The Vitality Triangle
Navigating Just and Regenerative Transitions with Ecosystem Awareness
Keywords:regenerative economics, environmental justice, community development, systemic trauma, climate, resilience, (r)evolutionary power
How can we navigate complex power dynamics in our every-day interactions, while sourcing our collective powers for just transitions to equitable, regenerative economies? When in the course of planetary crises, how do we harness the powers of the earth and find our way forward through conditions of precarity, under the pressure of necessity, into a future in which we can all flourish? How can we expand our toolkits with guidance born of ancient wisdom, intersectional social movements, and personal praxis?
This article explores how an inner-compass, the “Vitality Triangle,” can help us cultivate ecosystem awareness as we navigate from the life-threatening conditions characterizing our current geological epoch towards just and flourishing futures. Informed by diverse lineages of thought and action and shaped by the authors’ experiences navigating just transitions, the Vitality Triangle is not a new theory. Rather, it is a practical, synthetic framework that directs us to well-established practices, methods and traditions that can help us navigate planetary crises by living our questions while embodying, embedding, and emplacing three principles of regenerative vitality in living systems: liberty, reciprocity, and integrity. Through a review of challenges we face in our planetary moment, stories from practice, and reflections on the origins, practical application, and pragmatic possibilities of the Vitality Triangle, the authors posit that this vital tool can guide us in cultivating the collective awareness and (r)evolutionary power required to repair harm, regenerate well-being, and co-create the world anew.
Akwesasne Notes (Ed.). (2005). Basic call to consciousness. Native Voices.
Altvater, E., Crist, E. C., Haraway, D. J., Hartley, D., Parenti, C., & McBrien, J. (2016). Anthropocene or capitalocene?: Nature, history, and the crisis of capitalism (J. W. Moore, Ed.; 1st edition). PM Press.
Andrus, M. (2021). Brothers in the beloved community: The friendship of Thich Nhat Hanh and Martin Luther King Jr. Parallax Press.
Boulding, E. (1990). Building a global civic culture: Education for an interdependent world (Reprint edition). Syracuse University Press.
brown, adrienne maree. (2017). Emergent strategy: Shaping change, changing worlds (Reprint edition). AK Press.
Boggs, G. L. (2007, June 15). Seeds of change. Bill Moyers Journal. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog/2007/06/seeds_of_change.html
Boggs, G. L., & Kurashige, S. (2012). The next American revolution: Sustainable activism for the twenty-first century. University of California Press.
Campt, D. D. W. (2020). Compassion transforms contempt: A Black dialogue expert’s advice for white progressives on down-revving Anger, creating connections...and maybe changing the world. I AM Publications.
Capra, F. (2005). Speaking nature’s language: Principles for sustainability. In M. K. Stone & Z. Barlow (Eds.), Ecological literacy: Educating our children for a sustainable world (pp. 18–29). University of California Press.
Carrington, D. (2016, August 29). The Anthropocene epoch: Scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/29/declare-anthropocene-epoch-experts-urge-geological-congress-human-impact-earth
Chapple, K., & Zuk, M. (2016). Forewarned: The use of neighborhood early warning systems for gentrification and displacement. Cityscape, 18(3), 109–130. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26328275
Cooperrider, D. L., & Whitney, D. K. (2005). Appreciative inquiry a positive revolution in change. Berrett-Koehler.
Cunningham, D. (2021). Awareness Based Systems Change and Racial Justice. Journal of Awareness-Based Systems Change, 1(2), 9–13. https://doi.org/10.47061/jabsc.v1i2.1590
Daly, H. E. (Ed.) (1973). Toward a steady-state economy. W.H. Freeman.
Embery, J. (2018, November 10). Cup of Carver: George Washington Carver and the biodynamic movement. Biodynamic Association. https://www.biodynamics.com/blog/cup-carver-george-washington-carver-and-biodynamic-movement
Emery, M., & Flora, C. (2006). Spiraling-up: Mapping community transformation with community capitals framework. Community Development, 37(1), 19–35. https://doi.org/10.1080/15575330609490152
Forester, J. F. (1999). The Deliberative Practitioner: Encouraging Participatory Planning Processes (illustrated edition). The MIT Press.
Fullilove, M. T. (2004). Root shock: How tearing up city neighborhoods hurts America, and what we can do about it (1st ed). One World/Ballantine Books.
