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Jules Ellison - 14 Feb 2020
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We embark on this journey, this quest, by addressing the individual or specific group and ‘Dare them to be great’. This is what the present situation requires - for us as participants in this story to break the barriers of our entrenched thinking...

 

The Regenerative Community Earth Protector Quest Model[1]

George Vigileos PhD, Jullie Ellison MBA[2]

Introduction

The development of the ‘toolkit’ approach was borne out of the necessity to facilitate regenerative community action for the Earth Protector Town movement.

The task is immense and complex, as we set ourselves the aim to develop a model that has global applicability, and endeavours to create a framework to guide a community through a process resulting in the protection of the Earth.

[The general aims of the Earth Protector Communities movement, to stop ecocide and protect the Earth, appear in the Town, educational institutions and business Declaration[3]. [4] ]

The question arises therefore of how does an individual, a small group, a village or town - in general a community of variable size and in a diverse set of circumstances- move from the present situation, typically one where there is persistent harm to the ecosystems in which this community functions, to a place of harmony, resilience and regeneration. To map and guide the movement from habitually fortified egocentric behaviour to a place of global awareness and eco-centricity.

At the centre of all these communities is the existing paradigm of a disparate collection of groups of people that are mostly referred to as consumers by the existing growth driven economic system, an acceptance of competition being the ‘rule of nature’, by which we live and the duty of the bread winners of the family cell to conform to this system.

The emerging paradigm of regeneration - a step beyond sustainability in concept - is a radically different approach, in fact so different that it centres around community co-operation and systems change. This requires changes in the way we live - the way we behave as individuals and as a community as a whole. It requires a systems change - a deep shift in the way we work, and most crucially in the way we think.

Certain principles of such a regenerative culture and economic way of being have been already identified by others. Notably, Wahl[5] refers to biologically inspired distributive design and circular economy. Kate Raworth[6] talks of the ecosystem harm brought about by the  ‘overshoots’ of economic activity and the under-achievement and resultant deprivation, in her circular economy model, which tries to set the goal as a narrow band of ‘safe’ activity, where the harm to the planet stops and the poverty ends.

We thus embark on a journey which can address individuals within groups and applies to communities of any size and composition. The legacy we inherited from Polly Higgins, Lawyer for the Earth[7] provides us with inspiration as we attempt to weave together her life’s work to Stop Ecocide together with the principles of regenerative economics and movement building. To these we add the necessary ingredients of ‘not re-inventing the wheel’ and ‘leaving our organisational ego at the door’, because we have precious little time and also deeply respect other organisations historical efforts.

 

 

The model

Dare to be great and common purpose

We embark on this journey, this quest, by addressing the individual or specific group and ‘Dare them to be great’. This is what the present situation requires - for us as participants in this story to break the barriers of our entrenched thinking, the barriers of expectations of moving along pre-existing habits and organisational paradigms, and become the best we can be.

For this purpose we ask the group to place themselves in the centre and describe in as few words as possible the ‘sign above the door’ that defines them as a group at this point in time.

We move into the area of clarifying our common purpose, the over-arching aim that binds us all together and will lead us to where we want to be.

This ‘lighting of the spark’ that Polly Higgins did for us and we hope to transmit to others, creates the necessary foundation of self-confidence that is required in order to interface with the rest of society and the world at large. At this point the narrative is being built, the story is written and also expressed to others - because we cannot afford to sit in our own realisation but realise the need to share it and motivate others around us and shake the foundations of existing lethargy.

Our back yard: back to our roots, investigating Ecocide

Now that our hearts are fired up, we need to take a closer look at where we are. Who else is there with us? We have to come together and strengthen our resolve and capacity to act by acknowledging our own environment, human and ecological. There are other groups of people out there who have been working tirelessly on parts of the solution. Here is where ‘do not re-invent the wheel’ comes in. This is the place where we not only account for our existing immediate ecosystem, that which we can influence and regenerate- our ‘patch’, but also the helping hand of our fellow humans, who can educate us in areas we need to be.

Referring back to the pilot programme in Stroud, we were happy to discover that the existing number of groups already operating in the area with aims to protect the Earth are far greater than what we imagined. A closer look at the ‘patches of land’ and other natural resources that we could possibly transform or work with to achieve our goals continues to reveal a growing potential.

Not only is there actual land whose ‘use’ can be changed, and its vitality resurrected, but also a fertile ground of educational establishments, from schools to Colleges and other institutions, businesses and churches and other faith based institutions. We continue to discover that some have already made some significant steps towards a regenerative culture, and many have taken preliminary steps towards such attitude change, almost all expressing some desire to become part of a changing narrative to save the planet - including the human element of it.

At this point of the journey we ask ourselves, ‘how are we destroying the planet locally?’. This is the time to change the way we see, and examine our local environment with a new eyesight based on what we have learned, the support we now know we have from existing groups, and strengthened by a newly found narrative and its expression to others without the fear that binds us to pre-existing frameworks and patterns. It is time to become ‘Ecocide investigators’. To look at what we are doing, how we are harming our local area’s ecosystems and the global biosphere and climate.

