Going Deeper in a Time of Change

Centre for Human Ecology and Govan Folk University present our 2013 lecture series: Going Deeper in a Time of Change.


October 22nd Lesley Riddoch- Blossom: What Scotland Needs to Flourish
November 26th Alastair McIntosh- From Island Spirituality to American Exceptionalism: Some Religious Roots of Violence in Our Times
December (date to be confirmed) Ntombi Nyathi: Director of Training for Transformation, South Africa
(past event)17th September John Ashton- Peoples of the Sea: Climate Change and Political Struggle in a Divided Nation
(past event: view video online)14th June Jay Griffiths- Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape
Contact, mailing list and social media

Introduction to the series

For over 40 years, the Centre for Human Ecology has explored radical and innovative frontiers of knowledge and hosted and supported leading thinkers. In this public lecture series we continue that mission by bringing thought-provoking and challenging speakers to the Pearce Institute in Govan, Glasgow, providing an opportunity to experience transformative discourse and community debate and discussion.

In a time of global change and uncertainty, the urgency of the issues we face requires a level of insight beyond that of political short-termism and crisis management. Our speakers, from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, will go deeper into the fundamental conditions and causes of some of the most pressing social, ecological and spiritual issues of our times, and offer their perspectives on subjects as diverse as climate change, childhood, Scotland’s future in the context of the independence referendum, indigenous Scottish spirituality and it’s relevance today, and transformative popular education in South Africa.

You are warmly invited to what promises to be a fascinating series.

Light refreshments provided.

No registration required. Suggested donation: waged £5, unwaged £2.


All lectures are at the Pearce Institute, 840-860 Govan Rd, Glasgow G51 3UU. The venue is easily accessible via public transport, with Govan subway station and bus station a few minute’s walk away.

Lesley Riddoch: Blossom- What Scotland Needs to Flourish
22nd October 6.30pm


Lesley Riddoch joins us for the Glasgow launch of her new book ‘Blossom: What Scotland Needs to Flourish’ published by Luath.

Lesley is one of Scotland’s best known commentators and broadcasters. She has held many influential positions including assistant editor of The Scotsman and contributing editor of the Sunday Herald. She is perhaps best known for her broadcasting with programmes on Radio 4, BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio Scotland, for which she has won two Sony speech broadcaster awards.

She is a weekly columnist for The Scotsman and the Sunday Post and a regular contributor to The Guardian’s Comment is Free.

About Blossom: What Scotland Needs To Flourish

“Blossom is an account of Scotland at the grassroots through the stories of people I’ve had the good fortune to know – the most stubborn, talented and resilient people on the planet. They’ve had to be. Some have transformed their parts of Scotland. Some have tried and failed. But all have something in common – they know what it takes for Scotland to blossom. We should know too. So this book poses a question as important as the one Scots must answer on 18 September 2014. Why is Scotland still the most unequal society and sickest man (and woman) of Europe despite an abundance of natural resources and a long history of human capacity? Facts and figures are a vital part of any story. But they don’t bring Scotland’s dilemma alive. They don’t explain why people with choices act as if they had none. They don’t explain why Scots over the centuries have put on weight, not democratic muscle. They don’t explain why cash and socialist tradition have failed to shift poverty. They don’t explain why some Scots trash Scotland while others tiptoe round the place like it’s only rented for the weekend. Why don’t ordinary Scots behave like the permanent, responsible owners of this beautiful country? Is it because we are not the owners – and never have been?!”

In Blossom: What Scotland Needs To Flourish, Lesley Riddoch relates stories of Scots who’ve struggled against the odds to improve their communities – usually without help from any of the authorities. She describes the tumultuous years leading to the pioneering community buyout on Eigg; the brave decision by housing coop pioneers in West Whitlawburn to take over their crumbling estate; the 20 year project by Perthshire ecologists to prove arid, sporting estates along the A9 could become verdant community woodland, the unconventional methods of obstetrician Mary Hepburn who manages to reach Scotland’s sickest, drug-using mothers, the story behind the Scotswoman paper and Harpies and Quines feminist magazine – and much more. Weaving in comparisons with the Nordic nations, Riddoch contends that ordinary Scots have demonstrated their capacity to run Scotland time after time – yet continue to tolerate a remarkably elitist, top-down, centralised, “stand there till we fix you” society that will not change on its own whatever the vote on September 18th 2014.

