Last year our partners at FH Münster interviewed Daniel Christian Wahl, a systems theorist, educator, and activist passionate about regenerative systems design and discussed the benefits as well as the challenges we might face when transitioning towards regenerative practices, and how policy measures can be supporting frames. Wahl begins by stating that, most fundamentally, regenerative actions are place-specific:

What we need to understand about regeneration is that you cannot act regenerative unless you do so in the context of a specific place, region, and it’s specific culture. The minute you go into the space of ‘let’s find the universally applicable blueprint’, then you’re working in the abstract and you are not with the specificity of place.”

According to Wahl, moving towards regenerative economies means stepping back from large scale-ups and overarching one-solution problem-solving. This means changing our mindset and being aware that regeneration must happen locally. For Wahl, it is essential to start with a deep understanding of a certain place; knowing about its evolution, history, and resources, and keeping in mind that the involvement of residents is indispensable for a successful transition towards regenerative actions.

 

That said, Wahl adds, “over-swinging the pendulum into a radical localism” certainly would not be feasible either. For him, the crux lies in allocating resources in a way that any population can redesign its economy to be predominantly regional whilst being embedded in a global economy that is supportive of thriving regional economies. He sees a major challenge in the overall erosion of redundancy which the global economy caused – a key attribute of nested living systems that secures resilience, vitality, and adaptive capacity in nature. He gives this example:

 

“If you wanted to create a local shoe industry, you would find that there are only one or two factories in China [producing] the shoes for most of the big shoe brands in the world. We have lost the infrastructure and production capacity for local and regional provisioning. But that is a huge opportunity for innovation and to create platforms of [regional] production, that are flexible enough that the platform itself can be transferred from one place to another, but is so adaptable that the feedstock [is, for example,] bamboo in one place and pinecones in another.”

 

What would then be needed to achieve the vision of regional economies embedded in a supportive global economy? For Wahl, the most important task is to break up the disciplinary silos in higher education, policy, and even in the private sector and move towards an understanding of the systems where everything in the end is related and intertwined.

 

Residents should begin to understand their region enough to know how their work and passion can contribute to collective thriving and abundance within the limits and opportunities set by the uniqueness of each bioregion.

 

Universities, in this context, have the potential to become bio-regional learning centres. They can hold the place of discourse with the local population and connect with other cultural institutions in the region, e.g., museums, theatres, etc., to promote a ‘story of place’ and a deeper understanding of the region’s cultural, ecological and economic context. Wahl also added that academics should make siloed local or regional policymakers aware of the bigger picture.

 

We are seeing a “system’s collapse of a system that is no longer fit for purpose.” In a world grappling with intersecting crises- pandemics, war, climate disasters and brittle supply lines exploiting human beings – Wahl’s call for regenerative economies is more urgent than ever. By focusing on local actions, breaking down silos, and fostering holistic understandings, we can navigate towards a future of collective thriving within our diverse bioregions. This shift is no longer a question of the benefits; it is about securing a sustainable future amid the challenges we face.

 

Author: Project partners at FH Münster