= "new educational media platform called The Re-Generation, initiating dialogues around systems change and regenerative cultures with leading commentators".
Six Spheres of Re-Generation
By Rory Spowers:
"In the summer of 2019, working with a small group of educators and activists, we launched a new educational media platform called The Re-Generation, initiating dialogues around systems change and regenerative cultures with leading commentators like Russell Brand, explorer Bruce Parry, XR Co-Founder Gail Bradbrook, leading localisation activist Helena Norberg-Hodge and Ecocide campaigner Jojo Mehta. Our aim has been not only to provide a forum for these important conversations, but also use that content to develop educational ‘learning journeys’ for budding ‘regenerators’ wishing to engage with this process. Now that our physical events for 2020 have gone on hold, we are shifting the focus on-line, with a programme of podcasts and webinars. Please join The Re-Generation movement to keep updated with these plans by subscribing here.
In an attempt to encourage a systemic view of the interrelation between different systems, we have chosen six areas that are embedded within each other: Food, Health, Economics, Community, Culture and Consciousness.
It all starts with the soil, the health of which can be directly correlated with the nutrition in our food and the health of a society. With recent insights into soil carbon and the intelligent integration of livestock where appropriate, we can design regenerative agriculture systems suitable to specific bioregions and implement perhaps the most potent systemic solution available to us. Some estimates suggest that we only need to raise the average organic content of half the world’s arable land by a mere two per cent, to bring carbon levels back to pre-industrial levels, within one generation. In the process, we can rebuild biodiversity and whole ecosystems, reconnect communities with the land, create resilient local economies and communities, plus provide the global population with healthy nutritious food.
We are often led to believe that the burgeoning human population is dependent upon vast industrial monocultures for our food supply. In reality, these systems produce only about 30% of the global food supply, primarily composed of a handful of staple crops that produce denatured food very inefficiently and at an exorbitant cost to society and the environment, in terms of healthcare costs and ecological impacts. Meanwhile, some 65-70% of the food consumed globally, still comes from rural peasant farmers, often supplying local markets. The notion that we need industrial agri-business to feed the world, let along GMOs, is a complete fallacy. Agro-ecological farming techniques have consistently been shown to produce healthier food, more diverse diets, lower input costs and multiple systemic benefits to local communities, than their industrial counterparts. This has even been officially recognised by the UN.
Industrial farming, which treats nature and living systems like topsoil as machines, has decimated the global ecology in a few decades, impoverished communities and enslaved farmers across the developing world to corporate control. It may sound like an impossible ask, but along with phasing out fossil fuel use as rapidly as possible, we somehow need to devolve corporate-controlled industrial monocultures into smaller bio-diverse farms equally fast, using regenerative techniques to sequester carbon back into the soil.
At a grass-roots community level, we need to take every measure we can to reduce our reliance on this system, seeking local, seasonal and organic produce wherever we can, avoiding as much processed, denatured food with almost zero nutrition, as much as possible. As The Re-Generation programme unfolds, we will be looking at the potential for bringing as much of our food supply back under our control as possible, through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes, urban agriculture, vertically integrated indoor farming, hydroponics and greenhouse growing, all of which will become ever more crucial as the climate crisis threatens our dependence on seasonal rain-fed agriculture. It may sound absurd, but one of the most useful things we can all be doing right now is helping to make soil. Check out makesoil.org to become part of an amazing global initiative that is helping individuals and communities do just that.
Healthy soil equals healthy food equals healthy people and a healthy biosphere. As US campaigner and physician Zach Bush has shown, we are only just beginning to recognise the full impacts of a compound like Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup, now known to destroy the intestinal wall and trigger the ‘leaky gut’ conditions that underlie autoimmune diseases. This could well be another factor in the impact of C-19 on the US population, most of whom are riddled with Roundup residues, unable even to access fresh organic produce and are therefore reliant on denatured processed food products for their diets, destroying the diversity of bacteria in the micro-biome, lowering their immunity and predisposing them to disease. Early Chinese studies already indicate compromised gut health in some 80% of C-19 patients.
