Again, this is vividly illustrated by the case of waste plastics. In industrialised countries, urgent action on redesigning packaging, reducing, recovering, and stabilising the markets for recycled plastics through mandatory recycled content is paramount. All countries need to curb the use of single-use plastics, and to prevent stray plastics from ending up in waterways and the oceans beyond. The critical issue is to divert a linglived material into long-term uses. After a brief use in packaging, plastics can be ‘put to rest’ in products that they are most suited to: as construction materials or even in road surfaces. The benefits are all too evident: cleaner environments and the creation of a regenerative, green economy. China, which has a booming industrial economy with vast pollution problems, is now beginning to make significant headway in this direction. Will other countries follow?
Regeneration for sustainability “Nature does not set out to be sustainable but achieves it because it is regenerative. If the economic system is to prosper long term, it must operate like nature; regeneratively,” wrote the authors of A Finer Future Is Possible, a report to The Club of Rome, published in 2016.
In my own work, urban systems – as the primary location of economic activities – have been the central theme. As Thinker in Residence in Adelaide in 2003, I argued that a vigorous move towards regenerative development could greatly stimulate South Australia’s economy. The economic reasons for this are evident: a city region that takes active measures to improve the efficiency of its use of resources also reduces its reliance on imported resources – it relocalises parts of its energy and food economy and brings a substantial part of it back home. These concepts became the basis for a wide range of new policy initiatives by the government of South Australia. Today South Australia, a region of 1.8 million people, is a world leader in solar and wind energy, battery storage of electricity, solar-electric transport, organic waste recycling and composting, waste-water irrigation, urbanfringe organic farming and reforestation, and more.
In my view, ‘Regenerative economies for a sustainable world’ is a simple and effective formula. Regenerative economies are the process, and a sustainable world would be the outcome to strive for. This phrase includes the confident use of the word sustainable, despite some of the baggage now associated with it. Without constant renewal and regeneration there can be no sustainability.
Herbert Girardet is co-founder of the World Future Council and a member of The Club of Rome. His book Creating Regenerative Cities was published by Routledge in 2015. He is a trustee of The Resurgence Trust.
24 Resurgence & Ecologist
Divergent Explorations by Ilyana Martínez 11" x 15", watercolour, gouache and ink on paper, 2016