Dr. Michael Ben-Eli, founder of The Lab, was recently interviewed on “Voices for the Future”, the series co-hosted by Dr. Michael Wayne and Anodea Judith.
The series seeks to present efforts by individuals from different fields on their work towards making the world a more enlightened, better place.
Please enjoy this interview, as Michael discusses the implications of defining sustainability from a holistic, systems perspective.
The Lab Signs An MOU For Collaboration With The College Of Natural Resources Of The Royal University Of Bhutan
A formal collaboration agreement was established between The Sustainability Laboratory and the College of Natural Resources of the Royal University of Bhutan, to advance sustainability in alpine ecosystems through research, education, and project development activities.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement was established during a virtual signing ceremony that took place on the morning of August 5th, 2021. Michael Ben-Eli, founder of The Sustainability Laboratory, and Dasho Nidup Dorji, Vice Chancellor of the Royal University of Bhutan, signed the agreement. The ceremony was attended by various faculty from the University; The Lab’s core team, Board members, and Advisors; as well as Tashi Dorji, Chairman of the National Council of Bhutan. Tashi, a former intern of The Lab, was instrumental in facilitating the collaboration between the two organizations.
This collaboration represents an important milestone in the development of The Lab as a global network of activity centers, across different eco-zones around the world.
We look forward to a fruitful collaboration with our new colleagues in Bhutan.
The Sustainability Laboratory’s inaugural conversation series, Exploring the Sustainability Challenge, features thought leaders working on some of the most urgent issues facing the planet. Get to know the speakers for each session, below.
Session 1: Setting the Context: Sustainability is a System’s State
Michael Ben-Eli, founder, The Sustainability Laboratory
Michael Ben-Eli is the founder of The Sustainability Laboratory, established in order to advance the concept of sustainability, expanding prospects and producing positive, life affirming impacts on people and ecosystems in all parts of the world. Prior to launching The Lab, Michael pioneered applications of systems thinking and cybernetics in management and organization, and has worked on synthesizing strategy issues in many parts of the world and in diverse institutional settings. Michael is the author of the widely-acclaimed five core sustainability principles, and he is leading the development of The Lab as a worldwide network of ecozone-based activity centers.
Session 2: The Science of Climate Change
Jennifer Francis, Senior Scientist, Woodwell Climate Research Center
Jennifer Francis is a Senior Scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center. Her research focuses on the Arctic, and the connections between rapid Arctic warming and weather patterns in mid-latitudes. She is also involved in science communication and outreach work, including two publications in Scientific American, and regular quotes in major media outlets. In 2019, she testified to the congressional hearing for the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in Washington DC, with the presentation: “The State of Climate Science and Why it Matters.”
Session 3: Why is Biodiversity so Important?
Tom Lovejoy, President of the Amazon Biodiversity Center, Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation
Tom Lovejoy, known as the “Godfather of Biodiversity”, is a conservation biologist. He is the founder and president of the Amazon Biodiversity Center, and a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation. He has served on science and environmental councils under the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations, and is credited with bringing the global tropical deforestation to public attention, as well as coining the term “biological diversity.”
Session 4: Combating Desertification
Uriel Safriel, former Director of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and former Chair of the Science and Technology Committee of the United Nations Convention on Combatting Desertification
Uriel Safriel is a Professor Emeritus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. His research areas are marine and desert populations, and community and ecosystem ecology, predominately studying birds and mollusks. His appointments include Chief Scientist of Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Director of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Chair of Israel Man and Biosphere National Committee, and Chair of the Science and Technology Committee of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and its Science-Policy Interface. He is also a member of The Lab’s Advisory Board.
Session 5: The Economics of Sustainability
Hazel Henderson, futurist, economics iconoclast, best-selling author, and producer for the public television series “Ethical Markets”
Hazel Henderson is a futurist and an economics iconoclast. She is the founder of Ethical Markets Media, a media company promoting the emergence of a sustainable, green, more ethical and just economy worldwide, and the producer of the Ethical Markets television series. She is the author of several books, including the award-winning Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy, and her writing has appeared in newspapers and journals around the world.
