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Image © Gaia Education

Above: Daniel Wahl works with Gaia

Education to provide regenerative design
education around the world. A Project
Based Learning course in Senegal helped
villagers to apply agroforestry and
Daniel Christian Wahl says a new generation
permaculture techniques to regenerate of designers can design a world in which
their soils and improve food security and
resilience of their communities. all can thrive and not just survive.

new generation of designers regenerative society. Humanity’s
are applying ecologically impact needs to shift from degen­
inspired design to agriculture, eration to regeneration before the
architecture, community planning, middle of this century. We will all
cities, enterprises, economics and have to collaborate to achieve this
ecosystem regeneration. Join them transformative response to the
to co-create diverse regenerative converging crises we are facing.
cultures in the transition towards a pm 89  |  13
Life Creates Conditions expressions of the biocultural regeneration. The Chinese filmmaker,
Conducive to Life uniqueness of the places they inhabit John D. Liu, has documented these
Janine Benyus, co-founder of the – thriving communities in global and projects over a number of decades.5
Biomimicry Institute, eloquently local collaboration. China regenerated 3.5 million hectares
expressed nature’s most important Whether ecological design, perma­ (8.6 million acres) of heavily degraded
lesson and humanity’s main creative culture, systemic biomimicry, or land on the Loess Plateau in only 10
challenge for the 21st Century. The regenerative design, all these approaches years. Similar work is happening in
post-War Baby-Boomer generation share a design-based methodology the Ethiopian highlands and many
was born at a time when humanity’s that applies life’s operating instructions other places (PM86 and 87). The
impact on the planet became catastro­ and ecosocial literacy to co-creating Scottish company Biomatrix Water
phically degenerative. The following a future where humanity and all of is pioneering biomimicry approaches
Generations X, Y and Z were more life can thrive. We are the Re- to the regeneration of polluted
and more confronted with results of Generation! If not us, then who? If waterways,6 rivers and lakes.
our collective actions. We are begin­ not now, then when? In the field of architecture and
ning to learn the hard lesson that on community design the Re-Generation
an overpopulated planet, faced with The Rise of the Re-Generation also has globally recognized leaders.
multiple converging crises, even those Here are only some of the many Inspired by the late John T. Lyle,
who seem to win in the short-term examples of how the intention and these transformative innovators have
will lose in the mid- to long-term if practice of regeneration is spreading demonstrated that buildings and
we do not regenerate vital ecosystem fast and wide. Holistic land manage­ communities can – by design – have a
functions and create conditions where ment and holistic planned grazing regenerative effect on place. Bill Reed
all of life can thrive. – developed by Allan Savory – offers co-founded the Regenesis Group7 and
the Integrative Design Collaborative.8
William McDonough launched the
‘Cradle to Cradle’ approach to indus­
“The false separation between nature and trial production, which is now at the
culture is the root cause of many of the heart of the transition to circular
economies (see Dame Ellen MacArthur
converging crises we are facing.” interview in PM68). Jason McLennan
has created the ‘Living Building
Challenge’ and ‘Living Futures
No matter which generation you tested methodologies for the regen­ Challenge’ that have been taken up
were born into, all generations alive eration of degraded grasslands and by built environment professionals
today are called to join the Re- prairies. These techniques form part around the world.9
Generation. If we choose to, we can of the diverse toolbox of regenerative We are also beginning to apply our
move from a zero-sum world (of agriculture, which PM reports on understanding of nutrient, energy and
winners and losers) to a non-zero-sum regularly. The Australian perma­culture material cycles in mature ecosystems
world where life as a whole flourishes. designer Darren Doherty (PM69) to the redesign of cities. The World
Regenerative design is about co- helped to promote this approach Future Council and Herbert Girardet
creating a win-win-win future where globally,1 along with organizations are calling for a transition from
the individual, the community and like the Savory Institute,2 the Rodale ‘petropolis’ to ‘ecopolis’ through the
the planet win; and social, ecological Institute3 and Eugenio Gras of creation of regenerative cities.
and economic benefits mutually MasHumus.4 Regenerative design is also a key
reinforce each other through integra­ Apart from the production of component of Jon Young’s ‘eight
tive whole systems design. Competitive food and resources for regional shields’ approach to mentoring and
advantages tend to be short-lived. bioeconomies, regenerative agriculture leadership.10 He collaborates closely
We know how to create cultures based also offers an effective way to slow with the permaculture teachers Penny
on collaborative advantage for all of down climate change and eventually Livingston and James Stark who set
humanity and the wider community return to pre-industrial levels of up a Regenerative Design Institute in
of life. carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Bolinas, California.11 Over the last
Many of the pioneers of the The same practices regenerate soil 12 years they have developed the 6.9
regenerative design (r)evolution are fertility, increase the water retention hectare (17 acre) site at the Common-
permaculture designers. Applying capacity of the soil, and replenish wealth Garden into a wonderful
permaculture principles, ethics and aquifers, by storing carbon under­ example of regenerative design.
attitudes to the redesign of the human ground in the form of organic matter Ethan Roland and Gregory Landua
presence on Earth offers effective and root-mass (see ‘Carbon Farming’ pioneered the field of financial
strategies for the transition towards in PM88). permaculture applying the design
diverse regenerative cultures every­ There are also many hopeful principles to the development of
where. These cultures will be elegant examples of large-scale ecosystems regenerative enterprises.12 Their ‘8

