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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.

Photo: Alice Drengson; 
click to enlarge

I.

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.

 

II.

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 activities.

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.

 

III.

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 ones.

 

IV.

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 without discrimination.

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.

 

V.

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.

 

VI.

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.

 

VII.

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.

 

VIII.

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.

 
 

 

The Ecostery Foundation of North America

Box 5885 Stn B, Victoria, BC V8R 6S8, Canada  Send an e-mail to the Ecostery Foundation . . .

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Last updated: Nov 27, 2004.