Regenerative or regenerative?

Smart, green, renewal, sustainable, low-carbon, carbon neutral, fair. The list of words and concepts that are framed for good or marketing and reframed for other intents is ever-growing. Or, to be less cynical, are adopted by quite different crowds who interpret the words and concepts in different ways.

As already mentioned in another post, regenerative is likely to be one of the next concepts to split off in different directions. Here are two articles on the topic, with differing tones and methods, but both interesting in their own way.

In 9 ways to create a local regenerative economy, Roar Bjonnes for Shareable considers regeneration as part of a vision for thinking globally and acting locally. First by reenforcing the commons, and then by curbing the accumulation of wealth.

We need to replace policies based on private enterprise and accumulation of profit with policies protecting our commons—land, water, energy, as well as the internet. These natural, intellectual, and scientific resources belong to all of humanity, not only to the corporate elite. […]

A global cap on wealth accumulation is needed, as well as a maximum and minimum income, to balance the global inequality crisis.

Next, by rethinking the whole of the economy “to live within the constraints of the environment,” and by evolving a three-tier economy made up of small-scale private enterprises, corporations transformed into worker-owned cooperatives, and by turning key industries into public entities “run by national, regional and local governments and boards on a no-profit, no-loss basis, in order to prevent concentration of wealth, speculation and exploitation of natural resources.”

Move from an economics of greed toward an economics of need, since local economies are much more effective at serving the local needs for housing, education, health care, food, and energy

Independently of how any of us might feel about such a project, at the very least we can agree that this vision for a turn to the regenerative involves optimistic, varied, and massive changes. One last quote I’d like to draw your attention to, this example of criterias to define “local.”

The criteria to understand what constitutes a local or bio-regional area should also be outlined: language, culture, geology, resources, topography, economic similarity, and other criteria, can be taken into account.

In this second article, Introducing regenerative placemaking by Tony Cho, the founder of Future of Cities, we can see a very different vision of regenerative cities, imagined by “a coalition of city leaders, global experts and community builders co-creating sustainable cities.” The video at the top of the article shows the global scale of changes needed, roughly aligned with the first article above. The piece itself is a bit more down to earth and focused on architecture and placemaking.

Defined as a strategic process of (re)igniting people’s relationship to socio-ecological systems through place-specific activations, regenerative placemaking harnesses the key strengths of regenerative development and placemaking practices. […] [S]hifting city-making from a largely anthropocentric practice to one aligned with living systems, by which people are empowered as cultural and environmental stewards.

The group’s research and creation of “regenerative placemaking” includes the idea of measuring various factors, not to score and compete, but to help in the process of development.

The first step is to understand that measurement serves a developmental process, not as a way to ‘score’ an effort. The second step is to evolve and adapt measurement as within regenerative placemaking, fixed and adaptable system measures can change over time in negotiation with stakeholders.

The list of components presented to guide a process of design and development is worth quoting in full.

  • “Living systems thinking, employed as a way of understanding the socio-ecological aspects of place
  • Rigorous and inclusive community engagement to gather the patterns/essence of place, identify the values and needs of the present and past, and deliver an ongoing strategy for engagement at self, group, system actualization levels
  • Transdisciplinary research and education, acting as a vehicle for knowledge exchange
  • Ecological aesthetic (i.e., biophilia) and sustainability practices, assisting people to visualise a healthier living environment
  • Regenerative placemaking interventions (i.e., pop-up parks, festivals), as a way of trialling programming and design ideas for long-term projects and planning initiatives.”

The goal of joining these two articles in one post is not to disparage one and promote the other but to show two valuable inputs while bringing your attention to very varied phrasings, perspectives, and proposals. One advocating for massive change, the other more restrained and with a view to developing projects. Both presented with the same word, both with a similar diagnostic for humanity on Earth, yet very different.