ecosystem restoration

Global Grassroots Dialogues Engage Communities to Restore Ecosystems

“Ecosystem restoration has become a critical plank in the efforts to halt biodiversity loss and confront the climate crisis,” says CEE Director of Strategic Initiatives Andrew Schwartz. “We’ve done so much damage to the world—some that’s irreparable—but so much repair can and needs be done.” 

Recognizing the crucial role of community engagement in ecosystem restoration, the Center for Earth Ethics and the United Religions Initiative are collaborating on a series of grassroots dialogues in communities around the world most affected by the impacts of climate change and environmental devastation. This pioneering initiative not only will address the implementation gap in restoration efforts but also will facilitate community engagement and participation in the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. By bridging the divide between community needs and available support, this initiative seeks to accelerate restoration efforts and amplify their impact on a global scale.

Ecosystem restoration has become a critical plank in the efforts to halt biodiversity loss and confront the climate crisis. We've done so much damage to the world—some that's irreparable—but so much repair can and needs be done.

Despite substantial investments in restoration initiatives globally, many communities struggle to meet their restoration objectives. Extensive research underscores the significance of community involvement—particularly from Indigenous and local communities—in ensuring the success of restoration projects. Initiatives that integrate the social, cultural, and spiritual fabric of communities are better poised to achieve long-term success.

Engaging faith communities is vital. This initiative, a formal component of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration Action Plan, will amplify the voices of local stakeholders, infuse values, culture, and spirituality into restoration projects and shape policies to drive actionable change.

As highlighted in CEE’s recent report, “Roots for Change: Using Values, Culture and Spirituality to Restore Ecosystems,” there is no one-size-fits-all model for ecosystem restoration. While common themes exist in many restoration projects—such as the disruptive role of extractive industries on ecology and community alike—each community faces unique challenges based on their ecological, social and political circumstances. “Everyone is facing different needs,” said Schwartz, “and the program that we’ve created in partnership with URI is a container that’s big enough to allow for a wide array of conversations and actions.” 

No two dialogues will be identical. Some will focus on the community level while others will engage larger systems and policies. Some communities will already be deeply engaged in ongoing restoration efforts, and some will be just beginning. Each community can leverage its distinct perspective and spiritual framework to inspire action and foster collaboration. 

Restoration is us reconnecting with the earth. It's our effort to bring healing and life back into places that have been lost. And it's us telling a new story of hope rather than loss

The dialogues will follow a structure developed by CEE and URI, drawing from CEE’s Ecosystem Restoration Conversation Guide and URI’s Cooperation Circles. The Conversation Guide outlines a four-step process for facilitating community consultations, while URI’s Cooperation Circles provide a structure for self-organizing groups from diverse faith traditions and worldviews to engage in meaningful dialogue and collective action toward creating cultures of peace, justice and healing.

“These dialogues are important because they are an attempt to mobilize communities worldwide and bring vital conversations about ecosystem restoration to the frontlines,” said Schwartz. Each dialogue, shaped by the unique needs, challenges and aspirations of local communities, holds the potential to inspire tangible action, expand ongoing projects, seed new initiatives and influence policy at both local and global levels. By fostering dialogue, promoting engagement, and harnessing the collective wisdom of faith communities, this initiative will enhance the resilience of communities and ecosystems alike.

“Restoration is us reconnecting with the earth,” said Schwartz. “It’s our effort to bring healing and life back into places that have been lost. And it’s us telling a new story of hope rather than loss.”

CEE and URI will consolidate outcomes and insights from these dialogues into a comprehensive report in conjunction with the UN’s upcoming CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) COP-16 conference, scheduled for this fall.