Workshops & Keynotes
Using the 8 INSTRUCTIONS OF NATURE as the core of Full Ecology, Mary M Clare and Gary Ferguson create customized
in-person and virtual workshops, keynotes and retreats for organizations, community groups, businesses, schools, and universities. Their end goal is always tangible, sustainable change, whether personally, relationally or organizationally.
Full Ecology reminds us that the lessons of nature are the lessons of our (human) nature. Gary & Mary teach and inspire as they show how these lessons can create healthy organizations, healthy relationships, and a healthy earth.
Please scroll down this page for sample presentations.
“Humans are conflict avoidant, which is ironic because that automatically puts you in conflict.”
~Mary M Clare
In the midst of these too-busy times, overwhelmed by distractions, patience and mental focus are hard to find. Even for difficult challenges like illness and loss. Nature can help. The natural world is a reliable and powerful source of nourishment for our toughest journeys. For example, just being outdoors reduces stress hormones in the brain even as we breathe in airborne chemicals released by trees that strengthen the heart and immune system. What’s more, nature offers brilliant prompts and clues to the psyche, helping us better navigate the difficult transitions of our lives (see Gary’s books, Shouting at the Sky and The Carry Home).
BRILLIANCE ON THE CUTTING EDGE:
IT’S ONLY NATURAL
We live and work at the cutting edge of time: the present moment. So it is with all of nature – every action, every movement arising from vast, highly dynamic webs of connection. Networks of sharing. Even the trees of the forest are connected to each other by means of vast underground fungal networks. They talk. Through this web a mature tree can send growth-stimulating carbon to a sapling that isn’t getting enough of it. One group of trees can send chemical messages to help another group of trees fend off insect attacks. What can we learn about resiliency, efficiency and creative empowerment from the world around us, embracing those lessons to improve the quality of our own lives?
The natural world holds countless examples of the vital role of Elderhood. Vitality that calls for the re-discovery, reclamation, and activation of Elderhood for ourselves. What is Elderhood? Where does it comes from? What is useful, what is worth letting go? Consider evidence of Elderhood as a reliable resource throughout life – one we can nurture and champion. This program reveals the opportunity for reclaiming the wild possibilities of Elderhood – of wisdom and peace in a too frequently wacky world.
WHAT WE HAVE TO LEARN FROM WOLVES
For the past 500 years, wolves have been routinely demonized. And yet across history no animal has been more frequently sought out by humans as a source of wisdom for what it takes to build successful social groups – be it families, or even whole societies. From the lavish care a wolf pack offers its young, to the way pack leaders govern by ensuring freedom for their underlings, wolves show astonishing social intelligence and biological resiliency. This program, based in part on in-depth studies of the wolves of greater Yellowstone, reconnects us with an animal who even today remains a potent teacher.
THE NATURE OF WORK & COMMUNITY
An exploration of lively and practical insights into 3 critical forces that shape every life form, and thus, every human system: A) an essential nurturing of deep interdependence; B) an astonishingly efficient use of energy, that creates a reliable stream of “best choices”; and C) the fact that from an ecological standpoint, there’s simply no better predictor of resilience than diversity.
THE FULL ECOLOGY OF WILDFIRE
Fire is an ancient force, powerful enough to shape much of the natural world, and to stand as a real threat to human community. America is now being hit by nearly 50,000 wildfires annually – up 500% from the 1970’s. Thousands of homes are being destroyed. Familiar, comforting landscapes are suddenly stark and strange. In this unprecedented age of wildfire gone extreme we can look to the natural world for guidance. This talk reveals practical mitigation strategies for homes and communities alongside practices for addressing the array of challenges, anxiety, and grief that come with living in wildfire country.
“The way they present together shows us what Full Ecology is – what it looks like. We were engaged in and enlightened by their co-facilitation of the keynote. A huge value-added component to have them both.”
Gil Hallows, Executive Director Legacy Outdoor Adventures
“Conservation champions Gary Ferguson and Mary M. Clare spoke directly from the heart, reminding more than 80 young rangers at the Wilderness Ranger Academy of the critical importance of their work – and in addition, sharing keen insights for building and sustaining a culture of shared stewardship. The couple was later voted ‘Best Speaker’ for the week-long Academy, among presenters from across America.”
