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Emergent wayfinding for a flourishing planet

It’s time to pause and reconsider. Slowing down, we will arrive much sooner.

Our new collaboration takes us beyond the walls of the institutions where we've done our training, our research, our work to date. It takes us out into the open, where different kinds of knowledge and wisdom can come together and find common cause in fostering mutually enriching ecosystems and communities.

We are an interdisciplinary open-science organization for several reasons. First, to move at the pace our crisis requires, we reach beyond the traditional institutional boundaries of science and technology. But we don't confuse this with rushing. We resolve to collaborate, not rush. Second, just as open-source code is shared freely, the data and knowledge generated by open science live in the public domain. The science of planetary regeneration is too important to our common future to be held privately by any one group. It must be shared. Third, science and technology can be used to liberate or to oppress, to lift many or empower a few. By keeping our doors open, we invite broader participation and closer scrutiny.

We can discover local solutions that are culturally and economically incentivized. A concept we adopt from economist Elinor Ostrom, Social-Ecological Systems (SES) encompass physical processes like rainfall or wind, biological processes like the growth of grass or trees, and cultural processes like education or economic activity. SES analysis recognizes that each kind of process depends on the others: A community with a culture and economy that favor stewardship of trees will foster ecological regeneration of a forest which will in turn alter local patterns of rainfall.

The emphasis that SES analysis places on the integration of social and ecological elements is especially important now for two reasons. First, humanity has become an overwhelming force in every ecological system on Earth, and therefore we must acknowledge and embrace our role as our planet's gardeners. At the same time, human communities are suffering in many ways from their broken relationship with the more-than-human systems that sustain them. SES explicitly knits back together what we should not think of as separate.  

Our degradation of ecosystems is too far gone to think merely of conservation. We must not only halt the loss of intact ecosystems, the alteration of planetary chemistry, and the shift in climate. We must reverse these trends. Fortunately, the science and technology of ecological regeneration has advanced rapidly in recent years. So too has our understanding of the economic and cultural forces that drive people to degrade or to restore the ecological systems that sustain them. We are increasingly capable of reconfiguring our own local systems in favor of regenerative cycles.

Coastal Wetland Forests
Elliott White Jr

The goal of our lab is to create a high-spatial resolution map of coastal forested wetlands at global scale. If we know precisely where these ecologically critical but fragile forests are located, we can manage freshwater flows to counteract saltwater introgression due to rising sea levels, and we can assist in their migration inland, preserving their critical function in protecting coastlines and sequestering carbon.

Jason Baldes
Gisel Booman

Across the continent, a number of first nations are in the process of reintroducing bison to the grasslands in which they were once the primary grazer and an ecologically vital species. Initial experiences and evolutionary considerations suggest that this may be ecologically beneficial in terms of grassland biodiversity, carbon cycle, and resilience to climate change. However, these questions have not yet been studied at scale. In this lab, we will leverage remote sensing to scale up from ground measurements, establishing the large-scale patterns of bison impact.

Riparian Ecosystems
Forrest Pound

Beaver dams are known to result in greener, more drought-resilient waterways in semi-arid environments. We are using computer vision to spot dams in satellite imagery, generating a large dataset that we can use to train models that will tell us what the ecological effects of a dam will be at any point on a waterway. The goal is to create a tool to guide efficient restoration through the introduction of small dams.

Bundled Ecological NFT
Philip Taylor

Markets in voluntary carbon credits are increasingly providing a flow of capital for regenerating ecosystems. The problem is, thriving and resilient ecosystems are not just carbon. We need to find ways to structure credits to incentivize the diverse and functional ecosystems we want, not merely high-concentrations of carbon. We will design the technological tools to support a market in bundled ecological credits.

Global Forests
Aron Boettcher

We are building an accurate and global model for predicting potential rates of reforestation and resulting carbon sequestration. Such a model could have a transformational impact on global reforestation efforts by opening new streams of financing in the form of carbon credit futures.

Impact & Risk
Aaron Hirsh
Valérie Lechêne

Leveraging The Earthshot Institute’s broad scientific and technical expertise, the Impact and Risk Lab helps investors and governments who earnestly want to forecast, measure, and address the socio-ecological risks to and/or impacts from their work. For a given system, we build simple process-based models to identify key socio-ecological risks and outcomes. We then draw on big data to improve and train our models, generating quantitative predictions and developing measurement systems for verification.

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Earthshot Institute Launch Event
Fri April 22