Session 6: Sustainability in the Developing World
Ashok Khosla, former co-chair of United Nations Environment Programme’s International Resource Panel (UNEP-IRP), and Founder and Chairman of Development Alternatives
Ashok Khosla is an environmentalist and sustainable development expert. He is the founder and chairman of Development Alternatives, a research and action organization striving to deliver socially equitable, environmentally sound and economically scalable development outcomes, and the former co-chair of United Nations Environment Programme’s International Resource Panel. He is also a member of The Lab’s Advisory Board.
Session 7: Urbanization and Sustainability
Jonathan Rose, urban planner, author, co-founder of the Garrison Institute, and Founder and President of Jonathan Rose Companies, LLC
Jonathan Rose is an urban planner and is considered a visionary in urban development. He is the Founder and President of Jonathan Rose Companies, LLC, known for developing affordable, green, and environmentally responsible communities. He is the author of The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life. He co-founded the Garrison Institute, and he sits on the Boards of various nonprofit organizations.
Session 8: Art and Sustainability
Patricia Watts, curator, writer and founder, ecoartspace
Patricia Watts is a curator, and founder of ecoartspace, a national nonprofit art organization specializing in artists who engage the human-nature interface. Conceived of as as a venue where visitors could learn about the principles of ecology through immersive environments created by artists, ecoartspace has produced more than 50 exhibitions, 200 programs, working with 1,000+ artists in 15 states nationally and 8 countries internationally.
Producer of Exploring the Sustainability Challenge
Elizabeth Thompson, former Executive Director, the Buckminster Fuller Institute
Elizabeth Thompson is a Consulting Advisor for various nonprofit organizations. She builds and leads organizations that play an important role in exploring deep questions at the heart of contemporary culture and ideas in the context of creating a sustainable future. She is the former Executive Director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, and the Founding Director of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge Prize program, which ran from 2007-2017 and awarded a $100,000 prize annually to visionary, whole-systems design solutions.
For more information about Exploring the Sustainability Challenge and to register for the event, click here. We hope to see you there!
Join us for the launch of our conversation series:
Exploring the Sustainability Challenge
Meeting the global sustainability challenge requires a fundamental shift in the way we look at the world, engage with each other and with all other forms of life, and manage human affairs. Our capacity for thinking in new paradigms and pursuing creative experimentation is essential and urgently needed.
The Sustainability Laboratory, a not-for-profit research, development and educational organization, was established in 2008 in order to develop, demonstrate and facilitate innovative approaches to sustainability practices, thereby expanding prospects, and producing positive, life-affirming impacts on people and ecosystems in all parts of the world.
In our work, we seek to achieve deep, transformational results. We also recognize that the sustainability issues we are facing require unprecedented new levels of collaboration and cooperation amongst those engaged in advancing the sustainability agenda.
To advance the cause, The Sustainability Laboratory is launching a new forum for the exchange of ideas, and we invite you to join us for our inaugural “Exploring the Sustainability Challenge” conversation series.
We will be engaging thought leaders from around the world in conversations exploring key ideas related to some of the most urgent topics of our time.
Please join us for a free, monthly, live conversation via Zoom.
To RSVP and receive a link to the event, including the time and format, kindly click the button below:
The program includes:
April 29th: Setting the Context: Sustainability is a System’s State. Michael Ben-Eli, founder, The Sustainability Laboratory, interviewed by Elizabeth Thompson, former Executive Director, the Buckminster Fuller Institute.
May 26th: The Science of Climate Change with Jennifer Francis, Senior Scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center.
July 6th: Why is Biodiversity so Important? with Tom Lovejoy, President of the Amazon Biodiversity Center, Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation.
