Ecological democracy confronts a challenge of not only reconciling democracy and ecology, but doing so where human activities and their environmental consequences are increasingly global. Deliberative scholars dealing with these issues emphasise reflexive governance, involving the contestation of discourses, as part of the solution, mostly aimed at high-level institutions and intergovernmental cooperation. However, even at this level democracy demands responsiveness to the citizen. To this end, the paper explores citizen-level deliberation to inform possibilities for ecological democracy writ large, via a growing literature on deliberative governance and polycentrism. Different system levels are connected via ecologically reflexive capacity and the discursive conditions under which it is enhanced, including in small-scale minipublics. This understanding informs mechanisms for ‘scaling up’ deliberative quality to the wider public sphere via regulating the manipulation of public discourse. Minipublic deliberation, properly harnessed, can serve to decontaminate public debate of anti-reflexive strategic arguments and reshape public discourse. Such anti-reflexive strategies seek to shape the public will, specifically by de-emphasising ecology via intuitive arguments that short-cut public reasoning. Acting as discursive regulatory trustees, minipublics can improve reflexivity in the wider system via a nested polycentric approach that discursively connects citizens’ deliberation to the global system both horizontally and vertically.