The Value of Nature = Our Future

My journey with the Presencing Institute led me to wonder about the values we hold in regard to nature and how we can listen to stakeholders who we may perceive are having a negative impact on nature and rapidly increasing biodiversity loss. I see them as corporations, with decision making people leading them, who see nature as a resource to mine and harvest with no ‘real’ regard for sustainability. I wanted to know “How do we make visible the deep structure of the social field in order to transform it?” It was only after exploring the social field that I came upon the IPBES Natures Futures Framework and have been designing a way to bring them together.

I will cover:

  • Acknowledgement of biodiversity loss and anthropogenic change so far
  • (I think we know how bad it is)
  • Need for assessment scales and scenarios
  • Introduction to Natures Future Framework
  • Design Thinking, iterate, how we apply it for self and planet
  • Using deep listening, generative conversations and inner knowledge (Practical U Theory)
  • Introduce a core U Theory activity – 3D mapping of biodiversity as you see it now, and then in the future
  • Conclusion – From opportunity to reality – designing nature as a positive economy framework.


I acknowledge the devastating biodiversity loss

Corey et al (2021) introduce their article “Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future” with this quote.

“Humanity is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity and, with it, Earth’s ability to support complex life. But the mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilization (Ceballos et al., 2015; IPBES, 2019; Convention on Biological Diversity, 2020; WWF, 2020).

The authors draw attention to the lack of appreciation of the enormous challenges to creating a sustainable future. The science underlying the issues is strong, but awareness is weak. The enormity of the problems and solutions required needs to be broadcast widely or else society will fail to reach even the most modest sustainability goals.

For those of us who are well aware of the enormity I breathe with you in acknowledgment of the biodiversity loss and continued colonisation and extinction of nature. I reach into my heart and feel the warmth of love radiating out to each of you. As a collective we can access what Joanna Macy termed “Active Hope”.

However, if you are only now feeling bold enough to face and possibly embrace the enormity I direct you to:-

Need for assessment scales and scenarios

Several leaders in monitoring biodiversity have stated that to be able to communicate with policy makers and governance officials that validated scales of assessment are needed, not only of the loss of flora and fauna, but also the drivers of human behaviour. Only recently have they started looking at what humans value, including a historical review.

“The IPBES Global Assessment (2019) has shown that Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and makes it clear that transformative changes are needed to get us onto a more sustainable trajectory for the planet. “Under the current socioeconomic trajectory, the world will miss most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and so we need to initiate changes in our economies, technologies and societies if we are to shift onto a more sustainable global development pathway (Naidoo & Fisher, 2020).”

The United Nations adopted a global indicator framework to set and measure targets looking froward to 2030. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development “encourages member states to conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels which are country-led and country-driven”. Click to access the E-Handbook that outlines the 17 goals for Sustainable Development.

For example people campaigning against damming of rivers may find quoting Goal 6 Indicator 6.4.2 useful – 

Indicator 6.4.2: Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources

Target 6.4: By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

However, the UN web site states : “Five years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the 2020 Report notes that progress had been made in some areas, such as improving maternal and child health, expanding access to electricity and increasing women’s representation in government. Yet even these advances were offset elsewhere by growing food insecurity, deterioration of the natural environment, and persistent and pervasive inequalities.” 

With all these great reports and goals, I get a sense that if Nation State leaders and policy makers follow the guidelines the world might be on a sustainable track. But is it that simple? There are many different ideas proposed by people in the science-policy arena, but they frequently don’t align. As we begin to look at the Natures Futures Framework, we can see that these alternative positive futures arise from varying values and local needs.

To quote Pereia et al (2020) discussing plurality of values and perspectives on desirable futures

The world needs desirable visions, including targets to stimulate action towards achieving them, as illustrated by the normative power of the SDGs and the well‐below 2 target of the Paris Agreement (UNEP, 2019). However, discussions on such desirable futures around biodiversity and particularly the post‐2020 agenda in the CBD have tended to accentuate the perceived conflict between diverse perspectives of what a desirable future for nature looks like, problematizing the diversity of underlying values of the human–nature relationship.”

An example is the two alternative pathways for agriculture and urban development that would enable better outcomes for biodiversity. One is ‘land-sparing’ which is high-yielding agriculture with a small land footprint compared to “land-sharing’ which is low-yielding but wildlife friendly agriculture on larger tracts of land.

Naturalist E.O Wilson has proposed the ‘Half Earth’ concept – “With science at its core and our transcendent moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart, the Half-Earth Project® is working to conserve half the land and sea to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity, including ourselves.”   

Many organisations are calling for at least 30% of the oceans to be sanctuaries (currently less than 1% is protected). For example, Mission Blue, formed by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, have created Hope Spots of which there are two in WA. – Exmouth Gulf/Ningaloo and the Abrolhos Islands. 

