Regenerating the wealth of the Earth’s commons

Common Earth in support of the Common Wealth

Earlier this month I had the privilege of taking part in a two day ‘high-level meeting’ at the Commonwealth Secretariat in Marlborough House aimed at promoting and finding ways to resource regenerative practice across the 53 nations of the Commonwealth with its more than 2.4 billion people from all the world’s major faith groups and five continents.

The meeting was another mile stone in the now three-year-long journey we started in October 2016 when I helped the Cloudburst Foundation to convene some of the world’s most accomplished sustainability experts, regenerative development practitioners, permaculturists, regenerative urban planners, biomimicry experts, ecosystems restorers, resilience builders and climate scientists committed to carbon drawdown with an aim to launch a global initiative to engaged in ‘Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change’.

This is the report of the first meeting in 2016

We brought together an impressive group of committed and well meaning people with a very ambitious agenda. Among those present at the first meeting where Bill Reed and Ben Haggard from the Regenesis Group, Janine Benyus and Toby Herzlich from the Biomimicry Institute, Herbert Giradet of the World Future Council, John Elkington from Volans, Peter Head from Resilience Brokers, David McConville from the Buckminster Fuller Institute, John D. Liu from Ecosystems Restoration Camps, Bill Sharpe from the International Futures Forum, Albert Bates, Maddy Harland, May East, Tom Goreau, Christopher Cooke, and many others.

Lady Patricia Scotland, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth is a strong supporter of a regenerative development approach and understands the potential to slow down and eventually reverse global warming trends through widespread ecosystems restoration, reforestation and employing the proven technological and policy pathways to drawdown carbon from the atmosphere that were collated by the Drawdown project. The Secretariat has a convening role of 53 sovereign nations only. What is decided is decided by consensus.

Secretary General Patricia Scotland at COP23 said that climate change requires a complete regenerative revolution in the way we interact with our environment.

Since October 2016 a series of meetings were held and in between the Cloudburst Foundation and a flexible team of pro-bono advisors and collaborators have kept the process evolving and have build the relationships and institutional frameworks and agreements to create Common Earth as a UK registered charity that will help the process of capacity building, showcasing, connecting and resourcing local and regional regenerative practice in different Commonwealth Nations and partner projects in non-Commonwealth countries.

One of the early outcomes of our weekly calls and initial working group was this map of mature regenerative projects around the world that David McConville created and a team of us helped populate. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but focussed on projects that have been around for long enough to tell a transformational story and have good ways to document it like an informative website or video.

May of mature regeneration and ecosystems restoration projects around the world (the criteria was also that they had a good video to tell their story, there are many more projects than the ones showcased here!)

Here are some short videos that came out of the second meeting, which I personally did not attend and during which time my attention was focussed elsewhere.

Video about the 2nd Meeting
Regeneration International’s report on the 2nd meeting

This is a report produced for that second meeting.

The Report of the Second Meeting

The most recent meeting at Marlborough House showcased a number of locally grounded place-sourced regenerative projects from three different Commonwealth countries. A delegation from Aukland Bay presented a wonderful regional watershed regeneration project that is deeply rooted in the Maori cultural traditions and indigenous wisdom.

Nichie Abo from Dominica presented the work of the Kalingo Global Institute for Resilience and Regeneration which is deeply rooted in the cultural heritage of the descendants of pre-Colombian inhabitants of the Caribean. The project is closely linked to Dr. Michael McDonald’s work through the Alliance for Global Resilience and Regeneration to help the creation of vital local and regional infrastructures that will help people in place to face the coming climate disruptions with increased resilience and capacity to regenerate systemic health.

The other highlighted regenerative development project was how the island nation of Kirabati became home to the world’s largest marine protected area that safeguards the one of the world’s most important spawning grounds for pelagic fish like tuna — The Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA).

In addition a series of other projects presented more briefly, including a presentation by Christopher Nesbitt, the recent winner of the Commonwealth Innovation Award, on his work at Maya Mountain Research Farm. Eduard Mueller from the Universidad de Cooperacion Internacional (UCI) in Costa Rica presented on the many regenerative development initiatives that are moving ahead in his country.

