III: The Great Green Reset


The good news is that the symptoms of a changed climate-nature regime are now observable, universal, and irrefutable. Most everyone’s life, family, company, and community have been disrupted by COVID-19 in some physical, emotional, social, and economic way. When limited to essential goods, services, and travel; we have the opportunity to experience what it means to live simply, to evaluate what we can and can’t live without, and to discern what’s essential to our existence.

Result: We are primed to reflect more profoundly on our lives and livelihoods; as well, the systems that support them. When we are more conscious of what we touch and how we interact; we naturally activate our innate system’s mind and move with greater intention in regards to people, places, things we touch, the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the resources we consume, the provenance of stuff we own, the process of manufacturing goods it took to (via) market to me.

Result: More and more people are becoming conscious and beginning to really piece together personal climate-human-nature narratives. Given the undeniable climate chaos and unimaginable rate of biodiversity loss these past years, I believe we have also finally crossed the proverbial purgatory of disbelief on climate change and the reality of disappearing nature–failing ecosystems upon which we depend. A Great Awakening is happening. The spark that ignited a global flame at the UN Summit and Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and that has burned slowly for the past five years has become a raging fire. It’s a shame that the UN Global Assembly and all the events surrounding the UNGA on its historic 75th anniversary have been a virtual affair. However, millions of people have joined the global conversation online and are precipitating the beginning of a Great Reset for humanity’s relationship to nature. The appetite, urgency, and acceptance are there. Now it’s just up to us to deliver the right messages in the right directions with the right messengers—probably their trusted Indigenous leaders, to help citizens around the world participate in our own personal refresh and to engage on collective platforms for support.  And already there are a few platforms to inform and inspire –the UNDP’s Nature for Life Hub, the WEF’s Strategic Intelligence platform, Project Drawdown, the Campaign for Nature, the Planetary Emergency guidelines, the EU’s Green Deal… and more are surely coming. 

Image from our 3D immersive video @ Prince Albert II’s Planetary Health Gala 2020


Nature is resilient and can recover if we make the right decisions now. World is counting on us. Antonio Guitterez

Moral responsibility is on the rise in many countries and very noticeable where it is absent. The openness and political will to make profound changes to our way of life and livelihoods is there as never before.

Leaders like Kristalina Georgieva (IMF Chief) give me hope. She was on of the first out the gate to commit to delivering emergency relief for the poorest countries, relieving debt, increasing financial support to $11 trillion USD, globally (June 27, 2020), and leveraging capital to entice G20 countries and private investment to blend in with bilateral support.

Leaders like Ursula von der Leyen give me hope. She continues to lead from the front and roll out plan and pact—one after the other to engage the entire European Union in collective actions on climate and nature. She announced ahead of CV19 in December 2019 the EU’s historic Green Deal, aiming to be the first carbon neutral continent. Then, Europe doubled-down on its sustainability values in the heat of CV19 and ultimately decided to back bio-friendly business by allocating 25% of the $826 billion USD for CV19 recovery toward green urban infrastructure and sustainable agriculture. Again in March 2020 the EU proposed the European Climate Law and Pact with a Circular Economy Action plan. Further, come the end of May 2020, Ursula von der Leyen announced the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030.

Thus, with lightning speed and by a union of countries in culturally diverse Europe –visionary, unified leadership continue to create a significant stream of capital to build back better –to imagine what a bio-based economy could actually look like. That’s the power of vision, leadership, and collective intelligence in action.

And now, especially following this 75th anniversary of the UN and the two weeks of virtual events during the UN General Assembly, Climate Week, Nature for Life Forum, WEF Sustainability Impact Summit, and UN Biodiversity Summit… I am even more inspired about our future.

