Designing Regenerative Cultures

Morag Gamble is in conversation here with Daniel Christian Wahl about bioregional development and his book, Designing Regenerative Cultures.

Wahl begins with, “the scale at which you can create a really regenerative and sustainable system is bioregional and not quite so small as I had thought for fifteen years. Self-sufficiency is a story that a lot of people get into at the beginning, but if you want to create resilience you have to create it with lots of people in your region and with lots of communities in your region.” Later in the conversation he emphasises the need for regenerative work to be accessible to everyday people who live in urban areas.

He encourages a focus on the “biocultural uniqueness of place” where each regenerative culture will express itself differently according to the specific ecology, people and history of that place. The aim is to create the capacity in the local people to live in a way that leaves it more bioproductive, more abundant and healthier than what they received from their forebearers.

Wahl highlights an important process of working regeneratively is through capacity building. This requires a view of education as a lifelong process of drawing out our potential as time and context changes. He goes on to describe ideally learning through multidisciplinary projects that teach a combination of social, economic and ecological literacy. Alongside rethinking how we educate our children, Wahl touches on the need to upskill millions of people who are already in the workforce.

I love his phrase, “We are the regeneration rising.” What he means by it is that rather than using slogans that come from a place of fear, we come from a place of hope to tap into people’s creativity and reach across the silos we currently function in.

Wahl also points to the value of making regenerative work visible to each other to cross pollinate ideas. He is specifically thinking of the role artists can play in sharing stories and questions. And in doing so, thinking in a “Yes, and” rather than a “No, but” way. (I thought to myself, “A ha! Just like improv comedians do.) Don’t focus too much on the little differences but celebrate the diversity of opinion.

I wonder if volunteering at an urban farm or community garden is considered capacity building in an urban context. It is something I can engage in with my kids on the weekend that is not necessarily predicated on having money and is fun and social. I wonder what else would be capacity building for us.