The Permaculture Student

A resilient, abundant future starts with permaculture education.

What is Possible? The Regenerative Economy

Matt PowersComment

What is Possible?

Most folks have no idea what is possible simply because they are unacquainted with the natural systems and cycles of our natural world. They cannot imagine natural solutions to complex modern problems because they have never seen or heard of such solutions. More than anything else, our goal with our business and educational resources is to bring these initial suggestions and solutions into the collective consciousness, so that we can start to think creatively and with a full understanding about our world and our actions in it. Only then will we arrive at the solutions we truly need. We will likely not find permanent or even longterm solutions from our current small pool of minds - instead, we will inspire those that will come up with those solutions by our actions, discussions, and struggles. That being said, we have to plan as if we can find those longterm solutions to access our best answers to the current problems & then we tinker and revise to get better solutions. It is a process of adaptation and improvisation. 

The Regenerative Economy

The regenerative economy is simply one that facilitates the regeneration of degraded landscapes while supporting businesses or families economically. These could be farmers, beekeepers, ranchers, orchardists, and more.  The economic measures for progress could be based around the sale of carbon credits, product sales, leasing the land to other regenerative ventures, the sale of public or private shares in the company, the land, or the products, and even the levels of natural capital and their changes over time(calculated as biodiversity levels, soil depth, soil organic matter, water retention, etc.) While it may sound like a hyped up version of stock in timberland which is slow to mature and cash in, regenerative land-flipping can happen within a few years - from barren to biodiversity-rich in only three to five seasons. The bottom line in the regenerative economy is always one that reflects linked growth in the environment and the quality of life for all people involved and affected.

What If? 

What if we fomented a speculation craze on degraded land? A system in which groups could buy or lease abandoned farmland, desertified wilderness, and poorly managed public lands, restore that land, run a business regeneratively on that landscape, and then buy or sell stocks once mature after less than 10 years time - leaving a thriving business and ecology in their wake. If we could start flipping land like this, we’d see a boom of regenerative jobs using the same modalities as the prior economy but with additional new roles.

Not so Unrealistic…

These ideas aren’t so far fetched as private investors and individuals have been doing this very thing for decades already: buy land, restore it, and sell it. Many folks practicing permaculture find this to be the case. There are many famous worldwide examples of farmers or companies with regenerative transition plans for restoring a landscape and making money - Ernst Gotsch in Brazil and Willie Smits in Borneo both have a tropical successional system to do this. In the temperate climate, there is a longer time scale for investments to mature, so instead of a 4-5 year adaptation, we have 10-20 year adaptations. These provide a spectrum of investments and maturation rates that are local and climate specific. 

What about superbly degraded land? We have examples of restoration there too with real investors with real payoffs - a prime example being the World Banks water restoration project on the Loess Plateau & the revegetating of rural China. Neal Spackman’s work with the Al Baydha Project is also a prime example - it can profitably scale up to regreening the entire Saudi Arabian peninsula’s coast. We just need to make a system that opens up these isolated operations into a market where investors can plug in money that’s already in the system.

We Can Change

What if 401k’s invested in regenerative land flipping? What if Wall St. started speculating over the relative value of the 3.5 BHa worldwide that is desertified if it was restored? What would that do to the economy? The environment? Jobs? Prospects for the future? We can change the game we are playing - we just have to consciously break the pattern. It starts with investing our time and money in regenerative businesses and actions.