"The major problems of the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way people think."
— Gregory Bateson
The world feels increasingly out of control these days. It’s unsettling. But all living things were designed by and for this chaotic world, and all our ancestors survived and thrived in it for billions of years—even through five catastrophic extinction events. We are part of life’s expanding magic, and the answers are in our bones. BILD invites you into an immersive process of personal observation, questioning, and expression, designed to awaken the curiosity, imagination, and deep understanding of living processes we need to create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
The Borrego Institute for Living Design is a cross-disciplinary ecotone where art, design, mythic storytelling, and evolutionary processes connect diverse minds for thriving futures. We work to catalyze a fundamental paradigm shift in all human endeavors—from mechanistic efficiency-driven thinking to adaptable design based on life’s observable patterns and processes—in order to facilitate cultural renewal for greater resilience, adaptability, and expanding opportunity.MORE ABOUT MACHINE MIND VS. PATTERN MIND
Track other beings and yourself, develop your pattern thinking capabilities, and experience evolutionary design. The desert offers one set of patterns, while our tropical ecosystems are something else again. Join BILD, and come try GeoSchool in Panama. Return home with new eyes, perspectives, and a powerfully adaptive approach to any challenge. Forming cohorts for Spring/Summer 2021, please inquire.
Where creatives can do deep focused work and cross-fertilize with diverse minds and ways of seeing. Enjoy inspiration and seclusion in your own private glampsite, or venture into the ecotone for storytelling and conversation. By application.
Members may reserve their own glampsite, February through May. Experience the magic of the small gods and goddesses of wildflower season, stargaze the Milky Way in this International Dark Sky Community, and immerse yourself in creative co-evolution with your teeming relatives!
Join us in catalyzing the “evolution revolution”––a radical reset in our most basic assumptions of how the world works and how we design for it.
Step outside the efficiency machine and join our efforts to design systems that align with our nature as living beings and humans, to regenerate adaptive, inventive, purposeful cultures that work to grow thriving futures for all our children’s children.
Experience the joy of caring for a place in a deeper way, while renewing ancient relationships with its beings. Become re-enchanted, re-entangled, reclaimed by old stories that connect us to the land, its creatures, and one another.
Far to the Northwest of Panama, in the bone dry shadow of the Peninsular mountains, lies a radically different and equally critical diversity corridor. Here, at the farthest edge of the vast Sonora Desert, lies a Secret Location. 2 hours East of San Diego, and 3 hours from LA lies a biologically-rich and ecologically dynamic wilderness.
The Magic of Place
This canyon represents a vital biodiversity corridor—a snowmelt-fed transition area from the mountain woodlands far above, through chaparral to the low desert. Here, mountain springs traverse 6 active faults, offering a rare palm oasis in this unforgiving land. Ironwood, palo verde, mesquite, and acacia abound. A herd of critically endangered Peninsular Sheep (and its accompanying large predators) wander its slopes, while a huge variety of unusual cacti and reptiles make their homes among an ancient ocotillo-forested granite sand bajada. Many residents adapt to daily and seasonal swings by moving along this gradient, and the diversity among species and within them is unusually high. Gambel's and California Quail hybridize in this transitional corridor, as do Desert and Flat-tailed Horned Lizards—a fascinating source of evolutionary novelty in both populations. Burrowing owls enjoy the sandy dunes, while several kinds of bats roost in local cliff cracks and caves, feeding on insects around the spring. Winter rains give way to a carpet of tiny purple and yellow wildflowers—it is nearly impossible to step without marveling at life’s dogged persistence. Hummingbirds and orioles migrating to Central America along the Pacific Flyway are attracted to this rare water source and vegetation, and Swainson’s Hawk stops here yearly on its way to places like the Mamoní—a dearly-loved SoCal celebration.
This region was home to native peoples for some 9000 years, and the Kumeyaay and Cahuilla travelled these trails just a century ago, gathering Summer acorns in the mountains while enjoying pleasant living through the mild desert winters. Their metates, pottery, and tools still dot the landscape, and a careful eye reveals evidence of their thoughtful care of useful plants.
Today these ancient gardens are overgrown and returning to tangled wilderness. Sahara mustard invades and the spring retreats below ground. Meanwhile, the larger systems living things depend on for ongoing quality and abundance of water, soil, climate, and air, grow stretched and brittle. We find ourselves scrambling to plug a complex leaky dike with a wholly inadequate set of rigid, generic, over-simplified and polarizing best-practice “solutions.” It takes a lot of energy and resources to suppress life’s messiness in this way, and unintended consequences are the inevitable result.
