The Understory inspires leaders to act on the courage of their convictions in defense of the living planet and those who inhabit it.

About The Understory

The Understory shares critical thinking about the natural world and the growing climate emergency 🔥🌏. Much like the forest understory where trees, shrubs, vines, mosses, and fungi live under shade of the forest canopy, each issue celebrates stories that thrive in the shadows rather than the limelight of the news cycle. The publication provides habitat for climate storytelling by connecting the letters, notes, essays, books, and speeches from great minds in management science, philosophy, literature, sociology, psychology, and the natural sciences with our present moment and desired future.

The research of forest ecologist Suzanne Simard about the networked layers of the forests inspired the naming of this publication, as did Richard Powers’s book The Overstory which was equally influenced by Simard’s findings.

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Who Reads The Understory

CEOs. Directors. Corporate Sustainability Officers. City Managers. Executive Directors. City Councillors. Community Organizers. Engaged Citizens.

The goal of The Understory is to inform the decisions of private and public sector leadership in these and other roles while deepening personal connections and commitments to the climate emergency. The hope is to inspire different ways of hearing and seeing opportunities, risks, and challenges, thereby creating a new kind of management publication.

“People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Circles

Great change can come from unsettling pursuits. But that possibility can only emerge after taking the time to consider the unsettling and honouring our roles in finding a new path forward. Each issue of The Understory proposes unsettling questions in hopes of helping leadership see a perspective anew or reignite introspection on a concern of personal importance. Issues that have most resonated with readers, while also representing the expansiveness of my desired terrain are:

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Why I Write The Understory

I’ve become convinced that there are two ways of building the scale of response needed to reverse climate breakdown:

  1. Informing and empowering masses of people to take action, and

  2. Supporting those with agency and influence to make different decisions.

In surveying the landscape of other climate-centred newsletters, there were many of the former and few of the latter. The Understory compiles stories to inspire leaders’ introspection that leads to stronger connections, resilience, and climate response.

"It seems reasonable to believe — and I do believe — that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction." – Rachel Carson

I have many colleagues who remain torn between the values they hold dear and their personal and organizational quests for financial wealth. Climate-change stories are often riddled with grief and dense data, technical acronyms and jargon, and political divisiveness that obscure the ability to connect those stories with personal values.

We have crossed the climate-change threshold from emerging to urgent, which demands a transformative response. The scale of the issue demands not only continuous focus, but also courage to take bold action. I've found that a persistence of climate consciousness improves resilience to the noise and distractions of daily life in service of a bigger (and most of the time invisible) long-term cause. 

The Understory is my way of organizing the natural and human-made curiosities that capture my attention. Within the words, research, and actions of others lie the inspiration for personal and organizational journeys. I dedicate a portion of every week to The Understory out of a passion for our earth and the people who live here with me. I hope that my work here will help to inform not just my persistent consciousness, but yours as well.

I’d welcome your help in sharing The Understory with friends and colleagues.

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About Me

Hello, I’m Adam Lerner. I read great works, embolden corporate sustainability commitments, build community over dinner, and write about my love for the planet and humans in The Understory. My actions for the environment and social justice began in Grade 9 in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. My undergraduate history degree at Colorado College taught me to think and write. My MBA at the University of Texas taught me how to create and deploy strategy. While my thinking has developed alongside the escalation of the climate emergency, I remain resolute in using my time and energy to work with others to improve the planet for its own sake and for all who call it home. I currently live in Vancouver, Canada 🇨🇦.

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Inspiration for leaders to act on the courage of their convictions


Substack Writer of The Understory | Founder & Knowledges Lead at Solvable
South African based Executive Coach, specializing in Climate and Ecology. Author of I am a Cross-Pollinaor (2020) and If the Shoe Fits (2015).