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Nature Conservation, Traditional Agriculture and Permaculture

Modern Languages Program

ESCUELA DE LA TIERRA (School of the Earth)
International Programs

Code Number: CN5100
Level: Undergraduate
Nature: Applied Seminar with Workshop
Type: Intensive Summer Session
Credit Hours: 4 
Modality: 3 intensive weeks
Weekly Hours: 20 
Attending Class Hours: mon-tues: 6 hrs each; wed-thurs-4 hrs each 
Independent Study: 19 hours/week
Prerequisite: None

Jiri Spendlingwimmer
Jason Gearhardt
Detlev Quintern

Luis Diego Arias

1. Course Description:
This Applied Seminar with Workshop studies and undertakes practices concerning the wildlife, traditional agricultural practices, and experimental and permaculture cultivation, embedded in the society of local communities in the South Pacific Region of Costa Rica. This class allows the student to acquire theoretical foundations, methodological and applied techniques, on observation, collection, and conservation of wildlife, and on the alternatives offered by traditional peasant agriculture and of contemporary Permaculture. The pedagogical approach combines classroom and internet learning with practical activities with local farmers and at the Campo Grande Farm and the Biological Reserve of the Escuela de la Tierra (School of the Earth) of Longo Mai.

2. General Educational Goals:
At the end of this class, the student will be able:
  • To characterize Costa Rica’s Neotropical environments and society, with an emphasis on the South Pacific Region;
  • To know and use observation, collection and conservation techniques of wildlife, employing media of choice;
  • To understand the knowledge and ethics of peasant and traditional agricultures;
  • To know the fundamental elements of Permaculture;
  • To experience and learn first-hand, wildlife conservation, peasant/traditional agriculture, and Permaculture; and
  • To grasp the meaning and perspectives of these three approaches to better living on the Planet.
3. Evaluation:

Discussion and reports on readings and videos 25
Exercises/reports on Wildlife Conservation 25
Exercises/reports on Peasant/Traditional Agriculture 25
Exercises/reports on Permaculture 25
Total 100

4. Methodology:

Education for peace strategies are used to promote communication, knowledge development, and the capabilities to organize successful groups and work teams. These include cooperative games and human rights in the class’ spaces. IT are used intensively to enhance individual and collective learning and communication. The Seminar/Workshop uses a blog to socialize and collect information and data. This Applied Seminar/Workshop combines theoretical and methodological study with practical exercises carried on: 1. the wildlife, 2. peasant agriculture, and 3. experimental farming and Permaculture. This combination allows the student fully to develop and incorporate the class’ contents. This process involves the student into exploring the ethical/moral and social/political stances and consequences resulting from these approaches. Students prepare register notebooks about each practice, and reports using the media chosen by each individual or group. Readings and class discussions before and after each practice prepare and consolidate knowledge and practical skills.

5. Educational Resources:

Readings and other resources are used to study and discuss each topic; additionally, both ET and  Universidad Castro Carazo have faculty and library supports to locate information and data in and on Costa Rica, on the country’s ecosystems and wildlife, and on alternative agricultural systems. The Longo Mai community and its surrounding areas along the Convento and Sonador river basins, is the geographical setting for the Applied Seminar/Workshop: This people and this landscape are our first educational resource, and also the first to be studied as a whole and concerning its relations to the nearby localities, the region, and the national and international contexts. The Campo Grande Farm fields and facilities, the Biological Reserve, and the local peasants’ agricultural fields are the specific locations for practical exercises. The Practical Seminar/Workshop also includes visits to other relevant sites, like rivers and neighboring monocultures.

