The subject of sustainability has increased in popularity in recent years and is high on the agenda, especially among young people. It is a broad topic with many different branches. One of those branches is generative living. You might have heard of it, but chances are that you don’t exactly know what it is. You will find out in this article.
Today, many people try to live sustainably by watching their consumption, opting for an electric car or taking shorter showers. Schools and businesses have also taken steps to operate more sustainably. This is necessary to slow down and eventually stop climate change. But we can do better. Instead of just slowing it down or stopping it, we can reverse the effects of climate change by acting in ways that regenerate the planet’s health.
This is exactly what generative living entails: taking action in all sectors, ranging from our houses to agriculture and fashion. Not just to limit the human impact on the environment. Do it to make the ecosystems healthier than we found them. Up until roughly 2 centuries ago, humans had a regenerative relationship with the environment and all life on earth. They benefited from the land but also gave back in a way to replenish what they took. By caring for the land, animals and plants, they ensured that the environment continued to provide them with all the resources that were crucial for their survival.
Nowadays, the relationship that we have with the environment is not to be called regenerative. Except for most indigenous cultures around the world, we take from nature without giving back or replenish what we take. However, regenerative living is on the rise in many different sectors.
Agriculture is one of the most destructive practices of today. It is heavily influenced by large companies that are blinded by the search for profit. Instead of appreciating what healthy soil, fresh water and clean air offer us, we strip most land of its value and do little to nothing in return. This has long-term consequences for the planet’s as well as our health. Yet, the entire planet relies on agriculture and the planet needs to get fed by us. Therefore, the mindset of producing as much food as possible for the least amount of money needs to change.
We should move from the degenerative agriculture practices of today, which means that the quality of soil and produced food decrease over time. To regenerative agricultural practices, meaning that it helps biodiversity increas. We need to build fertile and regenerative topsoil, prevent drought, improve the water cycle and much more.
At the core of regenerative agriculture are the practices of composting and minimal disturbance of the soil. Regenerative agriculture knows many different practices from which we will discuss three.
In 2013, a Zimbabwean ecologist called Allan Savory held a TED talk in which he talks about a way of farming that prevents overgrazing or no grazing at all. Which he has been applying since the 1960s. It is a form of regenerative farming, and according to Savory, it is the only thing we can do to stop man-made desertification. Also to grow back vegetation and turn the dry areas back to green. The farming method is called holistic planned grazing. In a nutshell, holistic planned grazing is the creation of a situation that gets as close to the situation of grazing herds and predators long ago. Which means letting the livestock roam and graze freely in different parts of an area according to smart planning.
By letting the livestock roam and graze freely in herds, the herds will keep moving to search for fresh grass which they didn’t dung and urinate on. This prevents overgrazing. Also, the impact of their hoofs breaks up hard ground, allowing air and water to penetrate the soil. The trampling of old grass provides cover from the drying effects of the sun and wind, while the dung and urine of the livestock enriches the soil. However, simply bunching the animals together and moving them isn’t going to be successful and won’t work regeneratively. Farmers around the world have done this for a long time and created the current deserts. The key to successful holistic grazing is the planning part. This entails dividing the land up into divisions and following a monthly planning system in which you take many factors into account. By following the planning, all divisions of the area will be grazed once in a while. At night, the herds are driven into predator friendly crawls with protective fences. The crawls move with the herds. Sometimes, the crawl is built on the ground of local farmers. If the farmers’ ground is dry, the trampling, dung and urine of the livestock will make sure that more water will be soaked into the ground instead of evaporating out of it, allowing plants to grow. As long as this doesn’t happen for more than a week, it’s effective and makes the dry ground of the farmer fertile.
Holistic planned grazing adapts to the carbon cycle and water cycle. It also empowers rural communities and farmers to manage their natural resources effectively and make the best decisions from an economic and environmental viewpoint. At the moment, many farmers around the world are learning and applying this way of farming and there are loads of evidence that growing back vegetation by using this method is possible. This is very important because if we would apply holistic planned grazing on half of the world’s land, we can take so much carbon out of the atmosphere that we would go back to pre-industrial levels. Moreover, enriching the desertifying areas with vegetation and making the soil fertile again will end most of the global hunger, poverty and war that is often caused by desertification and land degradation.
