Deep Ecology Education Program

by Highland Support Project
Deep Ecology Education Program
Deep Ecology Education Program
Deep Ecology Education Program
Deep Ecology Education Program
Deep Ecology Education Program
Deep Ecology Education Program
DEEP community fellowship gathering
DEEP community fellowship gathering

The primary goal of DEEP is to serve as a bridge between scholarship on cultural adaptations required for our species to survive climate change.  Developing sustainable political and commercial responses requires sufficient popular support in turn making it a priority for policymakers. 

The heart of this program is a community organizing endeavor to build a collective base for increasing regional resiliency and generating transformational dynamics that lead to increased equality of opportunity and quality of life.

Additionally, DEEP was initiated in the middle of a global transformation following COVID and the social and economic repercussions of a world recovering from fear and general unwellness.  The program effectively brought people back together in the community working towards a more sustainable and healthy future, cultivating empowerment and a new sense of control and resiliency.  DEEP is now in a season of harvest. 

In this cross-community and cross-cultural pollination, HSP will push the boundaries of modern traditional education as DEEP strives to implement a more inclusive and mindful pollinator curriculum.

In the past four months, DEEP developed a collaboration with local community clubs to install pollinator gardens with local schools and develop invasive species extraction teams to work around critical locations for the local watershed.  The main focus of this collaboration is to create relationships between communities that rarely interact.  We think of this work as community pollination which includes engagements of critical reflection concerning the lasting impacts of redlining on the quality of life and opportunities for youth in the community. 

Our intercultural service programming aims to bring together students who participate in activities defined as identity group organizations. These groups include the Black Students Association, the LatinX Club, the United Methodist Student group, and the Jewish Student Union.  The program is to engage these students in joint service projects that include reflection and fellowship.  

The planned projects support a food pantry that serves a diverse demographic—coordinating with a community garden program that connects economically disadvantaged inner-city schools with more affluent schools.

Another important component of the program is to engage students with the outreach and planning of water and sanitation ventures in connection with Rotary International and the WASH group.  The activities would provide critical research assistance, social media marketing, networking services, and resource mapping.  

The Highland Support Project networks academic and service organizations to support community-driven projects through a methodology that increases individual and community resilience. 

DEEP's programming strives to develop community partnerships capable of addressing environmental justice issues and improving the quality of life through a methodology that provides individuals with opportunities for leadership, participation, and social capital formation.

This past fall semester, HSP has continued engagement with over 20 local college students to foster passion acquisition pathways and provide project planning/management and relevant career skills. Students were given the space and resources to utilize and flex their individual skill sets over more than 1200 hours of community engagements including Rally in the Alley events, community clean-up, the continuation of pollinator gardens, and community outreach surrounding climate change. 

One major accomplishment was the Rally event organized, promoted, and facilitated by a team of VCU students to raise awareness about the land agency and religious freedom crisis happening at Oak Flat, Arizona – a sacred Apache Land reserve  that turned out over 200 people. 

We invite you to participate in one of our many community-building events to build power for climate action. Join us for our student-organized events in the Alley located behind AlterNatives at 3320 West Cary Street. Richmond, VA. 23220. The Alley is an intentional space for subaltern cultural creation run by the students of HSP's DEEP program. 

Thank you so much for your continued support we can’t wait to share what we’ve grown together!

DEEP student lead and organized community event
DEEP student lead and organized community event
DEEP lead and organized community event
DEEP lead and organized community event
DEEP student made marketing graphic
DEEP student made marketing graphic
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DEEP Student Interns with Bon Air Rotary Gardening
DEEP Student Interns with Bon Air Rotary Gardening

The Deep Ecology Education Program (DEEP) organizes to enrich private STEM education programs interfacing with public school programs in the Richmond, Virginia, metropolitan region (RVA). We engage in action research to promote critical environmental theory and foster community partnerships across class, jurisdictional and ethnic boundaries. The program's primary objective is to analyze the current state-mandated curriculums and map the educational innovation ecosystem to find opportunities to insert transformative educational programming. The primary goal of this program is to offer a systematic, multidimensional and detailed examination of the Buen Vivir movement's intersection with Deep Ecology and to suggest new forms of praxis to achieve meta-ideological transformation grounded in this synthesis. 

