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Toward Regenerative Society: Plan for Rapid Transition

“Today, humanity faces our greatest challenge, and our most precious opportunity.  Our activity as a species has put the Earth in jeopardy. We can directly observe that our use of resources must change.  We are threatening the ability of the biosphere to support our continuity, and the future of all complex forms of life.

We appear to have reached one of those rare, extraordinary junctures in human history when a thorough transformation of society, culture, and consciousness is necessary. Climate change is the most urgent of many impending threats. As individuals, we must understand and accept the critical nature of our time. For the sake of future generations, we can become part of a wave of awakening and of action, that grows exponentially.

Under this extreme time pressure, there is great potential to quickly develop and distribute a new social model based on an ethos of global citizenship and planetary stewardship.”

The World In a State of Extreme Transition – Moving from Sustainability to Regenerative Design

“Communication is the tool we use to navigate change in this perishable, impermanent world. We talk about what’s happening and what’s coming. We use words to rally and activate citizens; to inform and educate people; to alleviate or aggravate fears, depending on our intentions. Humans use language to make sense of things — even those things that are happening at a scale beyond our grasp. As Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” And so, while it may seem like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic (let’s hope not!), reevaluating the language of climate change can offer a fresh perspective on where we are and where we’re headed.

In our view, the current language around climate change and its solutions is inadequate and even counterproductive. Specifically, we question whether sustainability, the default name for most current efforts towards preservation of life on the planet, keeps us locked into the assumption that whatever we do, we must also sustain the system that is currently in place. Perhaps, this limits us before we even start pursuing these goals in earnest. “Regenerative” — regenerative design, regenerative society, regenerative economics — appeals to us as a more ambitious and dynamic term commensurate with the type of ambitious and dynamic actions that are required for the survival of humanity now.”

Regenerative Citizenship and the Victory Garden

“In just 70 short years since wartime, the way in which we as citizens view our rights, responsibilities and duties for maintaining our shared resources has shifted dramatically. It is illustrated in how we maintain our lawns. It is powerfully clear when we begin to explore our own expectations of our neighbors’ property and its perceived taxable value.

What is my role, as a citizen, in creating value for myself and my neighbors? Is it a manicured, energy-intensive lawn, which requires hours of toxic maintenance to ensure modern aesthetic value? Or is my role as a citizen, to the whole of my community something that can be measured by the inherent productivity of the land? In this way, the evolution of citizenship is neatly nestled within the value derived by a visible garden in your front yard. It’s a victory for both food and for a prosperous democracy.”

Regenerative Agriculture: The Transition

“It is an illusion to think we can continue to use as much energy as we do now. No one can entirely rule-out that some extravagant technology will be forthcoming, e.g. solar power or nuclear fusion on the full-scale of more than 500 EJ/year as we get through now, but the particular issue of matching liquid fuels derived currently almost entirely from petroleum appears insurmountable. The “solution” is probably the collective of individual solutions, and this means adopting a completely different paradigm of human philosophy and intention. The most pressing demand is how to feed the population of the world, and how to adapt industrialised conurbations, with cities provided for entirely from external regions for their food and electricity. If oil is the most vulnerable element in the energy-mix as the life-blood of transportation, then we must aim to live with less transportation, and this includes the means and distribution implicit to modern food production.

In methods of regenerative agriculture and permaculture, much of the energy involved is provided quite naturally by native soil flora and fauna fed ultimately by photosynthesis, since the fuel for good soil derives from plants as the factories that supply carbon-rich nutrients, and in a wonderful symbiosis, the living soil microbes, especially fungi can draw other nutrients and water from the soil to nourish the plants. The individual elements of life feed one another in a mutually dependent and beneficial manner.”

Building Regenerative Communities: Strength in Collaboration

“After the stock market crash of 2008 the world was met with a new reality when thinking about economics. One group of Waldorf Schools in the Mid-states region took up the conversation about what this new economic reality would mean for local communities and the non-profit organizations that serve them.

How could communities, non-profits, and small businesses work together to build resilient local economies?

Through these conversations, and the inspiration provided by the Economics of Peace Conference held in 2009, the group decided to develop a guide designed to support conversations and provide resources for building regenerative communities.

The guide titled, “Building Regenerative Communities: Strength in Collaboration” is now available.”

Platform Cooperativism: A Global Movement on the Rise

“Last November, the Platform Cooperativism conference — a coming out party for the cooperative Internet — took place in New York City, initiated by Nathan Schneider and Trebor Scholz. Last month, the first #PlatformCoopBerlin meetup followed in Berlin with Michel Bauwens as the keynote speaker. The small venue was packed. More than 50 people attended instead of the 30 that RSVP’d.

