REGENERATIVE DEVELOPMENT

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INTRODUCTION

In this module we will provide a general theoretical understanding of regenerative development, its principles, how it differs from sustainability, and how this concept has proven to be a game-changer regarding climate action and biodiversity conservation. We will feature an example of regenerative development applied to agriculture.

OBJECTIVE

Through this module you’ll be able to identify a new approach to take action for nature, the climate, and our oceans. We’ll identify ways to incorporate this concept into your life and work as you continue through your changemaker journey.

SUMMARY

Regenerative Development vs Sustainability

‘Sustainable’ generally means something that is designed to continue, without any problems, and that translates in development to reducing the negative impacts of human activity. Though sustainability has been a crucial concept for environmentalism in the past decades it is now not enough to solve the issues we face ( Module 11).

Regenerative Development aims to go further, not only reducing negative impacts, but reversing the damage we have caused to nature. Regenerative Development seeks to ensure there are resources for future generations, by rethinking and redesigning the human systems ( production, economic, social and cultural) in a way that reconnects them with nature. This is an evolving concept that is based on many principles on of which is being open to constant learning, like life does with evolution. In this sense, more than answers we need questions, such as: ‘How can we heal the damage we have caused to our planet?’ and ‘How can we have a healthy relationship with living systems?’. ‘How can we give back as much as we take from nature?’

Regeneration then also means restoring health, to the Earth’s systems, and to ourselves as both are interconnected. To live healthy lives we need healthy ecosystems, for instance if we don’t have healthy high mountain ecosystems, plants and foliage at that level don’t capture moisture which means that rivers run dry and we can’t have water for drinking or sanitation which harms our health.

Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is a set of practices and techniques that allows us to produce high quality food, while restoring the natural environment. This means farming in a way that improves soil fertility, biodiversity, ecosystem services and captures carbon.

Conventional agriculture depends on external inputs such as chemical fertilisers and it heavily depends on fossil fuels for industrial operations or transportation. Right now, agriculture is responsible for a big part of deforestation across the world. It causes serious soil erosion, pollutes waterways, and pollutes the air, and it contributes largely to climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

The good news is that we can produce food, we can provide income for farmers and ranchers and, at the same time, restore all these ecosystemic processes by mimicking and replicating the way nature works in different agricultural and farming practices. By integrating trees, by managing the way grazing animals are moved through the land, by moving to organic sources of fertility while always keeping the soil cover, we can revive the whole ecosystem of the soil. A healthy soil leads to healthy plants, healthy animals and healthy people.

An example of how a regenerative agriculture system works: Rice and Duck Farming, is a contemporary multi species system inspired by tradition. In Eastern Asia, farmers have traditionally used ducks to control weeds and pests in their rice fields. The duck’s droppings also fertilise the rice, avoiding chemical fertilisers and still ensuring productivity, preserving water quality, and feeding people.

Here you can find more information and learn about different examples of regenerative agricultural practices from Regeneration International: https://regenerationinternational.org/why-regenerative-agriculture/ Source: Takao Furuno, Greater profits for the farm powered by symbiosis, Case studies, Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Principles of Regenerative Development

  • Qualitative growth: Our current economic model is based on the GDP ( Gross Domestic Product), which only measures how much money is created min an economy. Should we not measure how happy or healthy people are? How healthy are our environment? This leads us to distinguish between “GOOD growth” and “BAD growth”. Bad growth destroys the dynamics of life, while good growth strengthens them.

  • Multiple sources of capital: Measuring value beyond money, means considering multiple sources of capital. Capital can be defined as assets that provide goods and/or services that are required for or contribute to our well being. Most of the time financial or monetary capital is measured. But in regenerative development we have to think of other types of capital. Among many, other types of capital that should be measured in regenerative development can be:

  • Social capital: Networks, shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups.

  • Cultural capital: Set of tangible and intangible creations (monuments, art, oral traditions,rituals, etc.) representing a wealth for humanity or for a particular people.

  • Natural capital: Stock of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water and all living things, from which humans derive ecosystem services and wellbeing (module 11).

  • Spiritual capital: Set of spiritual beliefs, knowledge, values and dispositions that drive societies and personal behaviour.

Can you find examples of these in your own community?

  • Regenerative Cultures: Regenerative development requires us to radically change what we value as a society. A regenerative culture is one that follows the principles of nature and ecology, and integrates them in our systems.