I’m inspired by Lord Zac Goldsmith, Environmental Minister, UK who clearly articulates and internalizes the scale of our human impact on climate-nature in since the Industrial Revolution. He reminds us that nature’s wildlife population and biological diversity evolved over 3.8 billion years; and yet has been reduced to 2/3rds in a nano-second. And over the same period, more than 50% of the earth’s forests have been destroyed. Given this reality check, Zac committed to put nature at the heart of the UK’s climate finance and to drive toward net zero by 2050. In his Leader’s Pledge for Nature and People he committed the UK to a 500 M pound blue planet fund to increase the size of MPA’s (marine protected areas) under the British rule by 30% in 2030. He committed the UK to a 100 M pound biodiversity landscapes fund to protect the world’s most vulnerable biodiversity hotspots. And, he committed the UK to a 120 M pound tropical forest alliance fund and market taskforce to reward good land stewardship…. And this is just the beginning.

I’m inspired by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who signed the Leaders Pledge for Nature and People: by promising to protect 25% of Canada’s land and ocean by 2025 and 30% by 2030 (#30×30), by promising to partner with Indigenous Peoples to ban plastics and plant 2 billion trees in Canada. As the second largest shoreline country in the world and among the top 10 countries in shear size and acreage; Justin appealed to the other 9 countries to step up and to commit to the same.

I’m inspired by Dr. Gero Muller, Minister of Economic Cooperation in Germany who quickly followed suit and committed 500M euro to initiatives that support biodiversity in developing countries with international conservation partners like, IUCN and UNESCO. Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared then later in the Biodiversity Summit program to reinforce Germany’s commitment to protect biodiversity as our greatest asset.

I’m inspired by President Ivan Duque of Colombia who epitomizes the ideal recipient for German biodiversity funds. Why? President Duque committed his country to lead and accelerate the energy efficiency/renewable energy transition throughout Latin America, even though his country represents 0.04% of global carbon emissions. He leads the Leticia pact of world leaders in Amazonia to halt illegal deforestation and to reforest the Amazon, the lungs of our planet—committing Colombia to 60 million trees planted by 2030 in support of the 1 trillion tree project @WEF. And, President Duque’s BiodiverCity program to transform urban cities in Colombia, Latin America, and the world into nature positive economic zones abundant with nature parks and green commerce corridors is truly visionary.

Pakistan’s Minister of Climate Change, Mallik Amin Aslam gives me hope. Here is a country that early on (before CV19) set an example for other developing countries on how to create a green stimulus program that invests in both nature and people. Supported by World Bank funds, Pakistan developed a suite of green jobs and has already employed 10’sx 1000’s of people in nature-based solutions (NBS) to climate, tree-planting operations, and nature regeneration programs.

I am inspired by Prince Albert II of Monaco. Operating with moral authority and authentic concern for the environment his entire life; Prince Albert II was one of the first heads of state to invest in climate research and conservation. For the past 15 years, through his Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, he has successfully executed over 530 projects, raised over 62 million Euro, and partnered with over 100 organizations committed to mitigating climate change, creating community resilience to drought and water resource challenges, and understanding ocean and arctic ecosystems better, together. Certainly given today’s Planetary Emergency, Prince Albert’s model of philanthropic leadership is a replicable model for other Heads of State—past or present, to follow. The Clinton Foundation and the Carter Foundation in the United States have also been powerful global vehicles for social and environmental good in the world.

HH Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco 2020

There are over 60 other world leaders who made Pledges to Nature and People this week.  Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway puts NBS at the heart of their climate finance. Per Olsson Fridl of Sweden committed to developing innovative ways to bring new investors into the climate-nature financing pool. KP Sharma Oli, PM of Nepal pledged that protecting nature was part of their culture. Luxembourg’s HE Mr. Xavier Bettel iterated that protecting nature is good for business, while Dr. Lotay Tshiring, PM of the Kingdom of Bhutan, reminded that protecting nature was good for our heart, soul, and happiness. As they already have 75% of their land under protection; they commit in perpetuity to never go below 60% of forest coverage. Andrea Meza Murrillo, Minister of the Environment and Energy in Costa Rica supported a polluter’s tax to protect natural parks and ecosystem services. These naturally intelligent world leaders and all others who made pledges give me hope.