Agro ecology is a movement and form of farming that focuses on how food production can make the best use of natural goods while not damaging the resources. Rather than working against nature with chemicals and certain practices, farming thrives when it works with nature. This way of sustainable farming builds a healthy environment in which we can grow our foods. Unlike many conventional farming methods, agroecology has a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the environment, people and community.
Within agro ecology are several regenerative approaches to create agro ecosystems. Agroforestry is one of them. Agroforestry can be described as a management system in which farmers grow trees around or among their crops or pastureland. This initiates agro ecological succession which in turn leads to the enhancement of the sustainability and functionality of the farming systems. This has many environmental as well as economic and social benefits. For example, the biodiversity in agroforestry systems is higher, the soil is protected from erosion, food security is higher, and the diversity of ecological goods is higher which is good for the biodiversity and increases income security. The trees also reduce the runoff and evaporation of water, allowing more soil infiltration.
A permaculture is an approach to agriculture and land management that is based on ecology, ethics and other sciences for designing a human living environment that is ecologically sustainable and economically stable. It focuses on, among others, sustainable architecture, restoring man-damaged landscapes, creating a social structure and improving water management. Permaculture is built on three ethics:
· Earth care – all ecosystems and forms of life may exist and develop.
· People care – people have access to the resources that are necessary for their survival.
· Fair share – the consumption of the population has limits and people don’t consume more than needed.
The design approach to agriculture also knows 12 design principles:
1. Observe and interact.
Observe nature and engage with it before designing a system.
2. Catch and store energy.
When the abundance is high, resources should be collected to have a stock for times of need.
3. Obtain a yield.
Emphasis should be placed on projects with the most meaningful rewards.
4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback.
To ensure that the systems function properly, inappropriate activity should be addressed.
5. Use and value renewable resources and services.
Make as much use as possible of renewable energy resources and reduce the dependence on non-renewable resources.
6. Produce no waste.
Move to zero waste, by reducing our consumption and recycling where possible.
7. Design from patterns to details.
Look at the bigger picture first by recognizing patterns in society and nature before you dive into the details.
8. Integrate rather than segregate.
Allow the development of relationships between design elements.
9. Use small and slow solutions.
Start small and make small changes. This reduces the risk of failing and is easier to maintain.
10. Use and value diversity.
Diversity is better for every ecosystem’s health. It also reduces the system’s vulnerability to threats.
11. Use edges and value the marginal.
An edge is where one ecosystem or type of nature meets another. This is where nature’s diversity and productivity are the highest.
12. Creatively use and respond to change.
Design for change and focus on how things will be so that you will benefit instead of having trouble when inevitable changes come.
In the fashion industry, regenerative practices are also being picked up on. Regenerative fashion means that clothing is made in a way that supports circularity. Either through upcycling or choosing regenerative farmers as suppliers. Most farms that grow textiles today are degenerative. The toxic agrochemicals are being inhaled by farmers and they pollute the soil and water. Only by making use of regenerative farming practices, fashion can have a positive impact on the world rather than contributing to climate change and health issues.
More fashion brands are starting to make use of local regenerative production of textile to ensure that the clothing they produce is not harmful to the world and contributes to regeneration and healthy soil.
Not only farmers and fashion brands can do their part to combat climate change by being regenerative. You can too in your everyday life. An example of simple practices of regenerative living that you can start doing is composting. Composting turns dirt into soil that is richer in nutrients, which positively impacts the environment and us. You could collect your food scraps, put this in a packaging box and throw that in a compost bin, where the ‘trash’ will be turned into compost.
The clothing that you buy and wear also makes a difference. You could focus on wearing clothes that are completely made out of natural materials and not out of plastics. Or, look up which fashion brands sell regenerative clothing and buy products from them instead of the bigger conventional brands.
Another example a regenerative practice is making your garden more wild and diverse. You could plant native trees in your garden, allow more sprawl, and limit or eliminate the use of chemicals and pesticides. Rewilding your garden doesn’t mean that you let you completely take your hands off and let everything turn into a big mess. Instead, it means that you create spaces in your garden where you let nature thrive and do its thing. It creates a home for many insects and other small animals that contribute to a flourishing ecosystem within your garden.