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Systems thinking takes on climate!

The most powerful climate tool isn’t emissions reductions, regenerative agriculture, holistic management, biochar, soil restoration or any of a number of others.  Because global warming isn’t just about greenhouse gases, food, industrial society, biodiversity loss, poor individual choices, destructive corporations, poor soil health, or anfy of a long list of ills.

It’s about all of them.

As individuals or even organizations we can’t address all of them, but growing our under-standing of how the Earth system works, with all its complex interactive parts, leads us to better decisions.

For example, do we protect our coasts from flooding using concrete barriers or living shorelines of kelp and seagrasses?  Do we water our crops by depleting ancient aquifers or by intelligent management of water cycles?  Do we put all of our efforts into reducing emissions or, in balanced measure, include global eco-restoration projects to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and bring life back to billions of dead and dying acres?

At Biodiversity for a Livable Climate we’re re-thinking ecological collapse, including global warming, to tell stories of how we may thrive in the face of daunting disasters by

  • Viewing the Earth as a complex system.
  • Modeling the complexity of a system in the structure of the conference – the medium is the message.  Learning by doing, by contemplating,
  • Considering emergent properties, where the whole is far greater than, and different from, the sum of its parts.  Each speaker presents a part, how does it change the nature of the whole?
  • Re-learning how to know: human learning is intrinsically non-linear, holistic and creative – formal education tends to the linear and restrictive.  Linear thinking has its place, but has overwhelmed the holistic to the detriment of both.
  • Thinking differently about the world – we can’t do the same things in the same ways and expect different outcomes.
  • Re-grouping to see in new ways.  In this conference we do not have a typical “logical” order, with similar topics grouped together.  Instead, we are exploring connections among topics that seem only distantly connected to allow for emergence of new and creative ideas.
  • Embracing such connections as the source of inspirations, ideas, actions and aspirations.

We’ve created categories below for related talks. The categories are flexible, and it could have been done differently.  But we feel that it defines a framework for considering a variety of perspectives while leaving boundaries fluid.

COOLING AN ANGRY EARTH
Nature is all about process, it doesn’t “care” about outcomes, so the Earth isn’t really angry – but it certainly feels that way to us. Life has had hard times before – the Anthropocene (the Age of Humans) is just another bump in the road.  Life will go on – until it doesn’t, billions of years hence.  But  we care about outcomes, as do many other species. How can humans make a difference that makes a difference?

WHERE ARE WE GOING?  WHY ARE WE GOING THERE?
What choices to do we have about the future?  Is Nature going to give us a chance?  Let’s consider the decisions we are facing, and taking our cues from the natural world how we might cooperate on better ways to set forth.

ECOSYSTEMS ARE US
All life depends on ecosystems for survival.  Everything is quite literally connected to everything else.  We can’t simply consider isolated elements like carbon: living creatures, love, soils, economics, water, madness and more are also ecosystem properties.  A livable planet depends on our understanding of ecosystem properties and our learning to participate as ecosystem citizens.

WHAT ARE WE?
Water, minerals and soils make life on earth possible, starting with microbes and moving along from there.  Our learning about them, especially recently, is an ongoing experience of surprise and wonder. As in past conferences, we’ll discuss several habitats, including farmlands, forests, wetlands, shorelines and cities, and their potential when healthy to regenerate biodiversity, draw down atmospheric carbon, rehydrate desertifying land and cool the planet.

DOLLARS TO DAUNTLESS: TRANSFORMATIONAL ECONOMICS
There are many ways billions of people can make a good, happy living without wrecking everything. With justice for all.  We will explore how true economic valuation of healthy ecosystems can help turn around the ecological destruction that brings global warming and many other disasters.

FOOD AS A WAY OF LIFE
How we grow our food changes everything: our relationship to the land; our relationships with one another; global warming; our politics and economics; and the biodiversity that supports soil, plant and human health.  We will touch on what we’re learning about how to grow food that better reflects how nature grows everything in an intact, whole system.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF COLLAPSE
How do we think, feel and act as the collapse of civilization becomes a real possibility?  The warning signs are frightening as we witness millions of climate refugees in search of safe havens, even as close to home as Houston, Santa Rosa and Puerto Rico.  How do we transform the omnipresent fear and confusion into clarity and hope?  Most importantly let’s consider how we support each other to engage in affirmative collaborations and actions as we wend our way through this challenging era.

