Sterling College logo 'working hands. working minds.'


Online course invites experts and students from around the world to explore the aftermath of  change and disruption

CRAFTSBURY COMMON, Vt. – Sterling College’s online course, “Surviving the Future,” launching on April 6, could hardly be more timely, even if the timing was unintended; it  represents the third event focused on the provocative writings of economist David Fleming. The 8-week series, with an international audience and a suite of global experts, extends a lifeline of hope and connection to participants from around the world during a shared period of isolation that defines the current pandemic.

“In these times of the coronavirus, it is really bringing home to people how quickly things can change, and how social changes that seemed unthinkable are happening almost overnight,” said Shaun Chamberlin, the British-based activist and course co-facilitator with Philip Ackerman-Leist, Sterling’s Dean of Professional Studies and the School of the New American Farmstead. Ackerman-Leist describes the course as a way for people from all over the world to “bring their candles together” to shed light on incredibly complex issues and possible solutions. “We need to learn from each other,” he said.

The course had its beginning in 2016, when Sterling’s collaborator, Vermont-based Chelsea Green Publishing, released two posthumous books by the late David Fleming, “Lean Logic” and “Surviving the Future,” both edited by Chamberlin. Each book offers a likely epitaph for modern civilization, a civilization bankrupted by the accrual of debt humans have incurred through extractive economies.

“Fleming knew that Nature could be relentless in settling any overdrawn balance,” said Ackerman-Leist. “Fortunately, Fleming also offered the possibility that we might collectively find ways forward in giving Nature its due while simultaneously reconstructing our civilization, one community at a time, each in its own way.” Fleming named the predicted period of upheaval “the Climacteric”—a stage in the life of a system in which it is especially exposed to a profound change in health or fortune. He forecast it would occur between 2010-2040.

In January 2018, Sterling College held a symposium entitled “Surviving the Future,” followed in 2019 by a three-day intensive course that delved more deeply into Fleming’s works and how they might inform Sterling College’s response to the impending Climacteric. The online course is yet another way of advancing the importance of Fleming’s work.

Although zipping around the globe is currently off-limits, “Zooming” between global communities with video conferencing will be key to the interaction between all participants, said Ackerman-Leist. He and Chamberlin will cultivate a variety of online conversations among the diverse array of course participants and weekly experts beaming in from around the world.

The course will feature live webinars with an array of internationally-renowned thinkers each week. For example, Kate Raworth, an Oxford University scholar and author of “Doughnut Economics,” will offer insights into creating circular economies, and Rob Hopkins, founder of the global Transition Movement, will speak to Fleming’s influence on his work. Participants will also reflect upon readings and online resources in written and webinar discussion forums, linking Fleming’s work to post-pandemic possibilities.

In an effort to ensure that anyone interested in participating is able to enroll, the registration for the course is scaled and full scholarships are also available for those who are currently financially challenged.

The course will conclude with an online “Carnival,” a special event offered in a spirit Fleming would have appreciated.

“In a moment of cloistered existences,” said Ackerman-Leist, “the opportunity to collaboratively envision a post-pandemic world will be a breath of fresh air and a shared moment of reshaped imaginings.”

For more information about “Surviving the Future” visit