‘Off The Contour’ #1, 'A Regenerative Plenary'
It has become clearer over the last few years that we have to do something about the way in which we continue as a species on this amazing planet. With that comes the need to develop some whole new understandings around our participation in what Allan Savory has described as 'key industries’[i], especially agriculture.
I am certainly not the first to identify that we need to do something, indeed this call to act comes from a long and somewhat exemplary lineage of agrarian practitioners and philosophers going back as far as Marcus Porcius Cato[ii] to Thomas Jefferson & Louis Bromfield and the man described as ‘Australia’s greatest patriot’,[iii] P.A. Yeomans among many others.
What is perhaps different and distinctive is that right now we have a set of extraordinary circumstances before us, the likes of which humans have never had to face. These are namely anthropogenic climate change, rampant finite fossil and mineral resource extraction, unabated pollution, degenerative land management and depletive, dependent cultures that lack resilience when times get tough.
Professor Albert Bartlett suggested that ‘…the greatest failing of the human race is its inability to understand the exponential function…’[iv] and he is exactly right in that most humans fail to comprehend the natural limits and boundaries of extractive behaviors and as such we have reached the age of ‘Peak Everything’[v] where we humans now have less than 1 hectare per person of arable land[vi][vii]with suggestions of continued population growth that will see this figure reduce considerably over the 20-40 years.
Many of you are primary producers and some of you will live in towns and cities and on the fringes of both with perhaps a common thread being an appreciation of the land, the production systems, the species supported and the people fed and clothed as a result. Being a primary producer or ‘solar economist’[viii] is an essential role, like I mentioned before a ‘key industry’ in society lest most people would starve and many landscapes would cease to function to their capacity.
HeenanDoherty was formed as a response to those issues included above and really is about enabling a transitory approach to what I like to call the development of a regenerative economy. We are not going to pretend that we know what this will look like, or that we have all of the answers, those times are still before us, However what is staring us so starkly in the face is incredibly daunting and for some[ix] too great a task for humanity to deal with. I don’t share that view as I am one of many who have seen too many examples of humanity’s great ability to adapt to adversities and do so in what I would call a regenerative capacity.
So how does one compare something that is sustainable to something that is regenerative. Put simply sustainability refers to something where inputs equals outputs. Regenerative systems work on the principle that inputs are less than outputs and where these ‘residues’ increase ‘nature’s infrastructure’,[x] and by doing so augment the resilience and capacity of our systems to continue ad infinitum.
A regenerative economy encompasses the practice of acting within a framework whereby communities of people work with the communities of nature such that we realise the potential of all using means that are not merely sustainable, but like nature, are regenerative. Natural systems are regenerative as they get better over time using the available resources not worse or barely staying the same. Nature is at times quite volatile though in general is much more entrepreneurial and successful at the regenerative economy than we humans have been. It is therefore time that ‘we regain our place in nature’[xi] before the full force of nature’s volatility falls upon us.
Our charter within HeenanDoherty is to provide the potential for people to be informed about the regenerative economy, whether it involves their work in agriculture, land management, corporate life, domestic services, manufacturing or other activities that are within the domain of humans. Its also about supporting people to make informed decisions by providing a range of opportunities to understand what they can do to develop more regenerative systems and lives no matter what they do or where they are.
HeenanDoherty's focus is on Agriculture as we understand that it is the world’s most pervasive industry and is by far the human activity that works on the greatest land area. Regenerative agriculture has the potential to buy us the time we need to sequester much of the recalcitrant atmospheric carbon[xii] such that we can develop the transition to what we might call the ‘new soil economy.’[xiii] In other words a regenerative economy where ever deepening and thriving topsoil is the residue of our human activities as opposed to the prevailing situation of quite the opposite.
In each year’s HeenanDoherty Regenerative Agriculture & Living workshop series across the globe we have assembled a stellar cast of very experienced trainers to help producers and consumers get a practical, profitable and pragmatic understanding of how to start the transition to a regenerative future for all. We are really looking forward to sharing this wonderful opportunity with you and your families.
All the very best and I look forward to seeing you during any of the upcoming series.
Darren J. Doherty
[i] Savory, Allan, Creating a Sustainable Civilisation, Holistic Management International, 1993
[ii] Cato, Marcus Porcius, D’Agricultura, 160BC
[iii] Mollison, Bill, pers. comm., 1995
[iv] Bartlett, Albert, Arithmetic, Population and Energy: Sustainability 101, University of Colorado, 1969
[v] Heinburg, Richard, Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines, 2007
[vi] Population of World on 22.7.2010 is 6,857,458,891, www.census gov
[vii] 6.8 Million hectares of Arable Land in the world, World Development Indicators Database, World Bank, 2010
[viii] Collins, Abe, pers. comm., 2007
[ix] Andrews, Peter, pers. comm., 2010
[x] Kennedy, Robert F. Jnr., pers. comm., 2010
[xi] Holmgren, David, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, 2002
[xii] Lal, Rattan, The Potential for Soil Carbon Sequestration, International Food Policy Research Institute, 2009
[xiii] Collins, Abe, pers. comm., 2007