Jim Laurie’s Class – Fall 2020

Fall 2020, Wednesdays, September 16th – December 9th

Biodiversity 2: Systems Thinking and Transformation – Building Teams for Planetary Restoration.

12 weekly classes with our staff scientist, Jim Laurie.

The Excitement and Inspiration of Science for the Curious to the Serious and everyone in-between. A fully interactive online adventure with discussions, experiments and explorations for independent thinkers of any age, suitable for high school and college students, as well as inquiring minds of all levels, from beginner to PhD!

Course Description

How did nature create the great ecosystems that have supported our many diverse human communities? Our present global civilization has fragmented and diminished these biological treasures of soil, grasslands, forests, wetlands, and oceans by half. We are now experiencing the many consequences of this loss of biodiversity including expanding deserts, devastating droughts, fires, floods, rising seas, and ocean dead zones. We may now be facing a future of food and water shortages for billions of people.

At the same time, we are discovering how the Earth became habitable for a myriad of microbes, fungi, plants, and animals. Many diverse species communicate with each other and share resources. While competition can be a significant factor, symbiosis is apowerful force we are just beginning to understand. Survival requires that many species work together.The good news is that these supportive ecosystems are resilient and in recent decades we are learning how to restore even devastated lands and waters to health. The path torestoration requires knowledge of fundamental processes of energy flow, the water cycle, the carbon and nitrogen cycles, and basic food webs within these ecosystems.

Biodiversity 2: Systems Thinking and Transformation builds on knowledge from our recent Biodiversity & Symbiosis Course. We will explore several restoration projects and delve deeper into the human aspect of ecological restoration. Systems thinking acknowledges that nature is Self-Organizing, from grassland soils and wetlands to kelpforests and even the microbiome in the guts of animals including our own.

Drawing from the systems thinking models of Donella Meadows and the Holistic Management process of Allan Savory, we will learn how to set Goals for the future of a landscape. What do we want this land to look like in 10 years, or 20 years? What do we want for our communities and personal lives in those time frames? What new Paradigms can we incorporate into our planning? An example might be that we become better observers and learn from nature before we finalize our goals and plans.

Dana Meadows also spoke of Transformational Paradigms. What ideas are we unaware of now, that will be important as we co-create a better future? I don’t know, but it can become part of a class project. Could humanity become a catalyst for the rehydration of continents and the cooling of the planet? We shall see.

Biodiversity 2: Systems Thinking and Transformation is a 12-week course of exploration and discovery. There will be weekly classes of two hours on Wednesdays beginning September 16th. In order to accommodate the participant’s schedules the classes will be given twice at 1 pm & 7 pm by Zoom. If you have a conflict, you can switch times for that day. It is open to anyone with curiosity and a desire to figure things out.

You don’t need to have taken any previous courses. There will be several members in this course who have participated in our previous conferences and courses and they will be there to help you explore and catch up in your learning. There will be many presentations and discussions by participants. It will be a seminar course as well as a lecture series.

Here are some typical questions that this course might focus on:

1. How can we rethink agriculture and regenerate the soils we have lost? Can we still be profitable and productive in our effort to feed humanity and all species?

2. How does nature clean contaminated water and then use it to enliven even the driest of habitats? What is the small water cycle and why is it important to reverse global warming?

3. Why are wetlands so important? What species are critical to rehydrating continents and averting the water crisis?

4. How can we restore hundreds of ocean dead zones to healthy systems full of fishand shellfish?/ What species are critical to rebuild the ocean food webs?

5. What is the microbiome inside our bodies?/ How does it help the immune systemto keep us healthy? Describe some similarities between human physiology and planetary physiology?

6. How can we reverse the “Deserts on the March” and bring back rich grasslands with herds of grazing animals contributing lots of dung and urine?

7. What is the role of mycorrhizal fungi?/ Why are they critical to the fate of civilizations?

8. How do trees, fungi, and microbes communicate in a forest to make better decisions about the use of resources and improving forest health?

9 How do we restore the urban landscape to feed us, clean water, and nurture wildlife.

10. How can we create a healthy planet in our lifetime? What do we want the world to look when the Comet returns in 2061?

BooksSome Possibilities:

We will all read Reindeer Chronicles together. The second book is your choice. You might want to team up for sharing & book reports.

1. The Reindeer Chronicles: and Other Inspiring Stories by Judy Schwartz, Chelsea Green, White River Junction, Vermont, 20202.

2. The Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth by Charles Massy, Chelsea Green, 2017

3. The Hidden Life of Trees by Paul Wohlleben

4. Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness & Save the Planet by Stamets, Simard, Weil, Pollan, et al., Earth Aware, San Rafael, CA, 2019

5. Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows (Edited by Diana Wright), Chelsea Green, 2008

6. Dirt to Soil: One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture by Gabe Brown, Chelsea Green, 2018

7. Water: A Natural History by Alice Outwater, Basic Books, New York, NY, 1996

8. The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA, 1955

9. The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers, Norton, New York, 2018 (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction – Gave voice to the trees.)

10. The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David Montgomery & Anne Biklé, W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 2016

11. Healing Earth: An Ecologist’s Journey of Innovation by John Todd, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 2019