May 20th, 2017

Organizing Alternative Food Futures in the Peripheries of the Industrial Food System

By Sam Grant


Miguel Altieri (1995), one of our great bioneers in agroecology, has done much to demonstrate that we can feed the world with bottom up resilient, local agriculture based on sound ecological principles. Similarly, the work of La Via Campesina (2010) – the global peasants movement organization – is demonstrating the cooperative power of many agro-ecologies from diverse cultures of the world combining with one message to the rest of us to respect and support full food sovereignty. Everywhere we look, whether in the Global North or Global South, we see people reclaiming an integral relationship with nature and each other through regenerative agriculture and regenerative community building strategies. Looking forward, there are many exciting intersections of regenerative agriculture and sustainability education to amplify.

When we look back on this part of the twenty first century, I hope enough of us will be able to look back and smile, reflecting on the contributions we made to address climate change with a climate justice approach. This would allow us to face the biggest challenge of the twenty first century, with what W.E.B. DuBois recognized as the biggest problem of the twentieth century – racism. I bridge these two major problems in my theorizing by recognizing that the whole period of Modernity has been founded in a pattern of ecological apartheid – divisions of people from the earth and from each other.

I write this article from Minnesota, a state that is at once among the best places in the world to live, and yet, if you are African American it is statistically the worst on a composite index of racial inequality.  So, what has this got to do with regenerative agriculture you ask?  I will tell you.  When we combine regenerative agriculture and sustainability education through a climate justice orientation, we heal ecosystems and people simultaneously. It is because I recognize regenerative agriculture as vehicle that helps us co-create healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people on a healthy planet that I want to do my part to connect people to their own possible contributions.

This essay aims to share two examples of work being done to bridge sustainability education and regenerative agriculture. One is set in a mixed income urban community in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. The second is set in a network of very poor rural villages in Sierra Leone.

As an educator, organizer and permaculture teacher, I have engaged in these two contexts to support the “dreaming process” of local people for healthy self-determined livelihood. It is important to start this introduction by framing the approach I take in such endeavors, because how we engage our privilege as academics and organizers is critical and must be in the foreground of co-creative relationships with local residents in these communities.

Sustainability education is in the midst of the most challenging and opportune time that humanity has ever collectively faced. Whether we are focused on food systems, climate change, water supply, environmental health, social justice or all of this and more – we face these challenges and opportunities with greater socio-ecological complexity than every before, at global scale.. It is time to amplify the transformative approach to sustainability education and regenerative agriculture. These combined tools help us heal our connection to nature and to each other, transforming the pattern of ecological apartheid into a convivial pattern of ecological democracy.

As the founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, Wangari Maathai (2010) says, “when we lose our intimate connection with nature we entirely lose our way in the world.” Transforming the pattern of ecological apartheid toward ecological democracy is the basis of my life long work in the world. Ecological democracy is a world in which we are each in close connection to the earth and collectively attend to the well being of nature, of all people and partner in caring for the future. This is an expression of the three ethics of permaculture (earth care, people care, care for the future, Mollison, 1988)).

In each context: a) extreme weather is having an impact on the growing season; b) soil organic matter and soil health are low; c) local agro-ecological knowledge exists in the community but is not being applied at the appropriate scale to improve environmental health; d) there are external threats impinging on livelihood and quality of life; and e) there is a an abundance of people in the community ready to improve the quality of life for themselves and to be a resource for world-level change. In each context I strive to support what is described in earlier work on mutual liberation[1] (see Grant and Brewer, 2010).

The purpose of sustainability education is to ensure that all people, all organizations all branches of government, in all societies embody both responsibility and capacity to live well in a healthy environment, and to correct the ecological and social harms of the current and earlier generations. Regenerative agriculture is any and all forms of agricultural practice that actively restore soil quality, biodiversity, ecosystems health, water quality while producing sufficient food of high nutritional quality. Together, sustainability education and regenerative agriculture provide the key tools to attend to our basic needs with ecological and intercultural integrity.