According to Bauwens, the struggle of the last 200 years was mainly between labour and capital and about who gets how much of the cookie, but the not-so-apparent fundamental question is “Who decides what is value?” The challenge is to move from extractive to generative practices and to co-creating shared resources for human groups, communities, and nature. In a new system, the value is — or should be — created through the mutualisation of knowledge.

Bauwens suggested that growth of the commons can be achieved through open input, participatory processes, and commons-oriented output which then creates the condition for open input again — thus leading to upward spirals of prosperity. Bauwens advocates for open cooperatives and he believes this is where platformcoops fit in — or should fit in.”

There’s Plenty of Space for One Trillion More Trees

“Gregor Hintler had what seemed like a simple question: How many trees are there? As part of Plant for the Planet, a youth initiative that aimed to plant one billion trees in every country by 2020, he needed a way to figure out how many trees the planet could fit. But when he tried to find out, he realized nobody knew the answer. One estimate suggested 400 billion trees. “That sounds like a lot,” he recalls thinking. “Could be right.” But Hintler, who was then a graduate student in environmental management at Yale University, started looking at data from plots in Germany, Norway, and the United States, where foresters had counted the number of trees. He discovered that the old figures weren’t even close—400 billion was, in fact, far too low.

Forests cover about one third of the planet’s terrestrial area. They prevent desertification and erosion, store carbon, and provide habitat for millions of species. The recent Paris climate agreement highlights their importance, recommending that signing countries take steps to slow deforestation and enlist their forests in carbon credit markets. Knowing how many trees there are now, and how many there used to be, will help researchers assess human impact on the planet and any options going forward.”

Shift 2020 Brain Food #15 – Exponential Humanity

“As technological progress is relentlessly speeding into the future while moving from the industrial era to a new data-driven future, the exponential technology era is challenging our human creativity every time even more. We are facing tremendous challenges ahead as well, including climate change, rising energy demand, technological unemployment, disappearing middle class (in developed countries), social polarisation, ageing population, longevity, the shift from ownership to access, the rise of the crowd, the coming explosion of synthetic genomics and biology applications, the changing notion of work, population growth, etc. not to mention the growing political instability of certain regions influencing the rest of the world.

While all of this is gradually slipping into our lives (notice it or not), we keep outsourcing our intelligence and capabilities to mobile applications, chatbots, artificial intelligence and robots for the sake of more efficiency, profit and further automatisation. And yes, there are lots of examples and applications where those technologies will do a lot of good and be great for humanity – don’t get me wrong – however looking at things from a holistic perspective, progress moves on while more and more people seem to be paddling along without a clear vision on how they can create a meaningful future for themselves or their company within such a technological ‘dominated’ future.

It’s time to (re)connect to our core values and decide how we really want to live our lives in the future, using the best of technology opportunities in harmony with our desired futures, not dictated by companies or technologies. We can only approach this huge potential of change with next level humanity awareness.”

Beyond capitalism and socialism: could a new economic approach save the planet?

“To avoid social, environmental and economic collapse, the world needs to move beyond the standard choices of capitalism or socialism. That’s the conclusion of a new report released Wednesday by US think tank Capital Institute.

The non-partisan think tank argues that both systems are unsustainable, even if flawlessly executed, and that economists need to look to the “hard science of holism” to debunk outdated views held by both the left and the right.

Jan Smuts, who coined the term “holism” in his 1926 book, Holism and Evolution, defined it as the “tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts”. For example, in the case of a plant, the whole organism is more than a collection of leaves, stems and roots. Focusing too closely on each of these parts, the theory argues, could get in the way of understanding the organism as a whole.

Viewed through this perspective, the capitalist tendency to isolate an economic process from its antecedents and effects is fundamentally flawed. The Capital Institute, created by former JP Morgan managing director John Fullerton, says that society’s economic worldview has relied on breaking complex systems down into simpler parts in order to understand and manage them.

For example, this traditional economic view might view automobile manufacturing separately from the mineral mining, petroleum production and workers on which it relies. Moreover, this view might also not acknowledge the impact that automobile manufacturing has on the environment, politics and economics of an area. Holism, on the other hand, would view the entire chain of cause and effect that leads to – and away from – automobile manufacturing.

The Capital Institute report, titled Regenerative Capitalism, emphasizes that the world economic system is closely related to, and dependent upon, the environment. “The failure of modern economic theory to acknowledge this reality has had profound consequences, not the least of which is global climate change,” it says.”

