Tellus Institute
The Tellus Institute is a non-profit research and policy organization based in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Its mission is to advance the transition to a sustainable, equitable, and humane global civilization. The Tellus Institute was founded in 1976 by Paul Raskin
Paul Raskin
Paul Raskin is the Founding Director of the Tellus Institute which has conducted over 3,500 research and policy projects throughout the world on environmental issues, resource planning, and sustainable development...

, Richard Rosen, Stephen Bernow, John Stutz, and David Nichols. Paul Raskin is the president of the institute.


The Tellus Institute conducts research projects and produces reports on topics such as energy, water, sustainable communities, corporate social responsibility, and climate change. These reports have been commissioned from various government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and corporations. For example, in 2004 the Tellus Institute conducted an analysis of the Climate Stewardship Act for the Natural Resources Defense Council
Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a New York City-based, non-profit, non-partisan international environmental advocacy group, with offices in Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Beijing...

 (Bailie & Dougherty 2004).

Tellus' research specializes in the application of quantitative analysis to the development of possible future scenarios. These scenarios in turn aid decision-making strategies for implementing policies or development. Because of Tellus’ mission to promote a sustainable, equitable, and humane global civilization, its research often surveys the interplay of environmental, social, and economic factors, as well as the global effects of regional decisions. This can be seen in the Background Paper for UNEP’s Third Global Environment Outlook
Global Environment Outlook
The UNEP Global Environment Outlook project was initiated in response to the environmental reporting requirements of Agenda 21 and to a UNEP Governing Council decision of May 1995 which requested the production of a new comprehensive global state of the environment report.The coordinated global...

 Report, prepared by Tellus Institute, which assesses “long-range global and regional environmental prospects in a coherent and comprehensive scenario framework… addresses environmental trends in an integrated framework that includes economic, social and cultural factors that ultimately shape the ways in which human activity impacts on nature… (and) places regional analyses in the context of global patterns, on the grounds that greater global interconnectedness links regional and global outlooks” (UNEP 2004).


Tellus developed and uses a series of software programs in its research. These programs were designed for strategic planning and scenario analysis
Scenario analysis
Scenario analysis is a process of analyzing possible future events by considering alternative possible outcomes . Thus, the scenario analysis, which is a main method of projections, does not try to show one exact picture of the future. Instead, it presents consciously several alternative future...

, allowing the user to create, evaluate, and compare alternative futures based on current data and hypothetical trends. LEAP
LEAP:Long range Energy Alternatives Planning System
LEAP: the Long range Energy Alternatives Planning system, is a proprietary, Windows-based software system for energy and environmental policy analysis. It is widely used for integrated energy planning and climate change mitigation analysis and has been applied in hundreds of different...

 software facilitates energy-environment planning; WEAP
WEAP: the Water Evaluation And Planning system is a Windows-based decision support system for integrated water resources management and policy analysis...

, water planning; WastePlan, solid waste planning; DSTAIR, anti-corruption analysis; and PoleStar, sustainability planning.

"Great Transition"

In addition to client-based research, Tellus works to advance a vision of the future it calls the “Great Transition
Great Transition
Great Transition is a vision created by the Global Scenario Group of how humanity could create a civilization that reflects egalitarian social and ecological values, affirms diversity, and defeats poverty, war, and environmental destruction....

.” The Great Transition is a scenario developed by Tellus in which society experiences a paradigm shift in its values—materialism and consumerism
Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts. The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Thorstein Veblen...

 are replaced by individual fulfillment and sufficiency for all. According to Tellus, these new values, coupled with a global sense of citizenship and reinvigorated community involvement, steer the earth towards a sustainable future—a Great Transition.
This would manifest as a novel phenomenon of a global citizens movement
Global citizens movement
In most discussions, the global citizens movement is a socio-political process rather than a political organization or party structure. The term is often used synonymously with the anti-globalization movement or the global justice movement. Colloquially the term is also used in this imprecise manner...


A Great Transition future is defined by ways of production, levels of consumption, and lifestyle choices that balance the rights of those living today with those of future generations.


In 2002 Tellus Institute, with Stockholm Environment Institute and the Global scenario group
Global scenario group
The Global Scenario Group was a team of environmental scholars, headed by Paul Raskin, who used scenario analysis to analyze future paths for world development in the face of environmental pressures and crises...

, published Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead. This essay posits that humanity is entering the Planetary Phase of Civilization
Planetary Phase of Civilization
The Planetary Phase of Civilization is a concept defined by the Global Scenario Group , an environmental organization that specializes in scenario analysis and forecasting...

. After a brief overview of the historic roots of this new era of history, the authors outline three scenarios based on results from PoleStar analyses: Conventional Worlds, Barbarization, and Great Transitions (Raskin et al. 2002).

Conventional Worlds are likely to emerge if business continues as usual, with market forces and policy reform
Policy reform
Policy reform, in addition to its more general meanings, has been used to refer to a future scenario which relies on government action to correct economic market failures and to stimulate the technological investment necessary for sustainable development and the creation of a truly sustainable...

 maintaining the status quo or gradually working towards more sustainable patterns of production and consumption.

