Author Archives: martin brown

Now’s the time to share ideas about the future for people and nature

Having finally completed our HUMAN. NATURE. BUILT ENVIRONMENT Scale Jumping chapter together for the RESTORE WG5 publication yesterday , and then hosted a wonderful #ZoomRegenerative session last night that explored the regenerative mindful human-nature connection, this very relevant and timely article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nature is under pressure. Ecosystems are being degraded rapidly and a billion species are at risk of extinction. This is the shocking picture set out by an independent intergovernmental body, the Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The platform was established to make stronger connections between science and policy. Its view is that the only solution to the crisis is radical change in the way humans live.

Humans are deeply implicated in the crisis underpinned by the notion of the anthropocene, which is the time that humans have become the dominant impact on earth. This is highlighted in the current crises of a global pandemic, racial tensions and growing inequalities.

There is a lot of research on the impacts that human actions will have on the future of the planet. These range from carbon emissions leading to climate change through to plastic waste devastating ocean life. But there’s little research on what sort of future people want. This is even more true for understanding what a better future could look like for different people and in different contexts. Such stories of the future are important tools for decision-makers whose choices will bring about change.

The IPBES expert group on scenarios and models responded to this gap in positive stories of nature. We worked on creating visions that reflect the diverse values that nature holds for people. We also wanted these visions to be applicable in different contexts.

We started with a workshop in New Zealand in 2017, with 73 participants from 31 countries, representing all UN regions. Using a method developed from the Seeds of Good Anthropocenes project in South Africa, the participants identified “seeds” of change that they believed would be the start of a better future. These seeds were as diverse as displacing GDP growth as a metric and giving rivers legal standing, and as distinct as centres of distinction on indigenous and local knowledge and gene editing technologies.

Visions of the future

Seven radical visions of desirable nature futures emerged from this.

How the 7 desirable visions generated in the 2017 workshop in New Zealand formed the basis of the Nature Futures Framework that sets out three core values of nature: nature for nature, nature for society and nature as culture. These value perspectives build on the IPBES guidance on multiple values for nature. Authors’ own and images from Mary Brake, Reflection Graphics; Dave Leigh, Emphasise Ltd.; Pepper Lindgren-Streicher, Pepper Curry Design

Building from the visions, the expert group then developed the Nature Futures Framework. This is a simple way to show and talk about the ways in which nature has value for people:

● Nature for nature, in which nature has value in and of itself;

● Nature for society, in which nature is primarily valued for the benefits or uses people derive from it;

● Nature as culture, in which humans are perceived as an integral part of nature.

The framework aims to illustrate all the ways nature is appreciated. It’s intended to allow multiple voices to debate what a more desirable future for people and the planet could look like. A recent application of the framework with youth from around the world illustrated some common features of desirable futures. These included an emphasis on diverse community solutions, a reconnection with nature and a reconfiguration of the economic system to showcase what really is valuable for well-being.

Differences include how technology is employed in the future. This looks into whether it’s a central solution like energy and transport for example, in a hyper-connected world where everyone is educated about diverse cultures and places. It could also be a more locally diverse future that emphasises being in place and where innovation is based on indigenous and local knowledge. What these diverse futures show is not a “better or worse” future, but alternatives that can help inform decisions in the present. People have a diversity of relationships with nature. Only when this is appreciated can the world find its way to a better future.

A call to arms for participation

Reaching this global understanding requires buy-in and input from as many people around the world as possible. The newly constituted IPBES Task Force on Scenarios and Models is, therefore, calling on researchers and practitioners to contribute. They can take part in scenario processes or use the framework in their own exercises.

It is especially important to get participation from the African continent. The region is often marginalised in global environmental scenarios, despite its bio-cultural diversity. To reach as wide an audience as possible, the Nature Futures Framework’s paper on creating desirable futures has been translated into a range of languages under-represented in global research. These include AfrikaansArabicBembaisiZuluSetswanaShonaTwiWolof, and Yoruba.

Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was to be a “super year” for nature. Various global decisions that will shape the planet’s future were to be taken, including the Convention on Biological Diversity’s renegotiation of biodiversity targets. As these events have been postponed, and as the world seeks to recover from the pandemic, it is even more essential that decisions about the future consider humans’ diverse relationships with nature.