Ralph Swain, Regional Wilderness and Rivers Program Manager, National Forest Service
“The best, most authentic and captivating energy I’ve experienced from a team keynote. They made it clear that the beauty we see outside in nature is inside, too – something we can rely on to show us what self-care means. Totally inspiring.”
John Kasbe, independent film maker
“Thank you for offering an alternative to simply thinking of Elderhood as becoming old. One particularly valuable aspect of your focus, I think, is that you refrain from sugar-coating the really hard parts of longer life, even as you emphasize positive dimensions. Your calm, grace-full, generous presence complements your message so well.”
Linda Clark, Lifelong learning program organizer
“So wonderful– truly wonderful!! We all agreed there could not have been a better program . . .”
Carrie Coogan, Deputy Director for Public Affairs, Kansas City Public Library
“Writer Gary Ferguson and social psychologist Dr. Mary Clare are the perfect duo for liberal arts colleges and other communities that value interdisciplinary conversations. They engage a wide audience, grappling with issues of race, gender, and class that are often overlooked in discussions of environmental justice.”
Scott Nadelson, English Department Chair, Willamette University
“Beautifully organic. I’ve been to many conferences where I’ve heard keynotes. I’ve never heard a couple. It was mesmerizing – the content as well as the relationship. These days we need to learn so much about relationship.”
Mara Kavanaugh, therapist
“I’ve never been to a keynote where the speakers so successfully energized us for the conference to follow.”
Anthony Hanson, conference sponsor
“It was a treat to hear and watch Gary and Mary co-facilitate such a fantastic topic. I loved the clarity of their discussion of mentorship and the wisdom of the land. This was a very special event for me, a true emerging from vision to actualization.”
Tim Walsh, outdoor educator and recovery coach
Although our Keynotes & Workshops are carefully tailored for the needs of each specific organization, their heart is always geared towards combating the damage done by our separation from nature. Their end goal is always tangible, sustainable change, whether personally, relationally, or organizationally. The EIGHT INSTRUCTIONS—the core principles of Full Ecology—serve as the connective thread interlacing all our workshops, presentations and keynotes. Below are several examples of past keynotes the illustrate the dynamic range of topics and struggles our work addresses.
In a functioning ecology, the dialogue between wound and medicine is ongoing; there is a call and response always happening. Francis Weller Do chickens or the eggs come first? They do. Am I living or dying? You are. So, it goes and goes. Call and response. The...
This is our friend Jon Trapp. He has spent a career moving through military service and then into work with wolves through the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Today, much of his life work is focused on wildland firefighting. Jon’s been all over the...
Keep your eyes on the prize. Alice Wine, 1956 Human Social Ecology – The ways we’re in relation with each other. The ecologies of intimacy – of family, friendship, neighborhood, community. Both/And – Holding as worthy, two or more perspectives that appear to be at...
Fifteen years ago, Richard Louv, a lifelong educator, introduced the term “Nature-Deficit Disorder” with the publication of his best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Soon after, Louv and his...
We’re in baffling times. Most of us care deeply – really deeply – about justice for all. We’re profoundly compelled by the urgency to stop the systematic oppression of Black lives. Plenty of information floods social and public media advising white people how to be...
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. -Dr. Maya Angelou Here is what I know: hatred is heavier than love. -Sarah Bellamy Yesterday evening, we met with a group of people in a webinar about what the natural world has to show...
Culture is not what your hands touch, it’s what moves your hands. Tyson Yunkaporta We’re in a time of radical uncertainty. Probably, you don’t like it much. And, by now, you may be sick & tired of how reflexively you turn to your screens and click. For...
An Atlantic Monthly article published this week bears the title: Quarantine Fatigue is Real. Got that right. Here in the middle of this enormous pivot known as COVID-19 we may be a bit less exhausted than we were in our hyper-busy lives before lockdown. On the other...
Community - in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures - is the smallest unit of health. - Wendell Berry Here, in the middle of the making-it-up-as-we-go-along, there are as many versions of improvisation as there are people. Nonetheless, something...
Right now, we’re in Passover. Today is Easter Sunday. And Hajj, which should have just come to a close, has been delayed to late July. Here, sheltered in place, staying away from community, wary about illness and livelihood, uncertainty is as close as skin. But isn’t...
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