Gregory Moulinet is the co-founder of the Biocentric Society a company that aims at building a floating village on the Tai lake. Learn more about this audacious project that is challenging the way we are considering life on earth and our place in the world
Can you explain us the meaning of Biocentric, which is the core value of your company?
The ‘Biocentric’ outlook is usually opposed to the ‘Anthropocentric’ outlook. Human centered VS Life centered.
Anthropocentric societies see the world as a pyramid with humans, usually male with alpha status, at the very top. Everything around and below is considered “resources” belonging to men by rights, might or bribe. Each resource is hierarchically valued: commercial, vital, therapeutical, nutritional, functional or just rare and magical. The concept of civilization, demonstrated by urban life, cities divorced from nature, kingdoms, empires, colonies and nation states are direct results of anthropocentric thinking.
Biocentric societies, on the other end, sees animals, including humans, plants, insects and microbes as “earthlings” with equal rights to life, each occupying an ecological niche with vital functions supporting a vast interconnected ecosystem we call nature. No hierarchy, no ownership, just an absolute respect for all life forms and their ecological boundaries. Indigenous tribes are usually biocentric communities and have a polar opposite “lifeview” when compared to our “civilized world”.
So what is the Biocentric Society? What’s its mission and goals?
The Biocentric Society is the name we chose for an organization we founded and registered early 2017. It’s an umbrella company, which hold or support biocentric businesses, initiatives and activities.
The mission: Re-wild the earth, Restore/Inter-connect natural habitats and Sway the human species to adopt a biocentric outlook and a matching lifestyle. Goals are many. The flagship goal is to establish a biocentric floating village on the Tai lake (Taihu).
Biomimicry seems to be an important aspect of the project; can you explain a bit more about this innovative approach and its application within the Biocentric Society?
Biomimicry is for us a tool to do the right biocentric thing when moral choices have to be made and when smart, elegant, sustainable technological solutions have to be found. Biocentric Society is guided by 3 core principles developed in the 70’s by deep ecologists such as Paul Watson and scientists such as Carl Sagan: Biodiversity, Interdependence and Finite Resources. These principles encapsulate how nature works and the foundation of Janine Benyus’ concept of biomimicry.
That’s a very holistic project; can you give us concrete examples of direct implications & impacts it will have on the people and the nature surrounding the floating village?
The most direct impact will be the drinkable water quality 30 Million people are suppose to depend on. Since 2007 first major algae bloom, drinking water directly from the lake would be deadly. If the Biocentric Society village is allowed to be established and expand significantly nearby the city of Wuxi or Suzhou, we could realistically clean-up 1% of the lake surface, within 2 years. 1% seems very small, but if this 1% or 225 hectares of water surface are visibly limpid from the shores near by these economically important cities, you can easily imagine the positive financial impact it could have on local real estate, touristic industry and lotus root productions. Most importantly for us, we would be able to stem out the dwindling biodiversity and by involving the surrounding population, families coming over the weekend to build floating islands capable to support life and filter the waters, we would inspire a generation of Chinese urbanites to respect nature and better understand that water is a finite resources worth caring about, not a commodity as it is perceived right now.
What’s your personal background and what led you to start a project addressing such a big challenge as redesigning human mindset and its relationship with its habitat and other forms of life?
The “biocentric outlook” has profoundly changed how I live, how I work, how I read world’s events and how, me, my family and friends are planning to spend the rest of our lives. It did not take a dramatic crisis in my life, but I definitely felt reaching a tipping point when scientific facts, put together, did not match with any mainstream narratives, any ideologies, philosophies or religions I have ever heard or learned about. My slow realization is akin to discern the shores of an island in the haze, to emerge as a continent of concepts and ideas I am now exploring.
My personal background, brand designer, or finding efficient ways to sell more things at more expensive price points, seems very much the opposite to biocentric principles… and it is. But my position allows me to be in direct discussions with leaders of industries and brand owners. While my impact is very limited, I found myself able, more than once, to change the course of a company’s behavior onto a more sustainable path.
Many times I found out that it was the deep desire of some leaders, but they could not articulate it properly to their shareholders or were bounded by stupid protocols and conventions. When you properly show them the escape route… they take it. Now, this project seems super ambitious, super difficult to achieve and it is, but I don’t see my role in it as the one who will make it happen. Other people, with expertise, with connections, with wealth, will make it happen.
My role, here, is to sell an idea. I am pitching a project I truly believe in. It is my way of using my skills and expertise to generate what I hope to be maximum impact possible from my stand point.
Can we find similar projects in other places of the world?
