Building a new human relationship with forests as healers and stewards, with Bernd Neugebauer, on 22-25 November, in Lilleoru

Can anybody imagine a world without forests?

In 1978, 40 years ago, I wrote my first paper on rainforest destruction. It was obvious that the destruction happened on purpose, financed by the banks, operated by large companies, supported by eager politicians, and the same people would join lamenting the loss of forests as if it were a natural plague happening just while nobody could do anything against it. I asked myself if people really could not imagine a world without forests, and therefore destroyed it. The consequences seemed so obvious, but were they not?

40 years went by, the trend accelerated, destruction runs faster than ever before. The more rainforest protection, conservation, reforestation and other programs were set-up, the more forest was destroyed. 30 years ago I decided to buy a devastated piece of former rainforest land and restored it. Today my little forest farm is home to the highest Mahogany trees and rainforest structure in the state of Yucatán. All other were cut, burnt or chipped to pieces.

How to create a forest

A few thousand years of destruction lie behind us, we must re-create. The world without forests already exists. We must build a new one. a world without forests would be a world without sense.

Creations happen in the mind, they are words, concepts, frequencies before they become material reality. We may plant trees, but a forest is more than the sum of its trees. It is a structure and a being of its own kind, intelligent, communicative, dynamic. We must dream it, pronounce it, before we plant the trees. Before we create forests we must be forests ourselves.

About this Workshop

This workshop is about creating real forests, guiding, leading, supporting and accompanying a process that is of its own nature, and yet very close to us, similar to who we are.

The main focus of this workshop is to learn see the forest amongst the trees, building a new human relationship with forests as healers and stewards. Our work will focus on team design and technology development for a forestry and agroforestry focussing on true sustainability: the use of local resources for prosperity and life-enhancement. The mechanisms of change, social and material, our ability to adapt and innovate lead into issues of community and village structures, spiritual design and social patterning. Once the complex jungles of the forest are untangled we find the easy tasks of being taking part, sharing a dance that trees have long been practicing before us. If we proceed our villages and cities will one day become like forests, and houses grow like trees.

We are the forests we create

An old saying goes ‚one can’t see the forest because of the trees’. We shall therefore look into the deeper traits of our brain’s functioning, the roles of the gut, the reptile, limbic, and the cortex aspects of who we are, to find out why we cannot see the whole, and learn finding the obvious. We must question, unlearn, de-code, re-connect, enjoy the find, and in all that we search we will ultimately encounter ourselves. Sometimes the truth is hidden. To be able to deal with it, a person must be able to confront himself, accessing her own feelings, perceptions and needs. The essence of the forest shows how when we do that the obvious becomes our truth.

Most foresters and politicians don’t confront their own nature. They are mere technicians engineering nature to follow industrial patterns of mining and resource exploitation. Yet the forest is the most productive sort of being on earth! Exploiting it one destroys its potential for growth, and, thereby, our human potential for prosperity and well-being. Forestry submits the forest to the laws of scarcity while a true Silvi-Culture feeds and promotes the complex metabolism that turns the sum of trees into a more highly structured being.

Therein lies the real issue. Our society is a cultural fabric separating man from his real feelings and inner world. Society expels and insists that man’s perceptions and self-centeredness deny hiss vulnerability and insecurity. In Western society this very same separateness applies to the essence and spirit of the forest. Forestry works as a tool of domination and we fail perceiving the richness of the woods as much as we override our own inner treasures and values.

The many addictions around us are an expression of the failure of this ideology, which believes that power, domination and possession must be the center and meaning of life. This ideology rejects everyone's fear of inadequacy, but simultaneously reinforces it.

It is the reason why we do not see the forest behind the trees. We have learnt to fear the dark, and the dark is what we are not supposed to see. The fear weakens us and easily takes on addictive pathological features. The fearful learn taking what they can, the Western world is dominated by these takers, people who have no compassion for others reach positions at the pyramidal top of our power system where they are intoxicated by the power and recognition they receive. Unable to see the forest behind the trees they are blind to risks and concentrate fully on the big (financial) goal, killing forests and sending young people to war. With cold logic and determination they maintain this state of intoxication, and continually create situations in which the same psychopathic behavior is beneficial to others who are then equally swept upwards by the rules of this system, into the spheres of recognition. ’Society’ creates its demons of endless competition.  Opposite to these pyramidal structures a true forest is a network of cooperation. Myriads of beings participate. Their main common trait is compassion. They share, the forest is a giving society.

Forests are filled with music and dance. They are a social being in which each member expresses its individuality, and therefore they are just another aspect of the world building communities. Convivencialidad is a beautiful term once coined by Ivan Illich to describe what human civilization aims for. The term equally applies to the true, the wild forest. The Sylva is convivencialidad.


  • Brain and forest
  • What is a forest? / If we were a forest.
  • Scientific background / Sylvi-culture vs Forestry
  • Forest and society / Forest economics / Forest politics / Forest livelihood
  • Organizing a Trees for People reality / we design our own community forest projects
  • Sustainable timber construction technologies

Bernd Neugebauer

Bernd Neugebauer is an expert in environmental sustainability and agroforestry with ample praxis experience. He is one of the very few people in the world who has been able to restore a rain forest - that took him only 15 years whereas ecologists told him that it will take 600.

"Our work will focus on team design and technology development for a forestry and agroforestry focussing on true sustainability: the use of local resources for prosperity and life-enhancement. The mechanisms of change, social and material, our ability to adapt and innovate lead into issues of community and village structures, spiritual design and social patterning."

Over 5 generations his family has planted more than 3 trillion trees in Germany alone. His family is one of the reasons Germany could rebuild its forests quickly after two devastating wars. Since 1995 Bernd has been developing organic initiatives in Yucatán, re-establishing traditional Mayan ways and means for the younger generations (Yukatek initiative). When he is not in Mexico he advises the government of Mongolia on how to recover their lost forests in the Gobi desert. He is also the co-founder of IFOAM and the Forest Stewardship Council Germany.

Watch the recording of his workshop held on July 14, 2018 at the European Ecovillage Conference 2018 “The Wisdom of Conscious Communities” (July 10-14, Lilleoru, Estonia).

Date and place
Venue: School of Practical Awareness, Lilleoru, Taevasmaa tee 2, Aruvalla küla, Rae vald
Payment info
Participation fee: 

The course will start on Thursday evening, include three full days and end on Sunday evening. The participation fee includes also meals and simple accommodation at the place. 

Registration and additional info

REGISTER HERE on online registration and ticketing platform, our official partner. 
Please register by 15th of November! 

Ave Oit
+372 56 499 199