"In English, buen vivir loosely translates "good living" or "well living", although neither term sits well with Eduardo Gudynas, a leading scholar on the subject. Both sit too close to western notions of wellbeing or welfare, he says: "These are not equivalents at all. With buen vivir, the subject of wellbeing is not [about the] individual, but the individual in the social context of their community and in a unique environmental situation" (Balch, 2013).

The University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth Univesity students have participated in structured participatory research to analyze the education innovation ecosystem taking root in RVA. There is an increasing reliance on market principles and values in the education space, particularly in urban contexts, accompanied by a growing diversification of educational service providers. This study aims to understand the current framework of public-private partnerships and identify opportunities to graft creative DEEP programming activities onto existing STEM programming. We refer to the collaborative effort as developing STEMS learning. That is, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math activities FOR SUSTAINABILITY. 

DEEP developed a collaboration with local Rotary Clubs to install pollinator gardens with local schools and develop invasive species extraction teams to work around critical locations for the local watershed. A primary goal of this collaboration is to create relationships between communities that rarely interact. We think of this work as community pollination and includes engagements of critical reflection concerning the lasting impacts of redlining on the quality of life and opportunities for youth in the community.  

Richmond has been a borderland region since before the European invasion. The location on the fall lines of James River established it as a buffer zone between the Powhatan Confederacy and the Monacan Nation. Richmond was the largest slave trading hub in the Upper South and the entrepot for the majority of Africans from diverse origins into North America in the 18th century. As a 19th-century railroad juncture and an essential region for iron production, Richmond's strategic location contributed to the city's booming economy that attracted white, black, and immigrant workers.

Richmond is more segregated today than in the 19th century when it was a small, geographically compact, walking city. That didn't change until the last quarter of the century, when Richmond acquired the first commercially successful streetcar system in the Nation. Richmond's suburban development preceded much of the country by half a century. Richmond's suburban development preceded much of the country by half a century (Campbell, 2016). Jim Crow laws reconstituted slavery, and Richmond was the second city in the United States to adopt a race-based zoning code). While the White flight to the suburbs predated Brown v. Board of Education, the ruling fueled the White middle class's exodus to neighboring Chesterfield and Henrico counties. Between 1970 and 1980, the White population in Chesterfield increased by 85 percent. In the period between 1980 to 1990, this percentage increased by 41 percent. During these periods, the numbers in Richmond decreased by 27 percent during the 1970s and 16 percent during the 1980s. 

Reverend Ben Campbell (2016) describes Richmond's public transportation and education systems as the most dramatic symbols of the Confederacy still standing in the region. The State government prohibited annexation, hardened jurisdictional boundaries around center cities, aligned massive capital expenditures, and built into state and county budgets dedicated taxes for extensive road growth and nothing for public transportation. 

Richmond has pursued a "creative class" urban renewal strategy, making the city one of the most gentrified in Virginia. Between 1990-2010, the Black population fell by 45 percent while the White population increased by 30 percent. The city's overall population increased by 10 percent over the same time. The working poor's problem is that they have nowhere to go when displaced from the "revitalized" neighborhoods. According to the 2010 US Census, the median household income for families in the city was $38,000, neighboring Henrico county was $60,000, and Chesterfield was $71,000.

The focus of DEEP programming is to explore how to organize the inner suburban region as it is experiencing rapid demographic and cultural change. As the inner city is undergoing gentrification and the outer suburbs continue to expand, new pressures are presenting in formally homogenous and wealthy suburban areas. In addition, potential ecological impacts increase as formerly green zones become more densely populated and dedicated to commercial purposes. A significant concern demonstrated in our research is the lack of educational enrichment activities for lower-income residents who cannot afford the private opportunities that are the norm in suburban communities.   

This programming is critical at "a time when instrumental, managerialist and neoliberal rationalities continue to dominate global and local education narratives " (Mahon et al., 2020). This programming aspires to contribute to a global dialogue for transformative place-based education in borderland communities. A description that may increasingly describe numerous urban locations absorbing climate migrants.  

We invite you to participate in one of our many community-building events to build power for climate action. Join us for our student-organized events in the Alley located behind AlterNatives at 3320 West Cary Street. Richmond, VA. 23220. The Alley is an intentional space for subaltern cultural creation run by the students of HSP's DEEP program.  



