Environmental Humanities Summer Intensive

Spend your summer on beautiful Manitoulin Island thinking through the challenges of our times, getting hands-on work experience, and creating a community of likeminded scholar-workers.
This is a unique opportunity to push yourself intellectually, physically, and personally.

EHSI is a full-time, three-week, in-person program combining rigorous intellectual study with hands-on permaculture work. It is co-hosted by the Great Lakes Institute and Manitoulin Permaculture and is taking place near Little Current on Manitoulin Island.

Participants will assist in the operation of a permaculture training centre, getting experience in various aspects of permaculture theory and practice. Meanwhile, participants will undertake an environmental humanities course based on this year’s theme. They will follow a reading list, attend seminars, and submit written responses to readings. Additionally, guest lecturers will present on special topics throughout the summer and these events will be open to the wider community. Field trips will bring participants to local community organizations and natural highlights for hiking, art-making, and work-exchange opportunities.

This program is for those who feel that academia is too often cut off from real life, but also know that the humanities have a critical role to play in the challenges our world is currently facing. Become part of a growing movement of people committed to building new institutions and a new ethic of lucid, constructive, and collaborative thinking. The course will be led by GLI organizers Philippe Mesly and Julia Henderson (see “About Us” in side menu), and Manitoulin Permaculture’s Justin Tilson.

Course Theme 2024

Work, Land, Voice

This year’s course theme is “Work, Land, Voice.” We will draw on select texts to illuminate the ways in which our working relationship with the land influences the range of communication avenues between ourselves, the nonhuman world, and the communities of the past and future. How do we give voice in our political economy to those not yet living, or to those who do not speak human languages? How is our intellectual work related to our spiritual, political, and ecological existence? In particular, we will examine the history of land use in the Great Lakes area, in order to ask how can we live rightly here, in this place, and now, after what has gone before and in view of what is coming?

Readings will include: Hannah Arendt, Simone Weil, Édouard Glissant, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, adrienne maree brown, Bruno Latour, Ivan Illich, Marguerite Porete, and Winona Laduke.

We are pleased to announce guest lecturers will include internationally renowned poet-philosophers Jan Zwicky and Tim Lilburn. Jan and Tim have each written a number of books of poetry which examine the meaning of place, Canadian landscapes and colonial histories, and the intricacies of our politico-spiritual existence in relation to the nonhuman world. Jan Zwicky’s most recent collection of essays is Once Upon a Time in the West, and she previously co-authored Learning to Die with poet and typographer Robert Bringhurst. Tim Lilburn formerly taught at University of Victoria; his most recent work is a book of poetry, Harmonia Mundi and a selection of essays, Numinous Seditions: Interiority and Climate Change.

Permaculture Work

Participants will contribute around 25 hours of work per week to permaculture tasks. Participants will get experience in each of these areas:

Vegetable gardening, greenhouse production, composting, carpentry and building, food preparation and preservation, design principles, and alternative technology.

Tasks will be assigned based on present needs at Manitoulin Permaculture and participants’ interest. Additionally, participants will occasionally have the chance to work on some nearby farming operations, learning various methods and skills associated with each farm.

Program Details

July 8 - 26, 2024

The intended audience for this program is young adults, with no hard upper limit. However, we are unable to accept participants below the age of 18, due to the additional liability involved. International applicants are welcome, but must make their own arrangements to enter the country.

Participants will be accepted on the basis of their demonstrated maturity and ability to complete the program, as determined in the application and an interview. No participant will be turned away on the basis of physical disability—accommodations will be made to engage everyone in agricultural or other kinds of work. Between 6-8 participants will be selected.

We are offering this program on a sliding scale. Our recommended program fee is $750. However, we have scholarships available for those unable to afford this fee and we invite those who are able to contribute more to help offset the costs of the program. This will include the course fee, reading materials, accommodations, meals, and transportation to and from Toronto or nearby areas, if required.

The program will run on a tight work/study rhythm. Participants are expected to commit around 25 hours of permaculture work per week and 15 hours to the study program, including quiet study hours, scheduled seminars, presentations, and field trips. Lunch and dinner will be prepared and eaten together. Phones and computers will be off-limits during the daytime. Evenings and weekends are free for leisure.

Accommodations and Meals
Participants will be accommodated in one of several kinds of tiny home, including prospector tents, geodesic dome, or mini-cabin. Food will be sourced mainly from the Manitoulin Permaculture vegetable gardens, with supplementary ingredients coming from local, sustainable, organic producers, as much as possible.

Academic Credits
EHSI does not confer any credit, diploma, credential, or qualification. If you are currently enrolled in an accredited college or university, we would be happy to work with your institution to secure independent study, internship, or study abroad credits if that is a possibility.


Thank you for your interest in the program. Applications are now closed. If you would like to receive updates about future programs, please send your name to the e-mail address below.