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

They all shine the light on the stream of true political will waters, now rising. And of course, most impressive still is the collective solidarity found in our international, multi-lateral, multi-stakeholder novel coalitions re-imagining, re-framing, in real time NOW. The collaboration among former Heads of State in the Club of Rome and the Club of Madrid in Europe; leveraging collective experience, political will, and capital to promote right stewardship actions exemplifies beautifully, the power of solidarity and the collective ability to promote global programs, like the Planetary Emergency 10-point Platform for Recovery and our global 30×30 Campaign for Nature to protect 30% of wild nature by 2030.

During the UN Summit and UNDP’s Nature for Life program we heard directly from EU President Ursula von der Leyden and from the Executive VP of the EU Commission, Frans Timmermans, in charge of the EU Green Deal that the EU countries as a unified coalition are committed to protecting 30% of wild nature by 2030 as part of the EU Biodiversity Strategy… and the clock starts ticking now. Their words and their consistent leadership on climate and nature give me hope. I am still reminded of that moment at the World Economic Forum in 2019 when Ursula first made her commitment to the EU Green Deal. She said then (and still means now)—You watch, I am the mother of many children. I promise you my personal vested interest is great. We will get this Green Deal done.”

Onward, Frans encouraged this week that: we take a deep breath and start imagining the future we want because we are shaping it now… and those participating in this dialogue are turning thoughts, ideas, and visions into reality.

Images from our 3D immersive video @ Prince Albert II’s Planetary Health Gala 2020

“We can realize the world we visualize.” Eikosphere, 2009

Reflecting back on the miracle of global solidarity in 2015 when the entire world–every nation agreed to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the Paris Climate Agreement—we recognize that with the right political will and public support; we can reset our great world. In fact, this year is a very special year because COVID-19 ready or not; every country has already agreed to deliver on their nationally determined commitments (NDC’s) — country strategies for drawing down carbon and advancing the SDGs. We have already agreed as an international community to advance the 17 UN Global Sustainability Goals by 2030. The tragedy here is that as highlighted by Marco Lambertini, Director of WWF International, in the Living Planet Report 2020 and during the Biodiversity Summit 2020; not one of the Biodiversity Targets encompassed within 14 of the 17 SDG goals have been met to date. Thus, he and others reinforced the need to STOP-HALT—100% illegal wildlife trade, over-fishing, conversion of nature to agriculture, deforestation, fossil fuel subsidization and investment– and transfer CV19 relief funds to our depleted nature account so we can start to get our world back on our Paris climate and SDG commitment track.  

We simply must re-create a New Deal with Nature, Now. And, the good news is that there are hundreds of new and exciting nature-based solutions to climate and ways to move, grow, live, eat, work, play in the world that do support people and planetary health. The great news is that the Global Biodiversity Report 2020 outlines 7 important steps to halt biodiversity loss and repair our relationship to nature:

1. Re-design our food stems, using smart agriculture practices and promote knowledge exchange among local farmers and Indigenous communities.

2. Minimize resource extraction and minimize the waste- bi-catch associated with extraction of minerals, timber, food, fish.

3. Move toward circularity- reinforce reduce, reuse, and recycling

4. Deploy and scale sustainable energy solutions.

5. Create nature-positive infrastructures and industry specific protocols

6. Restore degraded land; create conditions that allow nature to regenerate healthy ecosystems.

7. Create multi-stakeholder approaches, partnerships, and coalitions.

Again, as Inger Anderson (UNEP), Elizabeth Mrema (CBD), and Maria (IPEBs) emphasized in their collective closing Biodiversity Summit comments; the most important thing we can do now in this make or break moment is to direct taxpayer’s money deployed in this COVID-19 recovery packages toward renewable energy, smart cities, green infrastructure, regenerative agriculture, and the creation of nature parks.

“All CV19 relief funds should have green strings attached…” (Inger Anderson, UNEP)… and these strings must also be attached to building back better–given insights and partnership with Indigenous Peoples. “ (Achim Steiner, UNDP)

Note: To explore nature-based solutions and Indigenous People’s value and ethics further, in Natural Intelligence: Cooperation, Community, Capital I enumerated a few examples, and links to other resources. 

