Act: Inspiration

An Introduction to Common Earth

June 25, 2021

We currently live in a world where the survival of everything we truly care about is at stake. This is true because every system in the world, that is every nation, every organization, every corporation, every family, every person, plant and animal, every house, and every car must have a source of inputs and a sink for the outputs it generates.  Without these sources and sinks, with the capacity to fuel us and accept our output, we do not exist.

Every source and every sink has a carrying capacity; a limit beyond which it cannot service the demands of the systems dependent on it.  Beyond that point we are in overshoot.  When a system is dependent on sources and sinks that are in overshoot there are just two paths available to it.  One is collapse and the other is to quickly get back within the carrying capacity of the system.

So many of our systems (our environmental, economic, social, and political systems, among others) are at this crossroads. Those of us at Common Earth are committed to choosing the right fork in the road. We know that critical to doing so is understanding the complexities contributing to this reality and building a community of people who are equipped to move us in a new direction. We believe that people armed with particular skillsets and understanding of the world, who together form a community able to harness the power of the collective wisdom can, and will, embrace an emerging regenerative world.

The crises we face will not be resolved simply by shifting to cleaner sources of energy or by hoping that our political systems will produce better leaders. This is because the ecological crisis is supported by various other systems contributing to a current worldview allowing us to see the world as a resource to plunder for our individual gain. In order to truly move to a post-carbon caring society, we must understand the systems and paradigms at play and develop the skills needed to identify and transcend them.

Common Earth has created a comprehensive course to do just that. This learning journey is all about helping people develop their ability to see interconnections, recognize their inherent agency and resiliency, and about forming a compassionate community of people galvanized by what Christina Figueres calls their “stubborn optimism.” Common Earth offers the opportunity to develop your thinking and understanding alongside people equally committed to moving to a sustainable and compassionate planet. To do so, you join a small cohort of participants to accompany you on your progression through the curriculum.

Our curriculum is divided into two modules. Each module is 8 weeks in length and meets twice per week, for a total of 16 classes.  Each of the classes has assigned prework that participants complete individually, and participants then come together for an interactive online class where we collectively grapple with the material; co-learning and co-teaching is an integral element of every class.

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Each of the two modules has four main areas of focus.  In Module One we acquire some Systems Thinking skills that help us to understand connections and relationships that we often overlook. This allows us to identify effective leverage points and avoid unintended consequences when we making interventions. The second area of focus is an examination of the role of thought in creating our individual experience. When we appreciate the extent to which we are the author of our own stories, it becomes that much easier to recognize that we can shift paradigms and reinvent a new one for all of humankind. Thirdly, we look at the mathematical cosmology story that serves as the genesis story for this community. The story of the 13.8 billion years it has taken us to get here helps us to further cement how contrary to our true nature we are currently operating. And finally, we weave the previous three topics together to illustrate their connection to our understanding of the climate crisis and what we need to do about it.

In Module Two, we build on all of the learnings from Module One, while also exploring four additional area of focus. The first is about community building and the importance of the role of servant leadership in doing so. We explore some thermodynamics to give us a foundational understanding to how energy works – important if we are going to discus alternative energy sources. Thirdly, we look at important mathematical principles that show up time and time again in myriad ways shaping the world around us. Among others, we explore how exponential growth and the 80/20 principle work and how these can be tempered or harnessed depending on our desired outcome. Finally, we delve into an understanding of economics and how our current structures need to shift to achieve more regenerative and compassionate goals.

This learning is supported by reading various texts, watching videos and documentaries, and most importantly, through fun and interactive discussions with facilitators and fellow community members. The learning journey culminates in the opportunity for participants to help define areas of action and focus by volunteering on various committees that they have created. These committees currently include a Facilitation Committee to assist in the growth of Common Earth and an energy committee to help us make incremental change in our individual carbon footprints. We also have a regenerative agriculture committee to ensure that in the process of growing our food we are not changing our soil, which is a sink for the carbon in our atmosphere, into dirt, which is a source of carbon in our atmosphere.  New ideas are the cornerstone of any thriving and engaged community and the establishment of new committees is illustrating that Common Earth is on the right track.

Common Earth is a new organization and the response from participants has been overwhelming; some have said that their involvement in Common Earth has been “life-altering.”  Their continued engagement with Common Earth, and their encouragement of people in their circles to participate, are the most resounding testimonials we could hope for.

If you are interested in what you have read, you can find out more at or by contacting Sarah Patterson at  We would love to hear from you and have an opportunity to share a little bit more about what we are up to.


Teaser photo credit: Photo by Bailey Zindel on Unsplash 

Sarah Patterson

Facilitator with Common Earth

Tags: building resilient societies, environmental education, systems thinking