Ecovillages and Contemplative-Education Expert Prof. Karen Litfin Visits Yale-NUS ES Programme

Go here for the PowerPoint presentation from Prof. Litfin’s Monday lecture on “contemplative education,” and go here for the PowerPoint presentation from her Wednesday lecture on “ecovillages”


The Environmental Studies programme, in collaboration with the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Yale-NUS college, has the great privilege of hosting Professor Karen Litfin for a week of formal lectures and informal conversation, from 5 – 9 March 2018.  

Professor Litfin is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington. Her books include Ozone Discourses: Science and Politics in Global Environmental Cooperation (Columbia University Press, 1994) and The Greening of Sovereignty (MIT Press, 1998). In both her research and teaching, she endeavors to integrate the cognitive, emotive, and practical dimensions of sustainability. That commitment led her to write a book on her travels to ecovillages around the world: Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community.

Many Yale-NUS students know Karen from their work with Professor Schneider-Mayerson, who uses Ecovillages in an upper-level seminar.  Prof. Litfin is also a regular and important voice in Professor Maniates’ module on environmental policymaking, where students debate her work on the Montreal Ozone Protocol to better understand the role of “knowledge brokers” in formulating effective policy in the face of uncertainty.

Prof. Litfin offered two lectures during her stay at Yale-NUS college.

On Wednesday, 7 March 2018 at 7:15 p.m. in the Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre (just off the Oculus, at the main entrance to Yale-NUS College), Prof. Litfin presented “Ecovillages Around the World: Integrating Ecology, Economy, Community and Consciousness.”  It was standing room only, with a great representation of NUS and Yale-NUS faculty and students, as well as members from the larger Singapore community.

After teaching international environmental politics for nearly 20 years, Dr. Litfin embarked upon a journey to ecovillages around the world to find models of living that could work for the long haul. From rural to urban, high tech to low tech, and spiritual to secular communities, she learned that not only is another world possible, it is already being born in small pockets the world over. Join us for an inspiring slide presentation and discussion of how we can learn from ecovillages and scale up their lessons to existing social structures, from the local to the global.  A light buffet dinner will be available at 6:30 p.m. outside of the auditorium.

On Monday, 5 March 2018 at noon, Prof. Litfin spoke on “Assessing Contemplative Education,” at an event sponsored by the Centre for Teaching and Learning. (Go here for the PowerPoint from that talk).   Contemplative Education integrates introspection and experiential learning into academic study to support intellectual and social engagement, develop self-understanding as well as analytical and critical capacities, and cultivate skills for engaging constructively with others.  Students experience it as an aid in focusing attention, improving concentration, grappling with challenging emotions, accessing self-knowledge, and finding inspiration. Dr. Litfin discussed how instructors can help students apply their own first-person experiences to what they are learning in the classroom. She will offer examples of specific pedagogies, including: focusing through somatic awareness, integrative thinking through content-based meditations, deep listening, small group practices for collaborative inspiration, and perspective taking.   She will also share her own research in assessing the pedagogical value of these practices.  A recent book chapter that describes this work is available from A New Earth Politics (MIT Press: 2016), available for a limited time at this link.

Students, faculty, or members of the community who wish to schedule time with Karen during her visit should contact Michael Maniates at

We’re excited to have Karen with us for the week!