What stands in the way of the scaling of regenerative agriculture is a deep-set assemblage of patterns created over human history, particularly the linked histories of colonialism and capitalism that prioritize profit above health and relationship – using both nature and people to make profits for the few. This is ecological apartheid.

Ecological Apartheid

Vandana Shiva (2013) suggests we need to transform the global pattern of eco-apartheid and nourish ecological democracy. Eco-apartheid is a civilizational mode that divides people from nature, divides us from each other and sets us each up to have substantively divisive, fragmented lives. Our industrial food system mirrors this apartheid pattern. It removes many of us from the land, including our intimate connection with the cycles of nature.  It engages some of our communities as ecological havens with an abundance of fresh food and environmental aesthetics, while others become ecological hells (concrete jungles) with worse air, poorer housing, worse food quality, and lower qualities of life. In our fragmented way of seeing the world, we fail to notice how everything is connected to everything else. Shiva writes:

Eco-apartheid refers to the ecological separation of humans from nature in the mechanical, reductionist worldview, which is resulting in the multiplicity of the eco-crisis that is threatening human survival – climate catastrophe, species extinction, water depletion and pollution, desertification of our soils, and acidification and pollution of our oceans. It also refers to the apartheid created between corporations and citizens, between rich and poor on the basis of the appropriation of the Earth’s resources by a few and denial to the rest of their rights to access the Earth’s gifts for sustenance of all life, including human life (Shiva, 2013, p.1).

Maathai reinforces Shiva’s testimony, as she states, “the physical destruction of the earth extends to humanity, too. If we live in an environment that’s wounded – where the water is polluted, the air is filled with soot and fumes, the food is contaminated with heavy metals and plastic residues, or the soil is practically dust – it hurts us… in degrading the environment, therefore, we degrade ourselves and all humankind” (2010, pp. 16-17).

Maathai is describing the environmental quality of communities experiencing what we call an environmental justice overburden. These communities did not generate the pollution and waste, but where they live is where we put our polluting industries and waste. In rural areas people are displaced from prime agricultural land and then the land is ecologically degraded with monocultures, herbicides and pesticides. In urban areas the poor people are squished into concentrated poverty zones full of old buildings and other infrastructure, and very degraded soils, water and overall environmental quality.

Further, urban communities on the periphery of the world capitalist industrial food system tend to pay higher prices for lower quality food, while those communities on the periphery in rural areas are paid a lower price, controlled by others, for what they produce.

Our industrial food system is designed to produce cheap, abundant food-like substances to distribute world-wide. It did not create residential segregation or the violent patterns of economic injustice, but it reinforces them.  The industrial food system is directly engaged and responsible for mass displacement of indigenous peoples, traditional villages and peasants from the land around the world in order to use their land ‘more productively’ to feed the world. The model is not working. It is destroying the integrity of ecosystems worldwide and the livelihood of billions. Whether urban or rural, the industrial food system has deleterious effects on local human and ecosystems wealth and health. Regenerative agriculture offers us tools to rebuild soil, store carbon and water in the landscape, reducing the incidence of obesity and diabetes among people, increase peoples connection to nature, and improve environmental health holistically.

By bridging sustainability education and regenerative agriculture, education and agriculture both become tools for restoring ecosystems, moving toward zero waste in the food system, healing our bodies and communities with healthy food and active ways of living. The scale and complexity of our disconnections from nature and each other are profound. Thus,

sustainability educators face an enormous challenge to contextualize our approach to teaching in a way that best prepares students for ecologically wise leadership in this century. From Donella Meadows (2008) or Capra and and Luisi (2014) we can learn to embody the ‘systems lens’. From Morin (see Montuori, 2013), we can learn to apply ‘complex thought’ in our transdisciplinary education models and nourish human capacities to co-create mutually delicious futures. In regenerative agriculture, practitioners need to embody a form of design thinking that integrates ecological considerations of soil quality, water quality, seed quality, biodiversity, nutrient cycling and long-term ecological thinking with social considerations of human health, diet, economic objectives and policy considerations.