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Through regenerative
agricultural practices we
can restore soil, replenish
water tables and sequester
atmospheric carbon. They
offer a whole systems
design response to the food,
water and climate crises.
(Reproduced from Designing
Regenerative Cultures, Wahl,
2016; illustrator Flavia

Forms of Capital’ maps an economy examples of how the Re-Generation collaboration and knowledge
holistically beyond just financial is on the rise and what questions exchange. When practicing whole
capital flows and reframes entrepre­ might guide us in charting our course systems design aimed at improving
neurship as a regenerative activity towards a regenerative future. human, ecosystems and planetary
based on the co-creation of regenerative health, we need to pay attention to
enterprise ecologies (PM68). Designing Regenerative Cultures how all these different scales of design
John Fullerton, a member of the – Learning to Design as Nature relate to each other and practice
Club of Rome and founder of the The false separation between nature scale-linking design to weave the
Capital Institute, started the important and culture is the root cause of many synergies between them.
conversation about what a truly of the converging crises we are facing. Nature’s processes are inherently
regenerative economy might look We have to move beyond simply scale-linking. Regenerative cultures
like, at the local, regional and global learning from nature. We are capable will be elegantly adapted to their
scale. The institute’s white paper on of design as nature: maintaining locality and region. To achieve this
‘Regenerative Capitalism’ explores ecosystem integrity, safeguarding everywhere we need national and
how an economy that functions like diversity, nurturing systemic health, global collaboration and solidarity.
an ecosystem can regenerate wealth and strengthening the planetary life The health of individuals, commun­
and resources in ways that serve people support system we depend upon! ities, ecosystems and the planet are
and planet.13 Human beings are perfectly capable of intricately interlinked.
Last year the Centre for Planetary creating conditions conducive to life. The evolutionary framework for
Culture published Towards Regenerative The good news is that we are regenerative design created by Bill
Society: Plan for Rapid Transition.14 already doing it. There are inspiring Reed transcends and includes green,
Daniel Pinchbeck – the centre’s examples ranging in scale from green sustainable and restorative approaches
co-founder – is now working on a chemistry, product design, sustainable as stepping-stones on our learning
Manifesto for a Regenerative Society. architecture, community design, journey as we explore how to live in
My own book, Designing Regenerative industrial ecology, to urban and ways that contribute to transforming
Cultures,15 explores many more bioregional planning, and global-local humanity’s impact on Earth from pm 89  |  15
Paying attention to how the
different scales of design can be
brought into symbiosis with each
other is an important aspect of
regenerative design. If we want to
design as nature we have to pay
attention to scale-linking patterns
(Reproduced from Designing
Regenerative Cultures, Wahl, 2016;
illustrator Flavia Gargiulo.)

being predominantly destructive to projects such as planting Eucalyptus Daniel Christian Wahl works
being regenerative. monoculture forests in already water- internationally as an educator, activist
Business as usual falls just short of stressed areas and call it reforestation. and consultant, specialising in whole
breaking the law, sticking to the limits We need to become humble apprentices systems design and transformative
of what is allowed – what companies of life. innovation for regenerative cultures.
can get away with in their pursuit of Only if we heal the entirely mind- He is a member of the International
profit. ‘Green’ often overly celebrates made separation of nature and Futures Forum, a fellow of the RSA,
small voluntary steps to do a little less culture, only if we truly understand and a Findhorn Foundation fellow. He
damage (e.g. so-called green building our interbeing with all of life, can we co-authored all four dimensions (social,
or industry standards). By the time reconcile humanity with the rest of ecological, economic, worldview) of
we get to sustainable practices – what nature. Once we take that step – Gaia Education’s UNESCO recognised
Bill McDonough called 100% less which is primarily a shift in the way online curriculum in ‘Design for
bad – we are no longer adding to the we think about ourselves and our Sustainability’.16 Designing Regen­
destruction that we have already participation in life’s evolutionary erative Cultures, Daniel’s first book,
caused. Yet, after a few thousand journey – we can begin to design as was published by Triarchy Press in May
years of destructive agricultural nature by co-creating elegant solutions 2016. It is reviewed on pgXX.
practices and a few hundred years of adapted to the biocultural uniqueness
exploitative industrialisation, that is of place. 2
not enough! The central task for the Re- 3

To create a thriving future for nine Generation was summed up perfectly 4
billion human beings and for all of by Buckminster Fuller. Our design 6
life, we need to begin to reverse our challenge is: 7
destructive effects and start to heal 9
communities, ecosystems and the “To make the world work for 100% 10
Earth. Many, often well intended, of humanity in the shortest possible 11
restoration projects are still done with time through spontaneous co- 13
the arrogance of humanity as the operation without ecological offence 14

‘master of nature’ and we end up with or the disadvantage of anyone.” 15


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