top of page

Eco-Governance and The Vitality Code

Applying evolving consciousness to how we organize ourselves as a species

by Shelley Ostroff (PhD)


This article was originally published in UNITY EARTH’s: The Convergence, February 2019,
and has been updated to align with the unfolding context of
Codes for a Healthy Earth.

Individuals, groups, institutions, and nation-states orient our lives by the purpose and meaning we attribute to them. How we conceive of our purpose in the world has far-reaching consequences on our interconnected biosphere. Transforming our perceptions ultimately transforms our reality. 


What if humanity were to align en masse around the understanding that our individual and collective purpose in the world is to contribute to the healthy evolution of all Life?


Imagine the power and potential of a worldwide social contract among all members of the human family that the only legitimate purpose of all governments and all sectors is to protect and cultivate the health and vitality of the planet and all its inhabitants for generations to come.


This article outlines a holistic, integrative approach to rapid social and ecological regeneration that encompasses a blueprint for a new form of global and local governance aligned with the principles of Life and healthy living systems. The approach is rooted in and enriched by diverse wisdom traditions and disciplines, and is inspired by the evolving theories and praxis of our current cultural metamorphosis. It offers some of the meta-principles that guide the approach and outlines a range of initiatives that work together to provide practical pathways for citizens to self-organize around the common purpose of whole-systems health and healing.


Whole-System Health and Healing


All of Life strives for health and well-being, yet our individual and collective health – and that of our shared planetary home – are the primary casualties of our current cultural narratives, norms and social systems. As an interconnected living system, individual, collective and planetary health are all interdependent. 


Positioning whole-system health as our shared priority provides a powerful unifying principle that transcends our divisive narratives and ‘us’ and ‘them’ politics of identity. It generates greater awareness of and respect for all parts of our living system. It cultivates a health-oriented culture of cooperation and a creative healing-oriented public discourse embedded in the language of Life.


As we recognize the limitations of our patriarchal, centralized models of leadership and management, we are beginning to look to nature for inspiration regarding how to manage infinitely complex systems in life-enhancing ways. Nature does not organize according to centralized leadership of any form. Instead, Nature self-organizes according to Codes of Life that permeate the entire biosphere, enabling all parts to take up their role in resonance and balance with the healthy evolution of Life. 


Simply managing complexity involves identifying coherent, root organizing principles and codes that can provide solid foundations for optimal and iterative self-organization, cultural transformation and collective evolution in service of a thriving world for all.  


The Vitality Code

The Vitality Code is a term for Nature’s primary code and principle of self-organizing and self-regulating thriving living systems. The Vitality Code ensures that all parts of a living system receive precisely what they need in order to manifest their unique potential in mutual nourishment with the interconnected whole. It is a code that cultivates whole-system health and healing with exquisite efficiency.

The Vitality Code recognizes that for humans to thrive the entire planetary ecosystem must thrive. Therefore, to ensure a global culture of peace and health, our primary collective purpose is to ensure peace and health throughout the entire biosphere.

As we self-organize in alignment with the Vitality Code, we learn to attend to all parts of the biosphere (people, animals, rivers, soil, social systems, ecosystems, climate etc.), ensuring that each receive precisely what they need to play their unique role in our interdependent Web of Life.

Applying the Vitality Code to ecological regeneration means that all governments, corporations, groups and citizens must work together to collectively learn about the 7 Foundations of Life and to restore honoring and healthy relationships with each of them:

  1. Earth

  2. Water

  3. Fire

  4. Air

  5. Climate

  6. Biodiversity: Plants and Animals

  7. The Web of Life


Applying the Vitality Code to social regeneration means that all governments, corporations, groups and citizens must work together to ensure all humans and animals can meet their core needs through guaranteed access to:

  1. Pure water

  2. Clean air

  3. Healthy soil

  4. Vitalizing food

  5. Comfortable shelter

  6. Emotional and physical safety from harm caused by humans

  7. The resources and cultural conditions needed to evolve into our full potential - in mutual enrichment with our communities and ecosystems 


The Vitality Code recognizes that our talents do not belong to us alone. The bee does not patent or hoard its exceptional pollinating gifts and hold the rest of Nature ransom. As in all of Nature, our unique gifts are nourished by the whole and must, in turn, nourish the whole. This understanding of the profound interdependence and complementarity of all parts of the whole helps us to move beyond a competitive, siloed and dysfunctional approach to managing ourselves, to one of learning from and with Nature about deeply cooperative, efficient and life-enriching energy management. 