July 21st: Combating Desertification with Uriel Safriel, former Director of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Formerly Chair of the Science and Technology Committee of the United Nations Convention on Combatting Desertification.
September 22nd: The Economics of Sustainability with Hazel Henderson, futurist, economics iconoclast, best-selling author, and producer for the public television series “Ethical Markets”.
October 27th: Sustainability in the Developing World with Ashok Khosla, former co-chair of the United Nations Environment Programme’s International Resource Panel (UNEP-IRP), and Founder and Chairman of Development Alternatives.
November 18th: Urbanization and Sustainability with Jonathan Rose, urban planner, author, co-founder of the Garrison Institute, and Founder and President of Jonathan Rose Companies, LLC.
December 14th: Art and Sustainability with Patricia Watts, curator, writer and founder, Ecoartspace.
The Sustainability Laboratory team is sad to report the untimely passing of Shai Zauderer, a dear friend of The Lab. Shai was involved with our work since The Lab’s inception, and was essential in developing the branding of our organization. He was an indispensable member of the Project Wadi Attir team, and invested his talent and energy since the project was launched. Shai was loved by all, and he will truly be missed.
Lab Founder Dr. Michael Ben-Eli To Speak At The 2020 Induction Ceremony Of The International Green Industry Hall Of Fame
Our founder, Dr. Michael Ben-Eli, will be a featured speaker at the 8th annual International Green Industry Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The ceremony, which will take place on October 1st, 2020, will celebrate the achievements of twelve companies and individuals who demonstrate excellence in green industry.
Dr. Ben-Eli himself was inducted into the Intentional Green Industry Hall of Fame in 2015, where he received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The upcoming event is online, free, and open to the public. To celebrate the new inductees and view Dr. Ben-Eli’s talk, register here. We hope to see you there!
To all our friends and supporters, greetings from The Sustainability Laboratory! We hope this communication finds you, your colleagues, and your loved ones doing well and keeping safe.
As we approach the end of the summer, now more than five months after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared and swept throughout the world, at The Sustainability Laboratory we continue to work to address the great sustainability challenges facing the planet. We believe that while world society needs to focus on eliminating the virus and its rampant impacts, simultaneous attention to the long-term and to laying the foundation for a new and better tomorrow are now more urgent than ever.
For the moment, we are pleased to share that all of our programs have continued, albeit with modifications to adapt to COVID-times, while our staff continues to work remotely. Click here to read the full recap of recent developments at The Sustainability Laboratory.
From all of us at The Sustainability Laboratory, we hope that this communication finds you well during this difficult moment for our planet.
At The Sustainability Laboratory, we have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic. Following recommended guidelines from the medical community, our staff have been working remotely, and travel to our various project sites has been suspended for now. We continue to connect digitally with our associates around the world, and our projects are advancing, although at a somewhat slower pace, in spite of the challenges before us. For a detailed update on Project Wadi Attir, our flagship development project with a Bedouin community in the Negev, and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please see our most recent update from the project.
We believe that, in the face of such a serious, global challenge, our work towards establishing the concept of sustainability as the organizing principle on the planet is now even more urgent than ever. We are working towards a future in which our planet enjoys a peaceful, productive, and life-affirming existence, with greater resilience in the face of crises such as the one we are experiencing now. We look forward to continuing and redoubling our efforts as we move forward.
Thank you. We wish you peace and good health.
Don’t miss the brand new video we had produced about The Sustainability Laboratory, which highlights The Lab’s origins, current initiatives, and impacts. The video was produced by Yãm Aisner of Regenerative TV, who is also an alumni of the Global Sustainability Fellows (GSF) program.
Keep up with the latest videos from The Sustainability Laboratory by subscribing to our Youtube channel.
The Lab has been expanding its educational resources, and recently had its systems thinking and modelling curriculum published as an e-book: Systems Thinking & Systems Modelling: A Course for Understanding Systems and Creating Systems Models.
