Transforming Agriculture, Perennially
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Ecosphere Studies

Ecosphere Studies asks: if the ecological future of agriculture is to be perennial and diverse, what is required of us in social terms? Whereas, Natural Systems Agriculture aims to change the way we farm, moving away from an extractive relationship to the Earth toward perennial crops that hold soil and work with ecosystems, Ecosphere Studies aims to change the way we think about the world and our place in it, through educational and cultural projects with a perennial perspective.

We are part of an intricately interdependent system, from which came an emergent property of life. This perspective allows us to address enduring questions of identity and ethics in new ways.

Program History

In 2015, Wes Jackson convened a conference about how the invention of new perennial grain crops grown in mixtures requires new ways of thinking and making a living within the ecosphere. Since then, Ecosphere Studies has regularly designed events to bring together researchers, teachers, students, and community members to co-produce and test ecospheric approaches to unlearning and learning.

Participants include historians, philosophers, farmers, scientists, lawyers, economists, artists, activists and writers whose experiences range from liberal arts programs and land-grant research universities to regional interdisciplinary consortiums and adult education non-profits. They take what they learn back to their home places, where several are creating Ecosphere Studies courses and programs.

Ecospheric learning and teaching also will go forward in public workshops as we build a network to engage people of all ages in formal school settings and beyond.

Program Goals

Most Western educational systems for the last three millennia have been derivative of, and dependent upon, an extractive agriculture and economy.

An ecospheric view critiques this hidden curriculum, asking: What parts of mainstream education are preparing students to create a socially and ecologically just world—a world without economic inequalities, human domination, soil erosion, species extinction and climate change? What cultural traditions are helping communities change course and negotiate a corrective, healing path forward?

To embed emerging scientific knowledge about our ecosphere and agriculture into education and cultural practices, and to spread a new way of thinking throughout society, Ecosphere Studies seeks to transcend the barriers between academic disciplines and help transform educational institutions and places of learning through the following goals:

  • Create intergenerational practices of learning how to provide ongoing care to crops, soils, and land communities.
  • Build the cultural capacity, values, and institutions needed for the positive transformation of human food systems.
  • Engage and educate the courageous constituency needed to transition toward perennial agricultural economies.

Key Tenents

• A just, caring, pluralistic society that accepts limits is our best hope to sustain ourselves and bring perennial polycultures into production. Our motivation for developing sustainable agriculture is to ensure the longevity of such equitable communities.
• We investigate what we need to learn and remember if we are to create good human futures, nourishing people’s minds, hearts, and bodies. We develop sociocultural research and educational projects integrated with agroecological research.
• We emphasize material and energetic constraints. For life to thrive in the ecosphere, we must embrace healthy limits. The ecosphere is the creative, living globe that is our home. Rather than viewing Earth as a planet composed of living and non-living parts, and people as separate from our environments, Ecosphere Studies understands human communities as nestled within ecosystems.

Project Team

Aubrey Streit Krug
Director of Ecosphere Studies

Wes Jackson
President Emeritus

Carl Bowden
Ecosphere Studies Associate

Rena Detrixhe
Research Resident

Publications

The development of agriculture is one of the key fault lines in human history, the starting point for the human project of dominating the planet. As the catastrophic consequences of…

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Abstract: Genomes can be regarded as miniature ecosystems which display many of the same characteristics as that of a prairie or forest ecosystem. Human communities may likewise have characteristics common…

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Our subject here is “the problem of agriculture” not “problems in agriculture.” We proceed with the assumption that problems in agriculture are primarily derivatives of the problem of agriculture. Download…

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Author Joseph Kinsey Howard describes a spring day in 1883 in North Dakota when John Christiansen, a Scandinavian farmer, looked up while plowing a field to discover an old Sioux…

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Program Videos

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