Barbarization is likely to occur if present institutions fail, resulting in conflict and increased social division. This could result in a complete breakdown of society or fortress worlds were the well-off live in enclaves physically removed from the struggling poor.

A Great Transition is likely if humanity redirects the same inventiveness that accelerated its ascent toward a new goal of softening its environmental impact (Revkin 2002). This could occur through the sum of fragmented Eco-Communalism
Eco-communalism is an environmental philosophy based on ideals of simple living, self-sufficiency, sustainability, and local economies. Eco-communalists envision a future in which the economic system of capitalism is replaced with a global web of economically interdependent and interconnected...

 movements or, more plausibly, through a new sustainability paradigm in which a sense of global citizenship results in a worldwide shift towards values of sufficiency, sustainability, and equity.

The Great Transition essay has been translated into German and Spanish. It has been used as a resource in several college and graduate level courses, including courses on environmental policy, global change, and ecological anthropology.

In 2006 Tellus Institute, through the Great Transition Initiative (GTI), presented a series of essays that supplement the original Great Transition essay. Each of these pieces focused on a subject integral to the occurrence of a Great Transition. The topics covered were politics and institutions, regional economies, corporate redesign, international trade, security, technology, values, well-being, feminism, sustainable cities
Sustainable city
A sustainable city, or eco-city is a city designed with consideration of environmental impact, inhabited by people dedicated to minimization of required inputs of energy, water and food, and waste output of heat, air pollution - CO2, methane, and water pollution...

, climate change, ecosystem, and global citizens movement. These essays were authored by various members of the GTI. The series also includes two essays authored by Paul Raskin that tie these topics into a narrative of how a Great Transition might come to be.

This series of essays describing the frontiers of a Great Transition, along with the original Great Transition essay, comprises the 16-part Great Transition Initiative Paper Series.

Subsidiary working groups

In its effort to promote the transition to a just and sustainable society, the Tellus Institute launched several subsidiary working groups:

The Global Scenario Group
Global scenario group
The Global Scenario Group was a team of environmental scholars, headed by Paul Raskin, who used scenario analysis to analyze future paths for world development in the face of environmental pressures and crises...

 (GSG) was convened in 1995 in order to compile a set of possible scenarios for global development in the twenty-first century. Its goal was to identify a sustainable and equitable future within this set of scenarios and to isolate the policies, actions, and human choices required to achieve this scenario. Its findings indicated that an environmentally sustainable, socially equitable future was possible; the GSG termed this future the Great Transition. The GSG’s work culminated with the 2002 publication of Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead. Paul Raskin led the GSG, which consisted of more than 20 environmental scholars from throughout the globe.

Scenarios developed by the GSG have informed the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Environment Outlook
Global Environment Outlook
The UNEP Global Environment Outlook project was initiated in response to the environmental reporting requirements of Agenda 21 and to a UNEP Governing Council decision of May 1995 which requested the production of a new comprehensive global state of the environment report.The coordinated global...

 series, as well as other international and national vision studies.

The Great Transition Initiative (GTI) was formed in 2003 to re-channel the momentum of the GSG. Its mandate is to continue scenario development, disseminate the Great Transition vision to a larger audience, and build a network of GTI members. The GTI coordinating unit consists of Paul Raskin, Orion Kriegman, Tariq Banuri
Banuri or Banoori is a Pakistani surname, common among the Pashto and Hindko -speaking Syeds of Kohat , Peshawar and Swat especially in Odigram regions of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.-Origins:...

, and Allen White.

Corporation 20/20’s mission is to develop and advocate the redesign of corporations so that business is guided by social purpose as well as financial gain. Co-founded in 2004 by Allen White, Vice President of Tellus, and Marjorie Kelly, former Editor of Business Ethics magazine, Corporation 20/20 hosts a forum of leading thinkers, practitioners, and advocates who work to construct alternate visions of the corporate structure, which it then disseminates into the corporate community. Allen White also co-founded the Global Reporting Initiative
Global Reporting Initiative
The Global Reporting Initiative produces one of the world's most prevalent standards for sustainability reporting - also known as ecological footprint reporting, Environmental Social Governance reporting, Triple Bottom Line reporting, Corporate Social Responsibility reporting...

, an organization that seeks to make corporate reporting on economic, environmental, and social performance as universally accepted as present-day financial reporting.

Boston Scenario Project was initiated in 2005 as a process for developing local scenarios for the Boston metropolitan region that mirror the global-scale scenarios described in the Great Transition essay. The project seeks to reconcile worldwide effects with local actions in order to envision a future of sustainability, pluralism, justice, and global responsibility for the Boston region, which would also contribute to worldwide sustainability and equity. The Boston Scenario Project is coordinated by James Goldstein, Tellus Senior Fellow.

External links

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