The e-book was developed in collaboration with Systems Innovation and Loops Consulting. It serves as a companion piece to The Lab’s online course, Systems Thinking & Systems Modelling, and is free and open source. These materials are part of The Lab’s growing systems education curriculum. They are used in our Global Sustainability Fellows (GSF) program, and are openly available for anyone who wishes to learn more about sustainability from a systems perspective.
Click here to download the e-book. We hope you enjoy it!
On September 21st, 2019, Dr. Michael Ben-Eli was awarded the Synergetics Collaborative Cosmic Fishing Award during the 6th Biennial Design Science Symposium at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
The Cosmic Fishing Award is given to those who demonstrate a dedication to advancing the use of Buckminster Fuller’s Design Science strategies in helping humanity better understand complex connections within natural systems.
The symposium explored the use of Design Science in addressing complex, real-world problems facing the planet. Dr. Ben-Eli gave a keynote presenting the work of The Lab, as rooted in Buckminster Fuller’s design legacy.
Dr. Michael Ben-Eli, founder of The Lab, was recently interviewed by Dr. Michael Wayne, as part of Dr. Wayne’s program “Interviews with the Leading Edge.” Please enjoy this interview, as Michael discusses how The Lab came to be, the importance of taking a holistic, systems perspective when tackling issues of sustainability, and plans for the future of The Lab.
Please see also this introduction written by Michael Wayne introducing Michael Ben-Eli and the work of The Lab.
Dr. Michael Ben-Eli presented The Sustainability Laboratory and its work on Innovation Showcase, a Massachusetts-based television program that highlights companies, organizations, and individuals doing groundbreaking work in the fields of science, technology, business, education, and the arts.
During the 30-minute program, Dr. Ben-Eli was interviewed by the show’s host, Jay Sugarman, to discuss The Lab’s development over the last ten years, our portfolio of projects and programs, and plans for the future. We invite you to view the recording, and we hope you enjoy it!
Following in the footsteps of Project Wadi Attir, The Lab’s groundbreaking dryland agriculture and community development project with a Bedouin community in Israel’s Negev Desert, we are exploring the possibility of a new, significant development project: Project Turquoise Mountain.
Project Turquoise Mountain is a proposed innovative approach to mine remediation and ecosystem restoration in Gleeson, Arizona, a remote area that contains a slew of long-abandoned mine shafts, tailings, and associated contamination. The Lab is currently collaborating with the owner of the site of these abandoned mines, with the intention of launching a model project that would showcase the application of sustainability principles to the vexing problem of mine remediation. As a first step, we engaged with a group of students at the Arizona-based ECOSA Institute, who developed a preliminary project concept. This work was led by ECOSA director Tony Brown and other faculty, and with guidance from Lab founder Michael Ben-Eli.
Although Gleeson is currently a ghost town, it was originally inhabited by the Chiricahua Apache Native Americans. The land was dubbed “Turquoise Mountain”, due to the prevalence of the mineral throughout the region. In 1900, John Gleeson arrived in the area and opened the Copper Belle mine, with many other nearby mines soon to follow. The main minerals that were mined during this time were copper, lead, silver, and gold. Mining operations continued in full force until the years following World War I, when the price of copper dropped. The miners eventually left Gleeson, lured to other sites in the region with better conditions and infrastructure, and by 1957 all mines in Gleeson had closed. Gleeson became a ghost town, and today it is a site along the Arizona Ghost Town Trail.
The ECOSA students conducted substantial research about the site, its history, and current conditions, and developed two alternative design proposals for the site. The proposed project would showcase the rich history of the region, while incorporating innovative approaches to mine remediation and ecosystem restoration that turn a toxic site into a thriving ecosystem and multi-use oasis. Underlying these plans are The Lab’s five core principles of sustainability, which will provide a guiding framework for developing the project.
We look forward to these preliminary steps maturing into a full-blown project, and will continue working to bring Project Turquoise Mountain to fruition. To learn more, please feel free to contact us at admin[at]sustainabilitylabs[dot]org.
