December 28, 2012

How Earth University Is Changing the World. ~ Carrie Stiles

Photo: Carrie Stiles

“How can you manage your home before you know your home?”

Visionary peace pilgrim Satish Kumar routinely poses this intriguing question in his venerated teachings.

To generate insight into humanity’s relationship with nature, the director of Schumacher College and editor of Resurgence magazine points to epistemology.

Photo: Carrie Stiles

The word “ecology” comes from the Greek root “oikos” meaning “home” and “logos” meaning “to know.” Thus, ecology means “to know your home.”

In contrast, we see economic means “to manage your home” by building on this understanding of oikos and elaborating with nomos as, “to manage.” Thus arrives the question: how can you manage your home before you know your home?

Ecology and economics have come to be seen as entirely separate disciplines, but the two are intrinsically linked.

To manage without this knowledge is foolish.

We must bridge the gap between logos and nomos through a new paradigm that values a relationship with nature and humanity as more than raw materials for mass, industrial manufacturing to create a disposable society. Logos is to learn from this earth and observe her cycles; nomos is to organize our lives in such a way that we allow these cycles to thrive and celebrate them with our own lives and livelihoods.

Bija Vidyapeeth at Navdanya, School for Earth Citizenship, cultivates creative insights beyond reductionist thinking.

Learners who value meaningful experiences and practical, hands-on study come to Navdanya in search of local solutions to global market exploitation. The movement for Earth Democracy is carried into the mainstream through their personal transformation, practical skills and advocacy. With experiential learning, students come to understand the significance of participatory research, dynamic multiplicity and interdisciplinary thinking indicative of holistic science.

Photo: Carrie Stiles

The open learning center gives guidance to environmental activists, encourages independent study and provides space for reciprocal knowledge sharing.

Self-motivated students and interns are committed to establishing a community that values sustainability and relationship building between the diverse walks of life that populate this earth. This relationship elevates the farmers voice so that their vast reservoirs of knowledge for how to live sustainably with the earth might irrigate our dying planet with a stream of elevated consciousness—logos.

Navdanya’s message, carried in its vast body of functional work, offers an alternative model to the now-imperiled market. The alternative forum encourages dialogue by creating space for mediation in the interest of egalitarian relations. Students are offered the rare opportunity to share in the work of the largest, fair-trade organic network in India.

Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy lives on in Navdanya’s grassroots movements.

The Mahatma’s life and message to the world is founded on the honest integrity of local, sustainable, self-sufficient communities and the power of that integrity to overcome imperial models of development. Gandhian economics and philosophy are imbuing a new generation, in an era of globalization, with a model for sustainable living.

Bija Vidyapeeth is illuminating a path for a process of self-discovery with no destination.
Photo: Carrie Stiles

The seed, in this new movement, is a symbol of empowerment just as the spinning wheel was Gandhi’s symbol of timeless freedom.

Navdanya’s network of seed keepers protect India’s biodiversity and indigenous knowledge from the injustice evident in corporate monopolies on the global food supply. The relevance of Gandhi’s four pillars—Swadeshi, Satyagraha, Sarvodaya and Swaraj—are extrapolated during the annual two-week course Gandhi and Globalization. The course is led by Satish Kumar, Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche, Sunderlal Bahuguna, Vandana Shiva and other visionary leaders.

Balancing a socially just livelihood—nomos and logos—requires that students balance theory with practical application. The “ivory tower,” as academia is often called, quickly crumbles when theory is applied to practice with a comprehensive and constructive methodology.

“Everything should be Beautiful, Useful and Durable (BUD),” declares the deep ecology sage, Satish Kumar.

This wise framework orientates ones decision-making power in the dizzying onslaught of degrading consumer culture. The BUD framework embodies elegant simplicity that will stand the test of time and tides of destruction.

Photo: Carrie Stiles

The prevalent model of development, promoted by institutions like the World Trade Organization, has intruded into the dominant education system. Students in economics are well-studied in mathematics and numbers, but this falls short when it comes to lives and livelihoods. This model ignores the experiences of the social majority of earth’s inhabitants. The majority can flourish outside of the industrial-capitalist framework when they rely on their local ingenuity for survival.

Clever marketing, with a vast budget, insidiously shifts mind-sets and generates an avalanche … rapidly tumbling towards monocultures of the mind.

The Market dominates nature’s economy.

Academia’s exclusionary curriculum discredits and marginalizes the lifestyles of subsistence economies by claiming they are uneducated and backwards. The dominant model in economic education widely propagates free market fundamentalism as the only option for development. This model has proven flawed as evident in the current ecological and economic crisis.

The false economy is spread to the detriment of humanity.