Finally, in this Super Decade on Nature is our time as an international community to re-create our human civilization in the image and likeness of Nature—to biodivert cities (BiodiverCities), following her natural principles of circular recovery, renewal, and sustainable regeneration. On this note, I’m inspired by the rising spirit and consciousness of the global youth community…also because this active group not only rallies for change; but more and more seeks counsel from their Indigenous leaders, whose time has come to reclaim center stage on HOW we re-create a health relationship to nature.

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020


And, what perfect timing to test real political will and true leadership in the midst of the COVID-19 socio-economic-environmental trifecta crisis. Truly, the worst thing that’s shocked us out of our BAU (business as usual) stake could in the long run be the best viral stimulus to amplify and accelerate the viral economic-political stimulus that was necessary to transition us to a new healthy, climate, nature-positive state. Thankfully, the proof, predictions, and probabilities of building back post COVID19 in carbon neutral, nature positive ways came in just in time. We can create nature and ocean reserves. We can create conditions for nature to recovery and regenerate. She is resilient. We can defund deforestation and carbon polluting activities; shift those nature-destabilizing, perverse subsidies toward recovering wild ecosystems, supporting nature’s ecosystem services, and integrating nature into our human habitats…all in ways that make good economic sense and create new jobs. (Carlos Rodriquez, President of GEF) Again, only 25% of the $542 billion USD in nature destroying and air polluting fossil fuel based, dinosaur industries are need to protect nature. (Jennifer Morris, CEO TNC, Biodiversity Summit 2020)

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

And again, the Future of Nature and Business report concluded that a nature positive economy could create 10.1 trillion USD in business value along with 395 million new jobs by 2030. We just now need business to do what good, smart business does best…innovate. We need businesses to catalyze a bio-based economic drive. And the good news is that it is in businesses best, enlightened self interest to do so. Over 50% of the global GDP is at risk if we do not invest in nature. (Dominic Waughray, WEF SDI Summit 2020)

Also in perfect step and harmony with the business community and new nature positive agenda and analyzes, scientists and world economists have finally (after decades) now well aligned on a new climate positive narrative around the 20C threshold for temperature change. Again, 20C is the threshold that the international community agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 to be our absolute science-based target. Why now this new convergence in thinking between climate scientists and economists? The Potsdam Institute led by Dr. Johan Rockstrom (climate rockstar) prioritized and recently updated the Nordhaus computer simulation model that originally pointed to a 3.50C optimal warming for the global economy by 2030.

Now updated with recent climate findings, more detailed carbon cycle models, recalibration of actual temperatures, truer economic impacts, and more realistic social discounting for the next generation’s future; the model now decisively points to a 20C optimal warming and today’s climate mitigation costs. This would finally require the price of one ton of carbon equivalent to $100 USD. (Hansel et al, Nature Climate Change, July 2020) Yes, we can now more precisely quantify the impacts of carbon on our global economy to base a market or tax incentive system to invest in a carbon neutral future. Yes, we can now say in economic forums and ecological circles that it is in the enlightened best interest of everyone, everywhere for economic, social, political, and environmental reasons to strictly keep to our 20C optimal warming target… or go bust.

Johan Rockstrom, Potsdam Institute for Climate Research

“Now, given this new robust climate-economic model we now know we need more stringent climate policies to avoid leaving an unfairly high burden of climate impact on our children.” (Ben Groom, Climate Change, LSE-London School of Economics).

But even as Conservation International reported and Ed Norton, UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity highlighted during the UNGA that the price of one ton of carbon should be at least 15 USD/ton to have any real carbon offset impact as global business’s rally in real time now for being carbon neutral… the average global price currently stands at $6 USD/ton. (Biodiversity Summit 2020) So the real question is: How do we keep the price of carbon high enough to make a real impact? Who decides? Who knows? What can the Mission Possible crew led by Anthony Hobley contribute to this conversation? Anthony, what say you?

California Fires, Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

Potsdam’s climate-economy model results echo back a decade (and more) to Lord Nicholas Stern’s warnings on the cost of inaction on climate and nature from the early 2000’s in the now-famous Stern Reports where he argued (as he still does today) that the longer we wait, the more we risk pricing ourselves out of the ability to pay for our climate delay. We know that the supply and use of energy in buildings and air-rail-public transport account for 55% of our global carbon footprint. We know that the remaining 45% comes from land management, agriculture, construction, vehicles, food packaging, and consumer goods (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2019). More-or-less; half of the emissions require public domain legislation and half private vision, investment, and innovation; whereas 100% requires public awareness, buy-in, and participation.

