By Jamaica Stevens
“Regeneration can come only through a change of heart in the individual.” -Henry Williamson
Regenerative. Perhaps you have heard this buzz word circulating- usually in connection with holistic farming practices or Regenerative Agriculture. Many people are familiar with the similar term “sustainable”. Sustainable by definition means “a plan, method, or system is designed to continue at the same rate or level of activity without any problems.”-Collins English Dictionary
The UN Sustainable Development Goals are one well-known example of an attempt to create indicators, goals, and measurable achievements for the adoption of international sustainability practices. I applaud this massive global partnership effort to create a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity”.
Sustainability is an approachable starting place for addressing the crisis point now facing global ecological, economic and social systems. Yet, I strongly believe that in order to truly shift towards a flourishing future- we need to look beyond sustainability- and put our efforts towards being “regenerative” in our thinking, design and actions.
Terra Genesis International has crafted four guiding principles of Regenerative Agriculture which are intended to be uniquely applied to specific climates and bioregions. These principles are;
- Progressively improve the whole AgroEcosystems (soil, water, and biodiversity)
- Create context-specific design and make holistic decisions that express the essence of each farm
- Ensure and develop just and reciprocal relationships amongst all stakeholders
- Continually grow and evolve individuals, farms, and communities to express their innate potential
So what are “Regenerative Cultures”? And how can we apply these regenerative agricultural perspectives to human cultures?
One definition of Regenerative Cultures are cultures that promote the ongoing renewal and restoration of natural resources; considers the wide scale and long term implications of practices and systems on human and non-human communities; and promotes justice, equitability, compassion and cooperation in order to create the conditions for more resilience, diversity and thrivability for all.
Going further, Regenerative Cultures are ones that celebrate the unique relationship of people and place- honoring their influence and impact on each other. Regenerative Cultures recognize that there are MANY cultures and honors the diversity and expression of each culture. Regenerative Cultures bridge the inter-generational gap- looking to the past and to our elders for wisdom and opening the way for the future and our youth to inspire our progress forward. Regenerative Cultures are inherently reciprocal, creating win-wins and looking to uplift all — not just some- for the sake of creating the remote possibility for “peace and prosperity” to exist. Regenerative Culture reward ingenuity, inclusivity, generosity, and collective intelligence- knowing that we are stronger when multiple perspectives guide our actions.
Regenerativity presupposes that life is iterative, that change is the only constant, that there are cycles of endings and beginnings. How we adapt to change is an indicator of our well-being and ability to renew. If we are wise, we learn to leverage the richness of what has passed as compost for a fertile future.
For a change in cultural practices to occur, a shift in consciousness is essential. We must change the fundamental belief that the natural world is somehow “separate” from us- that instead of belonging to an intelligent living organism called Earth, it belongs to us. This belief of “otherness” propagates the dangerous mindset that the resources of the Earth are “ours to extract” for the sake of our human-centric and consumer hungry needs. This belief of “otherness” is also the underpinning for all forms of oppression and colonialism. This mentality has brought our species- and so many others- to the brink of extinction and our societies to the brink of collapse.
We must move towards a “Stewardship” mentality of care taking and deep interdependence and begin accepting responsibility for our choices at individual, communal and global levels. It is vital that we address and dismantle systemic oppression, racism, inequity and injustice- oppression of peoples and oppression of place are directly linked. We need intelligent and heart centered conflict resolution practices to bridge the divide of our inherent woundedness. And it is imperative that we widen our human-centric narrative to include an ecocentric perspective. As long as we maintain superiority of humanity over all life, we will continue practices that put our needs- and more truthfully our wants- first, regardless of impact to other species. We need to engage the restorative processes necessary to heal the broken places- in the land and in our hearts. Now more than ever it is time to actively cooperate with open-minded individuals, organizations, projects and communities for the advancement of human society as an integrated and benevolent community member of Earth.
