Director, Back to Eden Project on a Sustainable Earth
Tom Duncan, a 15-year veteran of environmental justice practice and research, is a CRDC research fellow and director of the center’s Back to Eden Project on a Sustainable Earth. Tom is a regenerative science professional working across a wide range of sectors with an overarching vision of helping birth a regenerative culture and economy. He works across the fields of regenerative farming, large scale land and water restoration, intensive urban food production systems, renewable energy, sustainable housing development, project investment, and finance. He is the co-founder of ReGen Investment network, connecting fund managers and investors to regenerative agriculture, land restoration initiatives, and projects. Tom is president and founder of ReGen Investment, Ecoplan Consulting, Home Ecology, and AquaBiofilter.
Tom worked on large scale land and water restoration projects in advisory and project roles with China with AusAID, across 18.7 million square hectares. Regenerative agriculture and water management programs reached 40 million farmers with innovative educational and technical capacity building activities across community, government, and industry.
He advised the Malaysian government’s River of Life Program with $1 billion investment in river and water restoration for the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, purifying its rivers and lakes, transitioning to a city that celebrates its environment and creates a more livable city. Tom is active in the regenerative design and agriculture field as a farmer, consultant, teacher, and advisor. He assists regenerative projects by connecting resources, including technical, training, investment, and finance. He writes about regenerative agriculture, water management, resource conflict resolution, investment, and market development across a variety of platforms.
Tom is an author for the Elsevier first edition of Land Restoration (UNCCD /Land, Lives, Peace), “Pathways to Integrated Ecological Farming,” and co-author of “Regenerating Agriculture to Sustain Civilisation” with Allan Savory, Founder of Holistic Management, Planned Grazing, and Founder of the Savory Institute. Land and food resource conflict in arid lands across North Africa and the Middle East are often characterized as conflicts between pastoralists and agrarian communities from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Commentary about these conflicts can often revolve around tensions arising from ethnic and religious differences, but in fact most often it is inappropriate grazing management and encroachment of crop farming into wild grasslands and woodlands that drive land use conflict and ultimately ethnic tensions — and at times, war. The solutions are many, but most depend on training up pastoralists in new management techniques that are guided by holistic management and planned grazing in order to avoid over-grazing and depletion of grass and soil quality, which ultimately leads to pastoralists taking their livestock into agrarian areas for animals to feed on the crops of villagers. The inappropriate pastoral management, brings with it consequences of potential starvation of agrarians, and hence violence and conflict can arise. It is a mistake to characterize these conflicts as based in ethnicity or religions when in fact the underlying resource conflict from inappropriate management is the key drivers. We have the tools to improve planned grazing practices by following simple bio-herding techniques.
Tom invented a biomimicry technology called AquaBiofilter, a floating wetlands and marine permaculture technology that restores water to its natural state, removing pollutants with biofiltration, eliminates algal blooms and prevents lake and marine dead zones such as seen in the Gulf of Mexico. Resource conflict between factory farms the the users of waters that receive nutrient and chemical laden farm and industrial run-off, are a significant focus of Tom’s work. Tom’s vision is that every farm donates just 1% of farmland to water quality improvement ponds, with floating wetlands, to purify water before it exits farms and industrial land, preventing disasters such as the Gulf of Mexico mass fish kill and dead zone that expands annually, killing the ocean and the livelihoods of fishery economies. Resource conflict is not inevitable, appropriate planning and design of policy and programs to prevent conflict in the first instance, is a more cost effective and efficient solutions. To achieve these solutions, dialogue, trust building and collaborative action is needed. Floating wetlands and islands are used by water managers in ecological aquaculture, marine permaculture, waste water and stormwater treatment. This new generation of biotechnology provides ecosystem services and valuable habitat for birds, fish, turtles, and frogs, kickstarting ecosystem restoration. Learn more at the ReGen Investment and AquaBiofilter websites.