“Hope Spots are special places that are scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean. Our Hope Spots are championed by local conservationists whom we support with communications, expeditions and scientific advisory.”  . You can watch Dr Earle’s TED X prize winning talk from 2009 on You tube or at her home page. 

Happy Moment – In June 2019 I researched information for World Oceans Day and wrote about Mission Blue in my blog. I said an intention that it become a Hope Spot and be protected. I contacted Protect Ningaloo reef and wrote to them to nominate Exmouth Gulf and the Ningaloo Reef as a Hope Spot. It became one in August 2019. Unlikely that it was because of me, but I do feel a connection, however, the pressure from industry continues to want to destroy this ocean wonderland. 

Other solutions linked to our current economic systems are found in “green growth for sustainable development, celebrating natural capital accounting, nature‐based solutions and payment for ecosystem services schemes (Bull & Strange, 2018; Mandle, Ouyang, Salzman, & Daily, 2019; Russi & ten Brink, 2013; TEEB, 20102018). Other research articulates the need for a look at alternative economic models for a flourishing nature (D’Alessandro, Cieplinski, Distefano, & Dittmer, 2020; Otero et al., 2020).” In “Developing multiscale and integrative nature–people scenarios using the Nature Futures Framework.”

An example was given by Tobias Bandel in a talk on soil regeneration where living soil, i.e., soil that has billions of microorganisms per teaspoon can be given a dollar value (for example they can degrade organophosphates and yield higher volume and better-quality crops). “…True Cost Accounting, … looks at the hidden costs and communicates the hidden value of agricultural production. Intensive farming overuses the soil, which starts to leak and erode. This has consequences on cost accounting of future seasons, whereas cover crops and biodiversity help build resources and add to the health of the soil and system. True Cost Accounting translates these differences into money, rendering them visible in the accounting process. “We should not put a dollar sign on everything in nature,” Tobias emphasized, but dollar signs may be the tool we need right now to accelerate a shift in our agricultural system.”

With so many ways or visions forward scientists realised that transformative, multiscale global scenarios were needed as tools in the quest to halt the decline of biodiversity and achieve sustainability goals. The researchers who participated in the scenarios and models expert group of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) entered into an iterative, participatory process (think Design Thinking, IDEO, Participatory Action Research and Quality Improvement models) that led to the development of the Nature Futures Framework (NFF). It is a heuristic tool that captures diverse, positive relationships of humans with nature in the form of a triangle. 

Introduction to Natures Future Framework

In 2017 the working group met in New Zealand and developed “Seven Visions of Positive Natures Futures”


To see text on diagrams please refer to source. These illustrations are  embedded individually within Table 1 ‘Seven visions of positive Nature Futures that emerged from the Auckland workshop (adapted from Lundquist et al.,2017) an open Access Article and were drawn as part of the Natures Future Framework process.

A Tasty World with Values (Culture):-This vision illustrates a world where values of reciprocity, harmony and relationality drive humans’ relationships with nature at all levels of human organization, where bio‐culturally diverse and autonomous local food systems dominate, where there is respectful sharing among diverse knowledge systems and where governance systems recognize the rights of local producers and indigenous peoples with respect to territories, resources and knowledge.




Sustainable food systems (Food Production):-This vision illustrates a world where global food production systems are re‐engineered, emphasizing sustainable supply chains and benefit sharing mechanism in place between producers, traders, transporters and retailers, grounded on biodiversity‐rich food production that supports local and indigenous communities.





ReFooding and ReWilding the urban Rural flows (Urban Rural Flows):-This vision illustrates a world where urban and rural communities are reconnected with nature, achieved through ReGoverning to improve governance systems, ReFooding to reinstate localized ecosystem service flows and ReWilding solutions to free up space for nature across rural and urban areas.




Dancing with Nature (Nature’s Dynamics):-This vision illustrates a world where nature is at the centre, and human societies both accommodate and benefit from natural environmental fluctuations. Dynamic societies and infrastructure emerge, with technological innovations that enable people and nature to adapt to the challenges of the Anthropocene.




Healthy Social–Ecological Freshwater Systems(Water):

This water‐centric vision illustrates a world where innovative technologies and circular economies support efficient water use, extraction and recycling at localized scales, and legal rights and incentives are awarded to rivers as living systems.

Healthy oceans, happy communities (Marine):-This ocean‐centric vision illustrates a world where the high seas are closed to resource extraction, and coastal ecosystems provide a wealth of ecosystem services, supported by long‐term sustainability strategies by governments and businesses that empower local‐based sustainable co‐management practices. Novel technologies support behavioural change to lower impact diets and increase food production.

