Slides from the ICSEI session

cropped-photoThese slides, alongside the Naturally Smart card set were the basis of the discussion that formed our session at the 29th International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement held this week in Glasgow, this material is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License[1].


Please see the file below for the slides


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The Grave Disconnect: Aligning School Reform With Ecological Change

‘Since the soon-to-be outnumber the living, since the living have greater impact on the unborn than ever before thanks to depletion of natural systems, atmospheric disruption, toxic residue, burgeoning technology, global markets, genetic engineering, and sheer population numbers; since our scientific and historic understandings now comfortably examine processes embracing eons; and now that our plan-ahead horizon has shrunk to five years or less – it would seem that a grave disconnect is in process. Our ever hastier decisions and actions do not respond to our long-term understanding, or to the gravity of responsibility we bear.’

Brand, (1999) p.8


Contemporary economics[1] just like contemporary education doesn’t deal very well with abstraction. The cause-and-effect reality of the modern world means that more than ever before we humans are producing outputs based on very short-term responses that are having an effect on our environment. The consequences of modern consumerism are not just being felt by the present planetary incumbents, but our actions will have consequences for the life-chances of those who will be born in the future[2]. If we were to define our presence through our actions, then our commerce, food production, resource management, waste disposal, transportation, buildings and structures, water and energy systems, all have a net effect on present and future viability for life on earth.


Recent recognition of this anthropomorphic fact has led to new forms of action which are attempting to rectify the consequences of our profligate lifestyles[3]. These efforts are pursued to alleviate the harshest consequences of a warming planet and corresponding ecological collapse.


Whilst primary success in this arena appropriately needs to be measured through a natural systems perspective, through evidence of enhanced and functional ecosystems, largely associated with fertility of biota, there is a secondary by-product resulting from this work which comes in the form of a re-alignment of human action within those natural ecosystemic functions. We might think of this as a change in human consciousness from an industrial to an ecologically guided mind (Clarke 2011). This change in consciousness comes as a result of learning the lessons of natural evolutionary intelligence which can be drawn from many millennia, as well as those lessons from the more recent narrative of progress from industrialization. The challenge lies in bringing this knowledge into the canon of daily life and defining through this knowledge a way for humanity to live in harmony with other life systems, for the benefit of all.


The by-product of understanding the factors which comprise this knowledge, restorative knowledge and education, forms a prototype curriculum that can guide action and inform new practice. This learning is time-laden, as it is based upon observation of work in progress, and it is therefore somewhat counter-cultural to contemporary educational ‘impact’ and causality approaches. Instead, it is envisaged that restorative knowledge and education will arise as a result of a systematic effort, across many locations (UNREDD+ 2015), to determine the conditions and begin to foster the appropriate social, cultural, environmental and economic responses.


A robust pedagogy based around restorative intervention by humans within ecosystems has beneficial potential for regenerating damaged environments, because many of the processes that are needed are replicable but need localised knowledge and action, the planetary-level action, and subsequent planetary-level healing potential of this work is immense.

[1] Economics describes the factors that determine the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek οἰκονομία from οἶκος (oikos, “house”) and νόμος (nomos, “custom” or “law”), hence “rules of the house (hold for good management)”.

[2] Consider for example the fact that all plastic that has ever been produced on the planet is still present, and will remain so for the indefinite future because it does not biodegrade.

[3] UNREDD+ (2015) United Nations. see

for full version and further details see below

icsei paper Clarke and Fisher (Autosaved)


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Voices 4 Mother Earth, Millemont, France

During the COP21 6–11 December 2015 a group gathered at Chateau de Millemont, Paris.

The Voices 4 Mother Earth gathering led by wisdom keepers from around the world – Indigenous elders, scientists, farmers, youth, eduCOP21 and more – call for unified action to ensure that the next seven generations have a world in which they can live.


Here is the statement at the end of the gathering.

Young wisdom keepers Taimiroa Pajimola (center) and Lindar Winnie Otieno (right) , reading the Vision Statement of the Voices 4 Mother Earth gathering to the press on the Seine river in front of the Notre Dame on Sunday the Sixth of December.

We stand here as Voices 4 Mother Earth, who have gathered from all directions in Millemont near Paris, in a parallel event to the COP21.[1]

In our gathering we have experienced and acknowledged that WE ARE ALL ONE.

We are all indigenous to this planet, Mother Earth is sacred; she gives us everything. All we have to do is remember, and unify in action.
We have recommitted our love for Mother Earth to re-establish balance for all life. These are the sparks of motivation that guide us.
In order to create balance, we must first create it within and between ourselves.
We are clear that to heal our relationship to our Mother Earth is to heal our relationship to the Feminine.
By creating global balance, the children, the poor, the animals, and all of nature will thrive.
We weave our shared knowledge into practice, through our communities and lives, and through technology and open source environments.
We, the youth, are the seventh generation after the start of the Industrial Age. In consideration of the next seven generations, we are taking unified action now to assure that they have a world they can live in.
Today is the point from which we have the power to act.  We are taking the lead. Please give us a hand.
By joining intentions from all directions, it is already done.


Our unique gathering was dedicated to deep listening and sharing of ancient wisdom, natural laws and supporting technology to unfold a clear, unified and unprecedented new paradigm for humankind. Providing the direction and practice to restore and live well in balance with Mother Earth as well as calling for participation on a planetary scale.

