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Journal/Book Title

Sustainability and Climate Change


Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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Global protests calling for accelerated climate change action, social justice, and racial equity have been shifting long- standing conversations and policies from local to national scales. Yet many activists can become psychologically drained by the frustration and loss of hope in fighting against structural oppression. This study was comprised of semi-structured qualitative interviews spanning across the United States with 25 leaders and practitioners in permaculture design, a solutions-based ecological design framework to enact positive, systems-level environmental and social change. The objective was to better understand their life paths toward such work. The research showed that higher education is not adequately preparing individuals for engaging in systems-level change, and it is also not accessible to many looking to pursue this work. Given these institutional inadequacies, transdisciplinary programs and practical applications of systems-level frameworks remain underdeveloped and underutilized. There is a need for inclusive, hands-on, solutions-based frameworks that can confront the growing and complex contemporary concerns and can be integrated throughout academic programs and institutional structures. Higher education must serve a more central role in promoting transformative change to help current and future generations move away from degenerative patterns of environmental and social destruction and toward a more socially just and environmentally regenerated planet.