Abdul-Jabbar, M., & Kurshan, B. (2022). Educational Ecosystems: A Trend in Urban Educational Innovation | Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education. The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education’s Online Urban Education Journal.

Boaventura,  de S. S. (2014). Epistemologies of the South (1st ed.). Paradigm.

Campbell, B. (2016). Segregation by Transportation. RVA Rapid Transit.

Chiles, M. (2016). Richmond’s urban crisis: Racial transition during the Civil Rights Era, 1960-1977. Masters Theses, 2010-2019.

Cunningham, C. (2017). Conflicted Commons: A Local Makerspace in the Neoliberal City [Thesis, Virginia Commonwealth University].

Fredrick Harris. (2014). The Rise of Respectability Politics. Dissent Magazine.

Hall, S. (1985). Signification, Representation, Ideology: Althusser and the Post-Structuralist Debates. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 2(2), 91–114.

Hankerson, M. (2019, March 20). Report claim Virginia Beach and Richmond are the most gentrified cities in the state. Virginia Mercury.

Hantman, J. L. (1990). Between Powhatan and Quirank: Reconstructing Monacan Culture and History in the Context of Jamestown. American Anthropologist, 92(3), 676–690. JSTOR.

Lassiter, M. (2013). The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South. Princeton University Press.

Mahon, K., Hannu, L. T., Huttunen, R., Boyle, T., & Sjølie, E. (2020). What is Educational Praxis? In Pedagogy, Education, and Praxis in Critical Times. Springer.

Min, D. S. (2015, May 2). Public Square: Why is Richmond still segregated? Richmond Times-Dispatch. segregated/article_36adef52-4db0-55c7-aefb-9fbcb5b598d8.html

Mullins Crislip, M. (n.d.). Richmond Racial Equity Essays. Housing Is the Root of Wealth Inequality. Retrieved September 6, 2022, from

Peck, J. (2005). Struggling with the Creative Class. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(4), 740–770.

Reed, A. (2018, September 4). The Trouble With Uplift | Adolph Reed. The Baffler.

Soares, L. A. (2012). A Bold Promise: Black Readjusters and the Founding of Virginia State University [Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects]. William & Mary.

Walsh, L. S. (2001). The Chesapeake Slave Trade: Regional Patterns, African Origins, and Some Implications. The William and Mary Quarterly, 58(1), 139–170. JSTOR.

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Artwork by student intern for Pollination program
Artwork by student intern for Pollination program

"We are more powerful than ever before, but have very little idea what to do with all that power. Worse still, humans seem to be more irresponsible than ever. Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep us company, we are accountable to no one. We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction." Yuval Noah Harari 

The Canadian geographer Jamie Peck describes the inability of people to imagine alternatives to existing economic, political, and social relations as the critical impediment to addressing the underlying causes of poverty and ecological degradation, as reflected in what Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess referred to as shallow ecology. Shallow ecological thinking aligns with the prevailing utilitarian pragmatism of short-term business interest with an atomized vision of nature and society as mere resources for economic production. Shallow ecology is mainly concerned with addressing the harmful environmental effects of industry and how this impacts human interest. Shallow ecology focuses on "sustainable" practices like recycling and green technologies. While these activities are fine, they neglect the underlying causes of environmental problems. 

Maya Scholar Audelino Sac Coyoy describes culture as the development of practices that enable people to meet their material, psychological and spiritual needs in the place where they live. The cultural norms and values shared with people around the globe were developed over centuries of conquest and competition for resources. Increasingly, scientists are expressing the urgent need to reduce human impacts on the Earth's biological systems. "While the necessary technical solutions are now very well understood, the social process of developing, refining, and implementing those solutions through social, cultural, behavioral, and policy change remains beyond current scientific understanding and technical capacity" (Kaaronen, Waring, Mulder, 2022). 

The Deep Ecology Education Program (DEEP) is engaged in activities to encourage people to imagine something better. DEEP advocates for an understanding of nature that appreciates the value of biological diversity and a sense that each living thing is dependent on the existence of other creatures in a complex web of interrelationships that is the natural world. Behind each project and programming activity is the mission of developing the power to achieve cultural change. DEEP activities are a vehicle for introducing ecological thinking to members of Rotarian clubs in the suburbs and young people putting on punk shows in the city. 