Such decisions can be supported by visions, scenarios and pathways that are collectively developed and made accessible to all interested stakeholders. New types of globally relevant scenarios are urgently needed to show what could be achieved and catalyse the interventions needed to move towards these more desirable futures.

A starting point can be registering as a stakeholder on the IPBES portal: https://ipbes.net/. Building a better future requires everyone’s buy-in. The scientific community is starting to realise how important it is to listen to voices from the ground. Without these voices, targets for the planet will remain out of reach.

Mindful Regenerative

#Mindful Regenerative. Vitality. Transparency. Reciprocity. Human Nature Connectivity … in business and in design.

Key words that sum up yesterdays awesome #ZoomRegenerative discussions prompted by inspiring talks from Joey 🌱 Pringle + Sonja Bochart

The next Zoom Regenerative is scheduled for 20th October 2020.

Regenerative Sustainability in Eight Graphics

This was an early access post for Regenerator Patrons.

Here are eight regenerative graphics and charts that have shaped, and are shaping, my sustainability thinking and may inspire others., There are two that I have created, inspired by regenerative thinking from others. Some concepts are a few years old now and well established but very powerful, others new, inspirational and provide deeper insights into regenerative sustainability 

For a Regenerative Worldview.We may (or may not) have left behind our Ego worldview, but in the Eco era (since Brundtland when we pledged not to compromised tomorrows generation) our key indicators are still heading in the wrong direction. A new mindset and approach, Seva, that sees our relationship and responsibilities as part of the planetary eco systems, not apart from. A worldview, whilst still core to indigenous cultures, is necessary to embrace actions needed to address the climate and ecological emergency we find ourselves in. (More)

For Regenerative Sustainability.It was Yvon Chouinard who said we should not use the word sustainability until we are giving more back than we take. This format appeared in FutuREstorative, based on many similar, earlier graphics, illustrates sustainability as a bridge, a tipping point between being degenerative and regenerative. (More)

For Regenerative Practitioners– The regenerative practitioner framework that commences with self actualising, something more and more regenerative built environment projects are embracing as they kick off, ensuring all project members are in the ‘regenerative’ mindset. (More)

For Regenerative Resources and Materials. This butterfly diagram, illustrating the Circular Economy approach from the Ellen MacArthur Foundationhas been called the most important diagram for sustainability.

For Regenerative Wellbeing… the New Economics Foundation five key elements to wellbeing, connecting, being active, taking notice, learning, and giving. 

ForRegenerative Communities.This excellent colourful graphic captures the vital elements in Rob Hopkins From What is to What Ifbook, along with a very good dose of Transition Town thinking …  

Regenerative Economics.Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economicshas captured the zeitgeist of the moment as we seek meaning in regenerative economics aligned to regenerative sustainability 

For Regenerative Futures.A summary from Roman Krznaric recent inspirational new book The Good Ancestor: How To Think Long Term in a Short-Term World

Coming Back: remembering and re-awakening our connection with earth

Such an inspiring Place presentation and discussion on zoom regenerative recently.  A huge thanks to all those involved. 

For me an immense takeaway was the concept of place having knowledge, and landscape as a web of knowledge, and the impact, both good and bad we have, on place, on land, on culture as we build. If we are really seeking to be ecologically robust, socially just and culturally rich then we do indeed need to readjust our regenerative compass.

We will revisit this theme as there is so much to learn and adapt within our regenerative practices.

The recording, text and other material can be found in the Zoom Regenerative dropbox 

There were some wonderful shares during and immediately following the session:

Wellama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUhEnaKfx0s

Allison page website:  – https://zakpage.com

and then …

… a  related book on my read list is Good Ancestors by https://www.romankrznaric.comwho was on a webinar a few days ago with Brian Enowho made the comment that we cannot understand time without understanding place. 