For instance:

  • Promotes and respects diversity: A “healthy” ecosystem will have many species. Similarly a regenerative culture will value diversity, and dismantle oppressive systems. Regenerative cultures recognize that a healthy culture is one that respects and values differences, and recognizes the structures and systems that need to be changed like racism and social injustices.
  • Honors Community and Place: If you think of local ecosystems like coral reefs you will discover that its inhabitants have adapted to function in very specific ways to respond to their environment. In a regenerative culture this corresponds to respecting communities and places. Each human community has a series of specific knowledge shaped by its history and environment. A culture of regeneration will accordingly start with local solutions to then connect to the global. For example, this means valuing and learning from indigenous cultures.
  • Thinks “holistically”: The different elements in an ecosystem, function through networks, that then loop back and connect to the whole guaranteeing its health. A regenerative culture must function the same way or “holistically”. Cooperation and collaboration so that we are better as a “whole”, will be more valued than competition in our economies and societies. This principle can translate into building social safety nets, or ensuring equity and redistribution. We must think of ourselves as part of a “whole” system that includes nature.

You can find an example of Coral Vita, a land-based coral farm working to regenerate dying reefs while promoting development opportunities here: https://biomimicry.org/biomimicry-examples/

  • Interconnection: There is no separation between “us” and the rest of nature. We are part of nature’s dynamics5, which means that, if an ecosystem is depleted, we will suffer the consequences in terms of food security, climate, adaptation, and air quality among others. A project inspired in regeneration has to consider the interactions within the environmental context at stake, in order to correctly address all possible outcomes in the development of a solution that may affect the surroundings in any way.
  • Design: A regenerative society must be designed in a way that respects and integrates life. In nature, processes are circular, which means that waste is minimised and resources are reused rather than being treated as waste after their initial use. In the design of our solutions, products and societies we must follow the same principles: reduce waste from inception, and ensure that materials are reused.

You can find a variety of examples of nature based designs in different fields provided by The Biomimicry Institute, for instance: Sustainable buidlings inspired from the architecture of termites, resilient food systems inspired by the ecology of prairies, or even colorful textiles inspired by the biochemistry of corals here: https://biomimicry.org/biomimicry-examples/

The information and ideas in this worksheet were inspired by the following books, that we also invite you to look up and read.

  • Regenerative Development and Design, Bill Reed
  • Designing Regenerative Cultures, Daniel Christian Wahl
  • Qualitative Growth, Fritjof Capra
  • Regenerative Capitalism, John Fullerton
  • Systems View of Life, Fritjof Capra

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Earth is a living organism, we are part of that living organism and interconnected with all its systems. Regenerative development invites us to reconnect with nature and regenerate the damage we have caused to our planet.
  • As individuals, from our organisations, businesses, and society, we have to ask ourselves: How can we make the planet a better place? What kind of development do we want? Not only to think about ensuring and protecting the resources for future generations but also about healing what we have already damaged.
  • We can consider basic principles of regenerative development when working in our communities such as looking for qualitative growth, identifying multiple sources of capital, and considering nature based designs.

CHANGEMAKER CHALLENGE

  • Beginner: Think about a problem in your community, how would you solve it following regenerative development concept? Find some examples being developed around the world here compiled by regen.earth.
  • Intermediate: Go to AskNature and research solutions that are inspired in nature’s processes. Can they be applied in your context?
  • Advanced: By using the Toolkit created by Biomimicry 3.8, you can develop ideas to generate nature-infused change. You can use this toolkit on your own or with a team to brainstorm solutions or find inspiration to address the issues you want to tackle from an innovative and nature inspired perspective.

OPTIONAL MATERIALS

REFLECTION CORNER

After watching the module’s video, reflect on the following questions:

  • Can you identify the difference between regenerative development and sustainability?
  • How do you imagine the world in 10 years? Imagine two scenarios: business as usual and a regenerative economy and society. Which of the would you like to inhabit? Why?

FACILITATOR

Federico Botero
CEO of ECORAL
LATIN AMERICA

Federico is founder and CEO of Ecoral, a consulting firm focused on regenerative capitalism and climate change in Latam with over 10 years of experience. Federico has a Bachelor degree in Law and an graduated studies in Environmental Law. He is a scuba diver, loves corals and the name of its company comes from his love the ocean.