Category Archives: sustainability

Ego Eco Seva – Revisited

Reading Zoe Cohen’s recent linkedin share of a 2016 Ego-Eco article from Art Tawanghar lead me to revisit my my framing of regenerative sustainability work and consultancy support within Ego-Eco-Seva thinking …

Ego-Eco is a great way to frame our past and current approach to the environment, sustainability and the climate crisis, but does it go far or deep enough? We tend to think of ‘Ego and Eco’ as being distinct periods, Ego illustrating our thinking post-industrial revolution when we took what we wanted to satisfy egos, and dumped what we didn’t without thought to the consequences.

We perhaps see the current ‘Eco’ period starting in the 1970s with the first Earth Day, or with the Club of Rome, or as I like to frame it, with the 1987 Brundtland Common Purpose definition. But of course, ‘Ego and Eco’ are running concurrently. Even in the era of ‘Eco’ focus we see Ego’s surface and suppress Eco thinking, for example, in the auctioning of the Arctic wildlife area for oil drilling, in the UK HS2 project and architects pulling out of Architects Declare to continue working on projects that are seen by many as vanity projects.

But the Eco phase, if taken as the Brundtland ‘do nothing today to compromise tomorrows generation’ is failing us. Over the last 30 or so years since Brundtland most if not all climate indicators, (CO2, temperatures, waste et al) continue heading in the wrong direction.

Yet, against this backdrop, connectivity with nature has become a keystone for the emerging regenerative sustainability agenda. Manifest through the ‘woke’ application of biomimicry, biophilia and sustainable building accreditations such as the Living Building Challenge that see buildings and us as inhabitants as part of the natural eco-systems. But these are the exemptions and in many ways still passive, with a dominant focus on reducing impact.

We need something more, a new mindset to eclipse ‘Eco’. Many like myself (Daniel Wahl, Cost Restore and others) are using the Sanskrit expression of Seva. It translates as ‘being in service’ which I have used as ‘doing the right thing’ because we are a part of, not apart from nature, it is very much reciprocity, we are in service to nature as nature is in services to us.

Remaking Cities – Milan 2019

The earliest illustration of ‘Ego Eco Seva’ was in a GlanceSideways blog, Oct 2012 adjusting the Ego Eco graphic to show ‘the path to a perfect relationship within the ecosystem” As a graphic, it triggers a powerful and necessary reframing of Ego-Eco as the attitude needed to create a sustainable culture, ‘one that nourishes and cares for the earth we live on. Seva is a role that can only be performed with a relationship of love and humility to all entities in the environment’

Ed Gillispie in a lovely early 2020 Medium The End of ‘Saving the World’? article describes the Seva mindset … ‘The planet does not want to be saved. Or rescued. Or even changed. Our planet wants to be loved. Love is not a game of numbers and spreadsheets, checks and balances, debts and contracts. It is an exalted dance of joy, respect and gleeful, mutual appreciation and true partnership’.

In the wonderful Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Kimmerer Wall addresses Seva and reciprocity from an indigenous angle, learning from plants, learning from nature. For example through the harmonious harvest of only taking what we need and using everything we take. RKW writing recently in Emergence Magazine, The Serviceberry takes this further as a basis for a new bio-economy … an economy of abundance

Arundhati Roy writing in the Financial Times at the start of the lockdown in the UK describes the pandemic as a portal through which we will pass. (This was one of the articles that triggered my founding the successful Zoom Regenerative series) And now with vaccines, we can start to see the other side of the portal, and focus on her question of what good will we take through, and what bad will we leave behind.

A sustainability Seva approach based on reciprocity, in service to others and nature, would be a fine thing to take through the pandemic portal as the new normal for 2021 and beyond. We have technological and digital solutions, we have nature-based solutions, we now need the new normal, free from the restraints of the ego-eco old normal, to apply and scale-up.

Read Zoe Cohen’s Linkedin Post sharing a 2016 article from Art Tawanghar that lead me to revisit my my framing of regenerative sustainability work within Ego-Eco-Seva thinking …

Zoom Regenerative 24: Celebration + Reciprocity

Edition 24 of #ZoomRegenerative closed 2020 by celebrating guests who shared regenerative insights over the year, and the sharing and gifting what has inspired us on regenerative themes in 2020. And wow, was there a lot …

2020 has been an extraordinary year, one of grief and sadness for many but also one of time for reflection and exploration of ideas. Starting in April, Zoom Regenerative’s impressive guest list covered the globe and spectrum of regenerative sustainability. As did the scope of the what has been inspiring us over the year. Here is a recap that should keep us busy and inspired way into 2021 and also makes for a wonderful ideas list for Christmas gifts.

