Sustainability alone is not an appropriate goal. The word sustainability itself is inappropriate, because it does not tell us what we are really trying to sustain.
In 2005, after spending two years working on my doctoral thesis on design for sustainability, I began to realize that what we are really trying to sustain is the underlying pattern of health, resilience, and adaptability that keep this planet in a healthy condition. the one that life as a whole can flourish. Design for sustainability is ultimately design for human and planetary health (Wahl, 2006b)
A regenerative human culture is healthy, resilient, and adaptable; cares about the planet and cares about life, knowing that this is the most effective way to create a prosperous future for all humanity. The concept of resilience is closely related to health, in the sense that it describes the ability to recover basic vital functions and recover from any kind of imbalance or crisis. When we seek sustainability from a systemic perspective, we are trying to sustain the pattern that connects and strengthens the system as a whole. Sustainability primarily refers to systemic health and resilience in different dimensions, from local, to regional, and global.
Complex systems can teach us that, as participants in a complex eco-psychosocial system that is subject to certain biophysical limits, our goal should be appropriate participation, not prediction and control (Goodwin, 1999a). The best way to learn how to participate appropriately is to pay more attention to systemic relationships and interactions, aim to maintain the resilience and health of the system as a whole, foster diversity and redundancies in multiple dimensions, and facilitate emergencies. positive, taking into account the quality of the connections and the information flows in the system. This book explores how this can be done. [This is an excerpt from a subchapter of Designing Regenerative Cultures,Designing Regenerative Cultures published in 2016]
Use the precautionary principle
A proposal to guide an intelligent action in the face of dynamic complexity and "not knowing”, Is to apply the Precautionary Principle as a framework that aims to avoid, as far as possible, actions that will have a negative effect on human and environmental health in the future. Since the United Nations World Charter for Nature of 1982, the Montreal Protocol on Health of 1987, the Rio Declaration of 1992, the Kyoto Protocol and Rio + 20 of 2012, we have committed ourselves to apply the Precautionary Principle and again.
Wingspread's Statement of Commitment on the Precautionary Principle states: “When an activity threatens harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some of the cause-effect relationships are not fully scientifically established”(Wingspread Statement, 1998). The principle places the burden of proof that a certain action is not harmful on those who propose and execute the action, yet general practice continues to allow all actions that (yet!) Have not been proven to have effects to go unchecked. potential harmful. Simply put, the Precautionary Principle can be summed up this way: be wary of uncertainty. This is what we are not doing.
Although high-level groups at the UN and many national governments have repeatedly considered the Precautionary Principle to be a sensible way to guide actions, day-to-day life shows that it is very difficult to implement, as there will always be a certain degree of uncertainty. The Precautionary Principle could potentially stop sustainable innovation and block new technologies that may be beneficial on the basis that it cannot be proven with certainty that these technologies will not produce unexpected side effects in the future that may be detrimental to human and environmental health. .
Why not encourage designers, technicians, politicians and planning professionals to evaluate your proposals based on their regenerative, restorative and life support potential?
Why not limit the scale of implementation of any innovation locally and regionally until its positive impact is unequivocally demonstrated?
Aiming to design for systemic health may not save us from unexpected side effects and uncertainty, but it offers a trial-and-error path to a regenerative culture. We urgently need a Hippocratic Oath for design, technology and planning: Do no harm! To make this ethical imperative operational we need a salutogenic (health generating) intention behind all design, technology and planning: We need to design for human, ecosystem and planet health. In this way we can move faster than the unsustainable "more of the same”Towards restorative and regenerative innovations that support the transition to a regenerative culture. Let us ask ourselves the following question:
How do we create design, technology, planning, and policy decisions that enable human, community, and environmental health?
We need to respond to the fact that human activity over the past centuries and millennia has damaged the healthy functioning of ecosystems. The availability of resources is declining around the world, while demand increases as the human population continues to expand and we continue to erode the functioning of ecosystems due to irresponsible designs and unbridled consumer lifestyles.
If we face the challenge of decreasing demand and consumption globally while replenishing resources through regenerative design and technology, we will have a chance to step out of the eye of the storm and create a regenerative human civilization. This change will imply a transformation of the natural resources base of our civilization, moving away from fossil fuels and towards biological resources regenerated in a renewable way, together with a radical increase in recycling and resource productivity. Bill Reed has planned some of the changes that will be necessary to create a truly regenerative culture.