On nature, the international community now also agrees that the areas of human development, food & nutrition, water security, poverty, urbanization, climate change are all inter-related and together form a comprehensive view of the sustainable state of our natural world upon which we depend. Again, Nature through raw resources, food, and free services provides over $124 trillion USD in value per year. In the food & beverage, textile, and construction sectors 2/3rds of all raw resources come from living organisms in the farms and forests of our biosphere. And of course, all resources (excluding the metals mined from meteors in our electronics) for all products produced on earth come directly or indirectly from the earth land-sea ecosystems. Now again imagine, that the financial resources needed to protect the sustaining, regenerative capacity of those natural resources that fuel our entire $133 trillion (World Bank’s 2019 baseline) global economy is 600-800 billion USD, the equivalent to the US defense budget. (Future of Nature and Business 2020)

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

And, as with the Paris Agreement and individual country contributions (NDCs) on addressing climate; we already have the targets, goals, and strategy angles outlined in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for optimizing sustainable corporate, country, or city systems. (SDG Knowledge Network 2020) The good news is that now going forward as we clearly have committed to this week, we know we can no longer go back… and that’s a very good thing for nature and people.

“We now know that the indefinite growth (reflected in global GDP), consumption of goods, and production of waste is not sustainable for a living planet. (Dasgupta 2020)

Dr. Catherine Cunningham, PhD, Natural Intelligence Media is committed to awakening Natural Intelligence in the World. She produces multimedia content — books, films, interactive media, and podcasts with her creative companions that aim to inspire everyone, everywhere to live a happy, healthy, naturally intelligent life.

Visit our Natural Intelligence Website HERE.

Listen to my Naturally Intelligent by Design Podcast, featuring strategies from animals in our world to adapt to disruptive environmental change. HERE


  • Catherine Cunningham, PhD

    Mission Possible: Awaken Natural Intelligence in Our World

    Natural Intelligence

    Dr. Catherine Cunningham, PhD is an ecologist, anthropologist, writer, filmmaker, and media host producing films, interactive experiences, and online multimedia for international clients who are focused on positive economic, social, and environmental win-win-win solutions to global conservation and climate change.

    Catherine has travelled, written, photographed, and filmed in 70 countries, producing creative films and music videos in support the UN Global Goals and the human+nature planetary health narrative. Visit Natural Intelligence.com to see where her work has premiered internationally. Over 20 years, she has interviewed hundreds of global thought leaders to promote sustainable solutions to climate change and conservation in creative ways. Catherine has written numerous articles on climate change, nature, and regeneration. She’s currently writing two books: “Naturally Intelligent by Design” — a fine art science and culture book for families and “Natural Intelligence”— a guidebook for well-navigating a post COVID-19 world by following nature’s principles. Partnering with Eurovision News and Events, Catherine is also an independent media host— producing content on nature, climate, and regeneration; syndicated globally by EuroVision’s News Direct. She is a regular contributor to Thrive Global and Medium. She currently produces communications for the Prince Albert II Foundation and participates in programming @ the World Economic Forum on Climate Change, Nature, and Biodiversity. As an university educator, Catherine taught undergraduate and masters courses in corporate sustainability communications at Arizona State University; global sustainability at Chapman University; biology, ecology, botany, and environmental science at Denver State College and Front Range College. In 2016, she designed one of the first university courses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (also online), contributing to youth action on the UN Global Goals. She also created a post-graduate program with UNESCO on the MAB (Man the Biosphere) reserves. Catherine earned her PhD in Ecosystem Science at ETHZ in Switzerland, studying climate impacts on mountain ecosystems. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Cultural Anthropology and International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters degree from Utah State in Ecology. Catherine speaks fluent English and conversational Italian. She loves creative collaboration, media production, mountaineering, outdoor sports, yoga, wellness, and travel.