As the originator of the ‘germ theory’ of disease, Louis Pasteur himself admitted on his deathbed that it was not about the germ but the environment in which the germ is allowed to take hold. Regardless of what the mainstream media may be telling us, with even the BBC dismissing notions of building robust immune systems through diet and supplements, most of us know when we are compromised by lack of sleep, little exercise and poor diet. As we all know, Big Pharma has long tendrils and will be manipulating the science to their benefit. Even the Journal of the American Medicine Association (JAMA) has published reports to show how the powerful anti-viral properties of intravenous vitamin C stops RNA application and, when combined with other treatments like zinc and ozone therapy, has been curing C-19 patients.
The Re-Generation will continue to explore these issues with leading naturopaths and alternative health experts, looking at ways we can shift the emphasis upstream to preventative healthcare and the basic steps we can all take to develop robust immune systems in ourselves and our loved ones. We will also look at the potential application for psychedelic medicines, not only now showing extraordinary efficacy for dealing with our mental health crisis and epidemics of depression and addiction, but for also prompting unitive, mystical experiences and promoting what biologist EO Wilson called biofilia, that innate sense of being connected to the natural world, which so many seem to have lost but which we so urgently need to regain. Interestingly, psychedelics can catalyse a momentary crisis, disrupting our notions about consensus reality and thereby allowing the space for profound healing to occur, with many advocates reporting more progress in one session than in ten years of conventional therapy.
This journey through our Food and Health systems will also highlight the need for the ‘radical localisation’, as popularised by veteran campaigner Helena Norberg-Hodge. While most of us cannot divest ourselves entirely from the globalised corporate economy, all of us can do whatever we can to re-direct as much as we can towards the local economy. This might include the adoption of alternative local currencies, or barter and exchange schemes, but most importantly by supporting small, local businesses wherever possible. We may now find ourselves increasingly dependent on Amazon and on-line shopping as the high street disappears forever, but forming these tight local trade connections within the community are an essential component of building resilience.
Similarly, as we re-engage with the workplace, whether in a small entrepreneurial local business, or the offices of a transnational corporation, what role can we play there to promote the principles of the so-called ‘circular economy’? Where can we eliminate waste in the system to ‘close loops’, turning linear systems into circular ones? How can we source more local, ecological materials and supply more local markets?
As we have seen, our linear and extractive economy is predicated purely on quantity and not quality, driven by a fixation with growth as opposed to development. Measuring the success of an economy through GDP is of course woefully inaccurate, as it only reflects economic activity, including numerous aspects we could hardly regard as positive - accidents, hospitalisations, divorces and environmental disasters. Economist Herman Daly first made this distinction many decades ago - a growing economy is only getting bigger, while a developing economy is getting better. As US novelist Edward Abbey said,
Growth for the sake of growth is the philosophy of a cancer cell.
Totally redesigning the basic principles upon which the global economy is built is perhaps the biggest challenge we face and might seem like another impossible task. It might even prove logically impossible for us to make a seamless transition from an extractive linear growth economy to the circular model set out by Kate Raworth in her brilliant book Doughnut Economics, but it is incumbent on us to try. If we do see a total implosion of the global economy, it might present the only viable model we have.
Numerous mechanisms have been developed in this area, enabling us to re-programme our economic model. In the same way that we have designed our current model to reward competition and quantity, we can redesign the system to reward collaboration and quality. We can stop taxing the things that are supposed to be good for us, like jobs and income, and tax the things that are bad - like pollution and soil erosion from industrial farming. We can eliminate waste streams and close loops within industrial processes, by using ecological materials that can be safely sequestered using natural processes. We can use mycelium networks and mushrooms to detoxify old industrial sites. We can subsidise regenerative activities and reward them for the amount of carbon they sequester, like regenerative farming. We can make companies responsible for the full life-cycle impacts of all the materials they need, overcoming built-in obsolescence and using ‘molecular markers’ to trace all those that are toxic and non-renewable, keeping materials circulating in the market, rather than continually extracting more from the earth while simultaneously filling up landfill sites with disposable downstream products.
