The Atlas of Biological Work

ORGANIZATION NAME: Soil Carbon Coalition


SUMMARY: The Atlas of Biological Work (Atlas) is a feedback system to help people and groups learn to work with nature's processes, and test land-management decisions and policies. Its core is a simple-to-use, participatory database of repeatable observations on land function, on interactive public maps, fed through regional initiatives.

PROBLEM SPACE: "Soil health and watershed function are the foundation of civilization. These are produced by the work (force times distance) of photosynthesis, microbial metabolisms, the carbon cycle or circle of life which powers all biological processes and is the most potent geologic force.

We have erosion, increased flooding and drought, malnutrition and hunger, extinctions, and climate change. What we see as unique problems all point to one essential failure: our biosphere is not doing enough work. Too many plants are on welfare, too many animals in prison, and too many microbes are dead.

In general, human management has (and continues to have) the often unintended effect of decreasing or interrupting the work of life, and accelerating carbon and water cycling: faster oxidation of biomass and organic carbon, and faster runoff and evaporation of precipitation.

We need to learn how to work with carbon and water cycling, to slow them down, to synergize with rather than fight these truly powerful forces. We need to empower ourselves to know, by and through effective action, how to take responsibility."

SOLUTION: "The Atlas of Biological Work is a way of organizing a community's resources, new and existing data on changes in soil health and watershed function, interested people, projects and their outcomes, on a map and in effective working groups.

1. Provide space, time, and facilitation for existing regional networks around the world to strengthen by modeling meetings in which everyone gets to speak about their fears, hopes, curiosity, and experience of working with natural systems towards a preferred state.
2. People in these groups start to share questions, observations and learning, and work towards common goals.
3. Guidance in simple, low-cost, repeatable techniques for monitoring change over time in soil health and watershed function.
4. a broadly participatory open, layered, customizable, citizen-accessible map database that works as a regional feedback system to test policies and actions at a scale, and in a timeframe, that people can respond to. Satellite and citizen-science data (water holding capacity of soils, soil-carbon gains, nutrient density of foods) is portable and accessible, in and out. Queries can be made. Forms are customizable (other languages, pictures, things people are interested in tracking).
5. People learn responsibility for land, water, and natural systems through response-ability."