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Beyond sustainability: embracing regenerative culture for a thriving future

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By Susana Gago

· 3 min read

In the past few decades, sustainability has been heralded as the key to resolving the myriad of environmental crises we face. However, the sheer magnitude and urgency of these crises demand more than just a sustainable approach; they require a shift toward a regenerative culture.  

What is sustainability?

"Sustainability" implies a state of balance, of maintaining what is already present without causing further damage. But we have already crossed numerous environmental boundaries. Our climate is changing at an unprecedented rate, biodiversity is decreasing, and our soils are degraded. Simply put, we missed the sustainability boat. To quote Paul Hawken,

“Sustainability is about survival. The goal of sustainability is to find a way to live that doesn't cause harm to anything else. But we are way past sustainability.” 

We cannot merely sustain the world as it is; we must actively work to restore, replenish, and regenerate it. We need to think beyond conserving resources for the future and begin to rebuild and restore what has been lost. This is where the concept of regenerative culture comes in. It acknowledges that we must not only preserve what's left but restore what's been lost, creating systems and societies that are not just sustainable, but thriving.

Introducing regenerative culture 

A regenerative culture encompasses everything from regenerative agriculture, which restores soil health and biodiversity, to regenerative economics, which aims to circulate wealth in equitable, inclusive ways. It encompasses social regeneration too, building resilient communities that can adapt to change and are fair and inclusive. It is about evolving consciously, learning from nature and traditional indigenous knowledge, and creating systems that benefit all forms of life. 

A transition to a regenerative culture also brings with it an opportunity for reconciliation. It invites us to reconnect with the natural world, recognize and respect the inherent value of all life, and understand that our well-being is interdependent. In doing so, we can also address social and economic injustices, promoting not just environmental regeneration but social regeneration as well. 

Moreover, regenerative systems are fundamentally resilient, having the capacity to adapt to changes and shocks over time. In a world facing increasing uncertainty due to climate change, such resilience is crucial.

Regeneration is key

Our one and only option to survive and thrive as a species is to engage fully in the creation of a regenerative culture. It will not be easy. It requires deep systemic change, a shift in mindset, and collective action. It demands we challenge the status quo and the structures of power that maintain it. 

Yet, the rewards are profound. A regenerative culture offers a path to a world that is not merely sustainable but thriving; a world of abundant life and prosperity for all. The future of our planet and species depends on us making this shift. So, let's move past sustainability and embrace regeneration.  

The sustainability ship has long left the harbor, but a regenerative raft is ready for us. It's high time we embark on this journey.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Susana Gago is the founder of UNAKTI, a female-led ecosystem dedicated to cultivating high-value medicinal and aromatic plants, and transforming them into pure raw materials for the Cosmetic, Health & Wellness industries. As part of her job at UNAKTI, she collaborates with local women farmers and communities, empowering them through regenerative medicinal forest cultivation to step up into leadership roles within their families and communities. 

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