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.
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.
‘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 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.
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?
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/
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.
After watching the module’s video, reflect on the following questions:
CEO of ECORAL
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.