Earthrise: The UN Decade for Ecosystems Restoration & the Century of Regeneration

This year marks the 50th anniversary of ‘Earth Rise’ — the image of our blue planet rising over the surface of the moon. A short contemplation of this image should really lead most people to question the sanity of a quest to live on the moon or even on Mars. We — the human family — have not yet proven mature planetary stewards and regenerative members of the community of life on this fragile planet. It is time to grow up!

Earthrise — This image was taken on December 24th, 1968 by NASA’s Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders (Image in the public domain — Image Source)

2018 also marks the 50th anniversary of Bucky’s visionary book: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. In which he wrote:

“It is obvious that the real wealth of life aboard our planet is a forwardly-operative, metabolic, and intellectual regenerating system. […] Our children and their children are our future days. If we do not comprehend and realize our potential ability to support all life forever we are cosmicly bankrupt.” — R. Buckminster Fuller

Indigenous wisdom from all over the world held the Earth as sacred and saw our role as caretakers, guardians or stewards of the regenerative cycles by which Nature produces abundance that can be shared by all life.

It has been a long journey back to such wisdom, having judged such cultures mistakenly as “primitive” in the days when scientific and technological “progress” made us feel like the masters of rather than integrally dependent on life as a planetary process.

Recent good news is that Erik Solheim, the current Head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has recently put his support behind a UN Decade for Ecosystems Restoration.

In the run up to the ‘Global Landscape Forum’ to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, at the end of August (2018) Solheim said: “A decade devoted to promoting the rehabilitation of degraded, damaged and destroyed ecosystems would help speed up the race against climate change and biodiversity loss” (Source).

A laudable initiative for sure! Yet some would say 50 years too late! Had we only listen to people like Rachel Carson, Buckminster Fuller, John P.Milton, John Todd, Ian McHarg, J.T. Lyle, Donnela Meadows, Bill Mollison and many others who have helped to grow the movement calling for ecosystem and planetary restoration and regeneration!

The Universal Hall, a conference venue of the Findhorn Foundation

Sixteen years ago— in the magnificent Universal Hall at Findhorn — I took part in a week-long gathering and conference that brought together people from around the world. Most of the participants were working in the protection and restoration of the terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems of their bioregions, or in education and capacity building for such important work.

We had all gathered under the call to ‘Restore the Earth’ invited by Findhorn’s very own Alan Watson Featherstone, Roger Doudna, and Hanna Morjan. My humble contribution to the conference as a student on the MSc in Holistic Science at Schumacher College at the time was a 90-minute workshop on ‘Earth Restoration and a Science of Qualities’.

Conference headliners included thought leaders and activists like Vandana Shiva speaking about Living Democracy, Winona La Duke on Indigenous Values and Practices, Helena Norberg-Hodge, John Seed and many others. Yet every one held a piece of the puzzle. Many people had amazing before and after images to show of the little patch of Earth they had committed to making a difference in.

9 minute interview and documentary about Alan’s work in reforesting the Scottish Highlands (Source)

During the ‘Restore the Earth Conference’ pain and grief was very present with all of us as we faced stories of how much of what we deeply loved was still disappearing in front of our eyes: coral reefs, old growth forests, fertile soils, wetlands and with them thousands of species and entire ways of being — forever!

Nevertheless most of us had converged on this event because we were messangers or representatives of another story that was emerging in the four corners of the Earth — a story of people restoring their ecosystems and regenerating soils, forests, and waterways.

Collectively we represented clear signs that while the 20th Century had seen and erosion of living natural and social capital and a degeneration of healthy ecosystems functioning, the tide was beginning to turn. More and more of us were engaging in the healing of the Earth and her people.

On April 5th, 2002, about 300 of us representing over 40 nations and six continents — with the endorsement of the United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP) represented at the event by John Manouchehri— officially declared the 21st Century the ‘Century of Earth Restoration’.

Today, at one and the same time, I celebrate that we seem to finally be ready to officially call in a ‘Decade for Ecosystems Restoration’ under the leadership of UNEP and I lament that it took us so long! We need to do more and faster!