Fullilove, M. T., & Wallace, R. (2011). Serial forced displacement in American cities, 1916–2010. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 88(3), 381–389. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-011-9585-2
Ghaye, T. (2010). A reflective inquiry as participatory and appreciative action and reflection. In N. Lyons (Ed.), Handbook of Reflection and Reflective Inquiry: Mapping a Way of Knowing for Professional Reflective Inquiry (pp. 553–569). Springer Science + Business Media, LLC.
Greenberg, M. T., & Turksma, C. (2015). Understanding and watering the seeds of compassion. Research in Human Development, 12(3–4), 280–287. https://doi.org/10.1080/15427609.2015.1068060
Haines, S. (2019). The politics of trauma: Somatics, healing, and social justice. North Atlantic Books.
Hamilton, C. (2004). Growth fetish (First Edition). Pluto Press.
Hanh, T. N., & Khong, S. C. (2002). Be free where you are. Parallax Press.
Harjo, L. (2019). Spiral to the stars: Mvskoke tools of futurity. University of Arizona Press.
Harvey, D. (2009). Social Justice and the City (Revised). University of Georgia Press.
Hawken, P. (2007). Blessed unrest: How the largest movement in the world came into being and why no one saw it coming. Penguin Group (USA).
Hern, M. (2017). What a city is for: Remaking the politics of displacement (Reprint edition). The MIT Press.
Hes, D., & Plessis, C. du. (2014). Designing for hope: Pathways to regenerative sustainability (1 edition). Routledge.
Jacobs, F. (2019). Black feminism and radical planning: New directions for disaster planning research. Planning Theory, 18(1), 24–39. https://doi.org/10.1177/1473095218763221
June, L. (2022). Architects of abundance: Indigenous food systems, Indigenous land management, and the excavation of hidden history. [Dissertation, University of Alaska]. https://www.lylajune.com/phd-dissertation
Kimmerer, R. W. (2014). Returning the gift. Minding Nature: Center for Humans & Nature, 7.2. https://www.humansandnature.org/returning-the-gift
Kimmerer, R. W. (2015). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants (First Paperback Edition). Milkweed Editions.
Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. (1993). Building communities from the inside out: A path toward finding and mobilizing a community’s assets. The Asset-Based Community Development Institute, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University.
LaDuke, W. (2009). Sustainable tribal economies: A guide to restoring energy and food sovereignty in Native America. Honor the Earth.
Lorde, A. (2007). The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house (1979). In Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches By Audre Lorde (Crossing Press Feminist Series edition) (pp. 110–113). Ten Speed Press.
Lovins, L. H., Wallis, S., Wijkman, A., Fullerton, J., & Raworth, K. (2018). A finer future: Creating an economy in service to life (New edition). New Society Publishers.
Lung-Amam, W. S., & Dawkins, C. (2020). The power of participatory story mapping: Advancing equitable development in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Community Development Journal, 55(3), 473–495. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdj/bsy064
Macy, J., & Johnstone, C. (2012). Active hope: How to face the mess we’re in without going crazy. New World Library.
Meadows, D. H. (2008). Thinking in systems: A primer (D. Wright, Ed.). Chelsea Green Publishing.
McSorley, M., Botchwey, N., Hyde, A., & Loukissas, Y. (2021, October 7). “Wise” resilience planning: Tools for advancing reciprocal relationships and rapid action in Savannah, GA. Association of the Collegiate Schools of Planning Annual Conference, Virtual.
Meadows, D. H. (1997). Places to intervene in a system. Whole Earth. http://www.wholeearth.com/issue/2091/article/27/places.to.intervene.in.a.system
Meadows, D. H., Meadows, D. L., Randers, J., & Behrens, W. (1972). The limits to growth; a report for the Club of Rome’s project on the predicament of mankind (2d. ed). Universe Books.
Mihesuah, D. A., Hoover, E., & LaDuke, W. (2019). Indigenous food sovereignty in the United States: Restoring cultural knowledge, protecting environments, and regaining health. University of Oklahoma Press. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/du/detail.action?docID=5838903
Mohawk, J. (2010). Thinking in Indian: A John Mohawk reader (J. Barreiro, Ed.). Fulcrum Publishing.
Montgomery, D. R. (2012). Dirt: The erosion of civilizations (Second Edition, With a new preface). University of California Press.