What contribution might sustainability education offer in such a community context?  How might it work to add value rather than extend patterns of marginalization and harm? We start with dialogues on water, soil, climate, community relationships. We seek to understand the means by which we can cooperatively improve all of these simultaneously within the local community. Teaching people how to build healthy soil has to be our first? consideration so that growing local healthy food productively becomes a possibility. In a community with higher rates of diabetes and obesity (not to mention many other prevalent health concerns that exist locally due to environmental injustice, such as increased incidence of Asthma), we can make the case for how we can heal the land and heal the bodies of individuals in the community. By doing these things strategically, we can heal the ‘socio-ecological body’ of the community. In this way, regenerative agriculture ‘seeds’ regenerative community building, which in turn, ‘seeds’ new regional, healthy, socio-ecological opportunities.

These two examples serve to show just how ready people are for major self-determined livelihood initiatives. The challenge for those of us in the academy and civil society is to attach ourselves to these bottom up dreams in a way that best supports the continual building of capacity, consciousness, connections, creativity, and cooperation to generate desired outcomes of the communities we serve.  John Mcknight wrote – The Careless Society (1993) and in it he posits a key pattern – that with the imposing pattern of help – the more we help the more disabled a community becomes. If we want to partner with communities, that is a different energy than “helping” communities. Regenerative Agriculture is about partnering with the landscape. In the same way, regenerative dialogue and development is about partnering with people to partner with the landscape to nourish local ecology and local sustainable livelihood.

North Minneapolis

North Minneapolis is a beautiful, vibrant community full of amazingly creative people who were given an extra task – to live their amazing lives in the context of all kinds of oppression and marginalization patterns imposed by a racist, classist, gendered city and region. The community is home to some innovative anchor institutions that constantly work to minimize harms by external forces and the resulting patterns of internalized oppression, while also nourishing the co-creative capacities of community residents to lift themselves and each other up for better futures.

In the case of North Minneapolis, a long-time friend of mine – Michael Chaney (founder of Project Sweetie Pie) called and invited me to support his effort to create a local urban agriculture movement. We started with just five sites and a handful of stakeholders. This has now grown to more than 50 garden sites as of the 2016 growing season. Not only have we grown food on an increasing number of lots, we also engaged the community in a design process to actively consider – through a coalition called Northside Fresh[1] – how to co-produce community health and wealth in the community.

The key to it all is ‘right relationship’. What I mean by this is to commit to ‘lead by obeying’ – following the wishes of the community, and seeking to effectively build capacity so that your role is not necessary for the long-term. Intercultural dialogue is at the core of this process-work.

By supporting the efforts of Michael Chaney and Project Sweetie Pie to secure some farm sites to engage youth in growing food, under the tutelage of a small band of community elders committed to ‘living their vision’ for the community and extending it to the next generation.

With just five sites and five elders we coordinated the engagement of a few young people through the city’s summer youth employment program to learn how to grow food. We partnered with a child-care center, a church, a community center – in every case helping them learn how to grow food and become extension agents to engage others. The dream kept growing and deepening.

A complementary effort was started by another friend to launch a community cooperative that would focus first on winning a corner of the fresh frozen foods market in North Minneapolis.  We were not able to secure a loan for equipment because our business plan showed a loss in the first year (positive profits thereafter). Rejected for bank funding, plan B was to just do hand processing of as much produce as we could work with the nimble hands of our processing crew. A contract was secured with a major institution only to be lost because not all of our produce cut was exactly the same size.

