About Greenprints

GreenPrints focuses on a critical question: how can we create governance and legal systems that help us live within our ecological limits and nurture the Earth community? This project has been created because while we have ‘blueprints’ to document the design of building and engineering projects, we don’t yet have effective ‘greenprints’ for helping us construct the governance systems we need, to build Earth centred human societies that can nurture the Earth community and flourish in a post-carbon, climate changed world.

AELA is working with experts from the natural sciences, indigenous knowledge systems, law, planning, natural resource accounting, ethics, economics and the arts, to create Earth centred governance models for bioregional ecological health in Australia. Since 2019, AELA has been working with communities across Australia, to explore and pilot how the ‘Greenprints’ methodology might work in their communities, and their wider bioregions.

Read an introduction about GreenPrints, written by AELA’s National Convenor, Dr Michelle Maloney.

See a PowerPoint Presentation about GreenPrints.

Why do we need Earth centred governance and law for human societies?

Currently, law and governance in industrialised societies is made by people to enable human development, with either very little or no consideration of how human development will affect local ecosystems, surrounding bio-regions and global Earth Systems that support life. This approach has contributed to the situation we face today – the global ecological crisis. Our laws treat the natural world as if it is merely human property – a collection of objects for human use.  Our laws also support and promote infinite growth in a finite biosphere. Earth jurisprudence proposes that we shift from this human-centred world view, to an Earth centred world view, which respects, protects and nurtures the health of the interconnected Earth community.

From an Earth Jurisprudence perspective, human laws and governance should be designed to ensure human activities fit within the ecological limits and productive capacity of the natural world, so that all members of the Earth community – plants, animals and life supporting ecosystems – are able to exist, thrive and evolve.  To do this, we need to redesign our governance systems (ie the rules that govern our societies – formal laws and moral/cultural ways of being) so that we firstly, understand, protect and nurture the health of the Earth community and secondly, design human activities so that they ‘fit within’ ecological health at all scales – from our local ecosystems, to wider bioregions, and our Planetary Boundaries.

Why does GreenPrints start with ‘bioregions’?

AELA’s mission is to build the understanding and practical implementation of Earth centred law, governance and ethics.  A useful ‘starting point’ for mapping out what Earth centred governance looks like, is a bioregion.

A bioregion is an area of land or sea defined by common patterns of natural characteristics and environmental processes (such as geology, landform patterns, climate, ecological features and plant and animal communities). A bioregion’s borders are defined by natural boundaries such as mountain ranges and soil types (rather than the political boundaries of many maps). Each bioregion has a unique collection of ecological communities as well as different patterns of land use and threats to biodiversity. A bioregion is smaller than an ecoregion, but larger than an ecosystem or catchment area.

The benefits of a bioregional approach are threefold. By using bioregional ecological health as a starting point for human governance, we can:

  1. implement a key aspect of Earth Jurisprudence, that is, we can develop our understanding of place and connection with our local Earth community;
  2. map out what nature needs to thrive and (in contrast to the idea of ‘sustainable development’) we can build understanding about the critical parameters and ultimate ‘end-game’ for us to work within; and,
  3. redesign human culture and society so that economic, social and political systems all work towards the same, life sustaining ecological goals.

A collaborative approach to ‘weaving’ together a user’s guide to living within our ecological limits

AELA’s collaborative research process is drawing on a range of disciplines, and the excellent work that has been (and continues to be) carried out by people around Australia and the world, including:

  • the field of work known as ‘bio-regionalism’;
  • indigenous knowledge and law;
  • the work done by Natural Resource Management (NRM) and catchment management bodies across Australia;
  • work done by conservation and land management agencies across Australia;
  • planning and research carried out by local communities to protect their local ecosystems;
  • an understanding of the how the current planning and other laws currently work, and how they can be transformed;
  • effective methodologies for calculating human ‘use’ of the natural world, including the Ecological Footprint Method;
  • the various and diverse work being done within ecological economics, Steady State economics and the ‘New Economy’ framework, which aims to create local, sustainable, socially just economies

Principles of the GreenPrints project

The Green Prints project is based on the following principles:

  • We must have an easy-to-use, practical method for communities at any scale – local, bioregional, national – to engage with Earth centred living
  • We must move from an ‘economic growth’ paradigm to an ‘ecological health’ and Steady State paradigm for all human activities, and accept and respect ecological limits and Planetary Boundaries.
  • We must focus on mitigating and adapting to climate change, including an urgent transition away from our current fossil fuels based economy, towards sustainable, renewable energy systems.  An important part of this transition is that we must also reduce our demand for energy, not just aim to replace our current high-energy lifestyles with renewable energy.
  • We must place the protection and restoration of vibrant biodiversity at the centre of human governance, including laws that recognise the rights of nature to exist, thrive and evolve.
  • Local communities must have a greater say over economic, environmental protection and resource extraction activities in their local catchments and wider bioregions.
  • Australia’s current Federal, State and local laws affecting environmental protection and planning are deeply flawed and need to be reformed, to support Earth centered law and governance systems that enable human communities to understand, ‘fit within’ and protect bioregional and global ecological health.