Get to know one of the SCORAI bloggers Ashley Colby

I’d like to contribute to SCORAI’s blog series to explore issues related to my work in a more informal space. As researchers we don’t often have opportunities to publish ideas-in-progress, but my hope is that that I can do this here, and I look forward to receiving constructive feedback from the SCORAI community.

My work is finely intertwined with my life and livelihood, which has taken an unorthodox path. After college and before graduate school I committed to travelling as much of the world as I could manage. I ended up travelling to over 35 countries. I then returned to academia, enrolling in a PhD program at Washington State University, earning my degree in 2018. My time at WSU taught me the theory of Environmental Sociology, but I knew I had to find a way to most leverage my knowledge into real world action and social change.

In 2016 I moved with my husband and two young daughters to Uruguay, in South America, a couple years before I finished my degree. The idea was a life as an experiment. Can I use my research knowledge, in combination with the local, rural knowledge of Colonia, Uruguay, to live a low-carbon life that is satisfying, healthy, and sustainable?

 At that same time I am experimenting with my own livelihood, I am also committed to teaching, research, activism and outreach. I not only engage in outreach and activism here in Uruguay with networks of people exploring sustainable livelihoods, I teach students from North America through experiential learning (, and publish research on my findings of sustainable living.

An important theme in my research findings is that while environmentalists of the Global North are searching frantically for solutions amongst scientists and other researchers, marginalized communities (like the small-scale family farms I live amongst in Uruguay) are already exploring and living the work of creating a sustainable future. 

Part of my activism is standing in solidarity with these communities, and amplifying the work that they do. Sometimes this work is practical activities like agroecology and carbon farming. Sometimes it is the less-obvious work of building community and social structures for sharing and circular economies. On this blog, I hope to regularly explore my findings, and to imagine ways in which these ways of living might be adapted to the Global North.  

My specific point of view comes from being a person with a foot in two worlds. I remain actively engaged in the community of environmentalists of the Global North (I am one of them!), and plan to contribute to the ongoing body of work exploring sustainability from a research perspective. But I also live in a community of practitioners from the Global South, and humbly accept local. embedded knowledge, which never ceases to impress me. My hope is being able to translate from one world to another, insights, knowledge and practices we can all explore and adapt to our own lives and social structures.