At the same time as my engagement with Project Sweetie Pie’s work, I was involved in something called the Minnesota Social Innovation Lab. Michael Chaney came to one of the labs and encouraged me to bring that model to North Minneapolis, focused on local food systems. We did that, and over the course of the next three years, we organized two sustainable food labs a year bringing 40 to 175 people together at a time to consider all aspects of designing and delivering a local food system that co-produces community health and community wealth. Those labs nourished a broader and deeper dreaming process. New ideas formed, new initiatives started, new capacities and connections were established.

Looking back on where we started in 2012 and where we are now, an impressive movement is in motion that has delivered the following transformative outcomes in the community:

  • Development of a five star community restaurant and social gathering place;
  • Development of a successful farmers market on a major commercial corridor within the community;
  • Training for Sixteen African American farmers in permaculture design;
  • Engagement of Two African American farmers extend training and access to seeds to more than 150 community residents;
  • Development and coordination of urban agriculture on more than 50 urban farm sites;
  • Development of a business venture started now sustainably employs two teens who were part of our urban youth farm training system.
  • Increased financial support and capacity in the local food system – as the community has been awarded some major grants to support the development of a local food system
  • Development of a cooperative grocery story now exists in the community

These are major milestones. We have much to be thankful for, and proud of. However, we still have much to do. Working against the tide of not only the industrial food system but also against a long-standing pattern of neglect, repression and oppression by the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and the State of Minnesota seem sometimes insurmountable. Add to this the patterns of structural apartheid (structural racism) built into the infrastructural pattern of the regions metabolic flows and we are always ‘going uphill’. The reality that we are still going strong only proves to me how resilient we are in the face of enormous challenges, and how creative we are in the face of the enormous opportunities offered by the burgeoning local foods movement across the United States and the combination of elevated commitments to the artistic, cultural and ecological assets of communities. Through our local work, regenerative agriculture is playing a regenerative role in social relations and opening up new visions of our future, from the bottom up.

You might think that they way you go about such work is radically different in an urban context than a rural context, but it is pretty much the same. In both cases we are working with a socially organized intelligence for local-livelihood (soil).

Sierra Leone

The eastern district of Sierra Leone is well known for two things: a) its massive mineral wealth – primarily diamonds and gold; and b) being ground zero for Sierra Leone’s civil war of 1991 to 2001 that resulted in the loss of more than 50,000 lives and the displacement of more than a million people. Just before we got to Sierra Leone in December 2015 the country had the travel-ban lifted due to the Ebola crisis, which had killed just under 4000 people in Sierra Leone and 12,000 in the general region of West Africa.

The majority of people in the rural areas ‘make it’ by subsistence farming. There are few options since there is not much of a formal economy operating in the region. The national salary for teachers, for instance, is just $2 per day, and perhaps only half to one third of teachers receive the wage. Those that are paid pay salaries of the unpaid teachers out of their meager earnings. By economic standards, everyone is ‘extremely poor’.

In Sierra Leone, similarly, a long-time friend came into my office physically and spiritually ill because as a proud visionary he was driving a taxi-cab to make ends meet and not finding a way to do his dream work in the world.  I pulled a calendar off my desk and asked him to pick the date he would quit driving his cab and start realizing his dream. He picked thirty days from our meeting. Within that timeframe we created a whole new organization – the Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy, with the goal of supporting rural sustainable livelihood in the Kenema District of Sierra Leone. We travelled to his mother’s village and started there by telling 400 people in the village what he was dreaming up.

That dialogue led to an all-afternoon dialogue with more than 110 villagers who were excited and committed to join the effort. By joining, they meant cooperatively shaping. By the end of that day we had designed a network of 9 cooperative work teams to manifest the construction of a first of its kind environmental education-based early childhood education center and a demonstration permaculture farm. We took the original ideas from the founder of the project and added in many new ideas that emerged from the participants, so that the design emerged through a truly democratic process, ecologically grounded in permaculture design.