Kate Raworth, from the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, offered a lucid and inspiring presentation about 21st Century Economics and the importance of creating the social foundations that enable people’s wellbeing within the ecological limits of our planetary boundaries. Stuart Cowan presented on Regenerative Finance, the 8 principles of regenerative economics and the network of bioregional regeneration projects that the Capital Institute has incubated through the Regenerative Communities Network.

Meeting on October 3rd and 4th, 2019 at Marlborough House, London

Ben Haggard and Freya Yost presented on the role of Cloudburst Foundation and its partners like Regenesis Group and others who have been helping to build capacity for regenerative practice within the team running this initiative and through the on the ground work with the pilot projects showcased at the event. There is so much to digest and report on, but for now I will leave it at this and simply offer a few soundbites from the event and few official news releases from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

“It is not game over in the battle against climate change its game on.”

— Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland

More excerpts from the Secretary General’s address:

“The global outcry for action on climate change has never been louder. In David Attenborough’s words, the ‘penny is starting to drop’ and millions are waking up to the reality that, without action, we are careering towards destruction.

The sombre predictions of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of drowned metropolises, melting mountain glaciers and super storms seem far too imminent, as hurricanes, cyclones, floods and drought continue to break records, both in terms of intensity and frequency.

Yet, the report is also hopeful, providing ‘evidence of the benefits of combining scientific with local and indigenous knowledge to develop suitable options to manage climate change risks and enhance resilience’.”

— Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland

“When we talk about regenerative economies we are looking at cycles of growth transformation,” he said. “We are looking for ways to bring ecological systems back into full health and blossoming, and figuring out how our economies can meet all our needs, while nature flourishes.

So as we think about climate change the health of living systems is critically important. The way we use our land, grow our food and design our cities and transportation systems can reduce carbon emissions rapidly and efficiently.”

— Stuart Cowan, Regenertive Communities Network

“Human genius has enabled us to travel to the moon, it has miniaturised vast libraries of information onto devices that fit into the palm of our hand, and brought medical advances that add years to our life expectancy,” Secretary-General Scotland said. “We need that same genius to find solutions to climate change. Science can build on the ancient wisdom of indigenous communities and diverse cultural inheritances towards sustainable ways of drawing on natural resources without destroying the harmony and balance of the ocean and our common earth.”

— Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland

I personally feel enthusiastic about the potential of this project and have also learned over the last three years that these kind of projects that involve the careful manoeuvring of the political systems and the building of alliances and foundations for funding to flow do move rather slowly but with the potential of leveraging large scale shifts over time.

What is exciting about this regenerative approach is that transformation at scale would be achieved through many smaller and place-sourced initiatives that start from the bio-cultural uniqueness of the communities and regions they are engaging with to build the capacity of people in place to help themselves and contribute health and value through the larger wholes they are nested in. How to effectively resource such projects will be part if the work ahead and so the ‘regenerative finance working group’ that was established at the last meeting as a lot of work ahead.

I look forward to collaborating with Cloudburst Foundation and Common Earth in supporting the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat in making it easier for the leaders and policy makers of the 53 member countries to understand and strategically support regenerative practice through place-sourced regional activities.

“Common Earth is on the lookout for innovative pilot projects and examples of regeneration to learn from and showcase. Below are some of the qualities we think give projects significant potential. If you are working on or know of a project that demonstrates some of these qualities please be in touch!


AgencyRemoves barriers to agency and self-determination for people and living systems

UniquenessWorks from the unique potential of people and places

InterconnectionBases every decision on the contribution it could make to a larger world

DevelopmentBuilds new capability for health and wealth generation in everything it touches

ReciprocityCreates wealth by investing in the life-giving capacity of Earth”

Common Earth

Some early videos about the initiative (from 2016 and 2017):

Baroness Patricia Scotland, QC
Paul Hawken
John Dennis Liu
John Elkington
Daniel Christian Wahl
Janine Benyus
David McConville
Daniel Christian Wahl
Bill Reed

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Daniel Christian Wahl

Daniel Christian Wahl

Catalysing transformative innovation, cultural co-creation, whole systems design, and bioregional regeneration. Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures