Cultivation and Regenerative Equity Part II

Photo by Micheile Henderson  on Unsplash

In my last post (Part I) we explored how regenerative agriculture and permaculture are leading the way in understanding the role of equity in regenerative practice and how equity is an essential part of cooperation. In this post we look at a few examples of how equity has been woven into existing regenerative projects. Imperfect as they may be, each example represents an effort to raise capabilities and bring opportunities to groups of people that may have otherwise been left out of projects without a regenerative lens.

Photo credit: Playa Viva

First, Playa Viva, the regenerative spa in Mexico provides an incredible example of working with the local community, not only to create or bolster environmentally friendly jobs but in giving to local schools and the local medical clinic. They know the jobs such as salt drying or at the turtle sanctuary will help restore rather than deplete the local environment and respect culturally traditional occupations while providing livelihoods for locals. The school and clinic protect the physical health of the community while providing for its future. These are essential elements of moving beyond sustaining today into creating an equitable, self-regenerating tomorrow.

Brattleboro Co-op, Photo by: Kevin O’Connor

Regenesis Group had played a role in the planning of Playa Viva and also in the planning of Brattleboro Co-op, a grocery store that wanted to build a new location that reflected its sustainable values. In order, “to support the revitalization of its community, region, and foodshed, the co-op began to look for ways to grow the value‐generating capability of local farmers, landowners, and food processors as well as for ways to grow its own internal capability to truly serve all of its stakeholders. This led to the creation of a hundred‐year plan as a source of direction.” Looking beyond what the co-op could do for itself and how it could help restore its struggling agricultural community is what makes this project an example of equitable practice. Instead of simply tacking-on energy saving practices–as originally planned–Regenesis helped them see who was not included in their current system influence and how to improve the collective resilience of the community. Building social resilience, sets a community up to to regenerate or continually reinvent itself for a more abundant future.

The Brattleboro co-op case study shows how an organization can become an instrument of regenerative change. For this to be possible, the organization needs to take an outward focus: it must see itself as a living system nested within the larger living systems of the community and the region. Only then can it becomes an integral member of the community, able to participate in the regeneration of the whole for the benefit of all.

Regenesis Group
The Bullitt Center, Photo Credit: Benjamin Benschneider & Discover Magazine

Another example comes from a Living Building Challenge (LBC) certified building: The Bullitt Center–where International Living Future Institute (ILFI) is housed. On a systemic level, they, “work with all levels of government to identify and lower barriers to entry for future high-performance structures. Groundbreaking policy such as Seattle DPD’s Living Building Pilot program, King County’s Zero-Discharge Capacity Charge legislation, and the Washington State Department of Health’s innovative policies to allow the project to pursue net-zero water, are all examples of the project’s effort to advance green building policy for all projects.” They put their resources toward paving the way for others, ensuring that regenerative practice are not only possible for developers with ample time and money to ask for code variances.

The Frick Environmental Center, Photo by: Ed Massery

The Frick Environmental Center, another LBC certified building, “affords the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy the opportunity to expand existing environmental education programs to a broader audience. These programs, which today reach nearly 1700 students from varying neighborhoods, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds from over twenty schools, are expected to grow over the years with the additional capacity of the new Center. Additional adult, community, and youth programs have already been developed, and outreach programs have been implemented in underserved communities, as part of continued efforts to engage more people with the nature that surrounds them in Pittsburgh.” The center drives intentional outreach to communities that otherwise may not feel welcome or accepted or have knowledge about environmental spaces. Those who have grown up in these spaces may not realize the privilege to physically or culturally access these spaces where environmnetal knowledge is cultivated. Only through self-reflection and seeking the truth can we address the privilege we take for granted. This type of social justice action, however, is at the core of regenerative cooperation.

Until we are all free, we are none of us free.

Emma Lazarus, American Poet 1800’s
Indian Creek Nature Center, Photo by Liz Zabel

Finally, another LBC Certified project that is built on the foundations of cultivating equity is the Indian Creek Nature Center. The Center is not only accessible by bike as well as follows ADA regulation and Universal Design Principles, it also, “focuses on connecting people with the environment, creating a more sustainable community, and creating champions of nature. To do that, making the space accessible to everyone, regardless of economic means, is important. The Nature Center site and grounds are free and open to the public every day from 6am to 10pm…The building offers a climate controlled space, drinking fountain, public bathrooms, and community spaces visitors can relax in.” Revitalizing public space is a key to promoting a more equitable future. Aside from identity disadvantages, people are also born into or fall into economic disadvantages. True public space sends the message that each person has inherent value regardless of economic circumstances.

Each of these examples fall short of complete systemic change, yet they begin to show us access points for tangible projects that can create positive ripples across the system. Choosing not to ignore the underlying social issues of your place and addressing issues of inequity head-on is where the change starts. The more projects that hold space for equitable change, the more we will see the system shift. If the entire goal of regenerative design and/or practice is the make systems create and restore rather than degenerate, and give more than they take, then equity and reversing social inequality must be at the core of cooperative action. With so many examples today of how to promote equity in all forms (including race, ability, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, etc), there is no excuse to overlook each of our roles is creating a more equitable world.

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