In Sierra Leone, particularly in the far out rural areas, the only time people come in from the outside is to mine for diamonds or gold. What diamond and gold mining leave behind is ecological devastation and a carved up earth with deep mine pits that breed mosquitoes and create extremely dangerous terrain for children to play in. Climate change is adding to their difficulties, already manifold, with the country trapped in structural adjustment deals and the predatory impacts of neo-liberal economic impositions across the continent. Now, due to climate change, the weather is changing. The massive disruption of ecosystems with deforestation across the country has been severe and climate change quickens the negative impacts of decades of poor environmental management.

How is a poor rural community to respond to all of this? Well, it is simple  – by being wildly creative together. When we made our first trip there we developed a rough, but by local standards, a sophisticated map of the farm and school site. This map rendering of a vision was compelling to members of the village – so compelling everyone wanted to help make it happen (thanks to Bruce Blair, one of two permaculture designers on this trip with great map making skills).

I spent three days doing teacher training for the preschool teachers. On the first day I asked the teachers to tell me what a great day of school would feel like to them. One of them answered – “the children would be compliant”. A tear formed in my left eye and I said – “no, that cannot be the goal, to simply have children who are compliant. The purpose of education is transformation of self, community and world. By the end of day you and the children should be levitating with the joy of the day of learning.”

The teachers laughed at my suggestion of what a day should deliver. They asked me to show them how such an outcome was possible. Working with my great friend of thirty years – Louis Alemayehu – we discussed how to manifest this outcome. The next day, they worked with the children outside all morning at the farm site. They smelled the bark of trees and the soil. They touched everything they saw. They made up songs and stories about what they were experiencing with all their senses on the beautiful landscape. Students sang about the wind blowing through the trees, the birdcalls, how the soil smelled. At the end of the day they were levitating in joy. It was amazing to see disbelievers turn themselves into deliverers of the possibility on the first try.

All in all, the first trip was an amazing success – exceeding my wildest dreams.  I had three students from HECUA[3] along with me and each of them developed their own initiatives to support the community dreaming process. Hans taught the kids in the community how to skateboard. Claire and Madison worked with farmers to start a seed bank. Each day they embodied the necessary fluidity to attend to what was emerging on the terms of the local people – always following signals of others and supporting people’s wishes, never imposing, which the Zapatistas framed as one of their core organizing principles  – ‘Mandar obedeciendo – to lead by obeying.

We were back on the ground six months later to install a sustainable water system for the school site, intended to educate 300 children between the ages of 2 and 5 Monday through Thursday each week. The water system failed because we worked with the pipes and fittings readily available, and they were inadequate.

We went back six months later and figured out a solution to the water system and much more. One of my former HECUA students and the colleague of a boyfriend of another former student came along to assist. My former student, Ivy, did a seed saving workshop for participants as part of our permaculture design training. Among the accomplishments of this last trip, from which we just returned two weeks ago:

  • The water system works;
  • We put solar panels up on the school and also on the local office for the organization;
  • We trained the town electrician in solar energy installation and maintenance. He is a twelve year-old genius with the confidence of learning and capacity for results that would rival the best highly trained engineers I’ve met.
  • We organized and delivered a ten-day permaculture design training for people from ten villages from all over Sierra Leone.
  • In the midst of the ten-day training the participants had to design permaculture projects, which now become the “water” for the gardens of the social permaculture design – meaning these are initiatives we will embark on collectively – across the ten villages.

Now, we have stakeholders from other villages asking to join our efforts.


I’ve said a lot about what happened, but what I have said only scratches the surface of what is unfolding in these examples of sustainability education and regenerative agriculture. We have to consider and learn from the complexities of teaching and learning across our cultural differences, and every day offered a rich learning space for this challenge/gift. Participants started a food forest, learned to build berms and swales, inventoried local farming practices, got more training on the importance of seed banks of diverse indigenous varieties, and also dialogued about cooperative approaches to agro-ecological economics and social projects for gender equity and youth development.