…  this appeared from the BBC Ideas page on a feed this morning – is it time to reassess our relationship with nature?– https://www.bbc.co.uk/ideas/videos/is-it-time-to-reassess-our-relationship-with-natur/p08l2xcb?playlist=made-in-partnership-with-the-open-university 

For Peats Sake …

Notes and thoughts from attending the informative XR For Peats Sake hosted by XR Morecambe Bay via Zoom yesterday evening, leading the event, Si Thomas, Peatland Restoration Officer, Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Key and important ‘peat’ messages from Si Thomas included

  • Over 40% of our green house gas emissions come from degraded peat
  • Restoring our peatland habitat would give 37% of the mitigation need to meet Paris Agreement by 2030

There were a number of Key Actions discussed, but the most important, in my opinion, was that of Education in respect of peat free compost, but perhaps more importantly awareness on peatlands negative and positive contribution to the carbon emergency we face.

When we think of carbon reduction (and we have to make some 10% reduction per annum to meet Paris Agreement) we think of using less fossil fuel, taking less plane based holidays, driving less, using less heating and offsetting through tree planting. We rarely think about improving the carbon capture of peatlands. This has to change.

Peatland plants and insects are as beautiful and important as the trees and biodiversity we find in forests and rewilded areas. And can be as vital to our own health and wellbeing, with the increasing biophilic recognition of the importance of fractals and natures patterns, even in miniature. (Ref Terrapin Bright Green forthcoming Biophilic Design & Complexity: A Toolkit for Working with Fractals)

During the writing FutuREstorative, I spent time walking and bothying in the Rannoch / Corrour Moor area in central Scotland, giving me time to appreciate both the beautiful and awesome landscapes of a healthy peat land area and the wonderful intricate detail of its biodiversity.

FutuREstorative extracts:

We will see protecting areas of wilderness and Habitat Exchange become part of the overall restorative sustainable development package, and a key element in our corporate social responsibilities. We now recognise and accept the significant and negative impact the built environment has placed on the natural environment over many decades; not only should we be addressing immediate impacts on a project by project basis, but we should also take positive action to protect other habitats in recognition of past damage and helping to heal the future. If we are serious about restorative sustainability, then habitat exchange – either physically, or through effective advocacy and/or offset programmes – should be seen as part of the cost of construction

As a recent Cambridge University shows, rewilding and restoration of land would create carbon sinks to sequester carbon – through, for example, an increase in forestry to 30% (closer to that of France and Germany) and restoration of 700,000 hectares of peatland – and in doing so make a significant contribution to the UK’s target of an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

Unfortunately UK peatlands are in a bad state of health, but they can be restored relatively cheaply and easily. Once the dominant vegetation, sphagnum moss, is returned, peatlands quickly begin absorbing carbon once again. A healthy bog also functions as an excellent water filter – an important aspect of sustainable water programmes, since 75% of our water catchment is in peatland areas. Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s natural carbon capture scheme provides opportunity for offsetting built environment carbon while making a positive contribution to Peatlands habitat restoration.

And for the beauty of peatlands and amazing characteristics of Spagnum Moss listen to A Pocket of Wind Resistance by Karine Polwart & Pippa Murphy

Links and videos shared during the For Peats Sake

For Peats sake XR Film

Repairing Peat Hags

Visualisation of carbon sequestration in temperate peatlands

Let Nature Help (Wildlife Trusts) Nature Based Solutions: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/Let%20Nature%20Help.pdf

Flow Country: https://www.theflowcountry.org.uk

The Carbon Farmer: https://www.thetopofthetree.uk/the-carbon-farmer

A New Frontier for City-Based Climate Action

Developed in partnership between the Carbon Neutral Cities AllianceBionova and Architecture 2030, the recently published City Policy Framework described as a new frontier for city climate action, to dramatically reduce embodied Carbon, provides guidance for cities considering policies that can deliver the highest impact within their geopolitical contexts and regulatory systems. Over 50 existing policies from leading cities have been evaluated, categorised, and scored according to their potential, cost efficiency, ease of implementation, and enforceability.

Embodied Carbon—the emissions released from materials during the construction of buildings and infrastructure—will be responsible for half of the carbon footprint of new structures between now and 2050. It is a substantial source of carbon emissions in cities that can be dramatically reduced through the legal and regulatory powers of zoning and land use policies. Some leading cities around the world have already begun to adopt and apply these policies, but for climate goals to be met, global implementation needs to be accelerated. 