This summer, we have had some exciting structural changes at The Sustainability Laboratory, with the addition of Alissa Murray, The Lab’s new Director, Program Operations, to the team.
Alissa is from New York, and she works out of the Lab’s headquarters in NYC. She has a multi-disciplinary background, having studied Physics and Spanish, and she worked for several years as an environmental scientist and consultant. She is also a writer and world traveler, and she writes about the intersection of travel with sustainability, human rights, environmental justice, and more.
Alissa is responsible for many of the communications, development, and administrative tasks related to The Lab’s various projects. According to Alissa, “I’m incredibly excited to be working at The Lab. I love the interdisciplinary nature and far-reaching impact of The Lab’s work, driven by its sustainability principles. I’m thrilled to be a part of this team and working actively to effect innovative and positive changes in the world.”
Alissa in Guatapé, Colombia
Alissa has taken over many of the duties of Arielle Angel, who served as The Lab’s Director of Operations for the past five years. Arielle will be missed, having made a career shift into the world of literary editing, and we wish her happiness and success in her future endeavors.
Arielle shared some thoughts with us on her time at The Lab: “As I reflect on my last five years at The Lab, I’m in awe of what we were able to accomplish, on a small budget and with an even-smaller staff. As I write this, the Global Sustainability Fellows Program has just closed a successful summer program—the first since our pilot—and Project Wadi Attir is making meaningful strides towards self-sufficiency, even with expanding programs and operations. These accomplishments are a testament to The Lab’s strength of vision and will, and to the work of a group of people around the world who are committed to helping humanity take its next evolutionary step into a sustainable future. In these dark times, I feel fortified by The Lab’s deep understanding of the necessary change, and its work to bring it to fruition. Though I am moving on, I will always remain a part of The Lab’s global family.”
Arielle also shared her thoughts in a letter to the staff at Project Wadi Attir.
We look forward to working with Alissa, and to many continued successes in The Lab’s future!
Originally published in 1973, CHARAS: The Improbable Dome Builders by Syeus Mottel, about six ex-gang members who constructed a geodesic dome on the Lower East Side of Manhattan after a meeting with Buckminster Fuller, has been reissued by The Song Cave and Pioneer Works Press.
The reissue includes a present-day interview with Dr. Michael Ben-Eli, founder of The Lab, reflecting on his work with the project. You can view the chapter about Dr. Ben-Eli from the original publication, here.
Following an exhibition of Mottel’s photos from the project at Situations in New York City, the book was released at an event at Pioneer Works in early December. To commemorate the event, a conversation took place between CHARAS co-founder Chino Garcia and Dr. Ben-Eli, moderated by the architect and professor Nandini Bagchee.
Dr. Ben-Eli (left) and Roy Battiste (right) constructing the dome
The following is an excerpt from the new interview with Ben Estes:
Michael: It was kind of an unusual, spontaneous effort of the counter-culture at the time to organize within the city. I think that a similar need exists even now. There is so much controversy, on the west side, in Chelsea, for example, where developers are putting pressure on a community that was fairly quiet and stable for a long time, where working class people had lived for ages and now that land values have skyrocketed and developers are forcing people out, citizen groups are forming and organizing themselves. I think that CHARAS was an early version of this kind of local communities getting together.
Ben: You mean you see this as a modern-day version of the utopic, counter-culture ideas that you were speaking about earlier?
Michael: It doesn’t need to be regarded as utopian, it’s a very practical matter. You have to live in a place, and you have to try to create conditions for a better life. And as I see it, CHARAS was successful in doing that–by creating their community center, all of the public programming, the activities for kids–really carving out a place for themselves within their urban context and trying to make it a better place.
Ben: But in some ways that is utopic, isn’t it?