The future is the trust economy

“As we get into cars with complete strangers, sleep in the beds of people we’ve never met and lend money to others on the other side of the world, a powerful new currency is emerging — and it’s based on trust.

What’s striking about the shared economy is not the technology that has made it possible, but the vast changes it has triggered in society. It has brought a renewed sense of community, engendered more collaboration, sparked new thinking and put a premium on trust, tapping into a need that transcends boundaries and is still rife with opportunity.

If you’re not working to build and demonstrate it, then the future might be about to leave you behind, as trust is quickly becoming the global — and most-valued — currency of modern time.”

Why Sustainability-Oriented Innovation Is Valuable in Every Context

“Sustainability, sometimes under the banner of corporate social responsibility (CSR), used to be a specialty practice used by only a few companies, like Nike and Coca-Cola, to manage risks to their high-value brands.

But times have changed, and as we described in our first post, Nike is now using sustainability to drive the top line by enhancing product development and revenue growth with technologies like Flyknit. Startups like Liquiglide and its super-surfactant products, unicorns like Uber and its on-demand transportation service, and large systems integrators like Lockheed Martin with burgeoning renewable energy and energy storage systems are combining sustainability with revenue generation in various ways. Sustainability-Oriented Innovation (SOI) is the basic enabler of this trend.

Because SOI allows companies to push beyond their usual innovation boundaries and their typical business protocols, it is expanding the range of businesses that are practicing sustainability and finding new fuel for their innovation processes. It is also allowing them to reap the benefits of products and services that create social and environmental good.”

Repair businesses provide antidote to throwaway culture

“This is a “pop-up repair” event, and it is drawing in the crowds. Parents and children from around the neighbourhood have brought in their broken things to be fixed by menders, each with their own area of expertise.

At different tables, repairers fix jewellery, electronics and furniture among many other things. This is also an opportunity to teach kids repair skills, and a group of boys is hammering away in the corner.

In the midst of this hive of noisy tinkering stands Sandra Goldmark.”

Do You Care Enough About Future People to Leave Them a Livable Planet?

“Environmentalism has made major strides in capturing many people’s imaginations over the last few decades.  From the concern of just a few activists, agreement that the natural environment is worth preserving extends at least to a willingness to recycle containers and unwanted paper, awareness of the dangers posed by global warming, and worry about melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, and more violent storms.  But when it comes to significant trade-offs between our convenience (the door to door luxury of the private automobile) or livelihoods (running industries on cheap fossil fuels), on the one hand, and actions to reduce the environmental costs that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will bear, on the other, how much sacrifice are we really ready to make?

A paper published in Nature this summer suggests the optimistic conclusion that most people are in fact willing to sacrifice to assure a human future on our planet, but it also contains the important proviso that this willingness may be conditional on assurances that others will do the same.  Moreover, the authors show that successful outcomes might depend on empowering majorities to reign in the excesses of resource over-exploiters.  This puts institutional arrangements on a par with emotional or ethical valuation of the future as a factor that could prove decisive in determining whether our planet is still fit for human habitation generations from now.”

Systems Thinking for Social Change: Review

“As readers of Solutions, we are well aware of the large social, economic, and environmental challenges that face us. Einstein told us we will need to use new ways of thinking to solve these problems. One of those ways comes from system dynamics.1 At its heart is a new way of thinking, dubbed “Systems Thinking” by Barry Richmond.2

To many, systems thinking may not seem like a new way of thinking, as most people have been exposed to the basic concepts. However, knowing about it is very different from integrating it into your thinking and behavior every day—what Barry Richmond dubbed being a “Systems Citizen.”3 The latter takes commitment, guidance, and a lot of practice.

At its heart, systems thinking has four basic elements:

  • Look at the whole rather than its parts
  • The state of any system is determined by its accumulations
  • Cause and effect relationships are circular, not linear (known as feedback)
  • Time delays are inherent and lead to counterintuitive results”

Is capitalism entering a new era?

“Democratic capitalism is an evolving system that responds to crises by radically transforming both economic relations and political institutions. The time for a new phase has come, regardless of whether “responsible” politicians are prepared to admit it.

All over the world today, there is a sense of the end of an era, a deep foreboding about the disintegration of previously stable societies. In the immortal lines of W.B. Yeats’s great poem, “The Second Coming”:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity…
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Regenerative medicine has huge potential but it does not come cheap

“Regenerative medicine, where soft tissues, organs or bone are extended or regrown is an increasingly exciting field. Examples of work being done include bone grafting or growing a patient’s own cells in the laboratory and then re-implanting them onto a wound bed to help it heal. Or how about regeneration of the trachea, the cornea, nervous tissue, the human finger, the liver, and even the male urethra?