Photo: Carrie Stiles

Global economic legislator and chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan testified to the U.S. Congress on the financial crisis. He confessed,

“I found a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak… That is precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”

Yet, the flawed system prevails to the dismay of many, intruding into forests and rivers, ravines and mountain tops.

With a sanctioned and standardized curriculum students are indoctrinated into maintaining the rapidly eroding status quo.

Bija Vidyapeeth offers the freedom of alternatives in validating and supporting decentralized, self-organized communities based on non-exploitative relationships. Food and food production are the foundations of society, the central unit for families and communities.

Quality of life is deeply enhanced if we understand the processes and practice of growing healthy, sustainable food supplies for our food-sovereignty, in a symbiotic relationship with nature. At the Earth University students begin to appreciate nature as teacher with subtle lessons for every subject. Navdanya’s expert farmers and scientists manifest these lessons for an emergent social harmony.

You are welcome to come and enjoy the beauty and joy of Navdanya’s open learning center at the foot of the mighty, melting Himalaya where the possibilities are limitless.

Seven things for the world to know about Bija Vidyapeeth

“Go and learn from the indigenous people for they are the last reservoirs of knowledge for how to live sustainably with the earth.” ~ Unknown

Inspiration: Nature, Navdanya and our relationships inspire us at Bija Vidyapeeth—inspire us to learn, love, laugh and grow as we engage with the earth. Inspired by visionary leaders such as Dr. Vandana Shiva, Satish Kumar and Sunderlal Bahuguna, we are likewise motivated by one another.

Community: Bija Vidyapeeth grants us the space to share our lives and build meaningful relationships. A sense of belonging and purpose is gifted to each participant, as their work is necessary and valued on the farm. A helping hand is always welcome in the inclusive, familiar space provided by nature. We live in a community with nature, not opposed to it. Our community of volunteers is brimming with energy and resources ready to be shared. Our community is as fertile as the fields as we constantly exchange ideas. Our community is the foundation of our transformative experience.

Diversity: As the seasons change life unfolds before you at Bija Vidyapeeth. You become immersed in this diligent and peaceful transition—preparing, planting and harvesting a wholesome bounty. We witness the rich diversity nature revels in and let it transform us. The seed bank stimulates nature’s abundance. Preservation of biodiversity is the foundation for Navdanya and the experimental farm. And so we learn through saving nature’s abundance, epitomized by the seed, to reform “monocultures of the mind.”

Freedom: The luxury of choice is abundant at Navdanya: here you are free! While finding your niche in nature you may holistically garden, farm, cook, meditate, make art, research, administrate or just be! We practice developing a self-sufficient, simple living we will replicate in our futures in the name of freedom. Social movement for biodiversity and indigenous knowledge preservation transforms the external world as we are awakened to new possibilities for a sustainable, just future. We follow the wisdom of Dr. Shiva when she proclaims that the revolution will take place in the kitchen and gardens.

Transformation: Here we prepare for our next bold move.  Bija will awaken you to a new sense of self and determination. A change may be intimately felt if you rotate the crops during your visit. What a joy to sync with nature and be blessed with earth’s vibrant rhythm! A radical transformation is ripe for the plucking when visionaries graciously share their gifts of wisdom. You might be blessed to spend time in the presence of Satish Kumar, and hear his story of an 8,000-mile peace pilgrimage, or Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche.

Hope: At Navdanya, we cultivate hope for a sustainable, peaceful future where humanity might once again live harmoniously with nature. And hope that we might transpose Navdanya’s message into our local communities. Change is possible as Dr. Shiva and her allies demonstrate with each bold step taken towards counteracting repressive forces. We are likewise imbued with hope through our new relationships. The feeling that your prospects for a happy future are mutually expanded feels divine. At Navdanya, you may realize the hope in building relationships and self-sufficiency.

Gratitude: The Navdanya farm enraptures you in gratitude that such a place exists. The joy and wisdom of traditional farming is shared with us here. Being engaged with natural agriculture and local experts imbues us with a deep sense of proportion. We are humbled as we stumble to taste centuries of knowledge. We are grateful for the freedom to sing, and share stories, resources, references and revolutionary sentiments while tending the fields.

Bonus video:

My interview with world renowned environmental activist Dr Vandana Shiva from Carrie Stiles on Vimeo.

For more information:







Carrie Stiles is a yogi, multimedia creator and social media strategist with an M.A. in Conflict Resolution. She has worked, studied and played in over 30 countries on 5 continents. Her ambitious adventures have taken her high in the Himalayas and past Timbuktu in the Sahara (before the Rebels took over). Carrie is on the road again seeking enlightenment and adventure in SE Asia. Carrie aspires to raise awareness about how small actions lead to large scale social transformation.  Connect with her on her environmental conflict resolution blog and her guide to social media. You can see some of her Tiny Yoga Flicks and also find her on Facebook.


Editor: Tara Lemieux

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