We can introduce negative interest on capital to encourage more flow of money rather than hoarding. We can introduce a four-day week and Universal Basic Income (UBI), to lower the stress on social and ecological systems and create more freedom for more people to explore their creativity, rather than remain preoccupied with a gerbil wheel of debt. If automation is going to create so much mass unemployment, we urgently need to evolve new avenues for human creativity, providing humanising activities to counter the continuing march into digital dictatorship. Above all, we need to remember that many economies have been built from ecologies, but no ecologies have ever been built from economies. As Alan Watts used to say, this is ‘the first great fallacy of civilisation’ - the confusion of conceptual wealth, which we have created, with the real wealth of the living systems upon which we all depend.
However, the notion that we can make the shift to renewables and still enjoy the levels of consumption provided by the fossil fuel economy seems highly unlikely. The days of air travel allowing so many to go gallivanting around the globe is probably over, at least for the majority. If we are to transition to some new steady state, a circular economy and a truly regenerative civilisation, certain things will be off the table. Most of us will need to eat 90-95% less meat, travel less, consume less, but in the process, lead less stressful, simpler, healthier, happier lives, evaluated on quality and not quantity.
Although the word community is now often aligned as much with on-line digital communities as those in the real world, and we need to focus on resilience within both, let’s not forget how quickly the digital landscape could disappear if something like a solar flare knocked out the energy grid. First and foremost, we need to build resilience into our real world local communities, with many of the mechanisms already outlined helping to enable that, such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes, community orchards, composting schemes and alternative local currencies. All of this helps to balance the de-humanising trends of the digital world with human-scale technologies and activities.
Connecting these analogue activities with the digital domain, for dissemination and replication, is at the heart of what The Re-Generation hopes to promote. Tightly knit communities, with deeply bonded connections and as much self-reliance as possible over essential human needs, will inevitably fare much better during adverse conditions than those that are fragmented, atomised and dependent on external centralised inputs for their food, water and energy. We may all continue to use the centralised energy industry, supermarkets and municipal water while we can, but those that can establish localised alternatives will of course be in a better position when the juggernaut runs out of road. As with ecosystems, the more diversity and complexity we can develop within our communities, the more resilience, self-regulation and self-organisation will emerge. Most of us have experienced this, seeing how bringing even small groups of people together can create new levels of collective intelligence for solving challenges and problems.
And much like our shared belief in the necessity of things like industrial farming and a centralised energy industry, or the inculcated beliefs in humans being purely self-motivated, we should question the notion that we will all descend into Mad Max style dystopian chaos if centralised infrastructure collapses. As brilliant American author and activist Rebecca Solnit so eloquently describes in her book Paradise Built in Hell, having spent time in the aftermath of natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami or Hurricane Katrina, this does not correlate with what she observed. Sure, there were always isolated incidents of aggressive and violent behaviour, but these were exceptions to the norm. The much greater trend was towards solidarity and co-operation. Interestingly, many of the conflicts that arose in such conditions were due to a mistaken distrust between different factions, misinterpreting what were in fact peaceful approaches as being aggressively motivated. Having personally lived through the 2004 tsunami in south Sri Lanka, I have seen this process first hand, as Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, ex-pats, aid workers and tourist volunteers, were all united in one common goal.
By exploring our journey through these first four topics - Food, Health, Economics and Community - we hope to identify the core characteristics of what constitutes a regenerative culture, from self-reliant regenerative food systems to biological medicine, localisation, circular economics and ecological design. In addition, we will then take a look at the role of art and artists within this co-creative culture, as well as the human need for coming together through ritual, celebration, music, dancing and wise use of intoxicants.
