Day 8 @EDE Class: Albert Bates, Permaculture, Monday Night Class

Sep 03, 2018.

Albert Bates

We had our first class with Albert Bates (Wiki) today. I first met him a few days ago at the 2018 Dujiangyan International Forum where he made a presentation on climate change. By then I had read about him on Wikipedia and looked at a list of his books on I found his old-hippie look seems to defy any fame, authority and formality, while making him accessible to people, if they are not intimidated 🙂

The next day he arrived at the UNESCO training center where we have this EDE course. He was observing the class quietly when Kosha was still teaching here, sometimes taking notes. He also joined us in the field trip to Huadao Ecological Community on Sunday. On the way back, I got on our rental bus quite late. Albert sit at the front row but the seat next to him was still unoccupied.  Why not? I took the seat. I am so glad that I did so. We had a great conversation through the entire trip on various topics: ecological civilization, ecovillages in USA, Global Ecovillage Network, possible of climate change to this region …

Albert was showing us his garden at home, Tennessee, to illustrate design principles of a farm.  (Photo by the author)

In our first class, only when hearing him introducing his life experience in a calm talk, I started to wonder, in awe, what more diverse experience and great quality can be combined in a single human being. Just to name a few here:

• By the age of 25, climbed 300+ mountains and hiked 10,000+ miles in 5 continents
• Former lawyer with about 30 years of practice on environmental and civil rights cases
• Sued to shut down the entire U.S. nuclear fuel cycle (from mines to waste repositories) and brought the case to the United States Supreme Court 4 times. (no new licences issued for nuclear power plants in US since then)
• Founder of Ecovillage Network of North America
• Founding member of Global Ecovillage Network, served as chairman of the board and presidents in early 2000s
• Resident of an ecovillage for over 40 years
• Writer of many books, recent ones including The Paris Agreement (2015), The Biochar Solution (2010)
• Horse trainer
• Stonemason
• Flour miller
• Teacher for school children
• Architect of farm buildings (designed 20+ buildings)
• Paramedic ambulance driver

Albert operated apprentice programs for about 12 years till 2017. During those years, he lived in The Farm, Tennessee and taught 8-10 students for 3-4 hours each day.  He now can take pride in that many of his former students moved on to become experts and leaders in various fields of sustainable development. Since 2017, Albert spends more time travelling around the world, teaching ecovillage design and permaculture courses. He has also been working on a new book which will be published in early 2019. Oh, I can’t miss Albert’s cool website: (To him, “cool” often means “cooling the earth” 🙂

Observe, observe, observe

Before looking into specific appropriate technologies used in designing an ecovillage, Albert taught us an important but often overlooked basic skill: observe patterns in nature, from small things like colors and shapes of plants and animals, to things in grand scale and longer term such as sea level and global temperature changes.

Observe the pattern. (photo by the author)


Many of us in the class have heard the translated term “朴门农业” (Permaculture, wiki) a lot but never studied it systematically. The subject immediately found many serious-looking faces trying to soak in everything like a sponge.

I find the 3 ethics of permaculture overarching guidance from which many specific design principles can be derived.

3 Permaculture ethics. (from presentation slide of Albert Bates. photo by the author)

Monday night class: Hippie 101

Some students who took Albert’s EDE class last time were keen in the fact that he is an authentic hippie 🙂 Albert agreed to give us an introduction of hippie culture and his farm (an ecovillage) in the evening session. It’s Monday, so it’s fitting to start with Stephen Gaskin’s (wiki) Monday Night Class, San Francisco :). Albert’s home-base ecovillage,  The Farm (wiki), was exactly originated in the late 1960s hippie movement and founded by Stephen Gaskin himself.



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