This is how civilizations rise and fall.
The systems and structures we live in are inhuman, contrary to our very nature as adaptable living creatures. Mechanistic design saps our adaptability and forces us into an efficiency machine—unhappy worn out parts pumping out goods and services while our ability to care, dream, and create erodes away.
But people have always survived by our wits and will—creative, persistent, seeking and cultivating opportunity. We are naturally resourceful, inventive, clever, insightful, designed to collaborate, cultivate, and care for other living things and each other. In fact, most of the worlds “wild” landscapes have been tended by human beings for tens of thousands of generations. Human beings play a unique and necessary role in the fabric of life, just as every other species does. Our human superpower is Culture, a highly flexible, locally-attuned collective imagination and memory of how to thrive in a changing world.
What’s really stopping us from thriving in today’s world?
Migration, extraction, and control have eroded our cultures and relationships with other species and each other. We are cats without claws, struggling to get by in the world missing a limb—an entire species mostly severed from skills and knowledge of living processes our ancestors accumulated. Despite an abundance of technical expertise and scientific knowledge, the processes we labor under don’t support the inventiveness and adaptability we require and are intrinsically capable of—because today’s prevailing mechanistic mindset cannot accommodate it.
We are starved for something more.
We seek nothing less than a fundamental shift in our most basic assumptions about how the world works and how living things adapt to change, in order to reclaim our capacity for adapting to these complex evolutionary realities.
Reading Evolutionary Patterns
Earth’s seasons and the laws of gravity and thermodynamics continuously shape the form and function of energy and matter at every scale on our planet. These regular flows produce deep patterns, from cells and ecosystems to the canyons left by ancient rivers or the network of synapses in your brain. All living things are designed by and for this chaotic world, as they have survived and thrived in it for billions of years through five major extinction events. These patterns hold for us, as well—our bodies, communities, and endeavors—because we are creatures too, part of this living world.
The exchanges that make up even a single tree are endlessly complex, unique, adaptable, and interdependent, and the leverage points for change are therefore seldom obvious. Designing for a complex and dynamic world requires experimentation, tinkering, pattern knowledge and expertise, which in turn requires focused immersion and practice in discerning diverse living patterns.
Just as Mamoní Valley offers a living bridge between continents, cultures, and species, our secret desert canyon presents a transitional ecotone, from alpine oak and conifer woodlands, through California chaparral to the arid desert floor. Ecotones are lively arenas of creative disturbance and evolutionary experimentation—individuals that live here must be highly adaptable. In fact, ecotone species often require disturbance to regenerate. Novel adaptations often arise here, gaining traction at the fringes, seeping back into core populations to re-shape and transform them.
We envision a discovery and creation space where the ways we behave in the world are no different than the ways we learn about it. Hierarchical top-down instruction and production are replaced by a bottom-up, self-organizing network of multidisciplinary experimentation, inquiry, and creative expression, in service of regenerating larger landscapes of opportunity. Towards this goal, BILD aims to facilitate reconnection to the living world and its processes and patterns, and foster curious, imaginative, creative, and purposeful cultures that rigorously design for co-evolutionary potential.
Ecosystem edges offer an unusual diversity of opportunities, and therefore the diversity of creatures drawn to them is much greater. Similarly, we imagine diverse experts moving through the BILD space to work on specific projects through interdisciplinary art-ecology-story residencies. These add richness, diversity, and expertise. Meanwhile, members come for living systems immersions and design intensives, to gain new capabilities around living paradigm, process, pattern, and potential.
The emancipation of both nature and the human imagination depends first on the capacity to ‘unsay’ the world and, second, on the ability to image it differently so that wonder might be brought into appearance. —James Corner
What We Will Do Together
We imagine a Buckminster Fuller-esque Black Mountain College, with elements of Quail Springs Permaculture, Occidental Arts-Ecology, and Westcountry School of Myth—a living laboratory where creatives can do deep focused work and cross-fertilize with other lively minds while working to reclaim our role in the living systems we are part of—create something purposeful for our world while living joyfully in it. We’ll restor-y the spring’s surface flow, giving birds like Swainson’s Hawk a place to stop on their way to Mamoni (just as many of BILD’s members and students will do), and re-member old trails and skills. We’ll experience the joy of caring for a place in a deeper way, while forging deep relationships with its beings.