Complexities of Regenerative Dialogue and Development Across Cultures

The indigenous peoples of the world have advanced a dialogue on interculturalism as a foundation for democracy. This does not match the form of interculturalism advanced in cities around the world that focus on social harmony, but not as much on the substance of cultural difference. As we consider access to fresh food, and sustainable livelihood, what these two projects support is a bottom-up articulation of regenerative development, based on a dialogue among internal stakeholders in the community and also based on a dialogue (vertically) through the multiple layers of society to consider policy change (such as the work in North Minneapolis to promote public policy that would increase funds for urban agriculture, or the ‘policy stance’ of the Paramount Chief in the Gorama Mende Chiefdom who said that our work in Mondema and other villages was to be supported by all as a matter of commitment and cultural policy).

The indigenous peoples of Ecuador have developed a culturally grounded articulation of interculturalism that is distinct from the way it is understood and applied in the Global North. Practitioners and governments of Northern Industrialized-Post-Industrial nations want to create a world of opportunity where everyone assimilates. It is a universal design. Indigenous people want to create a world where many worlds fit, as the Zapatistas have proposed and as it is now picked up by the World Social Forum as an organizing meme. Not universalism, but rather intercultural harmony as the design objective.

In North Minneapolis, I organized sustainable food labs, to provide a space for intercultural dialogue and innovation. Practitioners, policy makers, academics, and residents came together to discuss what was now happening in the food system compared to a mutually established vision, and then to consider what to do next to promote the emergence of a local food system.

We want to embody regenerative agriculture, so we must also embody regenerative dialogue so that is it possible to mutually determine and mutual empower sustainability pathways. So what does a form of dialogue look like that ‘heals dialogue’ so we can heal soil and heal social relations? This is an important question and challenge. What we know from our experience so far is that making space for the dialogue is foundational. Once people trust the utility of dialogue: both because they are heard and because it generates results, then they begin to push the dialogue rather than just accept an invitation to it. This is a critical moment to work to create, celebrate and sustain.

In the African context, on the first day of the permaculture training I got significant push back from two participants asking  – “are you imposing the foreign culture of permaculture on us and thereby judging our own ecological knowledge as worthless’? I smiled and said –“no, permaculture has been framed by two Australians and picked up by the whole world, but the basis of it is the honoring of traditional ecological knowledge. So, the goal is not to replace what you know, but to fully engage what you know and apply it in a whole systems context to benefit the entire community.” They responded – “oh, well then lets do this!”

When I bring students out into the field, I first dialogue with them about how to be with community, and support them as they each unpack all the assumptions they embody about the communities we work with. I have established a general guideline that seems to consistently improve the capacity of students to “show up” as co-agents of transformation rather than as imposers or imposters.

First,, if I am bringing students into a community, I need to prepare them by improving their listening skills and to always start by listening and observing. Second to give them an overview of what they will be experiencing, who they will be meeting, and what the expectations may be. Third to make the first introductions “warm” by preparing my colleagues in the field for their visit/s. Fourth, by making sure they show up with skills to offer to be of genuine assistance to what is manifesting on the ground.  Fifth to practice meta-awareness of what is happening inside themselves, in the relationships and in the work and to continuously adapt how they engage as they bring these awarenesses into practice.

A teacher of mine, Jennifer Wells wrote (2013) Complexity and Sustainability, which provides us with six recommendations for application in our regenerative agriculture and sustainability education strategies. I offer these here, with some elaboration from my own applied work with students in the field.

