A Center for Contemplative Ecology

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Earth Responders 2020 Archive

Earth Responders

Resilience Activism at Work

Earth Responders empowers activists in finding pathways for social justice and ecologically restorative land stewardship, regenerative community, and resilient cultural renewal. With richly experiential earth centered learning, community service, support for innovative projects, this project is an emergent and emergency response to the immense challenges now present on the Earth.

With the continuation of pandemic mandates, Earth Responders in 2021 will engage in a primary focus on regenerative agriculture, food growing, food security, food sovereignty, and plant medicine in order to engage participants working on site in truly “essential” business.

The intersectionality of climate and ecological restoration is intricately interconnected with social restoration and justice. A collaborative approach among organizations is needed to bring these related concerns together and to demonstrate a model that is scalable.

Earth Responders is an initiative with deep regard and connection for the spiritual intelligence of Earth.

Phase 1 & 2 of the Earth Responders Service Residency took place on site at Metta Earth Institute in 2020, and we are preparing for the next phase on site in Spring, Summer, and Autumn 2021. Learning from the implementation of Phase 1 and 2, Phase 3 will start to scale the model at different sites with aligned place-based organizations.


Regenerative Agriculture

With the crisis of a global pandemic, the focus of Earth Responders in the foreseeable future needs to align with state mandates requiring that only “essential” work and businesses are allowed.  These include agriculture and food security endeavors, as well as health.

  • Carbon Farming
  • Essentials of Soil: Composting, Cover Cropping, & Fungi
  • Bee Keeping
  • Animal Care
  • Rotational Grazing & Holistic Management
  • Biodynamic & Organic Farming & Gardening
  • Companion Planting
  • Wild Edibles, Foraging, & Sustainable Wildcrafting
  • Farm to Plate: Food Harvesting, Preparation, & Preservation
  • Raw & Fermented Foods: Kombucha, Kimchi, Pickles
  • Dairy, Kefir, Yogurt, & Cheese

Plant Medicine

As essential in the global crisis as food security, plant medicine and herbal healing hold a core place in alleviating suffering. As economic and social systems destabilize, collapse, many traditions of plant medicine knowledge bring great healing potential and offer an abundant contribution to well-being.

Earth Responders is working with BIPOC collaborators on a project called FreePharm, which engages Earth Responders in growing, harvesting, and creating plant medicine to distribute to those in need.

  • Wild Herbs, Foraging, & Sustainable Wildcrafting
  • Cultivation of herbs in gardens
  • Mushrooms & fungi
  • Herbal Tea Harvest & Preparation
  • Herbal salve and oil preparations
  • Vinegars, infusions, decoctions

Holistic Permaculture

Permaculture is an emerging worldview and multidisciplinary design science that addresses global issues with a holistic, systems approach.

Earth Responder sites embody sanctuary for shifts in thinking and practical solutions.

  • Permaculture Ethics & Principles
  • The Permaculture Flower as a World View
  • Designing with Nature
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Site Analysis, Assessment, and Design
  • Polycultures & Guilds
  • The Use of Tools, Techniques, and Technologies in Balance with Life


Deep connection with nature and re-skilling in regenerative processes brings greater sensitivity and healing into agricultural enterprises.

  • Forest Ecology
  • Edible Food Forests
  • Mushroom Cultivation
  • Natural First Aid and Wild Medicinals
  • Wild Food Foraging for Edibles
  • Tool Sharpening and Use
  • Natural Fiber Crafting: Cordage & Baskets
  • Knots, Tarps, & Wild Encampments
  • Bow Drill Fire-making
  • Backcountry Food Preservation
  • Wilderness Ethics
  • Ecopsychology Principles
  • Wild Questing Process
  • Chaos & Creativity
  • Wilderness Leadership
  • Plant & Animal Communication


* The bolded topics are essential and need to be taught by BIPOC facilitators.

Regenerative Community Living

Community resiliency is a response to the growing social and environmental crises facing our world. Sustainable community design and practice provides a rich immersion experience to explore whole and healthy communities. Activating systems of economics and governance, biomimicry and natural design, land stewardship, and social justice rejuvenates our communities with deeper sustainability.