We will also examine the role of science and technology and how we can redirect research from purely commercial gain to actual societal benefits. Some technologies may appear very ‘clever’, but are they really ‘wise’ and ‘intelligent’, given the implications? Are they even necessary and do we actually want them? To what degree might our current trajectory be determined by the evolution of technology itself? Is the ‘technium’, the super-organism of technology, now a driving evolutionary force in itself and, if so, can we do anything about it? Are we developing and deploying certain technologies just because we can, rather than because we need to? How many of us have signed up and voted for the 5G SMART-grid and the digital dictatorship it will inevitably bring?
Is it not obvious to most of us by now that technologies designed to work with nature and emulate natural processes, will inevitably work better for us than those that seek to control it, tamper with it and even try to improve it through human arrogance and hubris? The emerging science of Biomimcry, that informs cutting-edge ecological design, recognises that nature has had 3.8 billion years of R and D to draw from and we are a young species. As activist and writer Daniel Pinchbeck suggests, our ‘planetary initiation’ could be seen as a call for humanity to make a move from youthful ignorance into a more mature adulthood. Maybe a part of this process involves upgrading our relationship to technology, replacing those that undermine ecological processes with those that actively regenerate them? As Russell Brand says, we are waking up to the ‘systemic betrayal behind the narrative of progress’. All this technology that was supposed to make us happier and less stressed, so far seems to have done the reverse. Is it even working for the 1% of the 1%? Are they any happier than the rest of us? I somehow doubt it.
Finally, we will also take a look at Consciousness itself, a word that can often induce a level of eye-rolling and instant association with New Age drivel. However, without us examining the more metaphysical or spiritual dimensions to human existence, I very much doubt we will have any chance of fully embracing, or even understanding, the systemic changes required, since they demand a re-evaluation of our sense of human identity.
One framework that can be especially useful in this context is a huge body of research into the left and right brain hemispheres, presented by psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist in his book The Master and His Emissary. The first thing to recognise is that neither hemisphere is solely responsible for any single activity - both hemispheres are intimately involved with every operation performed by the brain. The difference however, is in how the two hemispheres process that information.
Generally, the left hemisphere is associated with the more masculine traits of rationality, analysis and a focus on specific, separate aspects of what is being observed. The right hemisphere is associated with the more feminine quality of intuition and concerned more with overall context and relational aspects within the whole. As McGilchrist so eloquently shows, the entire western reductionist and materialist view of reality that has dominated humanity for the last few hundred years, has elevated the left hemisphere and subjugated the right.
So, if we are to find a new balance between the controlling and dominant narrative of the left hemisphere, which supports our ‘Story of Separation’, with the more holistic, systemic and integrated right hemisphere that supports a ‘Story of Inter-Being’, perhaps we all need to enquire a bit more deeply within ourselves and see if we can recognise these processes at work? Similarly, the new research into psychedelic compounds has shown how they suppress areas of the brain knows at the Default Mode Network (DMN), which is a fancy scientific term for the human ego, or the identification that limits our sense of identity to the human body and often just the brain itself.
When the DMN is suppressed in a psychedelic experience, we have greater feelings of connection to nature and the universe itself and the experience often correlates closely with profound, unitive mystical experiences. In McGilchrist’s model, these compounds reverse the ‘normal’ daily constellation of the two hemispheres, the left being pushed into the background and the right coming into the foreground.
Ultimately, it does not matter if that shift is precipitated by meditation, chanting, dancing, psychedelic compounds, or even just walking in the woods. The important thing is that it happens at all, as this simple re-correction within our brain function can be all that is required for us to start experiencing the world in a new and different way, one which is more balanced and attuned to an ecological and systemic world-view. And, as a result, this enables us to become active contributors to the co-creation of a truly regenerative civilisation." (https://ecohustler.com/culture/is-the-virus-our-vaccine/?)