“Rather than harm the environment less, it is necessary to learn how we can participate in that environment - using the health of ecological systems as the basis for design. […] The significant leap that our culture has to make is to shift from a fragmented world view to a mental model of systems as a whole - to frame and understand the interrelationships of living systems in an integrated way. A local approach is one way to achieve this understanding. […] Our role, as designers and stakeholders, is to change our current relationship to one that creates a complete system of mutually beneficial relationships.”
–Bill Reed (2007: 674)
Reed named the “whole systems thinking"And to" living systems thinking "as the basis for a shift towards the mental model we need to create a regenerative culture. In Chapters 3, 4, and 5, we'll explore these necessary shifts in perspective in more detail. They go hand in hand with a radical reformulation of what we understand by sustainability. As Bill Reed explains:
“Sustainability is a progression toward functional awareness that all things are connected; that commercial, building, social, geological and natural systems are really a single integrated system of relationships; that these systems are co-participants in the evolution of life.”
-Bill Reed, 2007
Once we make this change of perspective, we will understand life as “a complete process of continuous evolution towards richer, more diverse and mutually beneficial relationships”. Creating regenerative systems is not simply a technical, economic, ecological or social change: it has to go hand in hand with an underlying change in the way we think about ourselves, our relationships with others and with life as a whole.
Figure 1 (below) shows the different perspective shifts as we move from “more of the same” to creating regenerative culture. The goal of creating regenerative cultures transcends and includes sustainability. Restorative design aims to restore the healthy self-regulation of local ecosystems, and reconciling design goes further by making explicit the anticipatory intervention of humanity in life processes and in the union of nature and culture.
Regenerative design creates regenerative cultures capable of continually learning and transforming in response to, and anticipating, inevitable changes. Regenerative cultures safeguard and cultivate biocultural abundance for future human generations and for life as a whole.
The "history of separation”Is reaching the limits of its usefulness and the negative effects of its worldview and associated resulting behavior are beginning to affect life as a whole. By having become a threat to planetary health we are learning to rediscover our intimate relationship with all forms of life. Bill Reed's vision of regenerative systems for systemic health is in line with the pioneering work of the likes of Patrick Geddes, Aldo Leopold, Lewis Mumford, Buckminster Fuller, Ian McHarg, E.F. Schumacher, John Todd, John Tillman Lyle, David Orr, Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, and many others who have explored design in the context of health for the system as a whole.
A new cultural narrative is emerging, capable of conceiving and shaping a true regenerative human culture. We still do not know all the details about how exactly this culture will manifest itself, and we do not know how we can move from the current situation of "world in crisisTo that prosperous future of a regenerative culture. However, aspects of this future are already with us.
Using the language of "old story" Y "new history“We are in danger of thinking of this cultural transformation as the replacement of the old story by a new story. This separation between opposites is in itself part of the "separation narrative" of the "old story”. The "new history”Is not a complete denial of the current dominant world view. It includes this perspective but stops considering it the only perspective, opening itself to the validity and necessity of multiple ways of knowing.
Accepting uncertainty and ambiguity makes us value multiple perspectives on our proper involvement in complexity. These are perspectives that give value and validity not only to the “old story"Of separation, but also to the"old historyOf unity with the Earth and the cosmos. These are perspectives that can help us find a regenerative path to be human beings in deep relationship, reciprocity and communion with life as a whole, acquiring the awareness of being co-creators of the "new historyOf humanity.
Our impatience and urgency to get answers, solutions and conclusions too quickly is understandable seeing the growing individual, collective, social, cultural and ecological suffering, but this tendency to favor answers instead of delving into questions is itself part of the old history of separation.
The art of transformative cultural innovation is largely about making peace with “not knowing”And delve deeper into the issues, making sure we are asking the right questions, paying attention to our relationships and how we can all move forward in a world not only because of what we do but because of the quality of our being. A regenerative culture will emerge from finding and living new ways of relating to oneself, to the community and to life as a whole. The basis for the creation of regenerative cultures is an invitation to live the issues together.
By Daniel Christian Wahl
[This is an excerpt from a subchapter ofDesigning regenerative cultures, Designing Regenerative Culturespublished in 2016. The Spanish version is being prepared for publication in 2020 with Editorial EcoHabitar.]
For the English original click here