Michael: The reason that I’m trying to get away from that term is because “utopia” indicates a dream, or something unreal–and I’m saying that there are practical day-to-day issues that don’t need a brand-new reality in order to be addressed. So, to the extent that individuals and groups take the initiative themselves, and don’t wait for the government, and don’t wait for others to do it for them, they can bring about effective, positive change. Individuals and groups can take the initiative and seek out what is needed to better one’s own life, and that’s what members of CHARAS were doing. It’s actually a very practical issue.
You can buy the book here.
Netafim was inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame at the organization’s 7th Annual Conference and Induction Ceremony in Clovis, CA. Dr. Michael Ben-Eli presented the award, which honored Netafim’s pioneering work in drip irrigation.
Naty Barak (left), Chief Sustainability Officer at Netafim, onstage with Michael Ben-Eli
Netafim is a friend of The Lab, and designed Project Wadi Attir’s custom drip-irrigation system.
Naty Barak and Michael Ben-Eli
Dr. Michael Ben-Eli is a previous inductee to the International Green Industry Hall of Fame, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. Here he is below, giving a short synopsis on The Lab’s definition of sustainability, and why the prevailing definition is inadequate, at this year’s conference:
We are pleased and honored to announce that Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh of MIT has joined The Lab’s Advisory Board.
Widely recognized for his innovative role in building global institutions and developing new models of teaching and research through international initiatives in education, science and technology, Dr. Moavenzadeh has a long and distinguished career at MIT. He has served as the director of the Technology and Development Program, and the Center for Technology Policy and Industrial Development. Until recently, Dr. Moavenzadeh served as the President of Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, supporting the Institute’s mandate of transforming the United Arab Emirates into a leading source of sustainable and advanced technologies, educating the human capital.
To learn more about Dr. Moavenzadeh, please visit the Advisory Board section of our website.
The Sustainability Laboratory is proud to announce the addition of Manuela Roosevelt and Peter Dean to its board. Both Manuela and Peter are longtime friends of The Lab and former members of The Lab’s Advisory Board.
Manuela Roosevelt, co-founder at Springwood Media, commented: “I’m deeply honored to serve on the Board of The Sustainability Laboratory and to join Michael Ben-Eli and my fellow board members as The Lab takes its next wonderful steps to global reach. I’m very excited to be able to contribute in small part to a big vision of rightful heritage of integrated sustainable livelihood and environment. I cannot think of any project in sustainability that delivers on its promise so tangibly and so magnificently.”
Peter Dean, Senior Teacher/Critic at RISD, said: “It gives me great hope and joy to be working with an organization devoted to actual projects that are exemplary of a truly sustainable model. There actually is a right way to be sustainable, and The Sustainability Laboratory is showing the way. I feel proud and privileged to join the board of this organization, and profoundly excited for what is to come!”
Joshua Arnow is leaving our board, but remains a committed friend of The Lab.
The Lab is also very please to announce the addition of Dr. Mohammed Alnabari, Mayor of Hura and longtime partner to Dr. Ben-Eli in the development of Project Wadi Attir, to its Advisory Board.
Dr. Mohammed Alnabari (left) with Dr. Michael Ben-Eli at Project Wadi Attir
To learn more about The Lab’s new board members, please see their bios on our Who We Are page.
In October 2015, Dr. Michael Ben-Eli was invited to present Bren Smith of Greenwave with the 2015 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Prize. The non-profit has designed the world’s first multi-species 3D ocean farms, aiming to restore ocean ecosystems and create jobs in coastal communities by transforming fishers into restorative ocean farmers.
“GreenWave exemplifies beautifully Fuller’s inspirational call for individuals and groups to take the initiative, identify a critical issue, and tackle it independently, creatively, responsibly, and in a comprehensive manner,” said Dr. Ben-Eli at the award ceremony.
Last week, we had a chance to visit the underwater farm with Bren, and team member Asa Dickerson, on a wonderful morning at sea just off the coast of Branford, Connecticut.