BOOKS

Not surprisingly there were many books mentioned, including:
Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Wall Kimmerer (link)
Underland A deep Time Journey – Robert Macfarlane (link)
From What is to What if – Rob Hopkins (link)
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures – Merlin Sheldrake (link)
Chasing the Sun: The New Science of Sunlight, How it Shapes Our Bodies and Minds – Linda Geddes (link)
Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist – Kate Raworth (link)
Burn – Using Fire to Cool the Earth. (link)
My Name is Chellis I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization – Chellis Glendinning (link)
Imaginal Cells: Visions of Transformation (link)
The Power of Now – Echart Tolle (link)

“There is so much information out there, don’t be overwhelmed by it all. All we can do is live in the highest state of consciousness and we will naturally gravitate to the right information and decision making” (JP)

PEOPLE

Thich Naht Hanh (link)
Kate Raworth (link)
Johan Rockstrom (link)
Joe Biden (link)

“The greatest gift we can give is our presence” (MB)

PROGRAMMES / FILMS

The Story of Plastic (link)
BBC Planet North (link)
2040 (link)
Kissing the Ground (link)
Fantastic Fungi (link)
The Biggest Little Farm (link)

“To give of ourselves, through food, is such an act of generosity and reciprocity” (AW)

COLLABORATIONS

ACAN (Youth) (link)
Zoom Regenerative (link) (We need a website!)
Connecting Fashion and Built Environment
RESTORE Final Conference (link)
Rocky Mountain Institute (link)
LETI (link)
Architects for Future – (link)
Supply Chain Sustainability School (link)

Happiness is within us all. The pot of gold we are trying to find is deep down inside all of us. Accessing your sub conscious through mediation we can simply transcend to find that inner peace :). Then we bring it all back up into our conscious state 🙂 (JP)

PODCASTS / BLOGS / WEBSITES

Brain Pickings – Maria Popova (link)
Reboot the Future (link)
The Regenerative Podcast (Neal Collins) (link)
Carbon Literacy Programme (link)
Resilience (link)
What If (podcast) – Rob Hopkins (link)
As You Sow (link)
Merlin Sheldrake BBC Book of the Month audio (link) https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/m000pm13
Bamboo – (link) https://www.lenzing.com/
Cradle to Cradle – (link)
Miyawaki Forests – (link)
Bio Ladies – (link)

“To me creativity is prayer, creativity is meditation, creativity is life. So don’t be afraid of life and don’t close yourself in indifference” (N)

PLACES

A Costa Rican Sunrise
Earth – Sustainability Conferences within a (Bristol) Planetarium
Home

“I want to thank you so very much for the opportunity you open to be part of these formidable webinars and gatherings. Feels like a family” (VM)

Well, I guess that concludes 2020 ZR reflections, and as we approach the winter solstice on December 21st we turn to welcome in a new spring, new growth and new light for a truly regenerative 2021.

This post originally appeared on Regenerators Patreon

No Music on a Dead Planet

A Spotify playlist for Zoom Regenerative?

When producing FutuREStorative a few years back, I included a music playlist that in some way, over the years had inspired my sustainability thinking. Pan forward to 2020 and alongside the emergent regenerative agenda there is a wonderful collection & collaboration of artists whose work and passion resonates with the zoom regenerative themes, particular on connectivity with nature and the need for a just climate, social and cultural future.

Music Declares Emergency is a group of artists, music industry professionals and organisations that stand together to declare a climate and ecological emergency and call for an immediate governmental response to protect all life on Earth. We believe in the power of music to promote the cultural change needed to create a better future.

Please do enjoy, be equally inspired by and subscribe to the Zoom Regenerative Spotify playlist

Listen to the regenerative work, lyrics and messages from the likes of Sam Lee, with his latest album Old Wow, to Karine Polwart on Rivers Run, Jenny Sturgeon’s musical interpretation of Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain and the lovely Spell Songs artists. (just how beautiful is the Blessing?) 

All wonderful inspiration and so much more than just background listening. And with a nod to Zoom regenerative I have included tracks titled Mycorrhiza/Tree of Life, Soil & Soul and Costa Rica. There is one track on the ZR playlist that was also on FutuREstorative – Where do the Children Play by Yusaf/Cat Stevens – re-released this year as 50 years, (yes 50) celebration of Tea for the Tillerman. (Check out the video)

What would you like to see on the regenerative playlist?

This article originally appeared on ZR Regenerators as an early / exclusive post

Regenerative Sustainability in Nine Graphics

This was an early access post for Regenerator Patrons.

Here are nine regenerative graphics and charts that have shaped, and are shaping, my sustainability thinking and may inspire others., There are a number that I have created, inspired by regenerative thinking from others. Some concepts are a few years old now and well established but remain 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 approaches to sustainability and economics. (More)

For Regenerative Climate– The warming stripes from Ed Hawkins visualising temperature differences have become a powerful image in understanding climate change and hence recognition of climate crisis. I have reversed the stripes to encourage discussion on regenerative approaches we need to reverse temperature increases – and get back to safe levels. (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 If book, along with a very good dose of Transition Town thinking …  

Regenerative Economics. Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics has captured the zeitgeist of the moment as we seek meaning in regenerative economics aligned to regenerative sustainability. Moving away from degenerative economics where ‘growth and development is linked to increasing consumption of finite resources’.

For Regenerative Futures. A summary of Roman Krznaric recent inspirational new book The Good Ancestor: How To Think Long Term in a Short-Term World (graphic: Nigel Hawkin)

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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