Developed in partnership between the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, a collaboration of global cities working to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050; and Bionova Ltd., specialists in the carbon management of construction, and developer of One Click LCA, a carbon calculation tool; and Architecture 2030, a non-profit research organization with the mission to transform the global built environment into a central solution to the climate crisis. 

​For more information, read the full press release here.

Download the framework from here

Standing in the literal and virtual front lines for equality.

Within the closing pages of FutuREstorative I made the plea for a just sustainability …

(None of our) innovation, technology, biomimicry, biophilia or digital thinking will progress our sustainability performance if we do not have a matched and parallel improvement in equality, equity, diversity and justice. And now, as we strive for a 1.5°C cap on global warming and the attendant carbon reduction, we need to ensure that equity and equality remain at the top of every sustainability agenda.

There can be no sustainability in an unequal world. Indeed sustainability should embrace the three E’s of ecology, economy and equality.

As part of our sustainability journey, the language also needs to evolve – from one that is perhaps too combative, technical and confrontational to one that is mindful, and embraces a language of collaboration, sharing, care and love. There are signs that the language of business is changing as it incorporates more diverse, open and inclusive approaches.

I return to and close, for now, with one of the most important and powerful of the Living Building Challenge’s aims: the transition to a socially just, ecologically restorative and culturally rich future.

And, in the Black Lives Matters context I was impressed this week by the message to ILFI members from ILFI Board Chair Anthony Guerrero …

Achieving equity and racial justice demands standing in the literal and virtual front lines with our fellow Americans and global citizens, and saying “No More.”

Be courageous in this moment. Be as courageous as you are when designing a living building or living community. Be committed in this moment. At a certain point, the protests will stop—the media will move on—but your voice will still be needed: to plan, to organize, to vote, and to support change. 

RESTORD 2030

What if …. we applied all the good thinking on regenerative sustainability, regenerative economics and regenerative environments to a city as a means of emerging from the Covid 19 lockdown?

Welcome to RESTORD 2030

RESTORD is a vibrant small to medium sea board city, at the foot of the Central Mountains with a Mid-European climate. It has a population of 102,000.

Addressing the challenges that the 2020 Novel Corona virus Covid19 presented, RESTORD embraced regenerative economic thinking to shape the current city. It is now an exemplar of human, nature and built environment synergy. It is a city that is socially just, ecologically robust and culturally rich.

The approach taken by the city politicians, planners and officials was inspired by the work of the EU Cost Action RESTORE and the publications from 5 working groups. It embraced regenerative principles and definitions, mandated regenerative design, construction, facility operation and technologies and successfully scale jumped into an exemplary regenerative city. It embraced, and adapted, regenerative programmes such as the Living Building Challenge, Well Build Standard and Building with Nature. 

It has been and remains the subject of inspiration for research, student tours, business case studies, conferences and workshops.

RESTORD 2030 is founded on patterns that now govern development and infrastructure. The patterns, known as ‘leaves’ (as tree leaves), represent the growth and health of the city, they are system thinking based and fractal, each complementing and supporting  the other patterns, never limiting or over shadowing other patterns and allowed to emerge organically. (As in natural canopy spacing)

RESTORD’s regenerative economic approaches and growth emerged from application and adoption of the late 2010’s SDG, Preston Model localism and Doughnut Economics, never exceeding the cities ‘planetary’ capacity ceiling, or falling below its social threshold. However such application was only possible with regenerative leadership and city-wide regenerative culture.

Seeking to develop a closer connectivity with nature, in a move to avoid pre-covid disconnected health, biodiversity and productivity issues, RESTORD’s relationship with nature can be described as SEVA, doing the right things because it is the right thing to do, and firmly based on the 4 Laws of Ecology, with a biophilic human-nature centric symbiosis driving much of the cities thinking.

Education and re-training for all was key in moving RESTORD rapidly out from the Covid19 shutdown. Climate, Ecology and importantly Eco-Economic literacy was a mandatory curriculum subject for schools, universities and business alike.

A JUST city, RESTORD is proud of its equity, its heritage, stories, memories and ‘Sense of Place’ that are reflected across the city’s buildings, infrastructure and public places through its RESTORIED programme.

