About Our Work

Joins us and learn how to see together to connect and accelerate positive change. To learn more about Team Zostera, here is a Story Map that provides significant background materials and describes a bit more about this amazing ecosystem and why stewardship is so important here in Casco Bay. To learn more about Learning Journeys, here’s a brief 4 minute video that tells the story of the five day learning journey that COBALT co-led in South Devon UK in September 2019 with the Bioregional Learning Center. To learn more about the Blue Economy and the rise of Blue-tech Clusters, here is a Story Map focused on the Americas – the other on the many countries across the Northern Arc of the North Atlantic. Here’s a story of a recent COBALT Learning Journey to Iceland, produced by our storytelling partners at MS Storyworks who feature our work on their showreel.

COBALT is the Collaborative for Bioregional Action Learning & Transformation. This is a global group focused on developing pathways for a more just, equitable and regenerative future on our planet in the face of massive social and ecological change. We are part of the SustainaMetrix team that has been conducting collaborative work in coastal communities across the globe for over fifteen years including the Arctic, Europe, Africa, Pacific Island, Caribbean, Latin America and North America. Our philosophy and reason for being is well defined in the recent 2021 Nobel conference keynote paper Our future in the Anthropocene biosphere (Folke, C., Polasky, S., Rockström, J. et al. Our future in the Anthropocene biosphere. Ambio 50, 834–869 2021). While this is rather detailed paper, it fully describes why the work of COBALT and SustainaMetrix is so timely and must integrate community science/stewardship efforts like Team Zostera. For more information on COBALT please contact us.

COBALT: In Service To The Great Transformation

  • From globalization to glocalization – using bioregions as the framing;
  • From productivity to regenerativity – starting with our food, energy and water systems;
  • From growth based on extraction of natural resources to flourishing based on stewardship, pride and awe of the myriad of services, values and beauty ecosystems and nature offers;
  • From ownership of things to access to just what we need;
  • From programs such as carbon offsets that support “business as usual” – to invitations to stewardship that supports pathways to adaptation and transformation;
  • From seller-buyer markets to provider-user networks that inspires stewardship action – offers access to just what we need;
  • From linear processes that centralize power of a few individuals at the expense of whole communities where they live – to complex, dynamic (indeed cybernetic) processes and systems thinking that supports cycles of life and regeneration;  
  • From vertically integrated economies of scale to laterally integrated economies of scale that inspires mindsets and behaviors of “just enough”;
  • From centralized value chains to distributed value chains that are aimed at the margins – those with less agency;
  • From corporate conglomerates to agile, high tech small and medium sized cooperatives block-chained in fluid commons that support transformations systems;
  • From Intellectual Property to open-source sharing of knowledge;
  • From zero-sum games to network effect;
  • From rampant consumerism to ecological stewardship that has healing benefits – “Heal thyself ~ Heal thy-place and Heal thy-place ~ Heal thyself;
  • From gross domestic product at the one big shiny metric to “Blue Marble Evaluation” principles with a wide range of indicators that speak to quality-of-life based on social/ecological context;
  • From negative externalities to circularity and stewardship;
  • From geopolitics to biosphere politics;
  • From analog bureaucracies to digital platforms;
  • From western Colonization to indigenous wisdom;
  • From sovereignty/dominion over nature to stewardship of regional ecosystems;
  • From managing nature as property (in places and spaces) to a new relationship with our spheres of life that interact through processes, patterns and flows. These spheres of life include:
    • Water – hydrosphere (thinking beyond watersheds)
    • Minerals/nutrients – Lithosphere (thinking beyond just below-ground)
    • All elements that comprise air – atmosphere (thinking towards airsheds)
    • Textiles – fibersheds
    • Food systems – food sheds
    • Etc.
  • From paradigm of autonomous self to our own existence seen as extensions of the spheres of life – and our health and future is interwoven;
  • From governance of natural resources to stewardship of regional ecosystems.  Bioregional governance that is far more distributed, with local communities taking the roles and responsibilities of adapting to and stewarding the 19 km (15 mi) biosphere that encompasses the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere – the only area of life – in the universe that we know like exists;  
  • From democracy to “distributed peerocracy” where everyone is invited to engage in the governance of their bioregions;
  • From voting once every 4 years – to active ecosystem stewardship as an act of political action;
  • From power over to humility, mindfulness and critical thinking;
  • From intellectual intelligence – to emotional intelligence;
  • From the old scientific paradigm (nature as resource) to complex adaptive social/ecological systems modeling (nature as life force that we MUST steward) – what we are calling the bioregional digital twin.

