We live in strange times. On the one hand, most of us are getting by from day to day in relative comfort — certainly by comparison with almost anywhere else on Earth, in the midst of war or floods or drought — but on the other, we realize that what it means that the planet is in overshoot on 7 out of 9 ecological boundaries — is that our biological and ecological systems are in various stages of collapse.
Climate changes and biodiversity losses are occurring sooner and faster than scientists have been predicting, in part because of a dedication to avoiding alarmism. We know that we’re in serious trouble because we’ve studied the models and looked at the data, but it’s not like the pandemic, occurring everywhere and all at once. Ecosystem collapse occurs locally and regionally. So even though the concentration of CO2 is a global measurement, the effects are felt differently in different places.
And when we’re talking about restoring the Earth, we need to do that locally also. We need to study and understand the conditions of our bioregion by creating bioregional learning centers or Ecoversities so that we can discover how to restore and regenerate the land, and convert our economy to one that regenerates our communities as well as our landscapes rather than the one we have now that is essentially extractive and ecologically degenerative.
The creation of this global network of bioregional learning centers, and ultimately the development of thriving bioregional economies, is the goal of Earth Regenerators, a growing global Mighty Networks community founded by Joe Brewer, who is currently leading the effort to establish the first of these Ecoversities in Barichara, Colombia. It’s our honor to be serving as fiscal sponsors on a “gift economy” basis for the Earth Regenerators community and for Barichara Ecoversity, and we’re active participants in the community’s activities, governance discussions, and regenerative financial management.
This is also the overall framework for a new series of newsletters and blog posts on several of our activities, including our work on Community PACE, backyard regeneration in Rochester, and Earth Regenerators, in order to keep folks updated on what the organization is doing.
To begin with, let’s consider some framing assumptions. The first is that whatever we think is occurring or is most likely to occur in the near term, is never the whole picture. It’s simply a report on what’s occurring where we are, seen through our particular lens, a snapshot taken at a single moment in time. We don’t see the whole, or the realities that others are experiencing, or what things will look like tomorrow or the next day. We’re not even sure what “the whole” is, since we’re inside it, part of it, and swept along by it. Buckminster Fuller spoke of it as “Universe”: not the universe, but the sacred, incomprehensible, yet entirely real everything — all that we experience and all that we do not experience that underlies it and from which it emerges.
The second is that everything we care about, everything we love or that matters to us, exists here, where we are, and is precarious, momentary, and uncertain. It is on and of this Earth; we are inseparable from it, and it is inseparable from us. It is both source and substance, from which everything arises and is sustained. We are Earthlings, the latest expression of an evolutionary process that began four billion years ago, and still has (we think) about five billion more to play itself out before the Sun becomes a red giant and swallows us up along with the other planets. Long before that happens, we may have learned how to take life with us in order to continue our journey through the universe; but we will still have originated here. And that assumes that we will make it, as a species, through this next potentially apocalyptic phase.
If we are to do this, it will mean that we will have become collapse-aware, and will have done what we needed to do to minimize the impact and the damage to the Earth and to ensure the survival of at least a few of the wisest and most generous amongst us. The alternative, that we make it through but at the cost of our humanity, is not really an alternative at all. The dystopian vision is disturbing because it seems so plausible, and in many ways, it is plausible because it reflects so many aspects of the world we live in today. In Ukraine, because each side is engaged in a desperate, existentially threatening war of bombs, artillery, and bullets whose outcome is unknown. In Pakistan, where a third of the country — in multiple regions, but totaling an area the size of Colorado — is under water, displacing 33 million people, more than the entire population of Texas (or of Florida, or of New York). And in the world of the homeless of every country, the favelas of many major cities, or the devastated rural territories where many more millions are trying to live.
Yet we have the solutions. Every damaged and devastated territory could be restored, re-greening the Earth, cooling the climate, and increasing biodiversity. So while some level of collapse seems inevitable, we need to do what we can today to minimize the impact, to heal the land, and to regenerate the human spirit. How this can best be accomplished is surely the most important question for public policy and for personal action today.