Micaela Iron-Shell Dominguez put it so eloquently after Geoversity’s Transcontinental Earth Vision 2020—
“We took heart in the possibility of finding a place where our histories, our roots conjoin. That place, we realized, is found far from the concrete highways of the materialism that divide us. That place, that future we want for ourselves, for our children and for our planet, is reached by blazing new trails. That native place is achieved by growing our resilience and wisdom as we journey away from the goal of having more toward a vision of evolving and being more…To the benefit of all living beings and with art honoring Mother Earth, we envision bringing about, in our lifetimes, a natural renaissance.”
This is the work of BILD.
Communities & Groups
Inspiration & Jobs
Founder and Principal, TEEM Innovation Group, LLC
Dean, Geoversity’s School of Biocultural
Leadership in Panama
Tamsin is the author of TEEMING: How Superorganisms Work to Build Infinite Wealth in a Finite World, an Amazon Bestseller in Organizational Learning and Environmental Economics, as well as Ecology and Animal Behavior—testament to the lively ecotones biomimics inhabit. She is an internationally known thought-leader in the emerging field of Biomimicry, and this is regarded as the seminal work on “Biomimicry in Business”
Tamsin began as a biologist—studying plant form and function in California’s redwood-filled Santa Cruz mountains; backpacking the Hawaiian Islands; obsessing about sociobiology under legendary evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers; and working as a live-aboard marine mammal observer in the Bering Sea as the only woman on a crab boat with 25 fishermen. Her profits took her to the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands—where she immediately forgot her aversion to boats. She earned her doctorate in Biological Anthropology, working alternately in a genetics lab and a tent in the Ethiopian desert, obeying the whims of a motley assortment of hybridizing baboons. This was the longest running and most extensive genetic study of any wild primate for many years—a model for addressing questions around altruism and social cooperation, human speciation and gene introgression among our early human ancestors—and is still widely cited today.
After two decades in business—as a biotech scientist, then as a serial entrepreneur with several businesses in photography, as a scientific subject matter expert for GRI corporate sustainability reporting, a copywriter and content developer, and an executive leadership coach for scientists making the jump to C-suite, today her company TEEM Innovation Group provides organizational design and innovation consulting for some of the world’s biggest and most innovative companies.
Dr. Tamsin’s is focused on catalyzing a fundamental paradigm shift from mechanistic design to Living Systems Thinking and Design in all human endeavors. To that end, she is the Dean of Geoversity’s School of Biocultural Leadership in Panama. Chairs David Sloan Wilson’s Evolution Institute Business Action Group (leading the effort to design evolutionary curriculum for business schools nationally with Ethical Systems founder Jonathan Haidt), and is a headline thought leader for the Growth Institute—the premier education platform for mid-cap entrepreneurs, and a frequent fixture at Conscious Capitalism.
Preorder The TEEMING Transformation here, join us for GeoSchool at Geoversity in Panama, or reserve a spot in TEEMLab’s Living Systems Immersions at the TEEMLab Ecotone in San Diego’s gorgeous Anza-Borrego Desert!
Chris Lopez is a permaculture designer, mythic storyteller, applied naturalist, and educator. He is a regenerative development practitioner and faculty member of the Regenesis Institute for Regenerative Practice, and our BILD Curriculum Designer. He is a proud mixed blood mutt, and his story anchors his passionate work.
Chris brings two decades of experience in ecological design and developmental/behavioral psychology, working with children and adults with developmental disabilities. After years spent trying to address environmental problems through design, he realized the core issues were not of a design nature but arose from a broken relationship between people and the rest of the living world. The “problem” is a psychological and cultural one, born of a predominant paradigm fundamentally at odds with the way the world works. Following this, Chris began integrating applied naturalist skills, developmental work, mythic story, and ecological design to help folks reconnect to themselves and their places. His purpose is to re-orient minds from the fallacy of fragmented mechanistic understanding to embrace the networked reality of expanding co-evolution and interbeing. A passionate primitive archer, Chris links this paradigm shift to the practiced pattern-expertise needed for “right relationship” design—the sweet spots where diverse elements can be held in perfect tension for purposeful effect. He lives in Sacramento with his family.