A Cultural Evolution Model for Restoring Planetary Health
Humans have degraded landscapes all
over the planet to the point that the Earth is
now in overshoot-and-collapse.
It is necessary to regenerate ecosystem
functions at regional scales to restore
planetary health and safeguard humanity’s
We are in overshoot-
are destabilizing the
Functional Landscapes as “Organizing Principle”
The fundamental driver of ecological change has been social
niche construction for human societies—altering the ﬂows of
energy and resources away from non-human life to grow the
biomass of our species.
A social niche is an inherited
environment comprised of structural
supports that inﬂuence life for the next
Example: Humans born into cities
“inherit” the built environment and
institutions of that place.
This graph powerfully demonstrates the logic.
Human population goes up as we bring more
energy and resources to our own species—
through land management, manufacturing,
fossil fuel use, and so forth.
The processes of cultural evolution created the planetary
crisis. Therefore the design of social systems must involve
applying cultural evolution research to guide the future
developments of humanity.
Build a viable model for guiding the cultural evolution of
bioregions. Implement and generalize the model so that it can
be shared across an emerging global network of regional
Local metrics for social
wellbeing and ecological health
Global goals for planetary health
How do we design a pathway to regenerate the Earth?
to whole system
This is our mission — regenerate ALL degraded
lands on Earth to restore planetary health
Coordinated through bioregional learning
centers that organize efforts locally while
collaborating with each other across regions.
There are several global action networks dedicated to
regeneration that lack coherence and risk fragmentation
Weave a Tapestry of
Offer a “design institute”
platform for existing learning
It supports immersive learning
experiences for regenerative design
with holistic projects for community
This design institute aspires to be
part of an emerging network of
bioregional collaboratives dedicated
to Earth regeneration.
We seek to anchor in many places a strategy for weaving
together the permaculture camps, ecosystem restoration
projects, retreat centers, and ecovillages around the world
that provide learning experiences.
Interwoven with project-based learning for regenerative
design that is able to partner with universities, nonproﬁts,
social enterprises, impact funds, philanthropy,
governments, and local communities.
Developing shared curricula and navigation pathways
between locations so that students and practitioners can
teach each other in diverse settings.
Every location on Earth where social change occurs
as a ﬁeld site for cultural evolution research.
“The world needs integrative solutions to systemic crises.”
“Communities around the globe need to
gain the ability to guide themselves
toward greater health and resilience.”
This is a Grand Challenge for Cultural Evolution
“All the while, we are bombarded by
cascading disruptions due to the
profound complexities of human-
Drivers and Incentives
Institutional Silos Entrenched
But it won’t happen the way things are now
Interoperability of Knowledge
Cultural Scaffolding Is Key!
This design institute will achieve integration of
knowledge and practice by taking a territorial
approach to regeneration of ecosystems and
Has “Place” to Take Root
Learning Process Built on Decontextualization
Has No “Place” to Take Root
Why Integration Undoable in the Past
This requires separation of
knowledge from any speciﬁc
Knowledge Rooted in Place-based Learning
Field Sites for Whole System Approach
Create Maps of
Local Context as
Network Across Many
This partnership will create
educational materials while ﬁeld-
testing them for usability in
build collaborative teams that
learn together at territorial scales;
provide institutional supports for
each ﬁeld site where change is
and train a lot of practitioners as
the number of sites grows with the
passage of time.