The EcoTipping Points Project

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Our Mission

To develop and disseminate basic principles for practical applications of EcoTipping Points so communities can turn environmental decline around to restoration and sustainability.

How the EcoTipping Points Project Began

We are all seriously concerned about the current and future impacts of environmental problems on our lives. We want to do something but feel overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the problems and the powerful social forces that are driving them. EcoTipping Points help us make sense of the complexity in order to take effective action.

The EcoTipping Points project began in 2004, when human ecologist Gerry Marten and journalist Steve Brooks were brainstorming how to communicate systems-thinking principles for achieving sustainable human-environment interaction. Gerry had already shown the power of systems thinking in his book Human Ecology: Basic Concepts for Sustainable Development). Now he wanted to convey the same ideas to a broader audience. 

Gerry and Steve had a “Eureka!” moment when they realized that the same kind of thinking was embraced by the phrase tipping point in Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

Journalist Amanda Suutari compiled nearly a hundred environmental success stories to demonstrate how tipping points were responsible for positive change. The stories spanned a variety of ecosystems, cultural and socio-economic contexts, and environmental problems from around the world. In every story there was a tipping point – the “right” action leveraged a turnabout. 

Gerry and Amanda conducted site visits to document dozens of the success stories in greater depth and show how tipping points help us understand what it takes to create effective action for leveraging positive change. At first we used the phrase “environmental tipping points” but soon changed it to “EcoTipping Points.” We then began to convey lessons from the stories as basic principles for how EcoTipping Points work and how EcoTipping Points can be put into action.

The EcoTipping Points Project was on its way!

Steve Brooks

Gerry Marten

Amand Suutari

What We Do: Getting EcoTipping Points principles and tools to people who can use them

We want to pass on what we’ve learned to anyone who can benefit: 

·       Community groups

·       Educators and students

·       Environmental professionals

·       Government officials

·       Businessmen

Our first line of communication is this website, which for starters includes a 3-minute Introductory Video, an introductory PowerPoint presentation, and a series of articles:

·        EcoTipping Points: A New Slant on Strategic Environmentalism (WorldWatch Magazine). We highly recommend this article to get an overview of what EcoTipping Points are all about.

·        Environmental Tipping Points: A New Paradigm for Restoring Ecological Security (Journal of Policy Studies). This was the first article published about EcoTipping Points. It features our flagship story about Apo Island, a fishing village in the Philippines that demonstrated the power of EcoTipping Points.

·        Getting Clean: Recovering from Pesticide Addiction (The Ecologist). An inspiring EcoTipping Point story about how Indian cotton farmers escaped from a pesticide hell.

·        Eco Tipping Points: How a Vicious Cycle Can Become Virtuous (Earth Island Journal). Coastal communities in Thailand and California mobilized free services from nature to turn from environmental decline to restoration.

·        EcoTipping Points: Sharing Environmental Success Stories with Students (The Science Teacher).  An explanation of how teachers can use EcoTipping Points in their classes.

·        EcoTipping Points: Strategies for Shifting from Decline to Restoration (Yes! The Magazine of Positive Futures). The lessons that we see in all of our environmental success stories. 

We have found other ways to reach people who can use EcoTipping Points. 

We have organized symposia and workshops with organizations such as the Society for Human Ecology, Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, National Council for Science and the Environment, and North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. 

We developed our flagship educational package How Success Works, which applies to all educational levels from K-12 to university and mid-career courses, providing analytical tools that communities need to create their own EcoTipping Point success stories. 

We extended an EcoTipping Points perspective to the crucial issue of food security with a Symposium on American Food Resilience: Promoting a Secure Food Supply

Because we’re continuing to develop now materials to help communities become operational with EcoTipping Points, we’re always looking for individuals or groups who want to help us to improve our materials by applying EcoTipping Points to their own situation. It’s an opportunity to contribute to the EcoTipping Points Project while generating positive change in your own community.

We are also looking for teachers who want to work with us to develop new EcoTipping Points teaching materials or field test teaching materials in their classrooms. 

Contact us if you have a success story for the website or would like to use EcoTipping Points for your teaching or your community. 

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