See also: Oppression and Marginalized Voices
Regenerative economy is a way of thinking about our economic systems based around the goal of having an economy that fully regenerates any resources it uses and repairs previously done damage to the ecosystem.
For inspiration thinkers around the concept of the regenerative economy look towards the earth’s ecosystem, the largest fully regenerative system we know.1 Much like the earth, thinkers theorize, the economy should be seen as one whole system that cannot solely be analyzed as a product of its individual parts. Therefore, change cannot happen in just one facet of the economy. The solution to our current climate crisis can only arise by reimagining our entire economy to be fairer as a whole. A lot of these principles can be found in the Green New Deal, a sweeping package of proposed US legislation that aims to take on the country’s inequality as well as the current climate crisis by utilizing a transition to renewable energy and reparative works on the environment as an opportunity to provide fulfilling, well-rewarded work for all.2
The regenerative economy is significantly different from the circular or blue economy, in that these concepts stop at adapting our current economy’s means of production, whereas the regenerative economy acknowledges that our entire economic system needs to be reimagined.3 Where other visions on future economies strive to do no harm to our environment, the regenerative economy includes an element of healing and restoring our ecosystem, leaving it in a better state than we found it.
John Fullerton, founder of the Capital Institute: We can and must use the universal patterns and principles the cosmos uses to build stable, healthy and sustainable systems in our design of the economy. When doing this, we need to change our view of what the economy really is, and adapt our assumptions about what a healthy economy looks like.4
"Economic vigor is a product of human and societal vitality, rooted in ecological health and the inclusive development of human capabilities and potential."5
By changing the assumptions we have about what economic success means, most notably that it can’t be defined solely by GDP growth, Fullerton radically changes our economic goals. By his definition, our economy should support the success of the ecosystems we are part of, which would be inseparably linked to human, economic and financial health.
Daniel Christian Wahl, the author of Designing Regenerative Cultures6, observes a need to rethink our definition of wealth and the role of transactions in the economy. By just defining wealth in monetary terms, he states, we miss out on the fact that by restoring the health of our ecosystems and communities we are creating wealth for all. Transactions are a necessity for any economy, but instead of simple transactions of commodities for money, Wahl reimagines the material flows of the regenerative economy as the “metabolic systems found in resilient living systems.” In this system, waste doesn’t exist. Instead, the rear-end of one process is merely the front-end of the next. As Wahl states, the first concrete steps towards a fairer system can already be taken: the flow of capital should be moved to the real economy and away from the speculative economy, where it serves no real life purpose except to multiply itself. Also, monetary flows should be shifted away from destructive and exploitative enterprises towards regenerative ones.7
1Daniel Christian Wahl, “Redesigning Economics Based on Ecology,” July 6, 2020, https://blog.usejournal.com/redesigning-economics-based-on-ecology-35a82f751f25.
2Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Avi Lewis, “A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” April 17, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9uTH0iprVQ.
3Daniel Christian Wahl, “Towards a Regenerative Economy,” Medium (Age of Awareness, April 9, 2020), https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/towards-a-regenerative-economy-bf1c2ed6f792.
4John Fullerton, Regenerative Capitalism (Capital Institute, 2015), 8, https://capitalinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-Regenerative-Capitalism-4-20-15-final.pdf.
6Daniel Christian Wahl, Designing Regenerative Cultures (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2017).
7Daniel Christian Wahl, “Towards a Regenerative Economy.”