Ecological Civilization International

eci-1The overarching theme of Ecological Civilization International is the idea of an “Ecological Civilization.” An ecological civilization is a civilization whose people dwell in creative harmony with one another and the earth, building upon the inherited wisdom of their past and open to new possibilities from the future. They take the well-being of life, including human life, as their guiding ideal, articulating that ideal in ways appropriate to their local setting and culture.

The tangible expression of an Ecological Civilization is a local community that is creative, compassionate, participatory, respectful of diversity, humane in their treatment of animals, and ecologically wise, with no one left behind. Such a community relies on sustainable forms of agriculture, energy, manufacturing, and transportation to the best of its abilities; and it emerges out of the unique gifts of its citizens, young and old.

Today there are many local communities in different parts of the world that are exploring ways of becoming humane, sustainable communities; all are worthy of support and study. Ecological Civilization International is a network of educators across the Associated Colleges of the South, across the United States, and across the world who want to support and learn from them, and who are offering courses on college campuses in Ecological Civilization.

Our particular focus is on the way the creative arts (painting, sculpture, mural making, storytelling, theatre, dance, music, poetry, handicrafts, filmmaking, and more) can play a role in the cultivation of communities, and on the talents that local people bring to the building of such communities. We are also interested in the more general philosophical and spiritual outlooks that people bring to their attempts to build such communities. We focus on the role that the arts, not at the expense of other forms of practice, such as gardening and governance, can play in community-building.

Ecological Civilization International (ECI) Courses

ECI courses meet three criteria:

  • Including modules of whatever length that introduce students to local organizations and projects devoted to sustainable community.
  • Profiling in some way two international organizations that are promoting localized version of Ecological Civilization: International Transition Movement (urban) and Heifer Project International (rural).
  • Having the creation of “digital stories” as one among the outcomes for students (see the University of Richmond’s tutorial in digital storytelling:

Helpful Websites

The following websites provide some useful resources for teaching an ECI course:

  • International Transition movement:
  • Heifer Project International:
  • Heifer Hong Kong:
  • SUNY Center for Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL):

Current ECI Activities in the ACS and Beyond

  • Jay McDaniel (Hendrix College) taught an ECI-related course in Process Philosophy and Theology in Fall 2014. Students (some of whom will be Environmental Studies majors) will study cosmology of Alfred North Whitehead and link it with contemporary hopes for sustainable community.
  • Joyce Hardin (Hendrix College) taught an ECI-related course in Fall 2014. Introduction to Environmental Studies is a prerequisite for majors but open to others, and digital stories will be an optional assignment.
  • Carl Robertson (Southwestern College (Georgetown, Texas) taught ECI courses into the foreseeable future, based on Special Topics in Intermediate Chinese each semester, with changes of topic, primarily focused on Chinese language acquisition. The ECI component of the 2014 course is food gardening locally and in the Chinese tradition. Students will volunteer weekly in Campus Garden, investigating local community gardening needs and practices. They will read or research traditional Chinese practices in texts and poetry, and other readings on sustainability. Students will report on explorations and developments via digital storytelling, using Chinese.
  • Dr. Robertson is interested in the possibility of language exchange with interested counterparts in China and US campuses. In future years, courses will integrate other topics (depending on student interest and initiative) including local or folk handcrafts such as wood-carving, seal carving, calligraphy (in comparison and integration with other traditions than East Asian), mounting and exhibiting art, music, instrument making, paper-making, pottery, weaving, boat making, etc. (These ideas are informed/inspired by Foxfire efforts in the Appalachians and similar movements throughout Chinese history.)
  • Philip Clayton (Claremont School of Theology) taught an ECI course this past Fall titled “Ecological Civilization: Seizing an Alternative.” The class meets on Wednesday evenings, 6:30 to 9:30 pm, and will be joined digitally by a group from Augustana College for 90 minutes each time. Dr. Clayton is lining up guest speakers for each session (including Jay McDaniel).
  • Haipeng Guo (United International College in Zhuhai, China) taught an ECI-related course, Science and the Modern World, this past Fall. The class meets 11:00 – 11:50am on Wed and 10:00 − 11:50am on Fri. Dr. Guo is interested in teleconferencing, and can also offer short lectures to classes in America. Dr. Guo might also be interested in developing blog relations
  • Bruce Hanson (Concordia University Irvine) taught an ECI-related course this past Fall in Corporate Sustainability. This is a two-unit elective course for an MBA Program. The course will be offered online and will include a digital story assignment. Dr. Hanson is exploring the possibility of linking up with Philip Clayton’s course digitally.
  • Paul Bube (Lyon College) taught an ECI course this past Fall in Introduction to Ethics, offered in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. This course will be a pilot for Dr. Bube, who hopes to develop it into an Environmental Ethics course.

Other Developments:

    • We hope to develop an evolving speakers bureau; Philip Clayton is already experimenting with these possibilities. He’s our pioneer.
    • We located four sites in China that can be used in future as sites for visiting, profiling, etc. Annie Ingram (Davidson College) and Stephen Field (Trinity University) visited them. President Ng from United International College has received an invitation to visit the ACS in the spring.
    • Stephen Field and Carl Robertson are exploring ways in which classical Chinese texts and practices can play a role in the Chinese side of things. They are charting very new ground for cross-cultural conversation.

For more information, please contact Jay McDaniel at