Reflections From Designing Regenerative Cultures

November 15, 2017 Leave a comment

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge. Where is the knowledge we have lost in information.”

– T.S. Eliot

For the past few weeks I have been re-reading the book Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Christian Wahl. I am deeply grateful for Daniel’s gift, a rich distillation of his PhD thesis that points in the direction of a more sane, hopeful and health-promoting future. Regenerative development is a broad body of study and practice that informs much of my own thinking about and practice around social change. A fundamental recognition of the regenerative lens is that in order to live we harvest from the larger living systems (communities, ecosystems) of which we are a part in such a way that can weaken them, and can put us at risk. Regenerative thinking and practice then asks:

What might we do not simply to wreck less havoc or do less harm, but to leverage the natural connections we have with living systems to contribute to the integrity, resilience and long-term viability of people, places, and ecosystems?

There are great examples of this practice in different fields, including regenerative agriculture (which seeks a healthy integration into landscapes and ecosystems and to improve soil health) and regenerative building design (also integrative and health-promoting of local community and ecosystems). And at IISC, we are asking ourselves and experimenting with ways in which “public engagement” can be an avenue for honoring and contributing to the integrity and vitality of communities.

There is so much that could be highlighted from Daniel’s book, rich as it is, and that has been mentioned in other reviews. Here I wanted to highlight some lines that jumped out at me from the book, along with quotes attributed to others, that continue to stimulate my thinking and guide my practice.

“Win-win-win cultures ensure that life can continue to evolve towards increasing diversity, complexity, bio-productivity and resilience.”

“Exploitative and degenerative cultures tend to have economic systems focused around notions of scarcity and competitive advantage, whereas regenerative cultures understand how collaborative advantage can foster shared abundance.”

“The future of our species depends on finding this higher ground as humanity, as nature, as life, as expression of a living transforming whole capable of self-reflection.”

“It is precisely [the] collision of immoral power with [relatively] powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our time. “

– Adam Kahane

Image from Michael de Groot, shared under provision of Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

“Sustainability is a dynamic process of co-evolution and a community-based process of continuous conversation and learning how to participate appropriately in constantly transforming life sustaining processes.”

“As apprentices [to life] we have to be willing to question and, at times, give up what we know and who are for what we could become.”

“The local and regional scale is not only the scale at which we can act most effectively to preserve biological diversity, it is also the scale at which we can preserve cultural diversity and indigenous local wisdom.”

“To be is to interbe.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

“The systems view understands life as networks of relationships.”

“Engaging in systems thinking and design is not an exact science but the art of participation.”

“Diversity is the bedrock of resilience and systemic health.”

We need to “i) consume nature’s flows while conserving stocks and ii) increase society’s stocks (human resources and institutions) and limit the flow of material and energy” as central elements of regenerative culture.

– Valerie Brown

“Nurturing qualitative growth through the integration of diversity into interconnected collaborative networks at and across local, regional and global scales facilitates the emergence of regenerative cultures.”

“Design intentionally shapes interactions and relationships. It can do so in ways that favor the collaborative creation and sharing of abundance, or in ways that reinforce the narrative of separation.”

“Inner resilience is about the capacity to face the horrors and misery of the world square on, rather than trying to ignore them, but it is also about seeing the beauty, collaboration, compassion, care and love that is all around us.”

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