MYCELIAL METAPHORS: WHEN MUSHROOMS TALK, LISTEN UP!
Fungi are models of communication, supporting life-giving conversations among bacteria, green plants, animals and humans.  The complex mycelium-like connections of a local community weave the community together (mycelia are the miles of fungal threads connecting life in the soil).  As global institutions fail us in increasingly problematic ways, going local while building supportive relationships around the world may be the only way to go.  Ask any mushroom.

CREATING LIVING CITIES
How do we turn the global environmental disasters called “cities” into a collection of livable, self-sustaining communities?  We’ll consider some of the possibilities for transforming cities into thriving ecosystems.

Friday Evening

6:00 – I Need You To Survive
(Where Are We Going? How Can We Get There Together?)
Video
Rev. Mariama will welcome us on this weekend’s journey by reminding us about the deep connections between humans and all life on our common home. In particular she will challenge us to embrace the ethic of interdependence which governs our planet.
Rev. Mariama White-Hammond is Minister for Ecological Justice, Bethel AME Church, Boston.

6:25 – Love as an Ecosystem Property
(Ecosystems Are Us)
Video
It turns out that everything has properties – characteristics, traits – that depend on everything else around it. So where does one thing “end” and another “begin”? This isn’t just a philosophical question – it’s at the heart of our daily interactions and our ability to see the world in a new light. Here are some ideas about how to find solutions to the eco-destruction and the many levels of global unraveling around us.
Adam Sacks is the Executive Director, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate.

6:50 – Migrations of People, Migrations of Place
(Where Are We Going?)
Video
Up to 200 million climate refugees are estimated for 2050.  Here are five reasons why we should care about the global migration crisis. Examining the flow of human populations around the world, we see that human resettlement may be an opportunity to restore our positive relationship with nature leading towards an era of environmental health. 
Ana Sofia Gonzalez is a Mexican environmentalist with a chemical engineering background focused on restorative agroforestry in dryland environments.

7:25 – BREAK

7:45 – Buy a Fish, Save a Tree!
(Dollars to Dauntless: Transformational Economics)
Video
Most people don’t give a lot of thought to the small colorful fish that aquarium hobbyists keep in their home aquariums. In some cases, however, these fishes and how they are sourced result in significant impact. A case study will be presented on fishing communities in the Amazon, on Brazil’s Rio Negro. The capture and export of millions of live fishes for the global aquarium trade has been going on continuously since the mid-1950’s. In the case of one fish species that weighs about a half a gram, the surprising story is that the harvesting of this little fish plays a significant role in saving the rainforest and addressing climate change (and beyond).
Scott Dowd is a conservation biologist at New England Aquarium in Boston and Executive Director of Project Piaba.

8:20 – The Big Picture –  Rapid Change  –  Paths to Restoration
(Ecosystems Are Us)
Video
Planet Earth is a miracle of evolution and biodiversity.  Symbiosis and cooperation among species is a very powerful force; more important than competition in creating a healthy future.  Sadly, humans are now living in a planetary extinction episode for the first time and experiencing terrible consequences: mega-storms, scary fires, droughts, and rising seas.  How do we become a more symbiotic species on our symbiotic planet?  It will be our most challenging period, but we are an adaptable species always capable of learning from nature.  We will explore several pathways toward restoring the lands and seas, rehydrating the continents and cooling the Earth.
Jim Laurie is chief scientist and biologist at Biodiversity for a Livable Climate.

8:35 – Q&A

Saturday Morning

9:00 –  Creating the Future We Want 
(Where Are We Going? Why Are We Going There?)
Video
For the Symbiosis Team, the path to an earth restored leads through a variety of ecosystems – from grasslands and meadows, past bees and beavers, to farm and forest.  We will explore the consciousness of landscapes, the cooperation of bees, and the communication of trees. Join us and learn about the intelligence of nature. The Symbiosis Team will inspire you to take action on behalf of biodiversity and keep you focused on positive change.
Members of the Symbiosis Team are Hayden Latimer-IrelandLynus EricksonJamila dePeiza-KernAnnie Selle local home-schoolers facing tomorrow head-on.

