local food column

For the past year I have been reading a lot about regeneration and exploring what regenerative communities and food might look like. It has been an inspiring journey, and one that I am keen to continue learning about. So what is regeneration?

For many years environmental campaigners have focussed on the idea of sustainability – that we should be creating systems which use resources at a sustainable rate.

However, ‘sustainable’ is often used to describe a self-sustaining state and is often defined by humanity’s ability to meet its own needs without compromising the needs of future generations. A damaged landscape may therefore be sustained in its current state and be used to produce food for humans, but won’t be improved and bought back to its former biologically diverse state (unless regenerative farming practices are utilised).

As many of our environments and societies are already damaged, sustaining these in a damaged state makes no sense!

Thinking is now shifting towards the idea of regeneration and how we can design and create systems that not only heal themselves, but offer benefits for all stakeholders in a system- including the environment and people. How can we create win-win-win systems?

The term regeneration therefore describes systems and practices that take a ‘holistic’ or ‘systems approach’ to solving environmental, social and economic problems; aiming to restore and rejuvenate rather than merely sustain. Regeneration, by definition, goes beyond the sustainable.

However, regeneration as a term can still be abused, just as ‘sustainable’ has. For example, it may be associated with urban regeneration projects that take a fragmented approach to development – having an economic and social focus but failing to integrate environmental factors into their design.

But when applied in a holistic way, regenerative projects globally tend to embrace the values of permaculture design, agroecology, and food and energy sovereignty. They also strive to create closed loop systems that restore their own resources.

This philosophy of regeneration has now been applied in a number of different situations- from architecture and farming, to restoring contaminated land in urban areas, or restoring land that has started to turn to desert… There are many inspiring examples of what can be achieved if we were to embrace the values of regeneration.

To find out more about the growing regenerative movement visit regenerationinternational.org or the Spring Prize website.


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