Nature‐based inclusive prosperity(Prosperity):- This vision illustrates a world based on reconstructing global governance and institutional mechanisms in order to recharacterize economic drivers to include externalities and incentivize sustainable and natural resource use and sustain richly diverse cultures, societies and nature into the future.

The author explained …” Desired futures of peoples’ relationship with nature varied substantially across these visions (Table 1). Some visions emphasize the indirect and intangible benefits of biodiversity, such as in Urban Rural Flows, Nature’s Dynamics and Culture, while others emphasize the direct uses of nature, such as in Food Production. Acknowledging local ecosystem service flows and the development of multifunctional landscapes is an important component of Urban Rural Flows, Water, Culture and Prosperity. Others emphasize the management of global ecosystem service flows or the segregation of spatial uses of ecosystems, such as Urban Rural Flows, Nature’s Dynamics and Marine.”



What do you value most? Livelihood? Relationships? Culture? Identity? Sense of Place? Intrinsic value? Ethical moral? Non0monetary? Aesthetic? Monetary? Spiritual?

Breaking News – we have done it!

Human population is now living within limits of planet.

Knowledge of nature and a bicultural diverse world.

Improved governance, re-wilding, novel food systems, improved wellbeing in urban and rural areas.

Reclaiming growth, new paradigms for wellbeing.

Sustainable, clean oceans.

Dancing with nature. Nature shows the way.


Design Thinking, iterate, how we apply it for self and plane

Methodology – Design Thinking

IPBES and many other framework developers use design thinking. They look for inspiration –  brainstorm, map it, try it out, review and iterate.

Design Thinking can be used for designing our own personal behaviour change and to redirect business, organisations and governments. It can help us accelerate the extremely slow acceptance and behaviour change needed in the face of the biodiversity loss crises we are in.


“…true leadership today is the capacity to facilitate a shift of mindset in multi-stakeholder groups from a narrow understanding based on self-interest (ego-systemic) to one where decisions are made based on the wellbeing of the whole system (eco-systemic)- … Eco-System Leadership. … Ultimately, the aim of u.lab 2x is to activate a global ecosystem of innovation that works to ensure wellbeing for all.” (PI Syllabus 2021)


 Otto Scharmer, co-founder of Presencing Institute added deep listening, mindfulness and ‘being present’ aspects to design thinking. For two decades, Presencing Institute has explored questions such as: what does it take to redesign societies in ways that address the pressing challenges of our time? What does it take to apply the power of mindfulness to the trans- formation of the collective system? Their publications and courses out- line a framework for updating the “operating systems” of our educational institutions, our economies, and our democracies, applying the core concepts of Theory U to the transformation of society at large

“The Social Field Research Lab emerges in response to the crisis of our times, where existing approaches to solving the challenges we face have hit a wall. Our current moment is one of profound disruption that calls for deep civilization renewal. That, in turn, requires transformation at the deepest level of the social field – the source conditions that shape our thinking, relating and acting. To achieve this transformation, we need to make the deep structures of the social field visible, yet we lack the frames, concepts, methods, and tools to do this at scale. It is here that we aspire to make a significant contribution to the transformation of society, science, and self.” 

As part of Presencing Institutes accelerating systems transformation program several tools are utilised. One is 3D Mapping, a tool that we use to bring multiple dimensions and perspectives to see and understand the elements of the system together (co-sensing).

By creating a sculpture (think sand play using symbolic items to indicate objects and relationships) we can ‘feel’ into what our current reality is. We can view our ‘sculpture’ from 4 perspectives and ask ourselves questions. In this changing of views, previously unknowns may reveal themselves to us. After contemplating the sculpture, we set about changing it to our preferred future view. Answering a set of questions, we can understand what needs to shift to allow that new reality to happen. We can discover gaps in the system.

The activity is best done individually, but in the presence of others who we can discuss and reflect on the sculptures with initially, and then groups can cocreate. Organisations and companies have found innovative solutions to topics as diverse as health care system delivery to communication within organisations.

Conclusion – From opportunity to reality – designing nature as a positive economy framework.

As our Living Planet Report 2020 shows, we can end nature loss – but only by combining ambitious conservation with the transformation of modern food production systems and consumption patterns, which change how we use land, reduce food waste, and improve our diets. It is time to take the opportunities we still have left and design the nature-connected future that can lead to greater well-being for humans and other species on Planet Earth. Everyone can redesign their own and their families behaviours, albeit within a still dysfunctional and unsustainable growth at all costs, business as usual system.

Business and finance have a vital role to play – protecting and restoring nature in supply chains, and investing in nature-based solutions. This will be a key focus for change makers who are willing to redirect some of their efforts from campaigning for individual biodiversity losses to systemic awareness and change.

And as world leaders make key decisions on the environment, climate change and sustainable development through 2021, it’s vital they prioritise the well-being of both nature and people.


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