Lawrence Ellis is a respected sustainability advocate who uses a range of vehicles (high-level consulting, filmmaking, transformative teaching, activism, writing and others) to help shift our global culture away from ecological destruction, extractive and exploitative economics, and inhumane political and social systems… towards a life-honoring culture.
His unique approach combines the best of ancient wisdom traditions with contemporary innovations such as complexity science that promote systemic, large-scale change – from personal to political to planetary.
A Rhodes Scholar who took his graduate degree at Oxford University, Lawrence has worked with large-organization leaders, filmmakers, Indigenous communities, and fellow visionaries and thought-leaders.
Recent highlights include his producer role for Planetary the Film, the Indigenous Wisdom & Modern Science global tele-summit, his inclusion in an anthology of visionary change leaders, and an emerging book project on the Indigenous Wisdom & Modern Science approach to contemporary challenges.
For more on the Great Shift from a destructive culture to a life-sustaining culture, see The Motivation.
For more details on Lawrence’s clients, films, symposia, books, and transformative teaching, see The Work.
At the heart of any visionary and inspired body of work is a powerful guiding motivation.
Lawrence’s core motivation is the current state of crisis on our planet — system-wide, survival-level crises of climate change, massive species extinction, and a destructive dominant culture promoting unchecked consumption, waste generation, human immiseration, and Earth-resource ravaging that is well past a sustainable level.
These system-wide, global crises have prompted visionary inquiry into possible innovative approaches for facing and mitigating these challenges.These visionary responsive movements have been called The Great Turning, The Great Work, The Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor, and The Great Shift — among other names.
Lawrence’s core life mission is to assist our global culture in a transition towards a life-honoring culture that respects the radical interconnectedness of all life: human life, other species, eco-systems, and the Earth itself.
For more information on this core mission in action, see The Work.
“The really wonderful thing that happened to me when I was in space was this feeling of belonging to the entire Universe… We’re at the point in time now where we need to take radical leaps in order to be able to continue to live on this planet. We have to think about it in a much broader, grander fashion.” Astronaut Mae Jamison
The Sustainability movement, and our individual and collective efforts in support of it, are all a definitive and focused response to the crises that threaten life on Earth — very real crises that are altering life as we know it, not just for human beings, but for all Life on the planet.
Specific threats include climate change, species extinction, economies in collapse, ecological overshoot …. to name a few. While there isn’t one, universally-agreed-upon definition of sustainability, the most widely quoted definition comes from the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations:
“[meeting] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The implicit focus on enduring systems and processes involves not just ecological, but also economic, social, and political dimensions. One of Lawrence’s unique contributions to the sustainability movement is what he calls, Full-Spectrum SustainabilityTM – an integrated, whole-system response to the calling for humans to step into a new way of being.
A more interwoven, whole-system approach includes both the capacity of modern science to deliver technological breakthroughs, and the best of ancient wisdom traditions that stem from thousands of years of experience in living sustainably, and with the awareness of the Earth as a living system and our own interconnection in it. Full-Spectrum Sustainability also incorporates the participation from a range of fields and sectors — personal, business, science, education, community, government, religion, and spirituality; for-profit and nonprofit; personal and professional — working together across boundaries or ‘silos’, and across generations, to catalyze awakening, mobilization, transformation, and shifts towards more sustainable ways of thinking, acting, and being for people across the planet.
In particular, we advocate for a fourfold approach that encompasses top-down, bottom-up, inside-out and outside-in strategies:
- Top-Down approaches leverage legislative, judicial and other mandated forms of change;
- Bottom-Up approaches focus on grassroots, community-based change;
- Inside-Out approaches cultivate practices for “inner” transformations for healing, visioning, bridge-building within and between communities, etc.;
- Outside-In approaches leverage social media and web technologies to broadcast and amplify messages, and to build connections and enduring networks.
The Full-Spectrum Sustainability approach leverages this full range of perspectives and approaches, in support of a shift to a life-honoring culture.
Lawrence has …
… advocated for a synthesis of Indigenous Wisdom & Modern Science to more effectively meet the steep challenges of our time;
… fostered breakthrough progress on a renewable technology with the potential to preserve threatened ecosystems and generate hundreds of millions of dollars of profit annually;
… helped to shift the national conversation on pollution, resulting in subsequent shifts in policy, culture and behavior across the U.S.;
… supported cultural revitalization of millennia-old Indigenous wisdom practices in support of Indigenous-led projects;
… advised an award-winning documentary film team for Planetary, sequel to Overview.
… and more.
Below find a small sampling of some of his sustainability consulting projects:
- As a key consultant on a major, multi-year national Anti-Pollution Initiative, Lawrence:
- Developed the most effective Key Working Group in the entire initiative, masterfully leading the group to a high level of performance;
- Co-designed and co-implemented the overall initiative, the results of which were:- Helped to shift the national conversation on pollution, resulting in subsequent shifts in policy, culture and behavior across the U.S.;- Generated over twenty-five demonstration projects, many of which became mainstream cultural norms. Examples include: local land-use tax incentives, public education programs, and reduced interest rates and insurance premiums for farmers who reduce agricultural pollutants.- Contributed to significant changes in the language of a major national environmental-protection legislative bill.
- For more information about this project, click here.
- As the consulting lead on a project with Engineering & Construction giant CH2M HILL, for manufacturing a “clean-tech” renewable biochemical, Lawrence:
- Led the successful resolution of significant change-management breakdowns that threatened the project, allowing continued progress on a renewable technology with the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars of profit annually, and to preserve threatened ecosystems;
- Guided the successful conclusion of an important study vital to a top-priority planning effort for a multi-million dollar capital-budget plan;
- Received highest client-satisfaction praise at the conclusion of the project.
- For more information about this project, click here.
- As a consulting engagement manager leading a group of ten colleagues and seventy client-system members on a multi-year, major urban school reform effort, Lawrence:
- Effectively influenced and facilitated the expanded community participation necessary for sustainable educational reforms
- Successfully navigated discordant local politics and ‘disintegrating political climate’, resulting in ‘unprecedented civic commitment’ and collaboration amongst community leaders
- Helped the school system to achieve breakthrough success. According to the client, “The overall engagement was a huge success. Three to four years after the initial work of Paths To Change, the District realized significant gains in educational outcomes.”
- For more information about this project, click here.
For more about the work of Lawrence and his colleagues at Paths to Change Consulting, visit their online home.
Planetary is a major sustainability-focused documentary film conceived and produced by Planetary Collective. Their prequel short film, Overview, won the prestigious Digital Media Film Award for 2013 from The Environmental Media Association (EMA). Planetary, as the follow-up feature-length sequel to Overview, weaves perspectives from various luminaries with a largely original visual narrative, resulting in a powerful communication tool to amplify the message of our interconnectedness, and to deepen awareness, stir remembrance, and catalyze action.
Both films are intended to help convey the vital, perception-shifting message that we and the planet are deeply interconnected — that we are part of the same system and web of life.
View the Planetary trailer and learn more about the Planetary documentary, and Lawrence’s role.Learn more about Planetary
ADDITIONAL FILM WORK
In addition to his multi-faceted role for the documentary film, Planetary, Lawrence has served as producer or special advisor for several other films:
- Hidden History, a 90-minute documentary on the sacred spirituality of Two Spirits, Twin Spirits and their counterparts among Indigenous peoples on all continents. Directed by Peabody and Telly award winning producer and director, Cheryl Rosenthal, shooting on Hidden History began in 2009. Lawrence serves as Senior Advisor and Associate Producer.
- A rare interview with Paula Gunn Allen, the great Two-Spirit poet, novelist, scholar and activist. Directed by Carmen Goodyear and Laurie York of Turtle Time Productions, the interviews for this documentary film were completed shortly before Gunn Allen’s death in late 2008. Goodyear and York also produced the award-winning documentary, Freedom to Marry. Lawrence serves as Executive Producer of this film.
- Two Spirit, Twin Spirit – Historic Gathering in 2008. This film, directed by four-time Emmy Award-winning director and cameraman, Rick Butler, will center on an historic gathering of Twin Spirit and Two Spirit leaders that occurred in 2008, and will include footage from several other facets of Two Spirit and Twin Spirit life. Lawrence serves as Executive Producer of this film.
Collectively, these films are significant because they highlight the vital importance of honoring the interconnectedness of all life – from harmonious interactions with the so-called “natural world,” to harmonious and effective ways of organizing groups and societies. In this regard, these films highlight crucial contributions from the Indigenous world towards shifting our society towards a life-sustaining civilization.
Stay tuned for news of opportunities to contribute to the production of these wonderful films.
His roles typically range from featured expert to moderator; from conference designer to emcee.
Here is a small selection of his appearances and leadership roles in these events.
Indigenous Wisdom & Modern Science Global Tele-Summit
The Indigenous Wisdom & Modern Science (IWMS) global tele-summit, brought together Indigenous wisdom-keepers and modern scientists for an inspired dialogue exploring what it means to be interconnected, how we know it, and its practical implications for sustainability. The IWMS tele-summit was part of the 2012 Spring of Sustainability program sponsored by the Sustainable World Coalition and The Shift Network.
Lawrence served as the IWMS global tele-summit executive producer, emcee, and panel-discussion moderator. As the executive producer, Lawrence designed the conceptual framework for the summit; secured alignment of the executive sponsors; led the presenter-recruitment team, as well as the team-leads responsible for marketing, operations, and other functions. Lawrence also oversaw the daylong summit itself, and handled key post-event activities.
The Spring of Sustainability program drew over 12,000 participants from 148 countries. For more information on the IWMS Global Tele-Summit, click here.
Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS)14th International Conference:
Noetic 2.0 – Tools and Technologies for a World Transforming.
IONS invited Lawrence to play three roles at the 14th International Conference:
- To serve as co-emcee of the overall conference, together with Lynne Twist, author and co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance.
- To present a pre-conference intensive;
- To design the process of the event.
Lawrence’s pre-conference intensive, The Hidden Science: Healing Our Planet, explored the concept of “radical interconnectedness” from the perspectives of contemporary complexity sciences and ancient wisdom traditions.
As the process designer for the conference, Lawrence orchestrated the sequencing and flow of content for all presenters, and coordinated topical themes and transitions for the presenters, ensuring a well-synthesized and successful event.
The Earl Lectures & Leadership Conference 2010: Pacific School of Religion at the University of Berkeley
Spiritual But Not Religious: Chasing the Divine
The Earl Lectures event was founded in 1901, with the purpose of convening eminent scholars to explore the important theological, political, social, and economic issues of the times. The 2010 Earl Lectures & Leadership Conference focused on the increasingly popular phrase spiritual, but not religious.
Lawrence joined fellow 2010 Earl Lecturers, including Author and Theologian Matthew Fox; the Associate Professor of Religion and Gender Studies at Whitman College, Melissa Wilcox; and the Dean of Religious Life at Stanford University, Rev. Scotty McLennan. For this series of Earl Lectures, Lawrence presented Reconnecting with Ourselves & The Earth in this Time of the Big Shift: Practices from Ancient Cultures & Contemporary Complexity Science.
Green Festival 2012 – San Francisco, CA
Sacred Activism: An Interfaith Dialogue on Creating a Just and Healthy Planet for All
Green Festival is “America’s largest and longest-running sustainability and green living event.” Lawrence was invited to moderate the SF Green Festival panel, Sacred Activism: An Interfaith Dialogue on Creating a Just and Healthy Planet for All.
“Leaders of faith have worked to defend our planet and have seen all as sacred. In this time of cataclysmic change, people are looking deeply to discover that which compels them to stand up with courage for the well being of all – on behalf of life itself. This Interfaith Sacred Activism dialogue explored the power of spirit in action.” (Source: Green Festival brochure.)
Panel participants included Founder and Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice Foundation, Samina Faheem Sundas; Founding co-director of Wilderness Torah, Zelig Golden; and Author and Earth-Based Spirituality Teacher, Starhawk.
“When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing. That makes a change… it comes through to you so powerfully that you’re the sensing element for Man.”Astronaut Russell “Rusty” Schweikart
“It has taken scientists until the twentieth century to prove what we’ve known since time out of mind: that we are all connected.” Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim of the Takelma Siletz Nation, member of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers
For many astronauts, seeing the Earth from space produces the overview effect: a profound cognitive shift in awareness, where national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this “pale blue dot” becomes both obvious and imperative.
Fortunately, traveling to outer space is not the only way to experience a deep sense of holistic connection to the Earth, humanity and other species. In fact, for thousands of years, several ancient wisdom traditions have placed this connection as central to their philosophies, and have developed practices for cultivating a direct and sustained experience of it.
Lawrence has for years immersed himself in many of the ancient connective traditions, and uses skillful means to bring their transformative messages and practices to a variety of audiences in support of The Great Shift to a life-sustaining civilization. This sometimes involves his teaching in some of these traditions, where he is so authorized. Or, it may entail supporting and amplifying the works of other teachers. Alternatively, he might showcase these traditions through film and other media.
He has coined the term the Omniview EffectTM to describe his unique approach to using whatever skillful means are appropriate – from ancient wisdom traditions to modern innovations – to awaken or deepen in others this transformative sense of interconnectedness. Here is a small sampling of Lawrence’s transformative teaching engagements:
- Co-taught a 7-day residential retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center with Joanna Macy and Donald Rothberg entitled, “Transforming Distressing States of Body, Mind and Heart – For Ourselves and Our World.”
- Co-led the workshop/retreat “Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation” at Esalen Institute. This workshop is based on the groundbreaking book of the same title, a culmination of 10-years of research into consciousness transformation, sponsored by the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). Lawrence co-led this workshop on a few occasions with Dr. Cassandra Vieten, one of the principle researchers of the study, co-author of the book, and President of IONS.
- Served as one of the Core Teachers for a series of Men of Color retreats at the East Bay Meditation Center with Larry Yang and other teachers.
- Guest teacher in the inaugural session of the Path of Engagement, a two-year program for social justice activists with a contemplative practice. This program was co-sponsored by Spirit Rock Mediation Center and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and drew inspiration from Donald Rothberg’s book The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World.
“Lawrence’s commitment to issues of justice is so strong that he engaged in civil disobedience to support low-wage urban workers who were facing serious injustices. I have no doubt that he would have engaged in similar actions to support farmer workers, had such actions been required. Lawrence’s contributions to A Just Harvest* — and to helping to transform the suffering of farm workers — were outstanding.”Dolores Huerta, Legendary Human Rights Activist and Cofounder, with César Chávez, of United Farm Workers (UFW)
Lawrence’s dedication to his life work isn’t just focused in the thought-leader, expert consulting, transformational teaching, and film realms, but also interweaves these with engaged activism on behalf of individual, group, and community and planetary wellbeing, in service to a truly sustainable and life-honoring culture. Select transformative-activism highlights include:
- *A Just Harvest is an interfaith clergy and lay-leadership organization supporting campaigns for dignity, respect, and basic human rights for farm workers. For A Just Harvest, Lawrence directed his movement-building leadership to raise awareness about the plight facing farmworkers and their families; encouraging dialogue and reconciliation between growers and farmworker advocates; and mobilizing faith communities to support justice for farm workers.
- Healthy Native Communities Partnership leaders chose Lawrence to contribute his expertise and leadership for an innovative program that revived millennia-old Dineh/Navajo practices as the core of a community wellness program to train Native facilitators to work with communities throughout Dineh/Navajo Nation.
- The Summer of Peace Initiative selected Lawrence as its first Executive Director. Under Lawrence’s leadership, the organization established its initial frameworks and pilot projects, providing a platform for it to become part of a seasonal series of events hosted by The Shift Network, including Winter of Wellness and Spring of Sustainability. Among other noteworthy activities, the initiative grew to host the annual Peace Week global tele-summit, featuring Nobel Prize laureates, prominent spiritual teachers, activists, authors, and other notables.
- Organizers for Green Festival — “America’s largest and longest-running sustainability and green living event” — invited Lawrence’s to serve as moderator for their San Francisco Green Festival event, Sacred Activism: An Interfaith Dialogue on Creating a Just and Healthy Planet for All. The panel featured several notable spirit-in-action leaders: Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice Foundation, Samina Faheem Sundas; Founding co-director of Wilderness Torah, Zelig Golden; and Author and Earth-Based Spirituality Teacher, Starhawk.
Lawrence was honored to be selected as one of 21 pre-eminent visionaries by author Mindy Audlin for her 2011 book, Let It Begin With Me. Audlin is the host and spiritual director for SpiritualityToday.TV and founder of Unity Online Radio, which includes more than 20 programs and reaches 100,000 listeners in 60 countries.
