The growing movement for regeneration offers a much needed reframe of how to fully show up in our humanity at this critical moment in our planet’s history. We need to move beyond incremental change and a narrowed fixation on reducing our carbon footprint. We cannot treat social injustices and ecological crises as separate, unrelated phenomena. Nor can we surrender to despair and distraction, or waste time on projects that make us feel good but lack deeper impact. The task at hand—our great calling—is to simultaneously regenerate our ecosystems AND integrate the design of new social and economic systems that can truly center and support life.
At a foundational level, this ambitious project of regeneration requires us to RESIST or stop destruction, repair harm, and reimagine our world, our communities, and the systems upon which we depend. We must integrate an intersectional lens and approach our work with care and deep strategy; thoughtfully designing emergent systems of liberation, while understanding how existing power structures may operate and adapt to obstruct our goals. We must support and uplift the leadership of indigenous and frontline communities who are already doing some of the most important work to halt destruction, restore life-affirming cultures of care, and reminding us of our place within the natural world. Those who are closest to the harm and risk of the extractive paradigm are often the closest to the solutions we need to be most effective at proliferating and advancing in our work. At the same time we must remember that frontline communities and Indigenous land defenders are often most vulnerable to predations from the system and must be protected and respected. We must keep one another safe. Mindful of our unique constellations of positionality, privilege, and purpose we bring to this work, we come together to build truly just and regenerative economic systems, heal collective trauma, and repair cultural wounding. Standing Rock and the Floyd Rebellion both served as “watershed moments” for the climate movement and for our country as a whole: the connections between racial justice, climate change, and the extractive economy have become impossible to ignore.
“Regeneration is a radical new approach to the climate crisis, one that weaves justice, climate, biodiversity, and human dignity into a seamless tapestry of action, policy, and transformation that can end the climate crisis in one generation.“
~Project Regeneration website
Paul Hawken’s newest book “Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in a Generation” and the accompanying organization Project Regeneration provide a framework for engaging in some of the most important and impactful strategies for regeneration, from regenerative farming to reimagining healthcare and the military to uplifting indigenous leadership. Some of the strategies that immediately come to mind when I hear the term “regeneration” are planting trees and building soil, for example, the deeply inspirational work of the Ecosystem Restoration Camps movement. Hawkens points out that while these strategies are essential, keeping existing forests intact (known as proforestation) is even more impactful:
“…protecting intact forests as well as letting degraded forests recover and mature would have a greater impact on global emissions than any other land-based solution…Proforestation would have a forty times greater impact between now and 2100 than newly planted forests.”
~”Regeneration: Ending the climate crisis in one generation,” pages 36-37
But within the context of the dominant extractive economy, with its massive wealth inequalities that proliferate speculative real estate markets, unsheltered people, and skyrocketing lumber costs; preserving forests—even ancient, irreplaceable, old-growth forests—won’t come without a fight.
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