We watched as they pulled lines of long, beautiful kelp–cheap and easy to farm, with a negative carbon footprint due to its ability to sequester carbon–out of the ocean. Greenwave believes that every ocean ecosystem around the world has an abundance of sea vegetables waiting to be discovered, farmed and harvested, to feed the world and turn fishermen into ocean farmers, while protecting the seas and mitigating climate change.
In addition to the kelp, we tasted oysters and wild clams fresh out of the water. Wow!
The farms also act as natural reef systems, and are now teeming with life–a fact we saw firsthand when they pulled the oyster cages from the water and found crab and starfish hanging on their edges.
These “reefs” will also protect coastal communities from violent storms, enhancing resilience to climate-related weather events.
Greenwave is a project that embodies not just Buckminster Fuller’s legacy, but also The Lab’s Sustainability Principles. We look forward to hearing more about how the project develops. For more information about Greenwave, click here.
We are pleased to announce that The Lab has recently become a civil service organization (CSO) with official accreditation and “observer status” from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
From the UNCCD’s web post on civil society stakeholders:
“All through the United Nations system, an increasingly global civil society participates in proactive and engaged ways to the work of UN offices, programmes and agencies, making the UN both a counterpart and a witness to its contribution. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society organizations (CSOs) are more and more UN system partners and constitute a valuable link for the UN to civil society and ‘people out there.’
CSOs play a key role at major United Nations conferences, they are indispensable partners for UN efforts at the country level, and they are consulted on UN policy and program matters. UNCCD promotes the active involvement of CSOs in the implementation of the Convention at all levels, and representatives from CSOs that are accredited to the UNCCD Conference of the Parties (COP) may directly participate in its sessions.
The UNCCD secretariat provides accredited CSOs with services aimed at enhancing their involvement in the intergovernmental process. Regular interaction with and feedback from the CSOs are essential to ensure that such services are effective and timely.“
Representatives from The Lab and its flagship project, Project Wadi Attir, recently attended the UNNCD COP12 Convention in Ankara, where they debuted the project’s Dryland Ecosystem Restoration Website, with the support of the conference.
Recently, Michael Ben-Eli, founder of The Lab, sat down for an interview with Michael Wayne, Founder of The Center for Quantum Revolution. In addition to his private practice as a practitioner of Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, and Integrative Medicine, Wayne is also the author of several books, including Quantum-Integral Medicine: Towards a New Science of Healing and Human Potential, and The Low Density Lifestyle.
Over the course of an hour, Dr. Ben-Eli charts his course through life–his life-changing encounter with Buckminster Fuller, his eventual study of Cybernetics and Systems Dynamics, his attraction to and disillusionment with large multinationals like the UN and the World Bank, and ultimately, his vision for his work with The Sustainability Laboratory.
Don’t have a full hour?
Here’s a guide to the interview:
00:00 – 8:00: Early life, meeting with Buckminster Fuller.
“That’s the thing about life: you can never plan the really important things.”
8:00 – 19:30: Michael’s education in Cybernetics, System Dynamics, Managing Complexity, and the Theory of Evolution.
“It was like forming my own university, if you like, keeping my education in the way that I thought was most powerful. It always had to strike the right balance between conceptual development and actually experimenting with concepts in real projects.”
19:30 – 27:00: The problem with multinationals, the importance of experimentation, and the meaning of “second-order change.”
“These are not political issues. You cannot solve them by being a Democrat or a Republican…This is a design problem. You have to understand the science and the way systems work, and apply it in a way that makes sense.”
27:00 – 34:45: The concept and mission of The Sustainability Laboratory.
34:45 – 47:30: Project Wadi Attir
47:30 – 57:00: The Lab, moving forward
57:00 – 1:02:00: Parting message
As we welcome 2015, we’d love to share with you some of the highlights of the last half of 2014. It was a busy, but rewarding year!
