An invitation to regeneration

“Let the land produce vegetation” says the God of Genesis 1. “Let the water teem with living creatures,” and “let the land produce living creatures.”

The Bible begins with an invitation to flourish and grow, an invitation into more life.

There’s little sign of that flourishing when we look at the natural world today. Global wildlife numbers have crashed by 68% in recent decades, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report. A million species are at risk. Insect species have collapsed. Fish stocks are in freefall in many places. The animals most likely to be increasing in number are the ones we like to eat, the chickens in battery cages and cattle in feedlots – and there’s no glory in that.

Humanity has not done a good job of stewarding that invitation into life.

For an idea of what it might look like if we turn that around, the latest book from Paul Hawken describes Regeneration as guiding philosophy for repairing the climate. As the book argues, what is good for life – for plants and for animals – is almost always good for the climate as well:

“Regeneration is an inclusive and effective strategy compared to combating, fighting, or mitigating climate change. Regeneration creates, builds, and heals. Regeneration is what life has always done.”

The book explores this across a series of themes, such as oceans, forests, cities, industry and food. Individual solutions are then explained in more detail within each theme, with real world examples to show that these are not theoretical ideas, but practical approaches that are already being used in specific places. A variety of guest essayists contribute their own stories.

The book includes people as a climate solution too – in contrast to traditional conservation movements that have sometimes emphasised wilderness and human exclusion. Regeneration looks at solutions in empowering girls, in respecting indigenous cultures, and in valuing community and justice. People and community will be just as important in addressing climate change as technologies such as wind power or electric cars, but are rarely discussed in that way. (See books by Alastair McIntosh or Tamsin Omond for a couple of exceptions.)

Though it is a secular book, Regeneration breathes that same divine invitation to live and thrive into the climate conversation. Restored landscapes, recovering fish stocks, rising biodiversity, expanding forests, flourishing towns and cities, these are all things that lead us in the right direction – and who wouldn’t want to see that? This is the kind of growth we could get behind. As the book says in the introduction, “if putting the future of life at the heart of everything we do is not central to our purpose and destiny, why are we here?”

If our climate action were regenerative, future generations might be able to echo that Genesis story as they look at a restored natural order, and see that it is “very good.”

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