What’s in the Word: Regeneration?

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Regenerative practice is a relatively new field within sustainability, with first use of the term tracing back to the late 1980’s. At this time, Robert Rodale, coined the term ‘Regenerative agriculture’ to mean an organic agriculture that was not statically sustained, but also was dynamic and continuously improving (Lyle, 1994; Mang & Haggard, 2016; Rodale, 1989). In 1994, John T. Lyle, a Landscape Architecture professor, wrote a book called Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development and opened the Center for Regenerative Studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Center for Regenerative Studies, History). Soon after, in 1995, another organization co-founded by Pamela Mang, Tim Murphy, and Ben Haggard called Regenesis Group (Regenesis, Who We Are), first introduced the term called ‘Regenerative Development’ (Mang & Haggard, 2016). 

Although one can find many definitions of Regenerative–Design, agriculture, Development etc, some synthesized central themes of Regenerative principles include: restoration of social and natural environments, adaptability or co-evolution with nature and changing needs, and beneficially nesting systems (Gibbons et al., 2018; Hes et al., 2018; Lyle, 1994; Mang & Reed, 2018; Mang & Haggard, 2018). None of these ideas are new to sustainability, but rarely are they all held together as one concept or goal. I find inspiration in the idea of restoring what is broken, damaged, or causing harm while we build a resilient future. It is not enough to simply sustain, we also need to create regenerating systems that will create conditions for global well-being.

Regenerative seems to be the next step in synthesizing all we have found to be important in sustainability. Thinking & acting holistically about how to further human and planetary well-being is why I have chosen sustainability as a career and why I am writing my thesis on Regeneration.  The word ‘Regenerative’ implies constant adaptation and healing whereas ‘sustainable’ implies static protection of what we have currently or create today. As Regenerative teacher Daniel C. Wahl states, “Sustainability alone is not an adequate goal,” instead we need ‘a regenerative human cultures'(2017). Defining and understanding the essence of how to create ‘Regenerative’ cultures and projects could facilitate a rapid course towards better, more resilient systems. Wahl begins the process of unveiling by creating a diagram that shows a spectrum of practices from ‘conventional’ to ‘regenerative’ (see image below).

Adapted from Reed (2006) by Daniel Christian Wahl

Specifically, this information is vital to those about to start their careers: undergraduates. We need this current generation to be well-equip with practices for a sustainable future. Regenerative principles could be a guide.

I invite you to follow my thesis journey through this blog as I explore how to teach regenerative principles to undergraduate students in order to discover methods for applying these principles to help prepare young professionals for effectively adapting to and lessening the effects of Climate Change in their careers.

Works Cited:

Gibbons, L. V., Cloutier, S. A., Coseo, P. J., & Barakat, A. (2018). Regenerative Development as an Integrative Paradigm and Methodology for Landscape Sustainability. Sustainability10(6), 1910. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061910

Hes, D., Stephan, A., & Moosavi, S. (2018). Evaluating the Practice and Outcomes of Applying Regenerative Development to a Large-Scale Project in Victoria, Australia. Sustainability10(2), 460. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020460

History of the Lyle Center | Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies | College of Environmental Design—Cal Poly Pomona. (n.d.). Retrieved July 16, 2019, from http://env.cpp.edu/rs/history-lyle-center

Lyle, J. T. (1994). Regenerative design for sustainable development. John Wiley & Sons Australia, Limited.

Mang, P., & Reed, B. (2012). Designing from place: A regenerative framework and methodology. Building Research & Information40(1), 23–38. https://doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2012.621341

Regenesis Group, Haggard, B., & Regenesis Group. (2016). Regenerative Development and Design: A Framework for Evolving Sustainability. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/scad-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4627926

Robert Rodale Question 4 (interview with USDA)[Documentary]. (1989). Retrieved from https://rodaleinstitute.org/why-organic/organic-basics/regenerative-organic-agriculture/

Wahl, D. C. (2019, August 16). Sustainability is not enough: We need regenerative cultures. Retrieved September 12, 2019, from Medium website: https://medium.com/@designforsustainability/sustainability-is-not-enough-we-need-regenerative-cultures-4abb3c78e68b

Who We Are. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2019, from Regenesis Group website: https://regenesisgroup.com/team

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