9:30 – Biodiversity as an Urban Ethic – Thinking Like a Forest
(Creating Living Cities)
Video
Jane Jacobs (the Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961) developed her theory of urbanism based on observations of how cities really worked.  Jacobs also recognized the inter-relationships, the sociology that promotes successful human interactions arising in urban settings.  In demonstrating how society could create diverse, safe and creative urban centers, much of modern Urbanism theory is based on her work.  We follow in her footsteps as we observe how nature really works and attempt to build an understanding of how we might model our built-environment on nature’s living communities; excellent models of relationships from which to infuse nature’s wisdom into our “dead” and highly destructive urban infrastructure.  That could be critical in addressing the historic failure of cities with the demands for a regenerative urban future.
Christopher Haines, AIA, LFA, CPHC, is a seasoned architect licensed in both MA and NY who applies expertise in regenerative architectural design, healthy materials, preservation, renovation and specification writing to small commercial and urban projects.

10:00 – The Role of Economics in Ecosystemic Conservation
(Dollars to Dauntless: Transformational Economics)
Video
Fred Jennings will discuss Nature’s absence from traditional economics, but its central role in ecological economics. Accepting a fully interdependent Earth system calls for a focus on rational limits. Here, cultural and social systems need to incorporate feedbacks to internalize the interdependent effects of private decisions, either (1) through conscience and ethics, or (2) through social system design. Several different types of social systems taking feedbacks into account will be addressed as means of creating more sustainable social incentive structures. Daniel Robin will offer illustrative examples of ecological economics in action.
Fred Jennings is an economist, angler, and president/founder of the Center for Ecological Economic and Ethical Education.

Conservation, Restoration and Regeneration Economics
(Dollars to Dauntless: Transformational Economics)
Video

Daniel Robin offers illustrative examples of ecological economics in action through conservation, restoration and business model innovations that valorize ecosystem services. These success stories hold the potential for accelerating the reversal of climate change: 1) Buildings that draw down far more carbon than they generate, 2) Intact forests that are essential to farmer livelihood, and 3) Wetland restoration that is both aesthetic and profitable. Relying on social and financial incentive systems (some serve as a proxy for conscience and ethics) amplifies beneficial feedback loops and aligns market forces to help usher in new forms of conscious capitalism.
Daniel Robin is an entrepreneur and sustainable business consultant.

10:35 – BREAK 

10:55 – The Cognitive Challenges of Reasoning About Climate Change
(Psychology of Collapse)
Video
Thinking effectively about the consequences of our actions in a complex world involves being able to reason about a variety of forms and features of causal complexity. However, our human cognitive architecture is not particularly well suited to dealing with complexity from the stance of perception, attention, and cognition. Tina Grotzer will share findings from the cognitive science research on the puzzles of learning to reason about climate change and also on the promise of the learnability of complex causal reasoning.
Tina Grotzer is on the  faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a Principal Research Scientist at Project Zero, and faculty member at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health.

11:25 – Sacred Soil
(What Are We?)
Video
Frédérique Apffel-Marglin will discuss her latest book, co-authored with Robert Tindall and David Shearer, and a forward by Ian Baker. Sacred Soil: Biochar and the Regeneration of the Earth. She considers the Earth as a whole system, and presents a fascinating description of how utilizing the biochar, the recently rediscovered sacred soil of the pre-Columbian peoples of the Amazon rainforest, can cut our dependency on petrochemicals, restore the health of our soils, remove carbon from our overheating atmosphere, and restore the planet to pre-industrial levels of atmospheric carbon by 2050.
Frederique Apffel-Marglin is founder of the Sachamama Center for Biocultural Regeneration in the Peruvian Amazon.