RESTORD is a fit city. Coming out of the Covid19 period many streets and highways were redesigned and repurposed for human powered access, on foot and on cycle, to address both health and air quality. Public places and parks were re purposed as health and social gathering venues, respecting social distancing, a move that enabled café, restaurant and health business to re-open swiftly in 2020 and to thrive.

RESTORD has embraced the nexus and balance between the built environment, health and food production, with all buildings now mandatory urban agriculture producers.

Shaping the growth of RESTORD is the smart grid of interconnected building data, driving and in turn informing its digital twin.

RESTORD’s regenerative economic, social and in particular ecological robust approaches have allowed it to successful weather the two other novel corona virus pandemics of the 2020’s

This then, is RESTORD 2030

Martin Brown April 29th 2020 Written as part of a COST RESTORE Exercise

Plastic: Are we good ancestors?

Plastic is the substance that has served as our most perfect container – and that now overwhelms our systems of containment.

Robert Macfarlane, Underland

Along with friends from the Longridge Environment Group I had the opportunity to co-view the Story of Plastic film recently courtesy of Chester and District FoE. The film was scheduled for box office cinema release but the Corona Virus has put paid to that.

The Story of Plastic travels around the globe, with time spent speaking with plastic sorters and zero waste activists mainly in Asia, and exposes a world wide seemingly unsurmountable catastrophe driven by corporate interests.

My overall feeling was that Plastic is one big social justice issue, that recycling is flawed. (Only 91% of plastic is effectively recycled) and that we really do need to understand the whole plastic life cycle story. In particular, understand how the fossil fuel and big chem industry is grooming those countries with poor waste facilities and regulations, with the false promise of a better world of plastic. This is in much the same way we in the west were groomed, way back in the 50’s and have been since, with promises of a throw away world, a world of Tupperware and of no more washing up.

A biochem corporate voice in the 50’s promoting plastic promise’s us ‘the best is yet to come’

The Story of Plastic exposes the sham of recycling, that the whole life cycle of plastic is only possible because we have poverty to deal with our throw away culture. Enabling us to make room for more. Whilst seemingly complying with laws in the west, there is disregard for environmental responsibility elsewhere – for example shampoo sold in ‘recyclable’ bottles here (for which manufacturers contribute towards recycling) – but is sold in un-recyclable sachets in Indonesia (prohibited in the west and for which manufactures make no contribution on cleaning up)

Maybe we have focused too narrowly on reducing and eliminating single use plastics – the use once and last forever plastics – such as straws, coffee stirrers and bottles, and so our actions need to go deeper.

The film concludes with hope, with respair emerging from the despair, in the shape of EPR, Extended Product Responsibility and a Circular Economy, soon to be embedded in EU and hopefully UK legislation, to varying degrees and effectiveness. Such legislation cannot come soon enough, and needs to be global.

One of the first sustainability pecha kucha presentations I made some 10+ years ago, entitled Waste is Stupid, looked at the ‘Design Requirements’ made in Cradle to Cradle (and then borrowed for FutuREStorative some ten years later) concluding with what if we could rethink the way we made things, what if construction generated no plastic waste, and what if we had no toxic (Red List) materials in our buildings. Sadly 10 years on we need to ask the same questions

Alongside this viewing I am currently re-reading Underland, A Deeptime Journey by Robert Macfarlane as part of the Emergence Magazines book reading club. Macfarlane makes a number of comments on plastic, but the most striking and concerning, is how will we be looked upon by future generations in a future deeptime, when the surviving strata level, unearthed by future archaeologists, representing our age is one of plastic, and as Macfarlane asks, Are we good ancestors?

