To the question, “What gives you the right or privilege
to be a peace, ecology or human rights activist?”, one might answer,
“Life itself empowers each of us to nurture and protect Life. So, join us!”
The Cooperative University of the Great Turning — Our Mission Statement
The Cooperative University of the Great Turning (UNIVGT) is an all-volunteer circle of scholar-activists and curriculum developers. We invite you to join us in cultivating and nurturing compassionate wisdom and sanity while working to protect the integrity of life on Earth. We are called to do this in the face of the out-of-control industrialization, profit-seeking and violence that are creating untold human misery and endangering both the future of humanity and the future of life.
You could think of UNIVGT as home-schooling at the university level. Many university schools and departments are playing a crucial role in laying the groundwork for a green civilization (for example, the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies). But many others have become part of the ecocidal industrialism problem, because so much university funding now comes from serving the interests of agricultural, bio-tech and weapons industries.
Also, traditional universities shut out many more people than they include, which is not a good model for global ecological awakening. Following Gandhi’s advice to “be the change we want to see,” we hope to use the Internet and new software (WordPress) to leap-frog over the previous barriers to the evolution of new study and action communities.
Many ecology writers have called our present time the time of The Great Turning, because it is the great work of our moment to invent a civilization that is much friendlier to the Web of Life than our present one. Current evidence strongly, overwhelmingly, indicates that humanity is killing its own global life-support system. The circle of scholars founding this alternative university see cultivating a deeper understanding of our interwovenness, both with one another and with the Web of Life, as the greatest and most pressing intellectual task of our time, certainly on the same level as understanding DNA or quantum physics. Our special vocation in relation to the tasks of the Great Turning is the facilitation of thoughtful, empowering, productive and enduring conversations and friendships among those who take up the work of protecting the Web of Life. (See our Teams-of-Two article.)
Running parallel to the ecological crises of our time is the drift toward a permanent state of highly-technologized war / culture of violence / armaments addiction, conditions that are physically, emotionally and economically unsustainable (and probably uncontainable, as well). If we don’t want the whole world (including our own neighborhoods) to look like the bombed-out cities of today’s war zones, we need to create a new vision of human cooperation, care and reconciliation, and try to mend at least some of the damage we have already done. The idea of helping to evolve a sustainable and compassionate civilization is wildly ambitious, but then it is difficult to see how we will solve our giant problems without learning new skills and thinking some giant thoughts.
Confronted with a world that is falling apart in the ways noted above, we are challenged to allow the current crises to bring out the best that is in us, rather than the worst. In this quest we are inspired by a wide range of thinkers and ecologists, including such varied guiding lights as Mahatma Gandhi, Julia Butterfly Hill, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Vandana Shiva, Joanna Macy, David Suzuki, Clare Dakin, Albert Schweitzer and Rachel Carson, to name only a few.
The Chambered Nautilus as a model for eco-education and eco-activism. Traditional universities succeed admirably in some ways but fail in others. From all the people who could possibly attend, they produce a certain percentage of highly trained individuals. They do this in part by shutting out or failing all the people who need more mentoring than current systems can provide, or who learn at a slower pace, or in different ways, than current systems can accommodate. Proponents of a society based on competition might argue that the current system produces excellence. In order to have a fair meritocracy, there must be exams that some people pass and others fail. But the current system, along with perpetuating patterns of social inequality, shuts out far too many people to be a good model for the Great Turning, for the world-wide ecological mobilization to save the forests, the oceans, the climate, the bees, the frogs and the humans. That mobilization needs pretty much everyone, not just a highly talented few.
The educational challenge of the Great Turning is therefore how to encourage every person to take their own next steps toward being a kinder, wiser and more skillful nurturer and protector of the Web of Life, starting from wherever they are and reaching out in widening circles. The development of the Internet, and of Internet-based educational software, make this encouragement possible in new ways.
The free and open-source Cooperative University of the Great Turning encourages people to become LLEARMs (lifelong-learner-encourager-activist-researcher-mentors) across a wide range of topics and issues related to ecology, sustainability, and social justice. We do not grant academic degrees, credits or certificates or credits. Instead, we
- encourage participants to form independent study-and-action partnerships (especially Teams-of-Two), document their learning experiences in personal portfolios, and offer the fruit of their work back to the entire community (as described in our Invitation to Participate).
- present extensive libraries of online text, audio and video study resources,
- intend to offer a range of free online courses, using the MOOC model of mutual support
- develop and distribute open source curriculum materials to schools, colleges and universities.
- Offer this Mission Statement, our Invitation to Participate, and the information content and architecture of this web site, as an open-source/Creative Commons model for people around the world wanting to start their own regional Cooperative Universities of the Great Turning.
As an all-volunteer organization, we invite you to join is as a student, mentor, librarian, artist-in-virtual-residence, and/or topic coordinator/topic committee member.
In our work together to build a new kind of university, a community of learner-scholar-activists, we are guided by the following principles.
1. Evolutionary embodiment: To begin in our own lives, and in our own communities, the great positive changes we most want to see in the world. To embody the solutions and virtues we advocate. To transform ourselves as we wish to see the world transformed, in order to be catalysts of those transitions. (All our other commitments flow from this one. Please visit our Gandhi page.)
2. Co-evolution of mutual support and social change: The greater and more difficult the tasks we take up, and invite others to take up (such as opposing global warming or abolishing nuclear weapons), the deeper and longer the emotional support we commit ourselves to offer all involved in those tasks. (We explore this at length in the Spiral Journey Empowerment Curriculum.)
3. Reasoned dialogue and respectful disagreement. The breakdown of industrial civilization, and the emergence of perpetual war, generate problems far beyond the reach of our usual styles of discussion and debate, which include a large element of personal attack. (Such conflict styles attract large television audiences, but do nothing to solve problems or create new insights.) Thus we commit ourselves to the evolution of cooperative communication practices, as explored in our study area on Communication Skills for Personal & Social Change.
4. Creating educational structures that reach out to include everyone. The Internet and evolving software allow us to include people in ways that were not previously possible. And there are forms of peer-support mutual assistance in learning that have always been possible but have been under-used due to the social preference for hierarchies. Because the transition to an ecologically and emotionally sustainable civilization (one based on nurturing rather than dominating, both people and nature) require the widest imaginable participation, we commit ourselves to the realization of these possibilities for making ecological education, inspiration and participation available to everyone.
5. Holding/honoring both sorrow and joy within the larger circle of gratitude and reverence for life. The deeper the ugliness and sorrow we confront in our efforts to mend the world, the deeper we commit ourselves to make times and places in our lives to open to as-yet-unknown dimensions of beauty and joy.
6. The co-arising of wisdom and compassion: True compassion is more than a simple feeling of sympathetic love. True compassion grows out of the deepening experience and understanding of how our lives are infinitely interwoven with all other lives. As the philosopher Raimon Panikkar wisely observed, in order to understand more deeply, we must love; in order to love more deeply, we must understand. Therefore we commit ourselves to the deepening our experience and understanding of interwovenness, that we might grow in the compassion such an understanding can awaken.
Please visit our Invitation to Participate.
Permission granted to print, publish, copy and/or adapt this page:
The text of this Mission Statement of the The Cooperative University of the Great Turning by UNIVGT Working Group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, videos and sound recordings on this page retain their original copyright, Creative Commons, or Public Domain status.
Permission granted to print, publish, copy and/or adapt this page: