What is the Flourishing Earth Project?
Flourishing Earth Project is a conversation that may take many
forms, all intended to contribute to a vision of a Flourishing
Earth. Articulating this vision may help us find the will to
bring it to fruition, something many believe is now possible for
the first time in history.
you to join us in this conversation on our
blog and on our
Facebook page, where you will find ideas and comments from
widely diverse points of view. You may add your own comments
and/or also share the work that you are doing in building a
flourishing Earth on our
To begin this conversation the Project will address the
What would a flourishing Earth be like, from your point of view?
An Introduction by the
Flourishing Earth Project Director
Cheryl Genet, Ph.D.
Outcome of a Successful Conference
In June of 2009 I convened a conference in San Luis
Obispo, California—the third in our
Humanity Conference and Book Series—Science, Wisdom, and the
Future: Humanity’s Quest for a Flourishing Earth. I came to this
title by way of two related experiences: The first is my desire to
expand the scope of my thinking from my doctoral studies in
Interdisciplinary Science and Theology to more global inquiries—to
issues of faith and cultural interface and our sustainability as a
species. The second is my contact with
Trowbridge who has done years of intense research on the nature of
wisdom and was the first to introduce me to the concept of a
As far as I can determine, this
is not an extensively used phrase, although I find it surprising that it
is not, given its inspiring simplicity. Trowbridge seems to have
more-or-less coined the phrase in the context of a vision for the
future, or coined it independently of other uses, might be the more
accurate way to portray it. Google shows that it is also used by Peter
Brown in Canada in regards to economics (certainly a critical part of
the flourishing Earth equation). Mary Evelyn
Tucker uses the idea of human-Earth flourishing in the context of
Earth Charter put forth by the
Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale—the concept of flourishing
that moves us beyond a goal of merely sustaining our species. It appears
on the website of the
Community Network and also on Tom Atlee’s
Co-Intelligence website, proposing "…our long-term collective
flourishing as part of a flourishing Earth." Google also shows that two
of the top three entries are from our own previous conferences and the
which I direct. I would imagine there are others as well.
What first caught my attention
in discussions with Richard was his contention that the resources for a
truly flourishing Earth are now, for the first time, actually available.
The only thing needed is the will to bring such a world to fruition. So
what is a flourishing Earth, what does this mean, and what might a
Flourishing Earth Project be?
What is a Flourishing Earth?
One approach could be to clearly
define "flourishing." But this might be detrimental to the beauty of
this term, which is that it may have the capacity to evoke a positive
vision for all who hear the phrase, within their own frame of reference,
and without unnecessary cultural restriction. According to Trowbridge:
"The concept of flourishing
itself has power. It conveys a picture in the mind of the healthy, whole
and successful person we know we were born to be. It is easily
understood and communicated, and is a dynamic, not a static, concept. It
is flexible enough to allow people to discern for themselves what their
flourishing would look like. Flourishing is a goal that can be allied
with any religious belief or non-belief."
Trowbridge elaborates on his
contention that we have the resources to create a scenario in which all
people flourish in a flourishing natural world and lays out what he
believes to be the three conditions required for the level of
functioning necessary for such a scenario:
1. Massively increased production of
essential commodities (food, technology) and services (health,
2. Adequate knowledge regarding
development in diverse areas: health and nutrition, microorganisms and
epidemiology, cognitive functioning, learning, emotional health, and
environmental influences on the individual, (particularly in early
childhood), society, and the planet.
3. A global community based on
interactions of equality and mutual respect, including gender equality.
The idea that flourishing
"…could be allied with any religious belief or non-belief might be
argued. It may take some elaboration and conversation to determine if
this is truly the case. Certainly it could be argued that the very
idea of flourishing is an impossible utopian vision. But, I submit that
striving for a flourishing Earth, or even considering its possibilities,
is not for the faint-hearted or easily daunted visionary.
As Trowbridge goes on to
"There is one other necessary
condition, as I see it: A global consensus that a flourishing Earth is
indeed the goal. In forming this consensus, the relative vacuum of
meaning in the contemporary world is fortuitous. Humanity has
extraordinary newly-won powers that are not being used optimally. Grave
perils (such as terrorism and environmental disasters) need to be faced.
Only a visionary project that is adequate to both scientific knowledge
and to the demand for meaning can focus the new energies and help
provide structure for the new global community. Neither science, nor
economic production, nor humanitarian concerns can provide the psychic
energies to embark on this 'moral equivalent of war.' The Flourishing
What will it take to create a
mandate for a flourishing Earth? One can easily imagine that our flourishing
can be influenced for good or bad by our environment—family, schools,
jobs, neighborhoods and governments, and by the quality of the food we
eat and the air we breathe. In order to flourish it is important to
understand how the world influences us and how we in turn influence it.
The recognition that all things are deeply connected in what Martin
Luther King, Jr. called "the network of mutuality" in an idea with
explosive power. Another quick scan of Google offerings is sufficient to
suggest that there appears to be a growing longing for an explanation of
our world that is compatible with the new world situation and knowledge,
and that draws all humanity, all beings, into a unifying narrative
providing a sense of meaning.
What is the Flourishing Earth Project?
After the Science, Wisdom, and the Future
conference, which considered many of the pieces of the unifying
narrative and both the problems for and the contributions to a
sustainable, even flourishing future, there was a great sense of wanting
to bring more tangible results out of the deliberations. Several of us
met over a period of several months, accessing the both the
possibilities and our resources. In the end, and at the suggestion of
Rob Rutherford at California Polytechnic State University, an expert in
holistic management, we focused on two points of view, or rather two
sides of the same view.
Flourishing Earth Project will explore more of the pieces of the puzzle,
and more of the "fuzzy, messy" areas (as Rob so aptly puts it), in
between the pieces in a way that works to connect them all into a holistic
framework. We may start with a companion volume to the Science,
Wisdom, and the Future
conference book--a book that would grow
out of the deliberations of our Flourishing Earth Project blog perhaps--but the Flourishing Earth
Project itself is a larger vision, still somewhat undefined, but a
cooperative adventure between the
Collins Foundation Press,
(a division of the
Educational Foundation), the
and, potentially, other individuals and groups. It is not a formal
organization or in any way intended to re-create the wonderful work
being done in many areas already, but rather a conversation that may
take many forms, all with the intent of
contributing to the building of a flourishing Earth.
Thanks to Richard
Trowbridge for contributing defining characteristic of both individual
and planetary flourishing and for introducing me to the concept of a
flourishing Earth within the context of a definable vision for the
I am also deeply
grateful the the dedicated people who worked through the summer of 2009
with me to determine a positive follow-up for our wonderful conference.
In alphabetical order: Sammie Bankston, Bob Banner, Jeanette Blyth,
Dwight Collins, Vic Lewis, Galen Ricard, Rob rutherford, Robert
and Melanie Sachs, Dawn Williams, and Paul Wolff.
Atlee, Tom. Learning to be Evolution.
19 Dec 2009.
Brown, Peter G . 2007.
The Commonwealth of Life: Economics For
A Flourishing Earth, 2nd Ed.
Black Rose Books.
Trowbridge, Richard. 2009. Private
communications with Cheryl Genet.
The Earth Community Network website:
19 Dec 2009.
Tucker, Mary Evelyn. World Religions, the Earth
Charter, and Sustainability. Forum on Religion and Ecology website: