Thinking – and Acting – Globally

Erik Van Lennep ’83 creates a living lab for ecosystem services

Erik van Lennep’s entrepreneurial spirit has taken him around the globe in an effort to “design organizations, campaigns, education strategies and more.”

Ever since graduating from Conway in 1983, Erik Van Lennep has focused on international issues of sustainability. He worked initially with indigenous people worldwide as cofounder of the Rainforest Action Network and then founded and became director of the Arctic to Amazonia Alliance. He subsequently moved to Ireland where he cofounded the Cultivate Sustainable Living Center. In 2007, Erik established TEPUI Ltd., a consultation and design collaborative to research, promote, and apply living technologies as as grounded responses to climate change, beginning with energy, waste, and water issues throughout Europe.

Now Erik is moving from Dublin to Barcelona, Spain, where the new Dutch NGO he cofounded, Circle Squared Foundation, will focus on restoring ecosystem services in Mediterranean climates worldwide. In addition to the Mediterranean itself, similar climatic zones are found in South Africa, Australia, Chile, and California.

Nearly all Mediterranean climate areas lie between about 15 and 40 degrees of latitude. They are all near the coast on the western edge of continents.

The foundation’s focus on marine environments recognizes the important ecological and economi interactions of the dynamic interface of land and sea. “Mediterranean climates are among the oldest and most densely poplulated and are thus most degraded, so our impact can be largest there,” Erik writes, adding, “There is much to be done to restore fisheries, clean up pollution, and develop shared management strategies.”

In addition, Circle Squared will work on green infrastructure, carbon farming and forestry, and design and system learning. As with his prior efforts, Erik will build networks and alliances, develop metrics to evaluate measurable outcomes, and integrate systems thinking trhough regional centers of excellence.


A version of this profile originally appeared in the 2013 issue of con’text magazine.