Project Wadi Attir, the Sustainability Laboratory, the Sustainability Laboratory, Part 2!

by | Oct 25, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Project Wadi Attir, the Sustainability Laboratory, the Sustainability Laboratory, Part 2!



Project Wadi Attir is a groundbreaking initiative of the Bedouin community in the Negev desert of Israel, establishing a model sustainable agricultural operation and regional educational center, demonstrating a holistic, integrated approach to sustainable development in an arid eco-zone. The project was initiated by The Sustainability Laboratory, a US-based non-profit, and the Hura Municipal Council, the governing body of a local Bedouin township. 

Project Wadi Attir is designed to leverage Bedouin traditional values, aspirations, know-how, and experience with modern-day science and cutting edge technologies, showcasing application of sustainability principles developed by The Lab. Why does Project Wadi Attir matter to the rest of us? Wadi Attir addresses a few of the problems with modern agriculture—the increasing tendency of arable land to become “dryland.” Most of the world’s dryland soils are degraded and desertified, lacking vegetation cover, soil nutrients, and adequate biodiversity. 

Wadi Attir aims to solve that problem utilizing innovative and traditionally inspired methodologies. Project Wadi Attir’s approach is to create a highly sustainable, emission free and profitable dryland farming system that addresses all five core domains of modern sustainability science. Materially: Project Wadi Attir’s system of integrated green technologies and waste-to-resources approach maximizes the use of renewable resources, eliminates harmful emissions, and aims for near-zero waste. 

Economically: Properly planned and maintained, agroforestry plantations can be evolved into true Permaculture systems that require little care and input while providing sustainable supplies of fruit, food, fodder and woody biomass year round. Socially/spiritually: The project has been successful in creating a unique coalition of individuals and groups representing all sectors of Israeli society, and featuring cooperation between different Bedouin tribes, and women in leadership roles. 

The Life Domain: takes a humane and low-impact approach to raising farm animals, while enriching biodiversity of flora and fauna on the project site. And the Spiritual/Values Domain: is anchored in a value proposition, upheld by the community and articulated in the project’s Declaration of Principles.

DEEPER DIVE: Project Wadi Attir, YouTube, Sustainability Lab



The Sustainability Laboratory was established in 2008 and was founded on the belief that effective responses will not likely emerge from the same methods and mechanisms that perpetuate today’s sustainability challenge. Dr. Michael Ben-Eli started it in order to help address urgent sustainability issues facing the planet. According to his bio, prior to founding The Sustainability Laboratory, Dr. Michael Ben-Eli worked as an international management consultant, pioneering applications of Systems Thinking and Cybernetics in management and organization.

He was a close associate of R. Buckminster Fuller, with whom he collaborated on research involving advanced structural systems, and issues related to the management of technology and world resources for the advantage of all. That’s quite a humble brag but why do Dr. Michael Ben-Eli and the Sustainability Lab matter to us? Because the word “sustainability” is used all the time now, we may not realize it but the concept of sustainability is very new in western, capitalist thought. It was Dr. Ben-Eli and the Sustainability Lab who helped give the word definition and substance.

First he defined “sustainability” as “an organizing principle to foster a well-functioning alignment between individuals, society, the economy and the regenerative capacity of the planet’s life supporting ecosystems.” Then he further distilled its definition down to “A dynamic equilibrium in the process of interaction between a population and the carrying capacity of its environment such that the population develops to express its full potential without producing irreversible, adverse effects on the carrying capacity of the environment upon which it depends.”

Finally, that definition was broken down into five Core Principles. The Five Core Principles are derived from The Lab’s definition of sustainability, and they relate to five key domains: the Material Domain, the Economic Domain, the Domain of Life, the Social Domain, and the Spiritual Domain.

DEEPER DIVE: Sustainability Lab



As Jeffrey said, The Sustainability Laboratory is grounded on the Five Core Principles of Sustainability. They’re so important to share that they deserve their own story—or most of one, anyway. The first Core principle, THE MATERIAL DOMAIN, Constitutes the basis for regulating the flow of materials and energy that underlie existence. Contains entropy and ensures that the flow of resources, through and within the economy, is as nearly non-declining as is permitted by physical laws.

THE ECONOMIC DOMAIN Provides a guiding framework for creating and managing wealth. And Adopts an appropriate accounting system to guide the economy, fully aligned with the planet’s ecological processes and reflecting true, comprehensive biospheric pricing. Biospheric pricing is the concept of pricing taking biosphere processes into account. That’s accounting for the basis of biophysical interdependencies between all parts of the ecosystem, not just those that have direct or obvious value to humans. 


Provides the basis for appropriate behavior in the biosphere. And Ensures that the essential diversity of all forms of life in the biosphere is maintained.


Provides the basis for social interactions and Maximizes degrees of freedom and potential self-realization of all humans without any individual or group adversely affecting others.


Identifies the necessary attitudinal orientation and provides the basis for a universal code of ethics. It recognizes the seamless, dynamic continuum of mystery, wisdom, love, energy and matter that links the outer reaches of the cosmos: the solar system, planet and its biosphere including all humans, with our internal metabolic systems.

If the five core principles weren’t enough to make the Sustainability Laboratory matter to us, try this on for size, how about its Global Sustainability Fellows Program? It’s a graduate-level educational initiative designed to inspire, inform and mobilize future generations of leaders who are committed to integrating an in-depth exposure to sustainability issues into studies in their chosen disciplines.

DEEPER DIVE: Five Core Principles, Biospheric Pricing