Aug 2, 2021 • 1HR 38M

Conversations #15 - Ashley Colby

Environmental sociologist, homesteader, and author. The Co-Founder of Rizoma School and Executive Director at Rizoma Foundation and Loconomy Project

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Nicholas McCay
Eclectic Spacewalk presents "Conversations" : a podcast about the uniqueness of the human condition & value systems construction - through conversation.
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A conversation with Co-Founder of Rizoma School, Ashley Colby—

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Hey Eclectic Spacewalkers!

Last month we had the pleasure of sitting down with Ashley Colby.

Ashley is an environmental sociologist, homesteader, and author. She is also the co-founder of Rizoma School and Executive Director at Rizoma Foundation and Loconomy Project.

After months of digital exchanges on Twitter, Ashley is yet another mutual from the digital sphere to come on the podcast to tell her unique story. We had such a good time riffing on a number of subjects that are parallel and intersecting with Eclectic Spacewalk’s interests.

Rizoma Field School in Colonia, Uruguay

“The Rizoma Field School is a place that seeks to put forward ideas about a future that is not only sustainable, but regenerative. A place to consider resilient paths toward the future. The central principle guiding our teaching is how to make the human and natural world healthier and more diverse, which includes social equality, freedom, and tolerance.

We consider both the challenges we face in the social, ecological, economic, and political realms, and then we consider a diverse set of solutions to those presented problems. We draw from ancient ideas and practices through modern inventions. No idea is off-limits for discussion and debate in order to reach the ultimate goal of making and re-making a sustainable future.

  • Building a regenerative future

  • Experiential learning for a resilient future

  • The time is now! The Rizoma Foundation is launched with the mission to accelerate multiple already existing bottom-up networks, provide a model for decentralized funding structures, and developing experimental alternatives that promote sustainability, freedom, diversity, and health.

Working from the idea that critical learning must take place in context, Rizoma Field School seeks to pair ideas with experiences in order to facilitate meaningful long-term changes in thinking and behaviors for our students. The ultimate goal is that students leave Rizoma not indoctrinated with our philosophies, but with an intellectual and experiential toolkit with which to take to their part of the world and their life’s work.

Rhizomes form a network through which to share resources. At Rizoma Field School, we hope to educate a network of individuals who can hack, subvert, create, resist and share strategies across contexts. Join us in envisioning and creating a world that can be continually better for all its inhabitants.”

Our conversation was far-reaching, thought-provoking, and just all-around a fun time.

We discussed energy sources, scales, agriculture, aggregate data, the power of myth & story, along with co-coining the term “Doomer Optimism,” amongst a number of other interesting topics.

We thank Ashley for her time, research, and eclectic mind. We hope you enjoy the conversation!


  • Cultural differences between the north & south sides of Chicago (04:10)

  • Global supply chains, regenerative agricultural, grassroots movements, and intellectual humility by turning ‘Theory into Practice’ (11:52)

  • Globalism, localism, and scales - ‘Local Practices & Global Principles’ (21:00)

  • Transparency, economic structures, systems thinking, problem-solving, and continuing to push towards optimism (28:50)

  • “Helping people move along the curve before they are forced to by doing a little bit each day” (37:15)

  • Wendell Berry, Dr. Vandana Shiva, technological realism, and the fallacy of the Enlightenment (39:40)

  • Technopoly, scientism, savior complexes, and the holy grail of fusion energy; the needed shift from recycling & renewables to regeneration in all areas (47:20)

  • Her book: Subsistence Agriculture, running a homestead, school, and foundation based in Colonia, Uruguay (57:08)

  • Doomer Optimism (Terms: Anthropocene, Cosmo-Localism, Updated Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Managed Retreat, Solar Punk, Retroactive Public Goods Funding) (01:09:55)

  • The power of myth-making, creating impact through storytelling, ‘changing the narrative’ and finding meaning and belonging (01:21:35)

  • “My only goal in doing digital media is to get people to integrate that experience and ask themselves: What is my thing that I love? What is the thing I can move toward? Who also loves the things that I love?”

  • Ashley’s response to what she would say if she was experiencing the “Overview Effect” (01:30:00)

Watch on YouTube:

More on Ashley Colby:

Rizoma Foundation

Loconomy Project

Rizoma Field School

Ashley’s book: Subsistence Agriculture in the US


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