Applying the Vitality Code to how we re-invent our social systems including governance, economy, education, agriculture, infrastructure, media, justice and others, provides an uncompromising anchor and life-affirming compass for managing our current global levels of complexity with Nature’s efficiency and precision.


Changing our Systems Requires Changing our Mindsets


Addressing the surmounting global challenges we face involves applying the reality of our fundamental interconnectedness with all of life and the evolution of human consciousness and wisdom to how we redesign our social systems.


Transforming deeply entrenched social systems and cultural “norms” requires a globally coordinated, multi-dimensional approach that offers alternatives, not only for the existing structures but also for the narratives that inform them. It means ensuring that distilled information and resources are accessible to diverse cultures and age-groups while taking into account the full spectrum of human learning styles and backgrounds. Cultivating widespread awareness of the broad range of interdependent challenges, as well as the abundance of existing solutions, is an essential part of the process. 


Transforming mindsets also entails addressing the complexity of individual and collective layers of social conditioning, consciousness, mythologies, archetypes, intelligences, and behaviors. It involves applying holistic healing wisdom in attending to the individual and collective conscious and unconscious trauma, “shadow” dynamics, habits and resistances to change.


Our current mindset, systems and culture are profoundly human-centered. They privilege human perspectives and ‘rights’ above those of other species and elements of creation. This culture of domination has resulted in vast suffering, imbalance, disease and devastation. One of our key, evolutionary challenges involves shedding our ‘colonialist’ mindset and shifting from a human-centered concept of the world to an eco-centered one, which situates humans as one among countless interdependent species and aspects of Creation - as indigenous cultures and communities around the world have known and practiced for millennia.


An eco-centered mindset honors and stewards the foundations of Life including the elements, the codes of relationship in nature, biodiversity, the migration routes of animals, the climate and the biosphere. It ensures the representation of all human and non-human parts of the ecosystem in all aspects of how we make decisions, govern and organize ourselves. An eco-centered mindset will catalyze a transition from a country-based concept of governance that goes against nature’s organizing patterns, to one that organizes according to interdependent, mutually-nourishing ecosystems and bioregions. In this holographic eco-centered model, all parts of the whole participate in multiple ecosystems simultaneously and respond from the perspective relevant to the context and issue at hand.


This eco-centered mindset forms the basis of an evolving blueprint for a new form of global and local governance called Eco-Governance



Eco-Governance is founded on the premise that the only legitimate purpose of all governments and all social sectors (economy, media, education, etc.) is to protect and cultivate the health and vitality of the planet and all its inhabitants for generations to come. Achieving this purpose involves fundamentally re-imagining and redesigning how we relate to our natural environment and other living beings, and to how we organize ourselves as a species. 


The primary task of Eco-Governance is to ensure the most efficient, replenishing and vitalizing flow of energy (resources, skills, knowledge, ideas, etc.) through the entire planetary ecosystem. The primary structure to achieve this purpose is a framework for self-organizing ‘Wisdom and Expertise Councils’. These councils are guided by the Vitality Code to ensure the optimal information, wisdom and guidance for citizen-led decision-making processes throughout all sectors.


In order to maintain a healthy and consciously evolving ecosystem, it is essential to embed within it action-learning processes and nuanced self-improving feedback loops. These processes enable the whole and all its parts to efficiently access the most relevant information at any given time in an ongoing iterative and adaptive manner. It is now possible to use big data to identify collective needs, resources and whole-system health priorities, to create self-reflective processes for the system as a whole, and to track and refine the way in which energy is distributed and moves through the system.

When we adopt the Vitality Code as the organizing principle for our local and global communities - from the personal to the planetary - we begin to ask many new questions that in turn catalyze ripples of rich inquiry and creativity throughout our collective intelligence. The Vitality Code offers a compelling attractor for generating deep coherence in community intentionality. Rather than imposing a preconceived outcome, the shared commitment to following The Vitality Code, rather than any leader, organization or ideology, generates an exciting process of co-creative discovery nourishing to all human and non-human inhabitants of our shared home. This process of aligning around the Vitality Code to learn with Life and for Life, in turn, ensures the best of all possible futures for all of Life.


With deep gratitude to Yan Golding, for his contribution to this article. 

bottom of page