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The Path to a Regenerative Future: The Importance of Local Networks and Bioregional Contexts

The sustainability approach to harmonizing environment, equity, and economies has come under strong critique in recent years. It has been 30 years since the publication of Our Common Future and twenty-five years since the adoption of Agenda 21 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Yet, environmental degradation continues to threaten livelihoods across the globe; climate change is driving more and more extreme weather events; and inequality between the haves and the have-nots is greater than ever. Environmentalists were notoriously unhappy with the sustainable development paradigm from the beginning, arguing that the emphasis on development and focus on economic growth put the environment in service to an economic system that would eventually make the planet uninhabitable for human beings and destroy cultural diversity along the way.

The data, in fact, show that languages across the world are disappearing at an alarming rate, with approximately 90% of existing languages expected to be dead or unrecoverable by the end of the current century[1]. Biodiversity and ecosystem services are under such serious threat by human activity that geologists have named our current geologic era the Anthropocene[2]. Of the primary forms of capital on the planet – environmental, human, physical and economic, the economic system continues to take precedence at the expense of culture, existing infrastructure, and the natural world. Because of this failure of the sustainability movement, many argue that a new approach is required if we hope to create a better future.

Regenerative Development is a development paradigm designed to push beyond sustainability. While sustainability focuses on development today that protects the ability of future generations to develop, the priority of regenerative development is to apply holistic processes to create feedback loops between physical, natural, economic and social capital that are mutually supportive and contain the capacity to restore equitable, healthy and prosperous relationships among these forms of capital.

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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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