The Eden Project in UK and Biosphere 2 in the US are probably the closest to what we are trying to do technically. Ethically: Auroville in India, Earthship Biotecture in New Mexico and Telaithrion in Greece. I would add the Green School in Bali.
英国的伊甸园计划和美国的生物圈二号可能是我们在技术上最接近的项目。从伦理上讲:在印度的Auroville，新墨西哥的Earthship Biotecture和希腊的Telaithrion。还有巴厘的Green School.
It’s a project that requires lots of specific expertise. Are you surrounded by professionals, from different backgrounds, helping you get the project off the ground?
I wish we were “surrounded” but it’s not the case. We have, however, several individuals, whoms have already brought invaluable expertise. Most notably a guy from Biosphere 2. But we also have several “volunteers”, mostly ladies, I have to say, helping in many ways that are very difficult to repay. If there is one thing positive that this adventure has brought up, is the connection with people I probably would have never met or never talk to otherwise. When money or financial returns are out of the equation, you end-up with vastly different quality of relationships and a sense of fulfillment that make you regret to haven’t started earlier.
我希望我们被“包围”，但事实并非如此。然而，我们有几个人已经带来了宝贵的专业知识。最著名的是生物圈二号的一个家伙。但是我们也有几个“志愿者”， 大多数是女士。 我不得不说，她们在很多方面极困难的地方帮助了我们，不知如何报答。如果有一件事是积极的，那就是这次冒险所带来的是与我可能从未见过或从未交谈过的人的联系。当金钱或财务回报超出你的想象时，你就会拥有截然不同的人际关系和成就感，这让你后悔没有早点开始。
It also probably requires enormous funding. Do you already have a plan to find initial funding and a business model to make it financially viable on a long-term basis?
Funding size is very relative. If I was framing this project as a school, which is my hope to materialize at some point, 60 Million RMB is a very small cost compared to conventional projects. And we planned the execution for 6 years. That’s 10 Million a year. Biocentric Society is registered as a conventional commercial company, but we operate like an NGO. If there is a “business model”, Sea Shepherd, founded by Paul Watson, is the model. They rely on volunteers, wealthy/famous donors and syndication money from a very successful TV show, Whale War. It took them 40 years to get there. And I am fine with that. Not sure I have 40 years and we do have a timeline to measure our progress, but we do not set deadlines… we are playing the long game.
投资规模是非常相对的。如果我把这个项目作为一所学校，这是我希望在未来某时能实现的，与传统项目相比，6000万人民币是一个非常小的成本。我们计划执行6年，每年一千万。“生物中心社会”作为一个传统的商业公司注册，但我们的运作方式就像一个非政府组织。如果有一个“商业模式”，由Paul Watson创立的Sea Shepherd就是这个模型。他们依靠的是志愿者、富有的或是著名的捐赠者以及一个非常成功的电视节目“鲸鱼之战（Whale War）”的银团资金。他们花了40年才得以成功。我对此很满意。我不确定我有40年可以消耗,也不确定我们确实有一个时间表来衡量我们的进步,但我们不设置最后期限……我们是在放长线钓大鱼。
What is the biggest challenge that you are facing when developing this project?
The main issue right now is high level access and local government relations. We have secured some significant key supports in the private sectors, but in China, nothing is possible without governmental support. If anyone reading this has an idea or a connection with the city of Wuxi… I have a pitch ready and fundings are not that far behind us.
At this moment, what is the reason you have to feel optimistic?
I am very confident we will achieve some of the things we have planned, but I am not optimistic for the planet overwhelmed by human greed and stupidity. This dread is my drive. I wish a bright future on the horizon was pulling me. In some way I envy the naïvety of the 50-60’s modernists. But it was the fear of the soviets that made the US send a man to the moon.
How can people get involved or help you if they are interested to contribute?
Anyone can contribute, if one understand what biocentrism means. Contact us, talk to us, or introduce us to people who may be able to help.
Which person or which project has been or is a great source of inspiration in your job or in your life?
Parley for the Ocean. Its founder, Cyrill Gutsch has a similar background as mine. He also got inspired by Paul Watson. He is already making a significant impact both in terms of conservation and communication, which are exactly our aims in a slightly different way and different context.
谈判的海洋（Parley for the Ocean）。它的创始人，Cyrill Gutsch有着和我相似的背景。他也受到了保罗·沃森的启发。他已经在保护和沟通方面产生了巨大的影响。这正是我们的目标，除了一些稍微不同的方式和不同的背景。
Gregory Moulinet and his wife and co-founder Grace Min Zhou
Chinese Version: Wei Yichen