The major historic transitions from the tribal era to the era of empires and now into the planetary era (Context Institute)

We are witnessing a change of eras — from the Era of Empires into the Planetary Era — and the change of our cultures guiding stories — from the story of separation to the story of interbeing. When reflecting on this transition, I am often struck that what might seem like incredible inertia is an ‘observer effect’ created by our habit of experiencing time in relation to our own lifespan. Maybe the few hundred years since the beginning of the Renaissance are actually all part of this great transition, and maybe this transition is actually relatively fast? In any case, it seems to be coming to and end. Welcome to the Planetary Era!

I have written before about how I firmly believe that we are witnessing a coming together of people of all ages and places in the rise of the ‘Re-Generation’. We are seeing a global network forming of mature members of the human family committed to playing their part in the restoration of local ecosystems and the regeneration of the Earth and her people. We are living through a Regenerative [R]evolution!

“We may not be able to raise the winds, but we can set the sails, so that when the winds come, we are ready!”
— E.F. Schumacher

May the newly to be launched ‘Decade for Ecosystems Restoration’ be the wind in the sails of the Ecosystems Restoration Camp Foundation, the Commonland Foundation, Regenesis Group, Common Earth, the Regen Network, Regeneration International, La Via Campesina, the Wild Foundation, Gaia Education, G.E.N., the Society for Ecological Restoration and many other organizations and small or large restoration projects anywhere. The people in them have worked hard — as pioneers and early adopters always have to — to prepare the ground for a flourishing future for planet Earth. Re-generation rising! Trim-tabs unite!

50 years on from when the famous ‘Earth Rise’ image was taken and five decades after Bucky published his Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, may we live through another Earth Rise — the Earth rising through all of us into its full syntropic potential and maximum bioproductivity!

May we come together as one species taking biomimicry’s central lesson to heart and begin to show that as life we can create conditions conducive to life!

May we begin to “support all life forever” and avoid what Bucky called “cosmic bankrupcy”!

May we roll back Earth Overshoot Day and stop stealing from future generations!

May our future generation speak of our age as the Time of the Great Turning from which forward the forests were expanding, the wetlands, coral reefs and oceans were recovering, the soils were growing in fertility and organic carbon content, and human communities were growing in cohesion, solidarity and glocal collaboration at the start of the Century of Regeneration.

May humanity grow wiser as we collectively undergo a species level rite of passage . We are coming home to Mother Earth at the dawn of the Planetary Era!

Daniel Christian Wahl works internationally as a consultant and educator in regenerative whole systems design, and transformative innovation. He holds degrees in biology (Univ. of Edinburgh / Univ. of California) and Holistic Science (Schumacher College) and his 2006 doctoral thesis (Univ. of Dundee) was on Design for Human and Planetary Health. He was director of Findhorn College between 2007 and 2010, and is a member of the International Futures Forum, a fellow of the RSA, a Findhorn Foundation Fellow and a member of the Evolutionary Leaders Circle. Daniel sits on the advisory council of the Ojai Foundation and the Ecosystem Restoration Camps Foundation. His clients have included UNITAR (with CIFAL Scotland), UK Foresight (with Decision Integrity Ltd), Ecover (with Forum for the Future), Bioneers (with the Progressio Foundation, and with the Findhorn Foundation), the Dubai Futures Foundation (with Tellart), The Commonwealth Secretariat (with Cloudburst Foundation), Gaia Education, the Global Ecovillage Network, the State of the World Forum, Balears.t, Camper, Lush and many educational NGOs, universities, and design schools. He is co-founder of Biomimicry Iberia (2012), and has been collaborating with ‘SmartUIB’ at the University of the Balearic Islands since 2014. After joining Gaia Education in 2007, Daniel works part-time as Gaia Education’s ‘Head of Design & Innovation’ since 2015. His recent book Designing Regenerative Cultures, published by Triarchy Press in the UK in May 2016, has already gained international acclaim, and his blog on Medium has a large international readership.