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Regenerating Bioregions with Universities


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A talk I gave to Concordia College about making universities into field sites for bioregional regeneration.

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Regenerating Bioregions with Universities

  1. 1. Regenerating Bioregions A Cultural Evolution Model for Restoring Planetary Health
  2. 2. Claim #1: Humans have degraded landscapes all over the planet to the point that the Earth is now in overshoot-and-collapse. Claim #2: It is necessary to regenerate ecosystem functions at regional scales to restore planetary health and safeguard humanity’s future.
  3. 3. We are in overshoot- and-collapse… exponential changes are destabilizing the Earth.
  4. 4. Functional Landscapes as “Organizing Principle”
  5. 5. Thesis: The fundamental driver of ecological change has been social niche construction for human societies—altering the flows of energy and resources away from non-human life to grow the biomass of our species. A social niche is an inherited environment comprised of structural supports that influence life for the next generation. Example: Humans born into cities “inherit” the built environment and institutions of that place.
  6. 6. This graph powerfully demonstrates the logic. Human population goes up as we bring more energy and resources to our own species— through land management, manufacturing, fossil fuel use, and so forth.
  7. 7. Assertion: The processes of cultural evolution created the planetary crisis. Therefore the design of social systems must involve applying cultural evolution research to guide the future developments of humanity.
  8. 8. Current Work: Build a viable model for guiding the cultural evolution of bioregions. Implement and generalize the model so that it can be shared across an emerging global network of regional efforts.
  9. 9. Local metrics for social wellbeing and ecological health Global goals for planetary health
  10. 10. How do we design a pathway to regenerate the Earth?
  11. 11. Backyard Permaculture Regenerative Farms Ecovillages Urban Sustainability Large-scale Ecosystem Restoration Earth Regeneration Bioregional Design Integrate linkages across scales Bring coherence to whole system
  12. 12. This is our mission — regenerate ALL degraded lands on Earth to restore planetary health Coordinated through bioregional learning centers that organize efforts locally while collaborating with each other across regions.
  13. 13. There are several global action networks dedicated to regeneration that lack coherence and risk fragmentation across efforts.
  14. 14. Weave a Tapestry of Regeneration Offer a “design institute” platform for existing learning centers
  15. 15. It supports immersive learning experiences for regenerative design with holistic projects for community development. This design institute aspires to be part of an emerging network of bioregional collaboratives dedicated to Earth regeneration.
  16. 16. We seek to anchor in many places a strategy for weaving together the permaculture camps, ecosystem restoration projects, retreat centers, and ecovillages around the world that provide learning experiences. Interwoven with project-based learning for regenerative design that is able to partner with universities, nonprofits, social enterprises, impact funds, philanthropy, governments, and local communities. Developing shared curricula and navigation pathways between locations so that students and practitioners can teach each other in diverse settings.
  17. 17. Every location on Earth where social change occurs as a field site for cultural evolution research. Imagine…
  18. 18. “The world needs integrative solutions to systemic crises.” “Communities around the globe need to gain the ability to guide themselves toward greater health and resilience.” This is a Grand Challenge for Cultural Evolution “All the while, we are bombarded by cascading disruptions due to the profound complexities of human- environment relationships.”
  19. 19. Misaligned Motivational Drivers and Incentives Institutional Silos Entrenched Development Fragmented Knowledge Required Integration Cannot Emerge But it won’t happen the way things are now
  20. 20. Required Integrated Function Interoperability of Knowledge Convergent Findings Consilience Mutual Compatibility Cultural Scaffolding Is Key!
  21. 21. This design institute will achieve integration of knowledge and practice by taking a territorial approach to regeneration of ecosystems and communities. Required Integration Has “Place” to Take Root Place-based Integrated Function
  22. 22. “Rationalistic” Industrial Education Standardization Generalizability Learning Process Built on Decontextualization Required Integration Has No “Place” to Take Root Why Integration Undoable in the Past This requires separation of knowledge from any specific context.
  23. 23. Knowledge Rooted in Place-based Learning Field Sites for Whole System Approach Merge Theory and Practice Create Maps of System Dynamics Local Context as “Platform Solution” Network Across Many Locations for Embedded Feedbacks
  24. 24. This partnership will create educational materials while field- testing them for usability in practitioner settings; build collaborative teams that learn together at territorial scales; provide institutional supports for each field site where change is happening; and train a lot of practitioners as the number of sites grows with the passage of time.
  25. 25. Let’s talk