List above adapted and further developed from THE AGE OF RESILIENCE: REIMAGINING EXISTENCE ON A REWILDING EARTH. By Jeremy Rifkin ‧ Published November 2022

Principles that Guide our Work

We are guided by the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance.

We are guided by the Blue Marble Evaluation Principles for our approach to engaging with complexity and uncertainty.

We are guided by the Principles of Regenerative Development and Design for the built environment.

We are guides by the Capital Institute’s Principles for Regenerative Vitality.

Why Bioregional Learning Journeys?

We all need healthy local food, reliable sources of renewable energy, efficient and affordable low-carbon transportation, clean water, and access to health care. A Bioregional Learning Journey is about asking new types of questions, and learning how to craft a way of life by seeing remarkable innovations, breakthroughs as well as barriers and roadblocks.

Ocean sunset viewed through a path and grass and dunes

Casco Bay , U.S.A.

Casco Bay Bioregion within the Gulf of Maine (one of the most rapidly warming systems on the planet) our major focus here on seeing, connecting and accelerating the “green shoots” of transformative change – and what better metaphor that surrounds us in the coastal ecosystem – are the amazing seagrass meadows and tidal wetlands and from there – everything is related from the relationship to food systems and wastewater treatment – to transportation/mooring buoys dredging/even cruise ships.

Tayside And Furth of Forth Bioregion, Scotland

We helped to launch this initiative a few years ago and they have a rather amazing energy forming called Bioregioning Tayside – which is a community led effort to realize the bioregion, remember the primacy of natural systems in survival, reconnecting with those natural systems, re-orientate human activity to promote resilient environments and livelihoods and restore the natural systems on which we all depend.  I’m heading there later this month to further define a bioregional digital twin project that will link Casco Bay and Tayside in the development. 

Westfjords, Iceland

We have developed strong relationships with colleagues across the Arctic through the UArctic Thematic Network – and have focused on the Westfjords in Iceland and coastal adjacent habitats such as seagrass meadows in Iceland.  Here’s a brief video of a Bioregional Learning Journey to the Westfjords –  The focus here is also on coastal ecosystems – but given the DRAMATICALLY different context to Casco Bay – the focus is on more rural issues depopulation, consolidation of municipal authorities, dramatic absence of wastewater treatment and the explosion of adventure tourism across the Westfjords.

Osa Penisula, Costa Rica

Part of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Bioregion = 2% of the worlds biodiversity under massive development pressure – here’s a Story Map of a 3-day Learning Journey to the Osa Peninsula we led in March.  This is bilingual and led by amazing young leaders in Costa Rica – who are thirsty for the integration and how to link narratives and numbers to tell transformative stories.

Dimensions of a COBALT

Bioregional Learning Journey

Embracing Indigenous Wisdom

We embrace the wisdom that has been documented and shared by our Indigenous colleagues who have been living in this land for time immemorial. For example, we learn more about a typical “Wabanaki Food Year” a living knowledge of what what was gathered. See below for an example and if you are interested in some further reading, “Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki.”

Transformations

We explore the transformations needed for systems change at a bioregional scale including the concept of transformation (T-) systems developed by Waddock et al. 2022, and how they can become impactful organizing frames for change agents. We are building capacity for another innovative type of entity, the Transformation Catalyst (TC). In this workshop we are working to connect, cohere, and amplify the work of actors and initiatives, who generally work independently, into coherent T- systems.

Everyone Lives in a Bioregion

These are unique life places across the globe that have distinct and unique natural characteristics such as soils and climates, native plants and animals as well as unique social and cultural patterns. Indigenous peoples have inhabited particular places for thousands of years, evolving a way of life remarkably well adapted to the local conditions and cultural identities, languages, and diets all are interrelated to their bioregion.

Navigating the Future

We are convinced that humanity has the collective wisdom to navigate the times ahead and to adapt by creating a more liveable bioregion for people as well as for the rest of life with which we share. Regenerative design expert Daniel Christian Wahl – the author of Designing Regenerative Cultures had a wonderful conversation with Glenn Page about the design of this Learning Journey, here’s a link to the video.

Local Collective Action

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed an interconnected and tightly coupled globalized world in rapid change and RESPONSE must be both local and global. Learning Journeys are a form of local collective action, as an exploration into what is possible locally, within a distinct bioregion, that could be more beneficial for human life and well-being.


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