Philip Larkin famously proposed that what will survive of us is love. Wrong. What will survive of us is plastic,

Robert Macfarlane, Underland

Story of Plastic Trailer Link

The Longridge Environment Group have a showing of The Story of Plastic on the 27th May

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Construction: the next normal

As construction along with other sectors emerges from varying degrees of Corona lockdown we have an opportunity, a rare opportunity and the only one we may have in our life times to shape the next normal. Across the globe, the lockdown has provided many with benefits and appreciation of wellbeing, of deeper connections within family, friends, communities and of nature. Indeed nature, with clear skies, louder bird song and cleaner air has given us a preview of what our world, and our lives could be like. Lucy Jones writing in the Guardian sums this up in “Noticing nature is the greatest gift you can get from lockdown”

What then, for construction and the built environment. I was asked just this week to comment on a number of bullet points that have underpinned many construction training modules. It struck me they represented the old normal, the pre-covid normal, and one that we cannot, do not want to, return to, but one that we have to work, collaboratively to embed as the next business as usual. Whilst areas of the built environment have made impressive and huge advances on professionalism, business responsibility, sustainability, wellbeing and quality, there is much much more to be done.

Here then are my thoughts for the next normal, influenced by gems from the recent Living Futures 20 online conference and the wonderful insights from my guests on the Zoom Regenerative (ZR) series (See Footer Note)

The Old Normal: Understanding Clients NEEDS not Wants – What will Add Value to their Business – going Beyond Construction Go beyond understanding – anticipating customer needs before they articulate them    *   Your Differentiator?  – Why YOU – They know You can Build. So what?

The Next Normal: Be equipped with your unique and comprehensive tool box that everyone in the business can use – A tool box of soft and hard tools that are regenerative, not just focused on reducing impact, one that that can be opened up and offered to clients as appropriate. Successful organisations are skilled and flexible in all leading approaches Educate everybody quickly. We can all be regenerators, and collaboratively enable & cultivate living places, buildings and systems that thrive.

The Old Normal: Price is King – How are your solutions delver Value for Money – Cost, Time and Carbon Reduction – Meet Construction 2025 Targets

The Next Normal: Price is no longer king, but a balance and blend of many success indicators. Construction 2025 targets have been eclipsed by other targets – from the SDG’s to Paris 1.5DegC to IPCC and RIBA 2030 Challenge to name a few. What does this new landscape mean to construction targets. We need to reimagine a new construction Value for Money

Coming out of lockdown 80% public in a poll what health and wellbeing priority over GDP, so what will this mean for buildings, offices, homes, staff, construction sites?
We need to learn how to count in carbon, to become carbon literate, and to know what the carbon numbers mean for the construction economy, business profits and project success.

The Old Normal: Sustainability – Social, Economic, Environmental and Well Being- Going Beyond Accreditations !!

The Next Normal: We can no longer certify business as usual, we need to recognise and certify positive impact, and …
– Commit to climate action and decarbonise everything;
– Stop using anything single use , anything fossil fuel based, any red list material:
– Ask the What if questions – What if as in nature we generated no waste, what would construction look like with no disposable plastic?  
– Invite life (nature) back to projects, construction sites, understanding seasonal and ecological cycles, become ecology literate

The Old Normal: No Surprises – Predictability of Performance during Construction and in Whole Life

The Next Normal: Change the language in contracts, in offices and projects  – talk of love, compassion, collaboration, thriving and stop using competitive war words, talking of winning, beating, competitors and yes buts. Build relationships beyond transactions and profit. Act with urgency, passion and joy 

The question we now need to ask is, what light, fresh baggage will we take with us into the next normal (regenerative, collaborative, relationships, empathy, healthy) & what heavy, stale, baggage will we leave behind (conflict, pollution, waste, modern slavery, toxic) 

There’s a Buddhist teaching that says “What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” Let’s move out of an obsession with the construction world we don’t want and start a revolution bringing into being the world we do want.

Zoom Regenerative (ZR)

ZR is a weekly zoom event celebrating regenerative buzz, thinking and activity from around the globe.

“Like a tree in a forest we will know that we are not alone, but part of a web, a network of life, healing, helping, nurturing each other, as it should always have been…” Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

ZR is emerging into a wonderfully engaged and growing community that covers regenerative themes from Cycling to Energy, from Regenerative Business to Landscaping, from Carbon to Biophilia, from Construction to Rewilding, from Art to Economics, from BIM to Social Thriving and beyond… 

[UPDATE] Please please do read this wonderful post from Michelle Holliday, a recent ZR guest

Each weekly show is promoted through linkedin and twitter, (#ZoomRegen) but if you would to be placed on a mailing list please do contact me