directly to healing and
celebrating Nature and the Earth. The security and sustainability of every community and nation
ultimately depends on the quality of its relationships to Nature. Ecosteries will help to
preserve productive forest, range, and crop lands, and will help to assure that there are
sustainable ecosophic practices used in stewarding these very important lands. They are examples
of ecosophic practices that can be adapted for use in other places.
Urgent Preservation, Unique Places, Diverse Values
It is urgent to acquire appropriate lands now, because pension and other
large funds, as well as corporations and foreign entities, are acquiring large blocks of timber,
farm and other lands. Ecostery Movement supporters will work with all who are dedicated to
preserving as many land parcels as possible, to be managed for the experiential and educational
benefit of all beings. Some of its functions partially overlap activities of public land trusts,
but, as noted, it focuses more on education, spiritual discipline, research and stewardship. The
Ecostery Foundation of North America works to promote ecosteries in the U.S., Mexico, and
Canada, and at the international level it promotes the philosophy of the Ecostery Movement.
Ecosteries are needed not only for the many reasons already cited, but also
because they have freedoms that government, university and business do not have. In contrast to
those entities, ecosteries have no vested interests, other than their mission to nurture and
protect Nature, and to nurture, develop and educate the human spirit to ecosophic ways of life.
The Ecostery Movement will inspire wider citizen participation in working to end the
environmental crisis. With such participation this crisis of modern culture will be resolved.
No other group or agency is devoted to the program described herein, and many
worthy lands will not attract the interest and protection of other organizations. In setting
aside large to small parcels of land for ecosteries, we will enable the Foundation,
institutions, organizations and practices of the Ecostery Movement to evolve and realize the
aims set forth here. Foundation ecosteries will set new ecosophic standards, that will raise the
quality of all land use and management. There will be thousands of centers of honored places
joined in networks of mutual aid and communication.
Modernism and Self Destruction, Wildness and Wholeness
Modern society is self-destructive because it is destroying its wilderness,
forests, and croplands, and polluting and degrading ecological communities and functions.
Despite years of effort in education and planning, this course has not been altered. We are now
facing severe environmental problems on a regional, national and global scale, including
alterations of climate patterns. A major source of modern culture's environmentally damaging
practices is ignorance and lack of deep Earth spirituality. These partly result from a lack of
holistic understanding, because of the fragmentation of specialized knowledge, and a lack of
spiritual disciplines connected to practical Earthcare.
The comprehensive ecostery approach unifies human powers and enables us to
develop the wisdom to create practices that are harmonious and sound. TEFNA is dedicated to
aiding the discovery and pursuit of ecological wisdom and harmony. It furthers this aim by
promoting the creation and maintenance of ecosteries, places specifically dedicated to pursuing
ecosophy with some public participation. The solution to the environmental crisis does not lie
in quick fixes. Instead, we need to create new cultural forms dedicated to the practices which
bring peace and harmony to humans and wild beings. Deep public participation will change things
for the better.
The practices of the Ecostery Movement give humans contact with wild nature
and their own wildness. These practices are holistic and cross all disciplines. They bring
together diverse human pursuits from art and craft to engineering, in a comprehensive, visionary
way through practical and ceremonial activities. By means of first-hand experience humans deepen
their sensibilities to Nature. In deepening our sensibilities to Nature and each other, we are
able to restore and renew our relationships on every level, so that they manifest mutual
understanding. This understanding generates an environmental ethic that is not an externally
imposed code. It is an internally realized respect and compassion for all beings.
In closing, TEFNA promotes ecosophies and the establishment of
ecosteries as places, centres, facilities, stewarded lands and Nature sanctuaries, where
ecosophies are learned, shared, taught, and practiced. To realize this aim, TEFNA is developing
integrated programs of information for people to use in the creation and maintenance of
ecosophies and ecosteries. Ecosteries provide opportunities for people to gain knowledge of
natural communities, from wilderness to cultivated gardens. TEFNA provides information about
alternative, holistic, ecologically responsible methods for living on and caring for the Earth,
so as to help end the environmental crisis. TEFNA cooperates with other persons, groups, and
authorities to develop educational and experiential projects and programs consistent with these
aims. We invite support and inquiries from all interested persons and groups.