  • Cultural Cosmologies: A Study of Past & Present Cultures in Deep Connection with Nature
  • BIPOC Perspectives *
  • Land Access Issues for Regenerative Community (Reparation, Rematriation, & Pathways for Healing Land Oppressions) *
  • Designing with Nature
  • Core Processes Of Community Building
  • Visions, Missions, & Covenants: Refreshing Social Structures
  • Intentional Community Models: Ecovillage, Community Land Trusts, & Cohousing
  • Transition Towns
  • Regenerative Economics: Coops, Barter, Guilds, & Gift Economies
  • Creating Authentic Ceremony & Ritual
  • Creating Sanctuary, Group Safety & Ethics
  • Communication Processes: Co-Listening, Non-Violent Communication, & Way of Council
  • Leadership Models
  • Forms of Activism
  • Power, Privilege, Oppression, & Rank
  • Cultural Safety *

Yoga Meditation

Yoga is rooted in the understanding that everything is interconnected – earth, water, fire, air, space, soil, animals, plants, cosmos, and all beings. Activists stretch body and mind to soften and expand edges, building resilience and flexibility. Practices of yoga and meditation at the river, in the forests, the gardens, and with the animals bring integration of person with Earth. These practices enrich the experience of life. When we are quiet inside, our eyes are open to the vibrancy that surrounds us. This is an opportunity to embody these practices and the contemplative ways of nature, wildness, and farm life.

  • Morning Yoga & Meditation Practice
  • Embodiment Principles & Processes
  • Breathing Practices: Hive Mind, Breath of Joy, & Sounding Breath
  • Sitting, Walking, and Work Meditations
  • Drishti Eye Gaze, Earth Savasana, & other Metta Earth Yoga Practices
  • Deep Ecology & Yoga Philosophy
  • Green Yoga as Environmental Activism
  • Circle Yoga & Partner Yoga
  • Posture Practices with Nature: River, Trees, & Rocks


Russell and Gillian will be the primary guides for this year’s Earth Responders session, largely due to the pandemic and needing to keep our leadership circle simple. We are considering inviting one farm couple to join us as support staff. We will invite guest presenters in through online sessions, as well as offer selected webinars, talks, and films.

Gillian Kapteyn Comstock

Co-Director of Metta Earth Institute

Gillian Kapteyn Comstock, MA, is the founding co-director of Metta Earth Institute and the Metta Earth project, which integrates regenerative farming, contemplative practices, community living, and sustainability education. Gillian offers mentoring, program facilitation, and leadership trainings.

As a holistic psychotherapist, certified permaculture designer, and advanced yoga guide, she synthesizes disciplines to support cultural renewal. She is dedicated to creating sanctuaries for others to experience vibrant presence.

With a passion for discovering the wild in mind, body, and earth, she has led yoga retreats, wilderness quests, and trainings in nature sanctuaries around the world.

For the last dozen years Gillian has intertwined this work with grounding in regenerative agriculture and focalizes this in the care of gardens and greenhouses, carbon farming and grazing processes with Icelandic sheep, Milking Shorthorn cows, and heritage breed chickens, as well as the growing and wildcrafting of herbal teas and medicines.

For more than two decades she has been a participant in the Assisi Institute community, which engages in a highly dynamic interdisciplinary investigation of Jungian psychology, creative process, mythology, and the new sciences.

A mother of three adult children and grandmother of five, Gillian has lived a life immersed in cooperative community, the gift economy, and innovative social processes resonate with natural systems and wild nature.

Russell Comstock

Russell Comstock

Co-Director of Metta Earth Institute

Russell has given his life to living, learning, and loving. As stepfather for thirty years, Russell is dedicated to fathering, family, and community life. Always moved by the soul of earth, he holds an MA in Contemplative and Ecological Leadership and a BA in Human Ecology.