  • We suffer from multiple forms of disconnection and our failures to be truly inter-connected prevent us from partnering effectively for good sustainable and regenerative design of sustainable livelihood strategies. To address this, with students, we consider – all the stakeholders impacted by a sustainability challenge that we need to engage in the process. This allows us to attend to the complex dynamics that prevent emergence of sustainable designs or disrupt efforts once in motion.
  • Addressing complexity requires a transdisciplinary approach – we need to bring soil scientists, nutrition educators, agricultural extension agents parents, teachers, chefs, business owners, churches, advocacy groups, policy makers and more – all in to the process together to shape and sustain effective designs.
  • There is no such thing as a finished design. We have to keep learning and adapting as we learn. The food labs of North Minneapolis take place every few months, with each one building on the last. The cycles of training and development and the constant dialogic circles in which we learn from participants what is happening for them as they implement what we have designed keeps a very rich learning process alive.
  • Applying the principle of self-organization – we consider how we might go about setting conditions for the partnership work to become a ‘living system’ that is self-reproducing with local energies and capacities over time.
  • Embodying ‘complexification’ (Wells, 2013, p. 308) we recognize that we will NEVER have it all figured it. The goal is not control but an abiding relationship in which we mutually learn and adapt as new patterns and dynamics emerge – some will be great beneficial surprises and some not.
  • Applying complexity theory sets us up as humble co-scientists engaged in the critical and substantive work of improving livelihood, while improving ecological integrity and setting conditions for mutually prosperous, ecologically sound futures.

Now, applying all these notions, we can develop a methodology for application in diverse contexts. Below I describe the model I have constructed, mindful of the issues framed above.

Table 1 Grant JSE Ready copy

What is above, describes how I apply this in the classroom setting. There is much more that needs to be said about the many challenges and lessons outside of formal education with communities that are organizing for change, but that will have to wait for another article.

Concluding Comments

We have an obligation to more fully contextualize what we mean and what we intend with sustainability education. As educators, we have many privileges that are likely to operate through us without awareness. I have established processes for teaching that minimize some standard teaching errors, but others I still frequently make, and I’ve been teaching for 30 years now.

So, be gentle on yourself, and be humble. You will make mistakes, and you will learn from them. Your students will make mistakes, and they will learn from them. When we go to partner with communities we are going as ‘learning partners’. We have to demonstrate this with the way we engage. Communities may want to benefit from what you can offer or know without deeply engaging in the mutually transformative partnership approach.

It can be easy and efficient to work in a transactional way, but it will not do much good over the long term. I strongly urge all sustainability educators to take the time to embody the context of a place and a people you will be working with. How do their psychosocial cartographies relate to your own? By learning to be in-space together, what new psychosocial and intercultural cartographies might emerge, and what significance might these have?

Attending to such questions with depth helps us create a new way of being in the world together. It brings out our best selves. It brings out the best in relationships. It fosters the emergence of what is best in the world.

None of us want to be accused of ‘sustaina – babble’, and the only protection against that is to learn how to engage in and remain constantly in deep dialogue in every relationship, including inside your own consciousness.

Regenerativity starts in our own minds, hearts, bodies, and relationships. Embodying regenerative norms in how we consider self, community, and environment represents the three disciplines that form the foundation for a regenerative way of being, a regenerative way of knowing, and the co-creation of a regenerative world. A regeneratively relevant form of sustainability education sits at the base of this envisioned horizon. Our work seeds the greatest possibilities for people and planet in a time of both great precariousness and great possibility.

[1] Northside Fresh is a community based coalition, led by Appetite for Change, that is coordinating multiple stakeholders, including residents who will benefit most from the emergence of a local food system. The vision is a local food system that co-produces community health and community wealth.

[2] mutual liberation’ transcends univeralist notions of liberation and replaces these with relational processes and understandings of liberation as something we co-create and make a continuous effort to co-sustain. I am free because you are free. We are free because others we share the earth and cosmos with are also free. Mutual liberation, necessarily excludes patterns of domination and oppression, and where they exist, actively works to dissolve such patterns.

[3] The Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs is a global higher education – educational immersion organization with the motto – “never be the same”. With our transformative approach to field based learning in Minnesota and with international educational opportunities in six other countries – we deliver on this motto with every student.


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