Fall/Winter 2018 ISE Newsletter





Fall/Winter 2018 Newsletter

The Institute had an exciting summer and fall full of events! Here’s a short update on some of our recent and upcoming activities, including the next sessions of our online courses, a Pacific Northwest Social Ecology retreat in January, and dates for our next Intensive in Vancouver, June 1-5.

Online Courses

The fall sessions for both online courses were excellent.  Our 8-week comprehensive overview of Social Ecology, Ecology Democracy Utopia, had 18 students enrolled from across the world spanning Chicago, Queens, Portland, Greece, Belgium, and France. We also ran Social Transformation Beyond Pragmatism or Utopia for the second time, a seminar taught by Robert Ogman that explores the challenge of balancing practical political engagement with utopian aspirations.

Enrollment is now open for the winter 2019 session of both courses. Ecology Democracy Utopia will run on Mondays at 3 pm PST/6 pm EST from January 28 to March 18, while Social Transformation Beyond Pragmatism or Utopia will be offered on Mondays at 12 pm PST/3 pm EST from January 28 to February 25. Enrollment for the seminars is $100 and $75 respectively. For those with tight schedules, we also offer a self-directed version of the seminar, Ecology, Democracy, Utopia FLEX, that can be started at any time for $50. Write us at to enroll.

Pacific Northwest Social Ecology Retreat: Jan. 3-7, 2019

Building on our June Intensive, there will be a Social Ecology retreat near Portland from January 3-7, 2019. It will feature workshops, skill shares, and activities to network Social Ecologists living in the Northwest. Enrollment is currently closed as we are over capacity.

Vancouver Social Ecology Intensive: June 1-5

We’re excited to announce that our next Social Ecology Intensive will take place the first week of June at the University of British Columbia Farm in Vancouver, B.C. ISE faculty and local activist-educators will offer classes, workshops, and forums that give an overview of Social Ecology and apply these principles to contemporary political issues and struggles. Weekend-only and 5-day options available – stay tuned for the program!

Climate Justice Project

Our Climate Justice Project, together with the staff of 350VT, is working on a new Vermont Town Meeting campaign calling for no new fossil fuel infrastructure in Vermont and support for local efforts to deploy renewables and save energy. In the first year of this multi-year effort, 38 towns passed resolutions, which significantly exceeded our expectations for the initial year of the campaign, and helped inspire a new statewide climate policy coalition to adopt the call for No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure as part of its agenda. We also supported an amicus brief for submission to the prestigious international Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal session on Human Rights, Fracking, and Climate Change (add blog link). Climate Justice Project director Brian Tokar led a group of 6 witnesses in video-recorded testimony for the Tribunal, recounting the campaign to halt the construction of a new pipeline for fracked gas in Vermont, continuing public safety concerns around the now-operating pipeline, the impacts of fracking in other parts of the country and the wider climate effects of fossil fuels.

Brian Tokar is working on a new book project, Climate Justice and Community Renewal: Campaigns and Strategies from the Frontlines (Routledge 2020), which features reports and analysis from the front lines of climate resistance and alternative projects in more than a dozen countries on five continents.

Staff and Board Activities

Members of the Symbiosis Research Collective and ISE board co-organized and spoke at the Fearless Cities Summit in NYC this summer, and have a regular column at The Ecologist. In collaboration with the ISE, Cooperation Jackson, and other groups, Symbiosis will be hosting a Congress to launch a continental municipalist network in 2019 – stay tuned!

ISE faculty Grace Gershuny was a co-presenter on “Common Ground for Climate Action” at a public forum of the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition (VHSC) in St. Johnsbury, VT..  She has also started working to help launch the Center for Grassroots Organizing in Marshfield, VT. The Center’s mission is to create a “land-based project for helping organize social justice movements, connecting them, and supporting them… a place to get a breath, get our feet on the ground, to feel good about being there with our friends and colleagues, and to get our heads back in the game for the next round.”

Dan Chodorkoff spoke on the radical history of New York’s Loisaida with Chino Garcia and Linda Cohen at the NYC Fearless Cities conference, and lectured on Social Ecology at the first ever conference on Political Ecology at the University of Ljubiana in Slovenia in September.

ISE program director Blair Taylor’s article “Ruthless Critique or Selective Apology? The Postcolonial Left in Theory and Practice,” has been translated and republished in the latest issue of Les Temps Modernes, the French journal founded by Sartre which originally published de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. He will also have a book chapter titled “Alt-right ecology: Ecofascism and far-right environmentalism in the United States” in the upcoming anthology The Far Right and the Environment: Politics, Discourse and Communication (Routledge 2019), and will contribute the “Alt-Right” entry for the Critical Understandings in Education Encyclopedia: Critical Whiteness Studies (Brill 2019).


Board member Saladdin Ahmed has a new book coming out this spring. Totalitarian Space and the Destruction of Aura (SUNY Press 2019) draws on Walter Benjamin’s concept of “aura” to explore how state and corporate power control our spatial experience of the social world.

Blog and Discussion List

Our blog has featured original content by Grace Gershuny on the evolution of the organic food movement, Steven Henderson on the utopian aspirations of the Alberta Farm Movement, and David Goldman on municipal organizing with Olympia Assembly. We also featured Brian Tokar’s report from the Permanent People’s Tribunal session on Fracking and Climate, and excerpts from a recent book on Kurdish politics, Your Freedom and Mine, co-edited by ISE associate Federico Venturini – check them out if you missed them the first time.

Our email discussion list has also been very active recently, with lively discussions on race and genetic science, the social and ecological implications of animal husbandry, and the “Yellow Vests” movement in France. If you’d like to join the conversation, send us an email!

2018 End-of-Year Fundraising Drive

Many thanks to everyone who responded to our end of the year fundraising appeal. These funds help us pursue our mission of popular education and movement-building for a free and ecological society. Thank you to our amazing supporters, and if you missed our call you can still contribute here!

To enroll or get more information about any upcoming programs or events, contact us at

Until next time, stay connected with the ISE through our website, on Facebook and Twitter!