Housing, clean water, food security, and economic opportunity are all interconnected and must be addressed in a holistic manner focused on boosting human well-being.
Young people all around the world are working to build a regenerative future. At 28, Matthew Bambach is one of those people. He wants to form a resident-owned development group that meets the surging demand for affordable, sustainable housing.
Regenerative Futures: How are you feeling right now?
Matthew Bambach: I’m feeling rejuvenated and driven. I had the chance to spend the past weekend in the Cabinet Mountains of NE Idaho/NW Montana and am back with a renewed energy!
RF: What’s a secret your search history can tell us about you?
MB: That I have become very interested in foraging for wild edible fungi and plants over the past two years.
RF: What are you reading/learning about at the moment?
I am reading four books at the moment: A Guide to the I Ching by Carol Anthony, Botany in a Day by Thomas Elpel, Sapiens by Yuval Harari, and The New Wild by Fred Pearce.
RF: Who is your favorite human and why?
MB: Tough, tough question. I’ll stick to a “living human” for my answer, and land on Yvon Chouinard—American rock climber, fisherman, and founder of Patagonia. The reason I chose him is because he used what he loved (outdoor sports) to create a successful business and cultivate support for important issues like protecting public lands, minimizing industrial waste, and supporting resource sovereignty for all Americans. In other words, he worked within a system that continues to cause great harm to people and the planet to foster a community bent on fixing the system.
RF: Which key moment inspired you to start your project?
MB: There have been several, but the primary starting point for my idea was my universal struggle to find housing that I could afford while making minimum wage in “destination towns” like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Whitefish, Montana. The North Temperate Zone of America (from the PNW to Great Lakes and New England) is the most likely destination for domestic and foreign climate refugees, and is littered with cheap places to live with little opportunity for work. Housing, clean water, food security, and economic opportunity are all interconnected and must be addressed in a holistic manner focused on boosting human well-being.
RF: In two years’ time, what would success with your project look like?
MB: Success means people and place have benefited from the idea. It would be great to have our processes nailed down and several groups of homes in place with residents working the land and saving to own their home, but it’s hard to know how difficult the necessary pre-work (financing, design, permitting, etc.) will be.
RF: If you could focus a large percentage of government funding on one industry or project for the next five to ten years, which would you choose and why?
MB: A decentralized, soil-health-focused stimulus of American farmland. Our agricultural belt is essentially a chemical wasteland losing biodiversity and soil every year. In order to be a resilient nation, we must work from the ground up to empower new farmers from all backgrounds with the tools to grow healthy food, build healthy soil (thereby reducing erosion, burying carbon, and fostering biodiversity), and ultimately cultivate a robust food system. In addition to the associated economic security, I believe that small-scale farming is the single best thing to boost happiness and health for individuals and communities.
RF: What is the best and worst thing about the education system in your country?
MB: The best thing about the American education system is that free education exists and works well for some residents. The worst thing about the American education system is that capitalism is seeping into it and limiting who has access to which opportunities… I’m not sure how feasible a universal education platform would be, but when you have such disparity in available resources, infrastructure, and curriculum, inequity seems difficult to avoid.
RF: Do you have a message for anyone your age living in the year 2060?
MB: Keep up the pressure. We’ve made it this far and the water is still mostly drinkable and air mostly breathable. Even though the world is a hospitable place, the only option is to move forward in the best possible direction and fashion.
RF: What inspires or frightens you most about the future?
MB: Climate change is both inspiring and frightening. We can choose to view it as a hopeless problem culminating in a game-over scenario for humans, or as a series of important, far-reaching opportunities ready to be addressed. We can either wallow in sorrow or come together to take action and make necessary change. Whether or not we do something “in time,” we can all benefit from working together to accomplish necessary tasks in an equitable manner.
To learn more about Regenerative List finalist Matthew Bambach, click here.