Students read and report on selections from:
  • Arts, Bas et al (Eds.)(2013) Forest and Nature Governance. A Practice Based Approach. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Faires, Nicole (2012) The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.
  • Kappellle, Marten (Ed.) (2016) Costa Rican Ecosystems. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Mollison, B.C. & R.M.Slay (1991) Introduction to Permaculture. Tagari Publications.
  • Savitsky, B. et al (Eds) (1998) CIS Methodologies for Developing Conservation Strategies. Tropical Forest Recovery and Wildlife Management in Costa Rica. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Seligson, M.A. (1980) Peasants of Costa Rica and the Development of Agrarian Capitalism. Wisconsin University Press.
6. Schedule of Activities:

 Week Activities and topics (general description)
WEEK 1: Local, regional and national ecology and society
  • Central America and Costa Rica: Geography, Social and Natural History
  • The South Pacific Valley: Geography, Social and Natural History
  • Longo Mai and the Escuela de la Tierra (School of the Earth)
  • Visits introducing the students to the Longo Mai Community, the Campo Grande Farm, the Biological Reserve, the Convento and Sonador rivers, the agricultural fields.
WEEK 2: Studying the Neotropical rainforests
  • Characteristics and condition of Costa Rica’s rainforests
  • Field data collection methods and analysis
  • Data collection exercises on the Biological Reserve
  • Data analysis and Report presentation
WEEK 3: Peasant and traditional agriculture, Permaculture
  • Peasant, indigenous and traditional agriculture and farming in Costa Rica
  • Permaculture: Reconnecting humans with nature
  • Visits with local peasants
  • Exercises in traditional and Permaculture agriculture
  • Data analysis and Report presentation
  • General findings and conclusions

7. Additional references:

  • Adams, W M (2001) Green Development: Environment and sustainability in the Third World. New York: Routledge.
  • Alexander, Christopher (2002) The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, Book 1, The Phenomenon of Life. Center for Environmental Structure.
  • Brockington D and Duffy R (2010) Capitalism and Conservation: The Production and Reproduction of Biodiversity Conservation. Antipode 42(3): 469–484
  • Campbell L M (2002) Conservation narratives in Costa Rica: conflict and coexistence. Development and Change 33:29-56.
  • Campbell L. M. (2007) Local conservation practice and global discourse: A political ecology of sea turtle conservation. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97 (2):313-334.
  • Castree N. (2003) Commodifying what nature? Progress in Human Geography 27(3):273-297
  • Cronon W. (1995) “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.” In William Cronon (Ed.) Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (pp.69-90) New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
  • Holmgren, David (2002) Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. Holmgren Design Publisher.
  • Holmes G. (2010) The Rich, the Powerful and the Endangered: Conservation Elites, Networks and the Dominican Republic. Antipode 42(3): 624–646
  • Honey M., Vargas E. and W. H. Durham (2010) Impacto del Turismo Relacionado con el Desarrollo en la Costa Pacífica de Costa Rica. Executive Report, Center for Responsible Travel: Washington, DC
  • Hughes C. and D. Hughes (1983) Teeming life of a rainforest. National Geographic (January): 48-65
  • Kittredge, Joseph (1973) Forest Influences on Climate: The effects of wood vegetation on climate, water, and soil. New York: Dover.
  • Igoe J. Neves K. and D. Brockington (2010) A Spectacular Eco-Tour around the Historic Bloc: Theorising the Convergence of Biodiversity, Conservation and Capitalist Expansion. Antipode 42(3): 486–512
  • Inman C., Mesa N. and J. Oleas Reyna (1998) Impacts on developing countries of changing production and consumption patterns in developed countries: the case of ecotourism in Costa Rica. Report, INCAE, United Nations Environment Programme and Institute for Environmental Studies Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Miranda M, Dieperink C and P Glasbergen (2006) Costa Rican environmental service payments: the use of a financial instrument in participatory forest management. Environmental Management 38 (4):562-571
  • Odum, Eugene and G.W. Barret (2004) Fundamentals of Ecology. Cengage Learning (5th Ed.)
  • Perlin, John (2005) A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization. Countryman Press.
  • Ponting, Clive (2007) A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations. New York: Penguin Books.