Sustainability as an approach to bringing balance, equity and harmony to the Earth, its species and the biodiversity of all living systems has come increasingly under fire in recent years. Not only do all these continue to be greatly threatened and degraded (and in many respects, more so), the perceived pathway to success is still viewed through a lens that emphasizes focus and development of economic growth and investment before emphasis upon the Earth’s capacity to sustain life, livelihoods, languages, culture, the natural world and overall wellbeing.
Although we have come a long way in terms of sustainability awareness in these last decades and the world has widely recognized and understood that our production and consumption systems have critically breached the ecological boundaries of a healthy planet, sustainability is by and large an approach that is based on ‘do no more harm’. Nested within the prevailing collective paradigm and economic models, it is sourced in scarcity and on only the avoidance of continued depletion and destruction.
The existing economic system still takes precedence over all our primary forms of capital (environmental, human, physical and economic), and our prevailing belief systems determine what is worth sustaining from an outside-in approach. On its own, the best sustainability currently offers is a means by which to slow the damage, or to remain resilient within the challenges we face. It does not solve the interconnected, multidimensional problems we are having.
The rate of destruction we are facing demands a new foundational approach and a new paradigm.
The regenerative paradigm is, instead, inside-out and it takes us beyond sustainability and into restoration and renewal via transformed mindsets, values and societies. In the same way that many of the world’s traditional, indigenous and ancient wisdom cultures are regenerative in nature, the regenerative paradigm embraces the holistic, intersecting, living feedback loops amongst all forms of capital and applies these to renewal, restoration and creation at every level of life.
Rather than sustainability’s scarcity mindset, regeneration is based on abundance and the processes supporting abundance, wellbeing, healing and reciprocation in mutually supportive inter-relationship for total planetary wellbeing and flourishing.
It is an holistic systems approach, necessitating a paradigm shift, and that goes deeper than a paradigm shift in thinking: it represents an alternative designed to intimately interact with the living world through an emphasis on collaborative creative partnerships with nature based on approaches and strategies for connection, diversity, adaptation, resilience and recovery. It is ultimately an ecological worldview.
Some may argue that it will be difficult to convince companies to make this more complex transition. However, the regenerative approach provides a more conducive and lasting framework based on respect for the fundamental nature of the systems in which we operate for innovation and evolution. More than the sustainability paradigm is able to.
We cannot continue along the path of mere sustainability alone. We must transform. The regenerative paradigm represents a new way of thinking, feeling, being and acting, and a whole new level of transformed ambition in terms of building the future we want and that we desperately and critically need. One in which we see ourselves as living beings in living systems, learning and caring for nature, with bioregional/local conditions as a basis for transformation and transitions to revitalized values, ecosystems, cultures, communities and species (including human beings).
The regenerative paradigm points to a new path forward as an holistic systems vision inspired by nature and underpinned by cooperation. It transforms us to understand that everything is interconnected, and in so doing, profoundly alters us and our relationships with all. We not only surpass the goals of sustainable development, we become connected, active guardians of the future.
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