In February 2013, I started an MSc Political Agroecology with Gaia University. Its action-learning approach means I can invest in this learning pathway while still working, organising, resisting and growing. I’m aiming to graduate in 2017. This page provides links to various MSc related content.

About Gaia University

Gaia University is a radical un-institution centered on supporting learners to evaluate their work, develop their practices, skills, and worldviews to support them to be as effective as they can be for social justice and ecological regeneration. They offer diverse programs, including diplomas, bachelors and masters degrees. I am undertaking an ‘open topic’ MSc, which means I can determine the content of my own program, within a framework of Political Agroecology.

They trust that I am the best placed to determine what I want and need to learn to achieve my goals.

What is Political Agroecology?

lvcPolitical Agroecology explores the power relationships in our food systems. My strategic focus is how we can accelerate the speed and scale of the transition to agroecological practices around the world.

I first came across the phrase ‘political agroeoclogy’ in an article in the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture ‘ Agroecology and Politics. How To Get Sustainability? About the Necessity for a Political Agroecology’ by Manuel Gonzalez de Molina. (Download it here)

Manuel writes that ‘politics must develop within the heart of agroecology’. He comments that the scientistic or technocratic currents of agroecology strip socioecological change of any collective dimension of human action.

“Political agroecology is based on the fact that agrarian sustainability cannot be achieved using only technological (agronomical or environmental) measures which help to redesign agroecosystems in a sustainable manner. Without a profound change in the institutional framework in force it will not be possible for successful agroecological experiences to spread and for the ecological crisis in the field to be combated effectively. Consequently, political agroecology examines the most suitable way to participate in these movements and to use those tools that render institutional change possible.”

Political agroecology is an emerging field for applying the methods and findings of research in addressing socioecological change in agroecosystems.

Manual summaries, “In short, the mission of political agroecology is producing knowledge that makes possible the establishment of institutions and social movements favorable to the development of agrarian sustainability.”

For me, as a passionate advocate for action learning. It is not just about reading literature or doing participatory research. It is about living it. Applying these theories and ideas in your own life and reviewing the results. Taking political action and then evaluating if it has been effective or not.

“Political agroecology is also a science of collective action in favour of sustainability, a philosophy of action”.

Anarchist Agroecology

RTF ladyMuch critique, if there is any at all, around politics and food production/permaculture/agroecology tends to explore political relationships within the existing political system. This may be for example lobbying the European government, or encouraging people to become town councillors. Nearly always the state is naturalised. Capitalism is normalised and no alternatives are possible. Both are perceived unchangeable. My interest therefore is in anarchist agroecology – looking at the roles of the state and capitalism in food production. But anarchism is bigger than this – it is about challenging all forms of domination, and looking at a pattern language of oppression (sexism, racism and so forth). Therefore an anarchist agroecology looks at the power relationships of all of the above and how they influence how we eat and produce food.

My interest, therefore, is in anarchist agroecology – looking at the roles of the state and capitalism in food production. But anarchism is bigger than this – its about challenging all forms of domination, and looking at a pattern language of oppression (sexism, racism and so forth). Therefore an anarchist agroecology looks at the power relationships of all of the above and how they influence how we eat and produce food.

My long term goal is to produce a book about anarchist agroecology, bringing together examples from around the world of resistance to industrial agriculture, to the state, to those at the top of the hierarchy. To explore the historic patterns of oppressive land use that make up industrial civilisation. As well as examples of new patterns of land use that have given support communities to live without hierarchy or oppression. From land squats in South America, to alternative community supported agriculture models in Europe, people reclaiming the fields, to seed savers breaking the law. I want to share stories of the seeds of struggle around the world and demonstrate that how we eat is a major point of leverage in changing all of our social relations.

About my MSc

In MSc so far I have focused on:

  • Resistance, Repression and ResilienceThe role of repression as a core limiting factor determining the acceleration of needed social change. I explored resilience to repression, criminality in food sovereignty struggles and how agroecology connects to movements to prison abolition (another huge theme in my life).
  • Energy and EconomicsThe role of economics and if its possible to achieve agroecology or food sovereignty within capitalism, as well exploring alternative economic systems and anarchist economic ideas, in theory, and in practice. The role of energy, mainly fossil fuel exploitation, and increasing waves of ‘extreme energy’ and how they intersect with agroecology.
  • Anti-speciesist agroecology Exploring our human-animal relationships and histories in animal agriculture. I also explored what tools, methodologies, and approaches are being used to end animal oppression, evaluated their effectiveness and explored what an anti-speciesist agroecology could look like and how it could be achieved.
  • Education for agroecology – This this output shared my research and reflections on the role of education in accelerating agroecology. It aimed to identify best practices, critically reflect on my own role as an educator and organiser, and increase my knowledge of critical pedagogy and popular education.

Throughout this work I have embraced Gaia University’s holistic framework and also focused on personal and professional development, as well as my community organising practices and projects.

This has involved diverse areas including applying design to personal healing, livelihood design and ongoing action learning reflection around the huge amount of projects in my life, including resistance to fracking, starting a workers cooperative building towards local food resilience, organising around prisoner support and prison abolition, radical herbalism and more. Another large thread is my self-care in the midst of it all.

If you are interested in any of the above, please get in touch. Collaboration wins hands down and I’m always interested in new relationships and projects congruent with my aims and vision. Drop me an email at nicole@emptycagesdesign.org

You can find all of my output work here.