In a time when our challenges are so huge that most of us don’t have a clue where to begin, it is essential to ask the question What will it require to safeguard humanity’s future? Do this and you will eventually come to the answer:
We need to grow local economies that regenerate the Earth around them.
There are thousands of intentional communities in existence. Among them are the Global Ecovillage Network and all of the Transition Towns that each strive in their own way to become ecologically and socially sustainable. What all of these communities have failed to do so far is expand to the regional scale.
Many reasons exist for this failing — some unique to a given place and others of more general concern across many places — but what my partners and I have discovered is that we are going to need to separate ourselves from entrenched political systems and grow our own meshworks of viable economic exchanges if we want to succeed in the long run.
This gets us to the level of bioregions.
A bioregion is the integrated system of all human activities within a given area with all of the larger ecosystems on which they depend. It has a shared cultural identity expressed through love of place, shared values and worldview, and commonly understood modes of exchange.
My family lived for the last ten years in the Cascadia Bioregion of the Pacific Northwest in the United States. We have recently moved to the Agua y Paz Biosphere Reserve in northern Costa Rica to help build its regenerative capacities as a bioregion. We are here with the auspicious goal of helping give birth to the Cradle of Regenerative Civilization as part of a network of organizational partners.
It can be difficult to wrap one’s head around the idea of regeneration at the scale of an entire bioregion. Let me break it down for you in this way: there are proven practices for a master gardener to learn in detail the soils, climate, and symbiotic relationships between animals and plants that enable them to grow delicious, nutritious food. Expand this idea to the scale of ecosystems and you have the potential to regenerate a bioregion.
We are starting at a place called Rancho Margot. It is a hotel and retreat center that has promoted itself through ecotourism as a place to learn about regenerative agriculture, circular economy, and off-the-grid ways of life. Here we have several hundred acres of land buttressed against old-growth rainforest that produces its own electricity, grows all of its food, and constructs buildings from materials harvested off the land itself.
Span outward and you will learn about dozens of other projects that employ agroforestry practices to increase biodiversity and capture carbon in soils — all the while producing valuable products for the local economy. Our plan is to establish a School for Applied Cultural Evolution on the grounds for Rancho Margot and grow a regenerative hub for convening and interlinking these projects with each other using principles of regenerative economics.
Yes, we are REALLY doing this!
In the next year, we will secure a piece of land as a satellite project for regeneration that grows differentiated ecosystem elements. What this means in practical terms is that we can produce value-added goods at another location that cannot be grown at present. By taking a holistic approach, we can select and cultivate relationships across these locations that make future synergies more easy to achieve.
All of this can be “self-funded” through existing and expanded service offerings. We won’t need to beg foundations or find investors to front the money. Instead we will invite participation through workshops and immersion experiences, hotel stays and project-led trainings, and of course by selling the products and services through cooperative arrangements between farms and hotels, schools, and local businesses.
If we are successful, we will shine a light on the development paradigm for humanity’s future — one based on localism, regeneration, and ecological designs that arise through the evolution of culture as it interacts with its surrounding environment
Does this vision excite you? If so, sign up for our newsletter and you will receive invitations to get involved (or just follow along).
Onward, fellow humans.
Teaser photo credit: This is the Arenal Volcano in northern Costa Rica. It was born in 1968 and dominates the landscape today.