It is clear that we are now at the eve of a planetary breaking point, a point of no return. When such a shift occurs, systems shut down with catastrophic consequences and there will be nothing human beings can do to reverse this.

It is evident that Indigenous Peoples are a vital part of the solution to restore our sacred relationship with our rapidly changing ecology. Eighty percent of our last pristine nature has been cared for and protected by generations of Indigenous peoples’ knowledge, experience and wisdom always with a strong spiritual connection to Mother Earth.

Through the gathering’s collective wisdom, we have recognized that with practical earth knowledge, experience and local community efforts we can take life back into our own hands by co-creating a better world with new initiatives.

Four hands of wisdom keepers from all directions bringing together earth, seeds, water and humanity – Image created by Theun Karelse and Maria Blaisse

For the next seven generations we commit to protect and restore Mother Earth for a more abundant and happy life. We know how Mother Earth’ systems function and that there is a strong relationship between healthy ecosystems, climate change, social sustainability, happiness, wealth and equality. We consider this to be the road to peace for humanity. Rural and urban self-organizing communities, livelihoods, neighborhoods and villages are the designated way for immediate action through full participation. Some shared initiatives include:

  • Fostering Indigenous knowledge, teachings and practices – learning to appreciate a way of life that is in rhythm with our natural world;
  • Ecosystems Restoration – educational/vocational base-camps where people learn and work to restore degraded landscapes, all over the world;
  • Sharing critical knowledge and experience between existing self-reliant, thriving communities,;
  • Bio-regional Marine Sanctuaries – redesigning of life space and habitats based on watersheds;
  • Economy Transformers –putting value at the foundation of life;
  • Critical State of Mother Earth report – most recent scientific data and recommendations.
  • Community Based Food Systems – eco-agriculture, open source seeds, adaptation practices, connected to more than 4 million smallholder farmers honoring Mother Earth;
  • Increased consciousness – personal and social development, rekindling the relationship with our (inner) nature, worldwide consciousness concerts;
  • POC21 – Next generation: open source energy sources and technologies for the Future.

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Naturally Smart programme in South Australia and Tasmania


Take a breath, hold it, hold it, hold it… eventually you know you will have to breath out and take another. This simple act embodies our connection to everything else – we are of the place, we are of the earth and it is of us.

We spent three days at the Nazareth School site together working on the Naturally Smart programme in South Australia developing permaculture inspired designs for our various school sites. The next phase of this work will see the schools meeting regularly and sharing their ongoing findings with other schools in the network.

Taking a breath, paying attention to our breathing, the regulatory system of self becomes an opportunity, an invitation, to slow down and reconsider, to realign and to reconnect.

That is what we have been doing with the Naturally Smart programme – a longitudinal enquiry at the school level into the conditions which facilitate sustainable practice. This work is emergent, nuanced to individual and organisational settings, diverse and yet capable of being modelled and framed so that it can be replicated across  a multitude of sites. It is as far as we are aware the first substantive effort to design and develop a pedagogic approach to ecological consciousness and as such is fraught with frontier challenges, but it is providing to be accessible, pragmatic and thought provoking.

It is an opening to a new story.

The story explores the idea that everything is connected to everything else, now and forever.

As Ben Okra observes, ‘Stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories individuals and nations live by and tell themselves and you change the individuals and nations. Nations and peoples are largely the stories they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories that are lies, they will suffer the future consequences of those lies. If they tell themselves stories that face their own truths, they will free their histories for future flowerings.’ (Okri

Commission on the future of multiethnic Britain 2000, 103,3,4)

If this is so, then what is the story for our time?

In responding we are intent on providing solutions by developing resources which support knowledge, skills, understanding and capabilities that will support young people and equip them with the resilience to respond to the challenges that the 21st century might throw at them.

Central to our analysis of human and planetary condition in the early part of the 21st century is the understanding that we urgently need to align human progress within the broader process and systems of the planetary needs. Any further imbalance between people care and earth care is likely to put us on a collision path with the very life systems upon which we depend.

To do this we now have to reimagine education. This requires a fundamental change of core practice.

Business as usual will not be sufficient to shift human consciousness towards an ecological alignment with the life systems of the earth.  Education will have to change in the coming years to ensure that our young people are suitably knowledgeable with ideas that are conducive for survival in the context of climate and environmental change.

To do this we have to adopt and learn new capabilities, and apply these into the routine of daily school life as a matter of urgency.

It is a simple but profound shift that this work is calling every teacher and every learner to attend to, one which moves human ego to recognise and respond positively to the creative eco.

It starts from where we are now, and builds slowly towards a transformed educational offer, one which still serves the human society, but is reframed to also attend to the role of young people as citizens of planet earth.

This is the agenda for global educational reform and implicates us all in making changes that connect us at a local level. It is the rationale for a paradigm shift, changing human consciousness to attend to our place within an ecological system of which we are all a part.

Our work in South Australia, Tasmania, Hong Kong, UK, France, Brasil, and elsewhere puts these ideas into practice.

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Another Adelaide interview

As the current generation works to halt destructive environmental  practises and limit climate change, the next generation will face the huge job of repairing the planet.  The Pop Up Foundation is working with schools around the globe, teaching children, as well as their teachers and parents, what it means to live sustainably. Barometer’s Sue Reece speaks with Founder Paul Clarke.


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