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XXIV International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology
Brazil, October 17 to 23, 2021

The European College of Human Ecology organizes a special section

Human Ecology – New Directions in Higher Education

As a member of SHE conference you are invited to join our special discussion meeting on Thursday Oct. 21 2021,
at 5:00pm Berlin time, which is 12:00am Brazil time and 10:00am Oklahoma time.

Please check the meeting-ID and access code in my comment to our section "New Directions"
or mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You are welcome


Program and Abstracts



Human Ecology at COHE – The new MA Program Human Ecology and Philosophy of Social Innovation – A Prospect | Wolfgang H. Serbser, COHE – Berlin, Germany



10 years ago the initiative to found a college of human ecology starts with a public workshop in the city hall of Emmendingen. The results were an encouragement to focus on this little town in the south of Baden in Germany in the upper Rhine valley nearby France and Switzerland. From 2015 on, we successfully offered a summer program to prove our concept for agents of transition inspired and modeled by program of the College of the Atlantic.

During 2019 the COHE-Team developed a master program “Human Ecology and Philosophy of Social Innovation” to offer it jointly with Alanus University in Bonn/Alfter Germany. The project oriented course structure aims to be the first European program with a crossdisciplinary liberal arts orientation. The presentation gives an insight to the principles of the program and invites to discuss this concept on an international level. At the same time, it is an invitation to not only European but also all human ecologists to step in, to teach, to do research, to learn and study at the European College of Human Ecology live or hybrid in online media.

Dr. Phil. Wolfgang H. Serbser teaches sociology and human ecology since 1989. He is co-founder of the European College of Human Ecology in Emmendingen, Gemany and is one of its CEO. He is member of the board at large of the Society for Human Ecology and member of the executive board of the Council for European Urbanism Germany. He has served as treasurer and member of the executive board of the German Society for Human Ecology (DGH) for 18 years. His consulting office in Berlin is specialized to develop scientific, ecological and social Projects in urban and rural environments.




Human Ecology in Higher Education – Our Daily Meals a Challenge for our Future on Planet Earth | Parto Teherani-Krönner, COHE – Berlin, Germany


It is time to promote Human Ecology in a university program in Europe and bring together all the expertise that the diverse initiatives have developed so far in different countries.

We have already gained experiences with our Summer Schools in Emmendingen, a small town in the south west of Germany. I am very pleased that one of our students from the first Summer School in 2016 has created a very informative contribution to our online training program.

Our first two Summer Schools were about regional development focusing on the topic of nutrition. The motto was: "From Field to Fork" as a key theme of human ecology that shapes our daily lives.  We learned about concrete projects in cultivating organic agricultural products, their further processing and marketing in southern Germany. It is also about recognizing that we humans do not nourish on raw products but on prepared meals. This encompasses the whole cycle of production as well as reproduction of what people eat - which is mostly a meal. Gender approaches and gender arrangement should become part and parcel of food debate. Thus I argue that problems of food security and safety need a new concept embedding the culture of our daily nutrition - which can be glanced by the meal culture and meal politics approach (Tehrani-Krönner 2014 - 2017).

The mode of agricultural production and land use systems are of importance to environment conditions, climate change and quality of water that is essential to prepare a decent meal. In a cultural ecology of meals, both the local and global aspects of our diets (ecological foot print) are proving crucial to our future on planet Earth. This can be seen as an example of the way we design our lectures at the European College of Human Ecology (COHE).

Parto Teherani-Krönner is a cultural ecologist and rural sociologist – she has established the field of women's and gender studies in rural areas at the Humboldt University in Berlin since the early 1990s. She conducts research on socio-cultural dimensions of sustainable development, gender dimensions of agricultural policy, and the cultural ecology of meal policies and food security. Using her gender-sensitive cultural ecology methodology, she conducted empirical research in Germany (intensive animal husbandry and groundwater pollution), Iran (women in rural development), and African countries (gender relations cultivating indigenous vegetables).




Human Control-Oriented, Technocentric, and Futuristic Strategies of “Environmentalism” Assessing Their Social and Moral Harms to Specific Disadvantaged Communities | Zharina Nikko T. Casil, University of Oklahoma, COHE student in 2016


How we conceptualize environmental “activism” has often been framed in human control-oriented, elitist, and futuristic sentiments.

Given the established power structure of society, these EA sentiments create moral and social harm, especially to disadvantaged communities. They impose points of power, privilege, and oppression.

We hear environmentalists say we must save the world “for our children’s future,” denying the urgency of climate change as if the damages and effects of climate change are not presently felt. Secondly, when we think of “protecting the environment,” it is often equated to having “untouched” and “pristine” nature, achieved primarily with “removing all human traces.” Such sentiment is based on the assumption that humans are somewhat “innately destructive.” Thus, it erases the lived experiences of indigenous groups and tribes who have long been pushed out of their homes despite having lived with nature sustainably for a long time. This human control-oriented sentiment also deflects the responsibilities of the foremost perpetrators of environmental degradation; capitalistic multinational companies, toxic industries, economically developed countries, and billionaires who profit from the environment.

Lastly, we hear technological approaches and sentiments to resolving climate change as if all had the capacity to invest in them. The truth of the matter is, less economically developed countries, disadvantaged groups such as indigenous, people of color, and lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by climate change and, at worse, also have the least resources to overcome and contribute to climate change efforts. So how then must we account for Environmental Justice?

Zharina Nikko T. Casil was a student of the second summer university of the European College of Human Ecology in Emmendingen, Gemany in 2016. Together with two other students, she developed a project how to create a urban garden plan for bees in Emmendingen and realize an urban beekeeping and local honey production on the inner city industrial area of the Wehrle AG.




»Facing the Future: Human Ecology and Higher Education«, a conference in fall 2022 | Dieter Steiner, ETH Zurich & COHE - Zurich, Switzerland


We from the organization named »European College of Human Ecology« announce our intention to organize an international conference dedicated to the topic »Facing the Future: Human Ecology and Higher Education.« It will take place from September 1 to 3, 2022, in Potsdam near Berlin, Germany, and probably have a hybrid (part real, part virtual) format. Our claim is that we need a complete change of consciousness in that the purely utility-oriented instrumental treatment of nature still favored by the dominant worldview must be replaced by an environment-friendly cooperative relationship. In this respect the presently prevailing idea of »sustainable development« is still very much a child of the conventional state of mind. In contrast, a concept of human ecology, built on the central notion of humans as threefold physical, social and mental beings with the capability of thinking, feeling and acting opens the way to a holistic personality development and a many-sided connection to the environment in a mood of partnership rather than control and conquest. Human ecologists become educated as generalists able to recognize not readily perceptible relationships and to deduce the possibility of innovative changes for the interplay of society and environment. At the said conference we hope, under the uniting umbrella of human ecology, to assemble a variety of viewpoints being concerned with the precarious state of our planet and the consequent question of an appropriate higher education.

Dieter Steiner, born 1932. Studies at the University of Zurich with a major in geography and minors in geology, biology and mathematics. Ph.D. 1960. Specialization in remote sensing, later in quantitative methods (statistics mainly). Held positions at the University of Chicago, the University of Zurich and the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada). Chair of quantitative geography at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich from 1975 until the retirement in 1998. Founded a group of human ecology in 1985 that did interdisciplinary research, looking at the human-environment problem from a social sciences and humanities perspective, and taught courses within the environmental sciences curriculum. Editor or co-editor of three books on human ecological topics and author of biographies of John Muir and Rachel Carson. Member of the Committee for a European College of Human Ecology of the German Society for Human Ecology (DGH).

Personal website (in German): www.humanecology.ch.


Final Discussion


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