A practitioner of yoga for more than twenty years, he is certified in both Interdisciplinary and Jivamukti Yoga, and brings to all his teaching a spirit of embodied devotion. Russell is a founding member of the Green Yoga Association and serves on the Green Yoga Council. With extensive experience directing programs in wilderness, adventure, and experiential education, Russell integrates a steady intention to help humans connect more compassionately with earth and with each other.

He has trained as a quest and wilderness guide with Earth Rise Foundation, School of Lost Borders, and Outdoor Leadership Training Seminars. He has been a nationally certified Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) for many years, and now maintains a Wilderness First Responder certification. He has recently completed a handbook called: Metta Earth Yoga – Contemplative Ecological Practices for a Sustainable Future.

Our intention is to contribute to a growing movement of resilience activism through land stewardship, regenerative community, and cultural renewal. We hope to expand the number of sites for Earth Responder activism. Possible sites to collaborate with would be any places that have quarantine capacity, especially since the current pandemic is creating many levels of uncertainty. This may include places such as camps, boarding schools, and colleges that have commercial kitchens, sleeping accommodations, and meeting spaces. In the future we plan to have much greater outreach for BIPOC communities to have land access on various sites.

Apply for Spring, Summer, and Fall 2021 Sessions below: application link goes to google forms




  • Fee for each session is $2500- $5000 (sliding scale) for 10 weeks
  • 2 BIPOC full scholarships
  • Additional scholarships (beyond sliding scale) are need based

Be Part of a Gift Economy Project

Metta Earth is interested in economic processes that create paradigm CHANGE. We would like Earth Responders to explore forms of reciprocity and collaboration versus modern capitalism. Tapping into the wisdom of earth connected cultures, we see this as a form of radical activism, a change of narrative from the current systems that are creating enormous social injustices. Inspired by a holistic focus on community, we want to actualize regenerative processes together.


6-7:15 Morning Practice (yoga asana, pranayama, sitting meditation, and/or other

contemplative practices)

7:15-8 Transition & Breakfast

8-9 Attunement, Check-in & Morning Hands Work

9-11 Experiential Learning Work Period

11-12 Experiential Learning Work Period (includes midday farm chores) (Dinner Team)

11-12:30 Farm to Plate Meal Making (Lunch Team)

12:30-1:30 Lunch & Seminar Topic

1:30-2 Lunch Clean-up & Community Care (Lunch Team)

2-4 Open Time

4-5:30 Experiential Seminar

5:30-6:30 Experiential Learning Work Period (includes evening farm chores) (Lunch


5:30-7 Farm to Plate Meal Making (Dinner Team)

7:00-8:00 Dinner ~ breakout in open meal gatherings

8:00-8:30 Clean-up & Community Care (Dinner Team)

8:30-9:30 Experiential seminar, open events, discussions, films, personal reflections, or

personal space options


  • 2 weeks hermitage retreat with packaged meals. Social distancing & masks during community times
  • 8 weeks in the Metta Earth “pod” without these protocols
  • Staying on site and in surrounding outside landscapes
  • All sessions have small groups to allow for adequate quarantine protocols, especially in the coldness of spring


Three 10 week sessions, each with a theme in concert with the prime focus of regenerative agriculture.SPRING: April 4-June 12, 2021 Holistic Permaculture Design Limited to 4 participants, each in one of our 4 yurts SUMMER: June 20-August 28, 2021 Regenerative Community Design Limited to 8 participants, each in one of our 4 yurts, 4 wall tents AUTUMN: September 5-November 13, 2021 Rewilding Design Limited to 8 participants, each in one of our 4 yurts, 4 wall tents (shared yurts in coldness of autumn)


  • Three 10 week sessions, each with a theme in concert with the prime focus of regenerative agriculture
    • Spring: April 4-June 12 Holistic Permaculture Design
    • Summer: June 20-August 28 Regenerative Community Design
    • Autumn: September 5-November 13 Rewilding Design
  • Note: for the week in between each session, it is possible to stay on site for a work immersion with no fee.
  • Includes: (see schedule for details)
    • 4 hours/day of experiential learning work
    • 2 hours/day of cooperative farm to plate meal making
    • 2-4 hours/day experiential seminars
    • 6 days/week
    • Sunday Open Flow Day