In order to effectively cooperate, we need to determine collaborative social principles and best practices to share knowledge, resources, innovations and wisdom-based strategies and solutions for shifting society towards more regenerative systems. For this shift to really happen it is essential to bridge the gap between “evolutionary cultures” (progressive, forward-thinking, etc.) and “mainstream” cultures. We have to find ways to meaningfully engage diverse groups of people, helping large populations understand why change is necessary and how it is possible, why it’s relevant to them, and to inspire broad participation in shifting the status quo.
Many people worldwide have been focused on local engagement while considering a global outlook for decades, working on systemic social/cultural innovations and new models for living in balance with- and in service to- our shared ecosystem.
So…. how do we shift towards more Regenerative Cultures?
Here are a few key principles to guide us towards fostering Regenerative Cultures:
- Remembering reciprocity- restoring relationships with place
Beyond sustaining our current levels of extraction and degradation- we need to shift into the mindset of replenishing, of changing our destructive use of natural resources and actively participating in restoration so that resources can regenerate for future generations. Participating in the ongoing renewal and restoration of resources also allows us to rebuild our connections with place, remembering that we are woven- the land and the people- in unequivocal interdependence.
Great Resources: http://local-earth.org/, http://www.theresourceinnovationgroup.org, https://www.resilience.org/about-resilience/, http://www.terra-genesis.com/, https://milkweed.org/book/braiding-sweetgrass,
- Foster holistic perspectives & practices
Adopting holistic frameworks in order to ensure that all perspectives are considered in our choices is essential. We have to widen our scope of thinking to consider our actions through the lens of the impacts on the individual, community, regional and global scales. And we must be thoughtful of the interconnections; intercultural, intergenerational, and inter-species.
- Shift from ego-centric thinking to eco-centric thinking
We must shift from a consciousness that believes that humans are superior and therefore our needs are more important than all of the other “non-human peoples”. By learning to recognize the intelligence of the natural world and listening for wisdom in our hearts we can begin to understand the language of- and speak up for- those who have no “voice”.
- Restore intergenerational relationships- access the ancient and future
Regenerative culture respects hard earned, traditional wisdom while embracing innovation and adaptive strategies to be able to meet the changing nature of life. We look to the wisdom from our elders- including original people’s culture- to solve the issues of today. Without this we are rootless or too rigid, repeating un-necessary mistakes or becoming stagnant and entrenched- unable to grow. Regenerative Cultures promote emergence and evolution- honoring the iterative process of life and building on the past to feed the future.
- Context is everything- honor the uniqueness of place and people
Culture cannot be homogenized, culture is not a “monocrop”. We have to first recognize and then dismantle the colonial/dominator mindset that believes that people, place, and resources are a commodity to be extracted from and are more easily “managed” if variables can be controlled. Regenerative Cultures cultivate the conditions for the flourishing of diversity, honoring the composite of many cultural practices, beliefs, expressions and honoring the interconnected and mutually influential relationship between people and an ecosystem.
- Dismantle systemic oppression, racism, and social injustice
The work to unravel centuries of oppression will not be undone in a single generation, and yet we must strive to address the root belief structures that create the societal behaviors that allow for systemic oppression to persist. Dominant cultures and those with privilege must take personal responsibility for conscious and unconscious ways of perpetuating these structures, acknowledging that they benefit from the oppression of others and do the work to become true allies to those marginalized. Regenerative Cultures center the issues of those who have been subjugated and suppressed and encourages true equality and upliftment of all peoples.
- Life-affirming Economy
A life-affirming economy creates the conditions for more resilience, equity, and flourishing for all. We have to change our fundamental thinking about wealth and what we place value in- adopting a multi-capital approach to our valuation of resources. A redistribution of true wealth is essential for peace to be possible. This is hard to live up to in our current capitalistic system where the impacts and true costs are hidden. The shadowy underbelly of our global system ignores the fact that in order for “some” to have comfort & wealth, many have to suffer. It celebrates greed and minimizes generosity. It would be a monumental effort to shift this deeply ingrained system- but it is not impossible. It requires diligence to our personal choices- especially where we put our consumer dollars and how we invest in those services, products and companies that share our values and regenerative ethics.