11:55 – Q&A

12:20 – LUNCH

Saturday Afternoon

1:20 – Regenerating the Diversity of Life in our Soils – Hope for Farming and Climate
(Food as a Way of Life)
Video
This talk will explore how ~470 million years development of evolutionary interactions, between plants and soil microbiota, have shaped this planet. It will focus on how we can recruit the biological barter that developed over this period in successional ecosystems to begin effective reduction of atmospheric CO2.  Also explored are the multiple benefits associated when using this approach for improving productivity in agroecosystems and for reducing environmental pollution. The presentation will discuss the science, magnitude, timing and cost of employing this biological methodology along with potential policy options for fast adoption of a robust, practical, and cost effective soil-based atmospheric-carbon-capture mechanism.
David Johnson is Director of the Institute for Sustainable Agricultural Research at New Mexico State University.

2:00 – Creating a Scalable Business Model for Flourishing Farms
(Dollars to Dauntless: Transformational Economics)
Video
Sally and Dale will demonstrate how Iroquois Valley Farms is creating a market for impact investors to provide land access for organic farmers, healing people and the planet by providing healthy food, eroding the agricultural monoculture, and addressing climate change through regenerative farming practices.
Sally Dodge and Dale Guldbrandsen are the Northeast Community Development Managers for Iroquois Valley Farms.

2:30 –  Climate Change and Coasts: Are We Designing to Create Disasters?
(Cooling an Angry Earth)
Video
Nature has been adapting to changes in climate for millions of years, living with sea level rise, storms, acidification, ice age, droughts, floods, plate tectonics – and prevailed. But never by building ‘walls’ to protect nature from nature. Coastal systems benefited from collaboration and communication to adapt to environmental changes. Some species and systems thrived and some didn’t. How can we learn from salt marshes, oyster reefs, mud flats, shellfish and eel grass beds and work with nature to become more resilient? Living shorelines are nature, we can combine them with human-built systems so that our urban harbors can benefit both: human and ecological services and functions. Biomimicry is an interdisciplinary approach to apply nature’s solutions, based on collaboration not competition – locally, cove by cove, harbor by harbor. Now is the time to shift the paradigm of planning for future, by acting outside the box. “Logic will take you from point A to point B, but imagination will take you everywhere.” A. Einstein
Anamarija Frankić is a founding director of the Green Harbors Project®, and the Biomimicry LivingLabs®, and research faculty at UMass Boston and University of Zadar, Croatia.

3:05 – BREAK

3:25 – Urban Design, Living Design 
(Creating Living Cities)
Video
Herbert Dreiseitl will focus on 3 projects in the fields of climate resiliency, stormwater management, urban planning and performative landscape architecture: Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Tanner Springs Park in Portland OR, and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in Singapore. All projects had a great impact on the planning culture and perception of how to work truly holistically with a significant impact on values like biodiversity, urban health and creating natural and human capital.  Herbert will also discuss the outcome of a research project funded by the Ramboll Foundation on “Enhancing blue-green and social performance in high density urban Environments,” which takes into account key elements of leadership, capacity-building and evaluation. Finally co-creation and stakeholder involvements can lead to higher acceptance, reduced maintenance and greater economy.
Herbert Dreiseitl is an urban designer, landscape architect, water artist, interdisciplinary planner and professor in praxis.

4:05 – The Ecology of Care: Shifting from a Sterile to a Fertile Paradigm
(What Are We?)
Video
The discovery of bacteria as a cause of disease ushered in a “sterile” era in which medicine and agriculture tried to kill off germs, bugs, weeds, and other perceived pests in hopes of improving life. This approach has led to a massive failure in the function of the complex systems that support us. Can we shift back towards a fertile paradigm of care for our inner and outer landscapes? We will see how to work in collaboration with living systems inside and around us to restore health on a large scale.
Didi Pershouse is the founder of the Center for Sustainable Medicine, an educator on soil health, public health, and climate resiliency, and the author of The Ecology of Care.

4:40 – Q&A

Sunday Morning

9:00 – Pathways to a Restored Planet – Scenario 300
(Where Are We Going?)
Video
Our “business as usual” future predicts that atmospheric CO2 levels will pass 500 ppm by 2060.  This scenario implies a dangerous spike in atmospheric methane from melting permafrost and an ice free Arctic Ocean.  In contrast, the restoration of degraded lands could reverse this trend and reduce the CO2 levels eventually to 300 ppm; thus cooling the planet.  Nature’s biodiversity certainly has the capacity to do this as it created several ice ages as recently as 12,000 years ago.  Human action could accelerate this recovery.  It will require many cultural changes but this symbiosis approach could create a healthy future we want.  Sooner is better, let’s get started!
Jim Laurie is chief scientist and biologist at Biodiversity for a Livable Climate.