“I have found a grounded sense of purpose in the Earth Responders community at Metta Earth. It has been revitalizing to respond to the needs of our environment and society collectively. This work is urgent and necessary.” -Leo Ashkar Heikkila

“I experience the Earth Responders project at Metta Earth as a community that catalyzes inner transformation and connection to the land.” -Juliana

“The Earth Responders project has radically altered the way in which I live my life and connect with the world around me. Being here has allowed me to find my place in this world, to dig in, and to take responsibility from there.” -Christopher Potter



The Change the World Kids are dedicated to making the world a better place by working without charge to help individuals in our community and organizations and environments all over the world.

Our goal is to assist individuals in need, work to improve our communities, and steward the natural world in which we live. We initiate humanitarian projects to create a more just, safe, and sustainable world, and environmental projects to strengthen resilience and biodiversity, locally and globally. While doing so, we learn life-skills and offer challenges that have changed our lives, our families, and our communities. Annually we provide over 8,000 hours of local help and 3,900 hours of environmental and humanitarian work in our global community.

Our collaboration with Earth Responders consists of:

  • Field Sites for Earth Responders
  • Service Activism
  • Funds to support low income demographic youth ages 14-28 in participation with Earth Responder programs
  • Cultural Safety Training (BIPOC facilitated)
  • Linking earth works projects around the state with changemaker/Earth Responder groups.


Permaculture Solutions works to develop ecologically diverse and nutrient dense landscapes for humans and habitat.

Our collaboration with Earth Responders consists of:

  • Onsite permaculture guidance/training for Earth Responders with social distancing
  • Online permaculture support, guidance, and supervision


BALE (Building A Local Economy) is a community resource center for local economy initiatives in the White River Valley of Vermont; we are intentionally multi-issue in focus and multi-dimensional in our programmatic work. At core, our vision is to build a sustainable culture that can foster the economic and ecological capacity in our communities to thrive, even as the external forces of climate disruption – driven by an economy and culture of dominance and systemic scarcity – threatens our existence as a species. Our work is focused on appropriate scale, valuing the commons, and creating community-driven assets. BALE sees its work, along with many other inspiring collaborators, as building new resilient models grounded in a new story of how we live on the Earth.

Our collaboration with Earth Responders consists of:

  • Engagement and support for local and bioregional youth leadership though networking and skills development leveraging the Changemaker Circle (youth and elders in active wisdom seeking), Change the World Kids chapter, Environmental Justice Law Society and other youth-led collaborations
  • Support statewide through activist and culture and spirit-based networks


Salvation Farms reduces farm fresh food loss and increases local food access through the responsible management and use of Vermont’s surplus crops. Our mission is to build increased resilience in Vermont’s food system through agricultural surplus management by fostering collaborative, cross-sector partnerships that create efficient management practices for Vermont’s farm surplus through the engagement and utilization of available resources, skills and knowledge. We are guided by the philosophy that farms are, were, and always will be our salvation: small, diversified farms are the cornerstones of healthy, wholesome and stable communities.

Our collaboration with Earth Responders consists of:

  • Gleaning supervision for Earth Responders volunteering on farms with surplus
  • Connecting Earth Responders with gleaning partners for volunteering on farms with surplus
  • Technical support for surplus management at Earth Responder sites
  • Collaborative planning in future expansion and rollout of Earth Responder pods in Vermont


EcoVillage at Ithaca is part of a global movement of people creating positive solutions to the social, environmental and economic crises our planet faces. We are part of a local community that continually innovates and cooperates to create a socially just and sustainable local economy.

Our collaboration with Earth Responders consists of:

  • Planning, development, and preparation for Autumn 2020 (Phase 2) Earth Responders Residency similar to Phase 1 at Metta Earth.
  • Already planning to run a tuition-based program for college-age students (called Resilient Earth Corps,) focused on building personal, community and planetary resilience. Earth Responders would be offered as a separate track, but youth in both programs would benefit from the other.
  • Program admin support, to increase webinar/online presence and technology to support online learning and online community connectivity
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