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The “Circle of Sustainability” (see below) is a tool to assist us in moving beyond our isolated, fragmented existence to create a shared picture of our home, of the place we love. Just as the image of the whole Earth from space transformed our sense of identity, the Circle invites us to see our community as one interconnected system and to find ways to coordinate and align our actions.
Our approach to transformational change brings together Earth Systems Science, Indigenous Wisdom, and Community Engagement.

THE CORE OF THE CIRCLE >> focuses on the cultural values and systems thinking needed to generate a sustainable community.

THE MIDDLE RING >> includes ten essential community systems, such as food, water, energy, transportation, and others.

THE OUTER RING >> shows nine planetary boundaries, such as climate change and acidification of our oceans, that affect any community, whether urban or rural, megacity or island.

With the Circle, we can monitor our ten community systems in the place we love, the impact of the nine planetary boundaries on our community and of our community on our larger Earth system.

This "Circle of Sustainability" is a tool that can be used anywhere to help us become conscious of — and steward— our Biosphere, both locally and globally.

Research has shown that when a community has a shared picture of the whole system in which it is operating, individuals can coordinate naturally, more effectively align their actions and create more coherent community engagement and collective action.

Cynthia Lazaroff and Bruce Allyn co-founded the Circle of Sustainability Initiative and joined forces with Coherence Lab to develop the project further in collaboration with the local Kaua’i community and the M.I.T. Sloan School Sustainability Initiative, with a focus at Sloan on “place-based” sustainability research. The subject is a new field of research and experimentation focused on creating place-based, small-scale and diversified economies that support the long-term sustainability of human societies.

Kaua’i is perfectly suited to serve as a model for a growing list of “place-based” sustainability initiatives where creative individuals and groups are developing their visions and ideas of how to transform their homes into truly resilient, flourishing communities for all life. Kaua’i is a relatively small community (population 73,000) with 1.2 million tourist visitors annually, making it a very attractive and highly visible demonstration project of place-based sustainability with potential to provide inspiration and insight to many places around the world.

More on Our Approach:

EARTH SYSTEMS SCIENCE >> Earth Systems Science embraces chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics and applied sciences in transcending disciplinary boundaries to see the Earth as an integrated system. Coherence Lab seeks to unite scientists and scientific data related to the health of the people and ecosystems of Kaua'i across disciplines and perspectives. Guided by community input, we will apply Earth Systems Science to map and investigate current conditions on the island and among its human and non-human community.


ANCIENT INDIGENOUS WISDOM >> As the first peoples to inhabit a land, passing down wisdom through the millennia, Indigenous Peoples are often the best interpreters of changes in the ecosystem. From their history as early astronomers, navigators and agroecologists, Indigenous Peoples know science is not independent from the spiritual beliefs and creation stories that describe humanity’s intimate relationship with the natural world. Coherence Lab seeks to expand awareness of Indigenous Knowledge and to provide a pathway for Indigenous Cultural Wisdom to guide and inform our engagement with the Earth and one another.


COMMUNITY >> We value place-based solutions. Change begins in community with a shared experience of living in the same geography—drinking the same water, breathing the same air. The best “experts” are the people who have a relationship with the land and one another, who love their place, their home. This is the basis for community ecosystem stewardship.

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