Regenerativity – going deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
The more I thought about this since creating the heart, the more I found it useful to make a distinction – a three-part distinction that makes a lot of sense to me. Various people do two, three, four or six part distinctions along these lines, but I particularly like the starkness of distinguishing extractive, sustainable and regenerative dynamics.
For EXTRACTIVE dynamics basically the motto is: “Get what I can for me and mine.” There is a “take” energy – we accumulate, waste, pollute, socialize costs while privatizing benefits. Life is a commodity and an unlimited resource for profit and consumption. We are separate from each other, we are separate from nature, we are fundamentally separate entities. Those are the assumptions and dynamics going on with the extractive worldview.
Then there are SUSTAINABLE dynamics and the sustainability worldview. It’s funny, it’s like the Hippocratic Oath physicians are supposed to follow: Do No Harm. This seems to be at the heart of sustainability. We have done so much extractive engagement with nature and each other that it’s no longer sustainable. The harms are too great. So we say: Stop! Do no harm, respect nature’s limits and cycles. The living world is viewed as an environment that we live in and we need to be responsible for, which is full of limited resources that we should use sparingly. The assumption is, instead of being separate: We are dependent, we are linked. Nature and humanity need to be cared for in order to enable them to serve us. The idea here is that we can engage with nature in ways that allow future generations to meet their needs. We meet our needs, they meet their needs.
Human welfare is central in all this, but we are more conscious about how we go about it. We’re recycling, we’re internalizing outcomes, closing feedback loops that have been left open by the extractive perspective. We are stewarding and being prudent – simple living, localization; we are trying to minimize our ecological footprint, our carbon footprint, all our impacts. We are still including profit – which highlights a distinction between weak and strong sustainability.
Weak sustainability promotes sustainable development with the ideal being the way Western people live, the way Western economies operate. We want to do that with more concern for the environment and for people. That’s weak sustainability.
Strong sustainability is: We need to transform our economics, our technical systems, our politics… transform everything into lower impact ways that have already existed for hundreds of thousands of years. But still there is the idea that life is dependent on “the environment”. We’re still framing it as “the environment”. This is where we get our ability to live. The environment is limited, so we can’t abuse it.
The third approach centers on REGENERATIVE dynamics. This is a more radical shift then I realized earlier in my engagement with this worldview. It is sort of like a command (or invitation!) to “Join nature’s resilient community of aliveness!” Here we view life as a vibrant community of relatedness, of co-creative partnerships and mutual support that is worthy of at least respect, caring, commitment, engagement – and, more deeply, of love, of communication, co-creativity, celebration… We are family. We are all co-creators of each other’s worlds. This is the “all my relations” indigenous perspective: Nature is alive – even rocks and mountains are alive. They deserve respect and engagement.