While some regenerative treatments are already happening, others, such as lab-engineered liver cells, have the potential to change lives if they can be developed further.

And given that we will live longer than previous generations (and so will future generations after us) and that we deteriorate with age, regenerative medicine aimed at renewing ageing bodies could also be used to increase our quality of later life.”

Regenerative architecture, Aussie style, competes on a global stage

“Annually, the Australian Institute of Architects nominates top buildings from across the country to recognise advances in design.

From England to Thailand, this year’s shortlisted projects in the category of “International Architecture” are quite diverse, and yet all of them focus on the theme of regeneration within the built environment.

You can think of regeneration as being defined by injecting a sense of renewal to a particular physical site, whether it’s by the water or in the jungle. Architecture as a regenerative force not only defines a place but it provides a fresh perspective on the surrounding environment.

More importantly, each building in this list resuscitates pre-existing conditions in each country from across the globe and contributes something insightful to its respective cultural context.”

A new economy for a regenerative society

“Humanity needs a wide set of solutions as it transits the transformative path to a regenerative society. In the enactment of this transition, motivation and heart-felt commitment are central to civil action. As economist Andrew Simms reminds us: “when there is commitment, extraordinary things can be achieved.” These extraordinary things are the kind of spirit and urgency we need to spread as we chart this transition forward. The need to envision a desired endpoint for a new economy is central to this new paradigm.

The old economy based on aggregate growth has become uneconomic and is highly energy reliant and dependent on the endless consumption of Earth’s resources; it is also based on unlimited aggregate quantification that leads to an unmanageable and oversized economy. “Growth economies”, writes Herman Daly, “become an absurdity when their scales grow beyond the biophysical limits of their subsets.””

Can Regenerative Design Save the Planet?

“It’s probably too harsh to say that green building has jumped the shark, but triple-glazed glass, natural ventilation, and low off-gassing carpeting are no longer news. In a sense, green building is the victim of its own success—so ubiquitous that it’s almost impossible for any major developer not to incorporate its principles in building design. Like unleaded gasoline, it’s simply the accepted standard.

Nor has this maturing trend been safe from often withering criticism. The green building rating and certification system, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), is viewed by many as a costly and cumbersome bureaucracy. The eco-for-show concept of greenwashing is now part of the lexicon. In the big picture, how sustainable is a corporate office park with a green roof if the only way to get to it is by car? And so on.”

How to Transform Our Energy System

“Access to affordable and abundant energy has enabled some of the most incredible advances in human history. Worldwide, cheap energy has fueled massive economic growth, lifted billions of people out of poverty, expanded agricultural production, and lengthened human lifespans.

But the staggering environmental and public health impacts of our modern energy system are well-documented too. It has become commonplace to illustrate the problems of climate change, air pollution, and lack of access to electricity as critical failures that demand rethinking energy. But many solutions proposed are too often linear at best, while the problems, especially climate change, are getting exponentially worse.

Humanity can do better. Solutions don’t need to be linear. We can rapidly solve the problems of our energy system with global and exponential approaches. For example, the remarkable drop in the price per kilowatt-hour of solar photovoltaic cells has drawn analogies to Moore’s Law of exponential growth in computer chip transistor density, and prompted an influx of new ideas in the energy space. Through open innovation, modernized regulatory systems, and new business models, we can evolve from complaints about the status quo to rapidly identifying and deploying real solutions to our grandest challenges.”

Building the Fashion Revolution

“Andrea Plell is the founder of Ecologique Fashion an ethical and sustainable fashion consultancy based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2007, Plell has put her background in business and marketing to work to change the fashion industry, from creating editorial content to coordinating fashion shows. Ecologique Fashion has worked with the 25th Street Collective in Oakland, made ethical shopping more accessible through the online marketplace EcoHabitude and showcased local fashion in two Fibershed runway shows. This year, Plell is turning her focus to organizing Bay Area events to build awareness and community around Fashion Revolution Week, April 18 – 24, 2016. She spoke with Fibershed to share more about how her professional path has evolved, the significance of Fashion Revolution, and what each of us can do to join the movement.”

Related Links”

“The Limits to Growth” Revisited

Measuring Progress

An Inconvenient Truth: the evolution of ‘climate emergency’

Utopias / 1. Social Justice

Utopias / 2. Solarpunks

Utopias / 3. PostCapitalism

Utopias / 4.Rewilding

 

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