Established in 1974 by Murray Bookchin and Dan Chodorkoff, the ISE is an independent institution of higher education dedicated to the study of social ecology, an interdisciplinary field drawing on philosophy, political and social theory, anthropology, history, economics, the natural sciences, and feminism. The ISE has offered intensive summer programs, a year-round B.A. degree program, workshops on issues such as biotechnology and global justice, fall and winter lecture series, internship opportunities, an expanding catalog of online courses, and a speakers bureau. In addition, the ISE is involved in research as well as publishing and activist projects.

As an educational and activist organization, the ISE is committed to the social and ecological transformation of society. It is the ISE’s core belief that the human potential to play a creative role in natural and social evolution can be realized, thereby allowing us to foster communities free from hierarchy, social inequity, and ecological degradation. The ISE views the global penetration of systems of domination into daily life, the centralization of political and economic power, the homogenization of culture, and the strengthening of hierarchy and social control as impediments to human freedom and the root causes of the current ecological crisis.

The ISE has been a pioneer in the exploration of alternative technologies and ecological means of food production, like organic gardening and permaculture. Studies at the ISE have combined theoretical and experiential learning in community organizing, political action, ecological economics, and sustainable building and land use. Over its history, the ISE has strived to be an agent of social transformation, demonstrating the skills, ideas, and relationships that can nurture vibrant, self-governed, ecological communities.

For almost 50 years, from the antinuclear and ecology movements to the contemporary climate justice movement, the ISE has inspired individuals involved in social change to work toward a humane, ecological, and liberatory society. Join the thousands of students from around the globe—from Liberia to the Philippines, Italy to Iran, Norway to Uruguay, Israel to Ethiopia, the United States to Japan, and many more—who have attended the ISE in order to not only remake themselves but remake society as well.

A Chronology of the ISE

Established in 1974 and incorporated in 1981, the ISE has been a global leader in the struggle for a social and ecological society. The ISE has played a historic and catalytic role in the Green movement, ecofeminism, the anti-nuclear movement, the movement against GMOs & biotechnology, the global justice movement, Occupy Wall Street, and movements for indigenous rights. We have also been a crucial resource for engaged scholars and students, having collaborated with colleges and universities throughout the Americas and beyond. The following chronology offers a sense of key events and impact of social ecology over our nearly 50-year history.

The 1970s​

First Conference on Social Ecology at Goddard College. Organized by Dan Chodorkoff and Murray Bookchin with speakers including John Todd, Wilson Clark, and Karl Hess.

Social Ecology Summer Program held at Goddard College. The ISE offered  the nation’s very first educational program developed to demonstrate and experiment with Alternative Technology (solar and wind) and biological food production (organic agriculture integrated with aquaculture in solar greenhouses). First solar building in Vermont erected on the Goddard campus.

ISE establishes its educational, experimental, and demonstration site at Cate Farm, a 90 acre farm where the ISE builds solar greenhouses, integrated aquaculture projects, windmills, and organic gardens all created by students using both theoretical and experiential learning.
ISE works with the Ramapo Mountain People in New Jersey, descendants of Iroquois and Algonquian people.
Our 12 week ISE Summer Program attracts 180 students. Includes faculty like Seneca scholar John Mohawk and traditional Chief Rob La France from the Akwasasne Mohawk nation.
Urban Alternatives Conference is held at Greenwich House, a community center in the Greenwich Village neighborhood. Many participants come from New York City’s Lower East Side’s Puerto Rican community and the burgeoning Sweat Equity Urban Homesteading Movement.

Toward(s) Tomorrow Fair: At the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Murray Bookchin serves as a keynote speaker.
Spruce Mountain Affinity Group forms in Central Vermont as part of the Clamshell Alliance, a non-violent civil disobedience network dedicated to stopping the advance of nuclear power in the U.S.

ISE starts an MA program in Social Ecology at Goddard College.  Ynestra King teaches the first Ecofeminism class at the ISE summer program and coins the term “ecofeminism” for the English-speaking world.

ISE works with the Shad Alliance, an influential offshoot of the Clamshell Alliance working in New York and the Hudson Bay area.
Bea Bookchin introduces holistic health to ISE summer programs.

Akwesasne/Mohawk Nation struggle. State police blockades the Reservation. The ISE helps by running supplies on canoes through the blockade.

The 1980s​

Overnight occupation of the NY State House in Albany in support of the Akwasane Mohawks.
Women and Life on Earth Conference, UMass, Amherst, organized by Ynestra King.
Women and Life on Earth/Women’s Pentagon Action co-sponsored by ISE. These actions gave birth to the international women’s peace camp movement.

ISE incorporates as an independent non-profit.
New England Anarchist Conference is held on the Goddard campus.  Resolutions are approved that Bookchin brings with him on a fall European tour.

Urban Alternatives Conference attracts 4,000 people. Led by Puerto Rican activists and ISE-affiliates at CHARAS, a community-led squatted center run on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
ISE members organize Eco-Feminist Conference in Plainfield Vermont.
ISE launches the Harbinger Journal, initially in a magazine format.