Alastair McIntosh- From Island Spirituality to American Exceptionalism: Some Religious Roots of Violence in Our Times
26th November 6.30pm


Alastair McIntosh was raised in a deeply Presbyterian community on the Isle of Lewis. In this talk about his new book, Island Spirituality, he will explore the profound values and experiences that get behind the stereotypes of island religion and how they have informed his work. Also, how aspects of European Puritan thought raise questions about the political doctrine of Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism – an argument that found recent prominence in President Putin’s address to the American people about war in Syria.

Alastair is a Scottish writer, broadcaster and activist on social, environmental and spiritual issues. A Fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology, a former Visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde, and an Honorary Fellow in the School of Divinity (New College) at Edinburgh University, and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the College of Social Sciences at Glasgow University, he holds a BSc from the University of Aberdeen, an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in liberation theology and land reform from the University of Ulster.

His books include Hell & High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition on the cultural and spiritual dimensions of climate change, Rekindling Community on the spiritual basis of inter-relationship, and Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power on land reform and environmental protection – the latter described as “world changing” by George Monbiot, “life changing” by the Bishop of Liverpool and “truly mental” by Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

For the past 9 years he and his wife, Vérène Nicolas, have lived in Govan where he is a founding director of the GalGael Trust for the regeneration of people and place. A Quaker, he lectures around the world at institutions including WWF International, the World Council of Churches, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the UK Defence Academy (on nonviolence). His driving passion is to explore the deep roots of what it can mean to become fully human, and use such insights to address the pressing problems of our times.

Ntombi Nyathi, Director of Training for Transformation, South Africa
December (date and details to be confirmed)

In December, we will be welcoming Ntombi Nyathi, director of Training for Transformation in South Africa. Details and dates of this event are still to be confirmed, but will be added to this webpage. If you want to be updated, see below for details.

Training for Transformation is one of the Grail programmes. It is a course designed for community development workers. TFT is founded on the philosophy that there is need for a new generation of leaders in development who are self-motivated and whose thinking and practice is grounded in communities’ realities. At the same time Training for Transformation recognizes the importance of linking local and national initiatives to the global civic movement. It is a course for those concerned with the process of transforming societies. The training is based on the four manuals ‘Training for Transformation’ written by Anne Hope and Sally Timmel. The books combine and simplify Paulo Freire’s theory of adult education with other critical thinkers in the same field such as Rivo Tivo. Since 2002 the TfT Course trained more than 200 development workers from 106 organisations and 18 countries.

(past event) John Ashton- Peoples of the Sea: Climate Change and Political Struggle in a Divided Nation
17th September


One of the world’s top climate diplomats, John Ashton is now an independent commentator and adviser on the politics of climate change. From 2006-12 he served as Special Representative for Climate Change to three successive UK Foreign Secretaries, spanning the current Coalition and the previous Labour Government.

He was a cofounder and, from 2004-6, the first Chief Executive of the think tank E3G. From 1978-2002, after a brief period as a research astronomer, he was a career diplomat, with a particular focus on China. He is a visiting professor at the London University School of Oriental and African Studies, and a Distinguished Policy Fellow at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College.

Jay Griffiths- Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape
14th June


While travelling the world in order to write her award-winning book Wild, Jay Griffiths became increasingly aware of the huge differences in how childhood is experienced in indigenous cultures. From communities in West Papua and the Arctic to the ostracised young people of contemporary Britain, she asks why we have enclosed our children in a consumerist cornucopia but denied them the freedoms of space, time and deep play. She uses anthropology, history, philosophy, language and literature to illustrate children’s affinity for the natural world, for animals and woodlands, and examines the quest element of childhood. Arguing that the risk-averse society enfeebles children, robbing them of the physical freedom they both want and need, Griffiths illustrates how the stress of overscheduled lives denies children their hours of unclocked reverie.

Kith examines the history of breaking the will of the child and explores issues of childhood privacy, contemporary surveillance, the importance of folk tales, children’s relationship with pets and the profound politics of childhood. It looks at the extraordinary psycho-drama played out when Settler children, taken by Native Americans, refused to be rescued, and includes the way children have seized power over their own lives. A book of stories, it includes the one real-life Lord of the Flies situation – with the result the reverse of Golding’s bleak vision.

In its urgent defence of the rights and needs of every child, Kith is an impassioned, illuminating analysis of the heart of human experience.

Jay Griffiths previous books include Wild: An Elemental Journey which won the inaugural Orion Book Award and was shortlisted for the Orwell prize; Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time which won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award for best new non-fiction writer in 2003; Anarchipelago and A Love Letter To A Stray Moon, a fictionalised biography of Frida Khalo.

Contact, mailing list and social media

For more information, or to be added to CHE’s events announcement list, please email Luke Devlin, director of CHE at info@che.ac.uk. Your email address will not be shared with anyone else.

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