9:25 – 3 Billion Years of Organic Agriculture
(Food as a Way of Life, Psychology of Collapse)
Video
Since the onset of agriculture, a reductionist and extractive process that has developed has eroded and degraded the life of soil, which is the essential cornerstone for civilization. This global trend can be reversed in just a few concentrated years while reversing legacy levels of green house gases. As paradigm shifting science is revealing how big this capacity for regeneration is, what are the depth psychological constraints that live within our human psyche/soul that are suppressing our action to invest in life, rather than extinction?
Tim LaSalle, Ph.D. is co-founder and co-director of the Regenerative Agriculture Initiative at California State University Chico, and champion of a science-based a regenerative food system addressing climate change.

10:00 – Old-Growth Forests: A Green Sponge on the Blue Planet ​
(What Are We?)
Video
Forests are what is right with the world. Every year 40% of the carbon and the majority of water circulating through the atmosphere moves through the pores in plant leaves. Forests and other land vegetation currently remove up to 30 percent of human carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. Forests build carbon-rich soil. Eighty percent of the biodiversity on the land is contained in the forest ecosystem. The most ancient forests, the old-growth forests, are the most important for removing carbon, circulating water, and harboring biodiversity. Yet we continue to lose forest cover, including some of the most ancient forests. The answer is preservation, before restoration. And the path to preservation is to build opportunities for love and connection. Let’s explore these topics together and reflect on the mission of the Old-Growth Forest Network: to create a national network of treasured forests where all generations can experience native biodiversity and the beauty of nature.  
Joan Maloof is founder and Executive Director of the Old-Growth Forest Network and formerly on the faculty of Salisbury University,

10:35 – Greening Gateway Cities
(Creating Living Cities)
Video
Over the past three years, the planting of one tree in Chelsea has spread to the planting of the 10,000th tree in Lynn. The idea – a tree planting program in partnership with low-income residents of 26 mill cities, local non-profits and city and state agencies – emerged from two disasters, an urban tornado and the Asian Longhorn Beetle outbreak. It was the removal of large swaths of urban trees that connected the tree canopy to energy usage in an indisputable way and the trial and error used to replant these forests that arrived at the Greening the Gateway Cities – a model in climate resilience and climate justice.
Bob O’Connor is Forest & Land Policy Director for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs.

11:05 – BREAK

11:20 – Close Encounters with a Disturbing Future
(Psychology of Collapse)
Video
It’s hard to avoid seeing that the world around us is changing dramatically and quickly – and it is equally hard to know what to do with this recognition. How much of the craziness that we see played out in different realms is a psychic response to the fear that we are losing our home, Planet Earth? How does each of us, in ourselves, react and respond to that very real possibility? And what are the children thinking about this? A look at the dramatic increase in depression and anxiety in teens, young adults – and the rest of us – and thoughts on how to transform these psychic disruptions into positive action.
Paula Phipps is a lifelong educator and Associate Director at Biodiversity for a Livable Climate.

11:45 – Healing the Earth in 18 months  The Wholing of Ecosystems and Human Will
(Mycelial Metaphors)
Video
Nature doesn’t have problems, it only has potential: a premise that when activated, can realize massive and rapid change and harmonization in any social and ’natural’ community. This is what is meant by Regenerative Development: the practice of co-developing or co-evolving a whole system of evolutionary health: transforming human-to-nature and human-to-human relationships.
Bill Reed is an internationally recognized practitioner, lecturer, and leading authority in sustainability and regenerative planning, design and implementation.

12:15 – 12:40 Q&A

12:45 – 1:45 LUNCH

Sunday Afternoon

1:50 – 4:50 WORKSHOPS
A conference favorite, we’ll offer a series of workshops presented by any conference participant.  If you’re inspired by what you’ve heard this weekend, or want to share some of your own experiences, just sign up on the Workshop Board any time until Sunday lunch.

4:50 – 5:00 FAREWELL

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