Moore, J. W. (2017). The capitalocene, part I: On the nature and origins of our ecological crisis. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 44(3), 594–630. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2016.1235036
Muñoz, S., Walsh, E. A., Cooper, J. A., & Auerbach, J. (2021). Community-engaged regenerative mapping in an age of displacement and COVID-19. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 0(0), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2021.1978838
Nelson, M. K., & Shilling, D. (Eds.). (2018). Traditional ecological knowledge: Learning from indigenous practices for environmental sustainability. Cambridge University Press.
NPI. (2023b). West Area Plan. Neighborhood planning initiative of the city and county of Denver’s department of community planning and development. https://www.denvergov.org/files/assets/public/community-planning-and-development/documents/planning/plans/west_area_plan.pdf
Penniman, L., & Washington, K. (2018). Farming while Black: Soul Fire Farm’s practical guide to liberation on the land. Chelsea Green Publishing. https://www.chelseagreen.com/2018/how-to-end-a-food-apartheid/
Regenesis, R. (2016). Regenerative development and design: A framework for evolving sustainability (1 edition). Wiley.
Richardson, J., Mitchell, B., & Edlebi, J. (2020). Gentrification and disinvestment 2020 – NCRC. National Community Reinvestment Coalition. https://ncrc.org/gentrification20/
Rittel, H. W. J., & Webber, M. M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155–169. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01405730
Sachs, J. (1999). Twentieth-century political economy: A brief history of global capitalism. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 15(4), 90–101. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23607036
Scharmer, O. (2009). Theory u: Learning from the future as it emerges. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Scharmer, O., & Kaufer, K. (2013). Leading from the emerging future: From ego-system to eco-system economies (1st edition). Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Simpson, L. B. (2011). Dancing on our turtle’s back: Stories of Nishnaabeg re-creation, resurgence, and a new emergence. Arbeiter Ring Publishing.
Simpson, L. B. (2017). As we have always done: Indigenous freedom through radical resistance. University of Minnesota Press.
Suarez, C. (2018). The power manual: How to master complex power dynamics. New Society Publishers.
Thackara, J. (2017). How to thrive in the next economy: Designing tomorrow’s world today (Reprint edition). Thames & Hudson.
Tucker, I. B. (1995). Survey of economics. West Publishing Company. https://www.rrojasdatabank.info/scarcity.htm
United Frontline Table. (2020). A people’s orientation to a regenerative economy: Protect, repair, invest, and transform. https://climatejusticealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ProtectRepairInvestTransformdoc24s.pdf
Vogt, E. E., Brown, J., & Isaacs, D. (2003). The art of powerful questions: Catalyzing, insight, innovation, and action. Whole Systems Associates; Pegasus Communications [distributor]. https://umanitoba.ca/admin/human_resources/change/media/the-art-of-powerful-questions.pdf
Walsh, E. A., Lopez, E., Auerbach, J., DiEnno, C., Holguin, Y., Lopez, A., Makarewicz, C., Muñoz, S., Sanchez, J. V., & Slabaugh, D. (2023). Moving beyond gentrification: Regenerative mapping for geographies of radical resilience. In W. Curran & L. Kern (Eds.), Research Agenda for Gentrification. Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Walsh, E., & DiEnno, C. (2022, February 26). Valverde Movement Project: Mapping pathways to geographies of radical resilience. American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, Virtual / NYC. https://aag-annualmeeting.secure-platform.com/a/solicitations/19/sessiongallery/3565/application/13847
Walsh, E., & Lane, J. (2021). “Vitality Triangle Image” as presented in “a compass of collective powers.” https://yellowbrickways.medium.com/a-compass-of-collective-powers-74e5def4e4d2
Walsh, E., & Lane, J. (2022). “Vitality Triangle: Gazes of Ecosystem Awareness” as presented in “The Vitality Triangle: Practicing natural laws for a world where we all get to be alive, well, and free,” a session of a Research Community of Practice Event co-hosted by Presencing Institute and Alef Trust. [Graphic Image]. https://pi-research.in.howspace.com/elizabeth-walsh-jodi-lane-and-patricia-wilson
Wheatley, M. (1999). Leadership and the new science: Discovering order in a chaotic world. Berrett-Koehler.
WCED (1987). Our common future. Oxford University Press, USA.
Wisner, B. (1993). Disaster vulnerability: Scale, power and daily life. GeoJournal, 30(2), 127–140. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00808129
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Elizabeth Walsh, Rev. Jessica Abell
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.