Together we CAN[8], Planning the pathway

Once we have identified what we have available in terms of human and ecological resources, and how we have inadvertently or not introduced harm into the equation, we can start forming our local plan of action.

It is at this crossroads that the issue of scale comes in. Inevitably, there are many inter-related functions that come into play. Some can be addressed at a neighbourhood level for example, others are best dealt with at the level of the whole town, the town and surrounding areas, or the bio-region itself. There is an interplay here between form and function that can only be addressed at the specific local level, and needs to take into account the inter-relation between administrative areas and ecosystems and watersheds, and the planet as a living being itself.

The formulation of the appropriate strategy for the particular community will depend on the situation on the ground - both literally and symbolically. What can we actually do to change things on the ground is a question which addresses not only the suitability of a patch of land for growing food or planting trees for example, but also the level of entrenchment and existing barriers to change of local authorities, the chain of policy influence etc. A community is embedded in its town, its district, region, and national policies for example, and more often than not the existing top-down situation of decision making and available funding is a significant barrier. Although there are examples of ‘enlightened’ national approaches to the situation, (such as one could claim is Costa Rica, and some Scandinavian countries) there is a wide spectrum -leaning mostly on the side of vested multinational interests, significantly influenced by the fossil fuel lobbies and other institutions perpetuating Ecocide all over the planet. Once again, this is where it is imperative to realise that to express a changing moral framework to protect the Earth and all its inhabitants, an amendment of international law to include a crime of Ecocide is absolutely key and unavoidable.

Global Vision  Co-creating the new story

The final step of the process, before returning to the beginning for a spiralling elevation of the previous steps to develop more refined manifestations, is the search for and expression of the Community’s global future vision. This weaves the community’s plans and efforts to the global situation. Here we can monitor our effects on say Carbon footprint and other significant indicators related to climate change and ecological systems, as well as consider our ability to respond and moral duty of care to other communities around the world. Issues such as fairness as related to the intergenerational and geographical aspects of it, ie considering future generations and developing nations, are part of the process at this point. Practically speaking this could take the form of meaningful twinning with towns in parts of the world where catastrophic effects of climate change and ecosystem destruction are already being felt.

One could expand on this issues quite a lot and enter into philosophical and geo-political discussions, which although hugely important are outside the scope of this article.

What cannot be under-estimated however is the need to address these issues and the potential impact of the clarity and ‘pull’ this vision creates towards a harmonious future.

We believe it to be a key element not only for guiding local action, but also for releasing the dormant energy required to move to a holistic and global solution. From harm to harmony.

The world needs hope and it needs active solution based communities. We are inspired by the youth to take action, and some of us have been working and hoping for decades for a radical transformation, to steer the human story away from self-destruction to a harmonious co-existence with all life on Earth. We have the opportunity to give the planet the space it needs to return to its abundant nature[9]. We have the ability to make the necessary changes, but only if we act together, to Stop Ecocide and to co-create a better future for our children.

Epilogue

The model is in the process of being developed. The pilot programme in Stroud is informing us about the barriers and opportunities arising in such a complex process. It is a goal of the pilot to arrive at guidelines to inform the process that would have global application. Although every community, town and country face a diverse set of circumstances, the human element is still present and the key factor in the new story. In spite of the cultural differences, people still need to find the strength to overcome old ways of thinking, and work together towards the common purpose of protecting the Earth’s ecosystems that sustain all life on this beautiful planet. If there is one word to describe the pathway to a harmonious solution it has to be ‘Together’. The success of the pilot programme so far cannot yet be measured in carbon savings, or other such ‘indicator’ based measures - although in time that too will come. It can be described however as the willingness to act together and explore practical local pathways to future innovative solutions. This is truly the quest for a regenerative community evolution.


[1] Submitted to the 'Spark The Change - Design The Future' event in Frome at the Winter Gathering weekend in February 2020.

[2] This model was conceived by the authors, and developed with the help of the whole Earth Protector Community team of which they are members.

[3] See https://earthprotectorcommunities.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/EPC-TOWN-DECLARATION.pdf

[4] www.stopecocide.earth

[5] D.C.Wahl, (2016), Designing Regenerative Cultures, Triarchy Press, Axminster.

[6] Kate Raworth, (2017),Doughnut Economics, Chelsea Green Publishing

[7] Polly devoted a large part of her life to the effort of raising awareness of the necessity for an international criminal law to protect the Earth and all its inhabitants. Her life and work have been an inspiration to many, especially her ‘partner in crime’ activist Jojo Mehta, with whom she co-founded the Stop Ecocide campaign. Her recent death resulted in a rallying cry by dozens of dedicated supporters who are now carrying her work and have made the movement stronger than ever.

[8] This is a reference to Stroud Community Action Network for climate and ecology (Stroud CAN), constituted and co-created with the Stroud Town Council and other key local environmental NGOs as part of the Earth Protectors Town pilot programme. See more at www.earthprotectorcommunties.net/pilot

[9] Eileen Crist, (2019), Abundant Earth: Toward an ecological civilisation, University of Chicago Press.

 

 

 

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