Focused on sharing fresh, contemporary perspectives on the “new peace consciousness,” Let It Begin With Me featured Lawrence’s visionary insights as well as perspectives from other horizon-edge leaders such as Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut and founder of the Institute for Noetic Science (IONS); Barbara Marx Hubbard, futurist and best-selling author; Azim Khamisa, founder of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation; and Andrew Harvey, author, religious scholar, and teacher of world spiritual traditions.
Interconnected: Innovative Perspectives from Indigenous Wisdom & Modern Science for Meeting the Challenges of Our Times
Building on the Indigenous Wisdom & Modern Science global tele-summit that Lawrence executive-produced in 2012, this emerging book project will draw the best insights from Indigenous wisdom traditions and its leaders as well as leading-edge innovations from modern science.
As Albert Einstein said, the challenges we face will not be solved with the same mindset that created them. The answers will be found in an awareness, long-forgotten by most of the modern world, of deep interconnectedness and radical sustainability that has been understood and lived by Indigenous peoples around the world, and is inherent in the world’s earlier spiritual traditions.
Pairing this wisdom with the most innovative insights and findings from modern science — which, interestingly, is beginning to ‘bridge’ with the knowledge of Indigenous wisdom traditions — offers a rich well from which to draw inspiration and practical approaches to the enormous challenges we face as individuals, communities, and cultures.
Stay tuned for more on this emerging book project. In the meanwhile, learn more about the Indigenous Wisdom & Modern Science global tele-summit and Lawrence’s related work at Paths to Change.Paths to Change Sustainability
Over the years, Lawrence has earned much praise from his clients and colleagues for his work, as well as numerous awards and distinctions. A small sampling includes:
- Selected as a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation New Jersey Scholar
- Awarded a Morehead-Cain Scholarship for undergraduate study at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University, the Morehead-Cain Scholarship is generally regarded as the most prestigious undergraduate merit scholarship in the United states.
- Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most widely known academic honor society in the United States.
- Awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for graduate study at Oxford University.
- “Without a doubt, I’d give Lawrence Ellis an A+ for his consulting work on the National Anti-Pollution Initiative project.” — Thomas Rice, CEO Emeritus, Interaction Associates (consulting firm hired to support the Initiative)
- “We would not have turned this important project around without the outstanding support of Lawrence Ellis of Paths To Change.” — Dan Weisiger, Director of BioSciences Operations at CH2M HILL
- “Lawrence Ellis and Paths to Change are top-tier in so many regards… I can assure you that to this day, Lawrence and other team members remain beloved by dozens of people throughout the Paterson community and the Public School District who admire the consummate skill, educational reform advocacy, and caring and compassion Lawrence consistently brought to reforming their schools…. The overall engagement was a huge success. Three to four years after the initial work, the District realized significant gains in educational outcomes.” — Laura Moran, former Director of Organizational Development, The Stupski Foundation; Chief of Staff, San Francisco Unified School District
- “Without question, I whole-heartedly recommend Lawrence to any organization seeking expert counsel in becoming more effective and efficient. The results of his work were outstanding, and far surpassed my expectations.” — Dr. Joanne Turnbull, Retired Executive Director, National Patient Safety Foundation
- Executive Producer, Emcee and Panel Moderator for the Indigenous Wisdom & Modern Science Global Tele-Summit, sponsored by the Sustainable World Coalition and The Shift Network.
- Co-emcee, process designer, and expert presenter at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS)14th International Conference: Noetic 2.0 – Tools and Technologies for a World Transforming.
- Presenter at The Earl Lectures & Leadership Conference 2010 – Pacific School of Religion at the University of Berkeley: Spiritual But Not Religious: Chasing the Divine
- Panel moderator for Sacred Activism: An Interfaith Dialogue on Creating a Just and Healthy Planet for All, at Green Festival 2012 – San Francisco, CA
For more details on these events, see Conferences & Symposia.
- Invited by Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson to represent the U.S. in a yatra (journey) in India commemorating Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
- Selected as the emcee for the interfaith ceremony for the first annual César Chávez State Holiday in California.
- Selected to give the keynote address at the interfaith service that kicked off the San Francisco version of the “Day of Decision” protests, the international protests that occurred on the day that the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, the California ballot proposition and state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
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