ISE holds a 4-week summer program on the campus of the Stowe School, in Stowe Vermont.
Murray Bookchin keynotes NOFA (now the Northeast Organic Farming Association) conference in Johnson, VT.

Summer program held on the campus of the Mountain School in Vershire, Vermont
ISE founds the Learning Alliance, an influential popular education project in NYC that grew out of our Urban Alternatives conference.
Green Committees of Correspondence founding meeting in Minneapolis. ISE serves as fiscal sponsor and one of the main organizers, launching the Greens as a US national network.

Summer Program moves back to the Goddard College campus.
First US National Greens Gathering at Hampshire College. Murray Bookchin presents “Social ecology vs. deep ecology.” The Left Green Network is born.
Bea Bookchin runs for Burlington, VT City Council as a Green candidate.

First in a series of Continental Conferences are held on social ecology in affiliation with various universities, including Concordia, McGill, Santa Monica College, University of Wisconsin, University of Tennessee.

Sandy Baird runs for Mayor of Burlington, VT as a Green candidate.

The 1990s​

Earth Day Wall Street Action, organized by the ISE and the Youth Greens with allies and endorsers across the region and nationally. First black bloc appears in the U.S., modeled after the German autonomen.
3rd Youth Greens Conference issues a position statement on social ecofeminism.

Burlington Greens disband. Social ecologists largely withdraw from the Greens as their focus narrows toward national electoral politics and formation of state Green Parties.
Arts and Activism track added to ISE summer program.
“Social Perspectives on Women and Ecology” annual seminars held at Goddard, following the ISE summer program.

Summer conferences on eco-activism & environmental racism organized by the ISE.

ISE purchases a campus on Maple Hill in Plainfield, VT.

First Biodevastation activist conference on genetic engineering held in St. Louis with ISE organizational support.

Battle of Seattle:  Height of the US anti-globalization/global justice movement.

Early 2000s​

Biodevastation event organized by the ISE brings 3,000 people to march on the BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) convention in Boston. Three-day teach-in features Barry Commoner, Vandana Shiva, and other international guests. Kindred events will occur annually through 2007 in major cities throughout the US and Canada.

Harbinger Journal revived online. Final class of Goddard College BA/MA graduates in social ecology.

VT Town Meetings vs. GMOs campaign, with allied efforts in western MA, NH and ME.

10-Day Arts, Media and Activism Program is added to the ISE’s roster of summer programs.

ISE Biotechnology Project co-organizes a large demonstration in response to a USDA-hosted event in Sacramento, focused on official US strategies for the World Trade Organization’s upcoming meetings.

ISE begins an academic affiliation with Prescott College for an MA concentration in social ecology.

ISE leaves Maple Hill campus. First Summer Colloquium as final event.
Popular Power Seminar in NYC.

Murray Bookchin passes away. Memorial service fills Burlington City Hall.
Project of Democratic Autonomy inspired by social ecology begins in Bakur, Kurdistan.

2007- 2019
Annual ISE summer gatherings in Marshfield.


January Social Ecology Intensive in NYC includes a demonstration at a corporate carbon trading conference, organized by the ISE as part of the Climate SOS network

Hammertown, NY summer Intensive. 8 day seminar.
Occupy Wall Street begins.

Two NYC Intensives on the theme of “Direct Democracy and Dual Power” draw many participants from Occupy Wall Street.
Northampton, MA Social Ecology Intensive. 8 Days.

Denton, Texas Winter Intensive. Organizers and participants are mainly from the Tar Sands Blockade and local anti-fracking groups.

ISE celebrates its 40th anniversary with a gathering in Marshfield, VT.

First ISE summer intensive at the Watershed Center, Millerton, NY.

First online educational program in social ecology offered, titled Ecology, Democracy and Utopia.

First west coast summer intensive is held in San Francisco at the California Institute of Integral Studies in partnership with their Department of Anthropology and Social Change.

Second west coast intensive, this time at the Ground Zero Center, a long-time hub for nonviolent antimilitarist actions near Bremerton, Washington.
Three day retreat and meeting with members of the Symbiosis network, developing plans for a radical municipalist convergence in North America.

ISE spring intensive in Vancouver, B.C.
Symbiosis Federation holds its first North American Congress of Municipal Movements in Detroit, MI.
Online version of the Harbinger journal is revived.

ISE responds to the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding its roster of online classes and launching a summer discussion group on Murray Bookchin’s Ecology of Freedom. International participation in the ISE’s classes grows dramatically during this period.
Vermont events in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Murray Bookchin’s birth, including a series of library-based exhibits and an oral history project in collaboration with the Vermont Folklife Center.
ISE hosts Building Ecosocialism from Below gathering with Cooperation Jackson and Cooperation Vermont in Marshfield, VT.

Fiftieth anniversary of the ISE. Stay tuned for details!