Ask Eartha: A new, kinder economy (column)
May 6, 2016
I have frequently heard the term "regenerative economy." What does this entail and how is it beneficial? — Paul, Frisco
Thank you for your question this week, Paul, and what perfect timing! I recently attended the CMC Sustainability Conference in Steamboat Springs where world renowned author, Hunter Lovins, touched on the regenerative economy.
One of the questions that many have asked themselves in terms of our economic system is, "What if our economy took care of people and the planet?" One would think that more economists would be talking about this transformation, especially considering that many discussions, studies and advances have led us to realize that we cannot sustain development without consideration for planet Earth. Yet, we still operate in a financial system that demands monetary growth with little concern for the environmental (and social) impacts that is in its demise.
Regenerative economics approaches this issue and can be defined as an economic system that works to regenerate capital assets. (A capital asset is an asset that provides goods and/or services that are required for, or contribute to, our well-being … like the natural environment!) Many individuals, companies, organizations and small businesses are taking actions that represent this kind of economic system. Many agree that this is a system that should be in place globally in order to have the greatest impact. Eventually, we as humans need to transform our economic structure into one that serves humanity while also benefiting Earth's ecosystems.
To give you a better understanding of how a regenerative economy would operate, take the example of a business that is carbon neutral. The business might invest in renewable energy, reduce its consumption of materials and other zero-waste and energy efficient measures that offer a return on investment. The business is saving money while ensuring that its impact on the environment is one that is constructive and renewing. Basically, instead of the natural environment servicing the economy, the economy is servicing life.
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So, the question to be asked is: How can this concept of a regenerative economy be implemented globally? In Lovins' speech at the Sustainability Conference, she mentioned that "you can have a global economy, as long as you take care of your community." For instance, at the COP 21 Paris meeting 196 countries agreed to take action in addressing climate change. This is a global response that can surely be viewed as creating a regenerative economy, yet each specific country, state and community will vary their plans on how they approach this decision. This is not to say that the entire system needs to be flipped and altered, and it certainly isn't about being right or wrong. Regenerative economics, as John Fullerton mentions in his "Regenerative Capitalism" report, "aims to contribute to the vital shift in thinking" that is necessary to follow the beginning of change.
So what can you do to help become part of this system of change? As Lovins mentioned, DOT … "Do One Thing" everyday. Start compiling a list of sustainable actions and commitments you personally (or professionally) want to do. Each day, do one thing to get to the end of your list. If you own a business, consider joining one of HC3's sustainable business programs where they will assist you in making sustainable and economically favorable modifications to your business and then recognize you for it! Contact High Country Conservation Center at (970) 668-5703 for more information.
Although we may want to, we cannot all be national leaders. Nonetheless, doing what you can to move towards a sustainable shift contributes to the greater good of our society and our priceless natural environment.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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