Ray Day – October 5th, 2014, Serenbe Farms, Georgia
Michael and Arielle traveled to Georgia to honor the legacy of the late Ray Anderson, a leader in sustainability thinking who went beyond flimsy ideas of “corporate responsibility,” putting sustainability at the center of his business model. “What is the business case for ending life on earth?” he once said. (You can hear more from Ray Anderson in Michael’s 2005 short documentary CEOs on Sustainability.)
As we approached the fairgrounds, more of Ray’s words of wisdom lined our path:
Here’s our booth, where we spent the day meeting other sustainability leaders and discussing The Lab’s projects:
We also had a chance to catch up with our friends from EARTH. Here we are posing with a T-shirt from their recent campaign about compost and responsible management of solid wastes, “See what doo-doo can do!”
It was a wonderful day in Chattahoochee Hills, as The Lab caught up with some old friends and met new ones! Click here for another account of the day in Georgia Trend.
The Pierre Rabhi Endowment Fund – October 16th, 2014, Paris, France
Michael visited with Pierre Rabhi in Paris to discuss Project Wadi Attir, and the possibility of partnering with the Fund’s efforts in Morroco to further advance knowledge of desert sustainability. The Pierre Rabhi Endowment Fund aims to “contribute towards the promotion, development and introduction of agroecology by setting up ecological, educational and inter-generational communities, mainly in semi-arid regions.”
Rabhi says, “The action we are taking is not to ‘patch up’ our model of society, which is quite evidently inappropriate to man and nature, but to change it radically. The time has come to adjust politics to the realities of the modern world.”
The Deserts, Drylands and Desertification Conference – November 18th, 2014, Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Michael returned to Israel for the annual Deserts, Drylands and Desertification Conferece. He lectured on sustainability innovations at Project Wadi Attir as part of their “Rethinking Agricultural Technologies” series.
Michael with Uriel Safriel, Professor of Ecology at Hebrew University, and the Director of the Dryland Sustainability Initiative.
The following day, Professor Stefan Leu led a tour on the Project Wadi Attir site that highlighted the ecosystem restoration efforts taking place there. The central topic for the visit was the soil enhancement and water retention program.
On the final day of the conference, founding members of the Amutah, as well as members of the project’s Design Team participated in a panel which imparted the significance of the project to the Bedouin Community while offering an overview of the project’s integrated infrastructure of green technologies and its “waste into resources” approach.
Read the conference’s Concluding Statement here.
That’s a wrap! Looking forward to what 2015 has in store!
In preparing to blog about our visit to Ray Day outside of Atlanta, GA, an event that brought together a number of leading environmental organizations to honor the legacy of entrepreneur and environmentalist Ray Anderson, we revisited this 2005 documentary, CEOs on Sustainability, based on interviews with Lab founder, Dr. Michael Ben-Eli.
While there are some disappointing moments in the film—the CEO of BP insisting on the primacy of hydrocarbons at the expense of renewable energies, while defining the “long-term” future as 50-100 years—the majority of the film contains an affirmation of ecologically sustainable business practices as good common sense.
Ray Anderson particularly is full of standout, inspirational nuggets:
“The economy grows and the environment shrinks. How long can this go on? The driving force for unsustainability, in my view, is a system of economics that allows the externalization of cost, a system focused only on exchange value without regard for use value, and with no value whatsoever on nature.”
“I believe the power is with the people. I believe the people have to lead. It is the people who are the marketplace. It’s the people who are the voters. Government has a role. It has taxing power and it would be possible for government to redress the externalities and internalize the externalities through an enlightened taxation policy. Whether business leads or follows, it has to be part of the solution. Otherwise, it can drag the whole outfit down.”
As you may have noticed, The Lab’s website has gone through an incredible metamorphosis, thanks to the efforts of our Lab staff and our designers, Ashley Quinn and Andy Gillette of We Less Than Three.
The Lab Team and We Less Than Three, at work
We’re confident that this new iteration tells The Lab’s story in a clearer, more dynamic and more user-friendly fashion. Take a look around, and if you feel so inclined, tell us what you think.