About Greenprints

The Greenprints initiative –

  • has been designed as a comprehensive system to help communities, organisations and governments create regenerative societies and thrive within healthy ecological limits.
  • provides a practical, step-by-step approach to help people understand both the big picture and the small details, of how to transform our societies and thrive within our ecological limits.
  • is an Australian-designed approach, that aims to be accessible to anyone. It demystifies and connects the many varied concepts, models and methods that can be used to create sustainable and regenerative communities, organisations and societies.
  • cuts through jargon and outlines a step-wise approach to creating systems change and governance transformation at any scale.

Greenprints is a process, and an output.

  • Greenprints offers a process to help us find and use the very best sustainability & regenerative approaches, so we can redesign societies to thrive within our local, regional & global ecological limits. The basic process is set out on our Greenprints Steps webpage and the detail of how to carry out each step can be explored once people sign up to the Greenprints approach.
  • By using the process, people can create the output that gave the system its name: ‘greenprints’.  These are a set of viable alternatives to business as usual – a bit like sustainability blueprints: scenarios showing place-based, alternative land use options (local and bioregional scale), regenerative economic activities and socially just, democratic decision making processes.

Greenprints is multi-discliplinary and as every project that uses the Greenprints approach is unique, we collaborate with experts from across a vast number of fields.  We draw in as required, experts from the natural sciences, social sciences, Indigenous knowledge systems, law, planning, ethics, economics, community development and the arts, to create Earth centred governance for bioregional ecological health in Australia.

Visit the Greenprints Exchange for more details about our advisors, experts and the growing Greenprints community.

Visit our webpage called How to Use Greenprints to explore how the approach might be useful to you, your organisation or group.


Why do we need new governance for human societies?

Industrialised societies have been built on the foundations of resource extractivism, colonial expansionism and a deeply held cultural worldview that humans are separate from – and more important than – the rest of non-human nature.  These drivers of industrialised societies have created the situation we face today – runaway climate change and a global ecological crisis that threatens all of life on Earth.  As noted in the writings of deep ecologist Thomas Berry, industrialised societies need a profound paradigm shift – we need to be guided by an ‘Earth jurisprudence’ – a new way to govern ourselves, so we shift from the current dominant  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 redesigned to ensure human activities are compatible with supporting life, and fit within ecological limits, so that all members of the Earth community – people, plants, animals, insects, fish, fungi and so much more – are able to exist, thrive and evolve. 

Why does Greenprints start with nature’s boundaries – shouldn’t we start with human goals and visions for the future?

Greenprints has been built on the understanding that the only way humanity has a future, is if we can live within our ecological limits, and nurture rather than destroy the living world that supports us. Consequently, the Greenprints process invites people to think about the living world FIRST, and then weave the human story within the wider Earth community.

In simple terms, we cannot just begin with what humans want – that continues the separation between human governance and the living world.  We must begin by understanding how life in our bioregion and across our planet, actually works. We must begin by understanding the Relationist Ethos and the idea that we need to pattern ourselves into our living world, so we can develop healthy relationships with all beings. And then, of course, we can explore what human beings want and need.

Helpful starting points for getting to know the living world (especially for non-Indigenous people) can be the concepts developed within western science, such as bioregions, sub-regions, catchments and planetary boundaries.  All of these concepts create forms of knowledge that help us engage more deeply with the places we live, work, play and love.  For Indigenous communities and their allies, the boundaries of First Nations and Countries may be the most appropriate starting point.

By using ecological health within nature’s own boundaries as a starting point for human governance, we can:

  1. map out what nature needs to thrive in this place and build our understanding about the critical parameters we must work within;
  2. redesign human culture and society so that economic, social and political systems all work towards the same, life sustaining ecological goals;
  3. implement a key aspect of Earth Jurisprudence, that is, develop our understanding of place and connection with our local Earth community and become more fully human in the process.

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

The Greenprints 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 law, philosophy and practice;
  • 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 legal system currently work, and how they can be transformed;
  • effective methodologies for calculating human ‘use’ of the natural world, including the Ecological Footprint Method, Life Cycle Benefits Analysis, Industrial Ecology and other approaches
  • the various and diverse work being done within ecological economics, Steady State economics, Doughnut economics and community economies, which aim 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.

The personal story behind the creation of Greenprints, by Dr Michelle Maloney (Co-founder of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance)

In mid 2015, Dr Michelle Maloney – the creator of Greenprints, and the Co-founder of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) – was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.  She endured surgery, months of chemotherapy and months of radiation treatment.

“I was so sick – so incredibly sick – during the treatment, that I could barely move, and I spent a huge amount of time stuck in bed, simply enduring the pain, nausea and fear that comes with cancer treatment.  But through the whole process, my brain never slowed down, and never stopped thinking about Earth jurisprudence, Rights of Nature, ecological limits and the urgent need to change human systems and live in greater harmony with our living world.  So it was during those days, weeks and months – of having an over-active brain trapped in a body that couldn’t do much – that I thought about, dreamt about and started mapping out, a practical, step-by-step way for community groups, schools, local councils and all interested people, to understand both the big picture and the small details, of how to change our societies and thrive within our ecological limits. Greenprints is the product of my more than 30 years of working across environmental law, Indigenous rights, social justice, sustainability and climate change.  Creating it has been one of the most fascinating processes I’ve ever been involved in, and I truly hope the approach can help people make the change they want to see, so we can rein in runaway climate change, address biodiversity loss, restore our precious ecosystems, create social justice and find a future amidst this terrifying ecological crisis that’s upon us.” Michelle Maloney