In April, DEEP hosted the Climate Solutions Workshop facilitated by Dr. Tamara Shapior Ledley. Dr. Ledley has worked as a Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow to make climate education efforts scalable and financially sustainable. Participants utilized the En-ROADS policy simulation model to test different possible energy transition scenarios. En-ROADS is a policy simulation model "carefully grounded in the best available science, and has been calibrated against a wide range of existing integrated assessment, climate, and energy models." [Climate Interactive website] was developed by Professor John Sterman at MIT, Climate Interactive, Ventana Systems, and MIT Sloan.  

April also witnessed the inaugural events in The ALLEY. The ALLEY is a transformative space to foster community focused on technology and social development in a living universe. During the last month, DEEP has partnered with Classical Revolution RVA, a nonprofit bringing classical music to the masses, for an April Awareness event highlighting the human relationship with the environment. Other events included the Terripan X festival celebrating cultural pluralism represented in American music and the flagship event Rally in The ALLEY for Climate Action. A student-organized event organizing punk musicians for social change. 

In May, DEEP will engage in the first partnership with a Rotary club to install a pollinator garden in a local school. The organizing objective behind community outreach around pollinator gardens is to encourage social organizations to adopt ecological sustainability as an engagement priority. We hope this will be the first of many pollinator gardens to be installed. Over the summer, we will have a crew of interns working on curriculum enhancement activities for k-12 to relate the gardens with classroom activities.  



Harari, Yuval N. ( 2015). Sapiens: a brief history of humankind. New York: Harper

Peck, Jamie ( 2021) Contradictory Cohabitations?

Kaaronen, R. O., Borgerhoff Mulder, M., & Waring, T. (2022, May 4). Applying Cultural Evolution to Address Climate and Environmental Challenges.  

Community Pollination with DEEP in The ALLEY
Community Pollination with DEEP in The ALLEY
Connections across generations and geography
Connections across generations and geography


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Thank you for supporting our Deep Ecology Education Program (DEEP). The foundation of our program is the knowledge that technology alone will not solve the underlying issues generating climate change. We believe that increasing the resiliency of communities to mitigate and adapt to changes requires behavioral change. Specifically, we need to address the preferenced role of individualism, competition, and materialism in our society and promote the values of cooperation, relationship, and ecology.


The Deep Ecology program empowers individuals to become active agents of cultural transformation. A critical issue that we have detected in our organizing around climate adaptation concerns the political scale of the problem and possible solutions. Climate change is occurring globally, and much of the conversations revolve around governments' actions transferring the locus of control away from individuals and their communities. Increasingly, we find students demonstrating either despondency or anger concerning the future of society, leading to avoidance or apathy.   As an empowerment organization, we understand that change is the sum of individual empowered actors. Therefore, the focus of our program is to generate engagement activities that demonstrate roles that people may play in achieving structural and personal change.


Over the last quarter, students have participated in weekly meetings to plan community-building actions, network with other organizations, and bring educational opportunities to the community. An example was the recent presentation by Richmond City Council members concerning the political obstacles to legislating policies to reduce single-use plastics.


Another example of the work realized by DEEP participants was Rally in the Ally for Climate Action. The event was a day-long punk music festival attended by over 500 people on Halloween Eve. The event's purpose was to contest corporate control over our mind, body, and spirit by promoting community. Students produced Zines and T-Shirts to promote the values of community action and raise funds for our campaign to protect pollinators.


DEEP participants realized a month-long social media campaign to raise awareness about the problems of single-use plastics leading up to a challenge day. Students set up in public spaces during the challenge to encourage people to drop off their plastic containers, which they filled with potting soil to germinate local pollinator plants.   Participants are encouraged to care for the plants until they are collected again in a few months, when they will be used in community pollinators gardens.


The focus of the last quarter has been to encourage reflection that social change is more than mobilizing. It is about organizing sustained efforts to develop the power to achieve structural change. An event is like planting the seed that requires strategic planning and continued action to sprout.


The focus of the next quarter will concern raising awareness about the crisis of pollinator extinction. The DEEP program will encourage community service organizations such as Rotary to partner with community groups to promote local action to address global issues. We invite your participation in our weekly meetings on Wednesday afternoons or participate in one of our upcoming community action events.

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Highland Support Project

Location: Richmond, VA - USA
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