Tools For The Regenerative Renaissance
In May and June I took part in a course called Tools For The Regenerative Renaissance. It's a mysterious title, and one with which I have titillated friends and family for the duration of the course.
In its descriptor, it claims that we are currently in the midst of a Regenerative Renaissance right now, "every bit as profound as the Renaissance of 500 years ago." While the Renaissance of the past asserted the extraordinary ability of the human mind, the current one is an awakening to the interdependence of humanity and the natural world. We have a responsibility, and this course would be a tool kit and introduction to frameworks of thought and action that are available to those of us who partake.
Merging technological know how with embracing the organic
This is a concept I have struggled with in my thinking when it comes to this topic. How can we reconcile the additional use of greater and more complex forms of technology; placing our funds and investments in cryptocurrencies; spending more and more of our time bathing our eyes in blue-lit ones-and-zeros? The electricity output in our daily computer and phone usage is staggering. There's a stat going round that if every email-user in the UK were to send one less (unnecessary) 'thank you' email per day, it would reduce carbon emissions by 16,433 tonnes, or 81,152 flights from London to Madrid.
How can further reliance on technology be useful?
Perhaps a good heuristic is thinking of a lighthouse. By focusing energy and attention, mindfully, on how the system is not serving us, and is not serving the planet, and species therewithin, that we want to protect, then we are able to gradually reduce this usage while not ignoring the system that needs changemakers so desperately.
There certainly wasn't a dearth of options when it came to technological tools and platforms within the course. In fact, in each of the modules, covering Agriculture, Crypto, Decentralised Organising, and Co-Ops, we were bombarded with links and opportunities to try out the multitude of incredible websites, apps, currencies, and frameworks that are available right now. The fact that I hadn't come across them before now felt like it was more a symptom of my own myopic focus on basic forms of communication, connection, and information gathering. The mere existence of all of these tools is optimistic in itself. It proves that that there are a plethora of people willing and able to use their unique knowledge-sets to shift consciousness and provide resources to those looking. It emphasises the existence of a community who are working towards alternatives to our current systemic models, even if not represented in the mainstream yet.
Most Useful Tools/Ideas
Helium - One of the technologies closest to my heart, given the terrible WiFi my apartment in Berlin is currently suffering from, is Helium. It defines itself as a people powered network, which translates as a decentralised Wifi Structure. While traditional internet is distributed by a central provider (Verizon, or BT, or O2, say), Helium creates a peer-to-peer network which boosts the network coverage for miles around you. The more people in your local community who join in, the better the signal. In addition, it's a blockchain-based technology, and by participating you earn a cryptocurrency, HNT.
The idea of Holacracy, a management practice that attempts to transfer outdated command hierarchies into agile, self-organising networks, was definitely a revelation from the course, and one has been applied in meetings I've been in since. The key take-away I had from this principle was Generative Decision Making, in which you use a number of steps to move through the process of taking a group decision. As an introvert who likes watching group dynamics from a relatively detached position, I often find that there tend to be a few people that dominate meetings and a few that contribute sporadically. Once it comes to decision time, therefore, they feel less engaged than the louder folks, and dissent is harder to raise, so essential engagement by key individuals is removed from the process. This bypasses it with 7 easy to follow steps.
This podcast episode, and idea, really stuck with me. To them, Moloch represents the root of all evil in the world. It is the recurring fact that we cannot coordinate ourselves and find any other solution than the one presented to us (the current system). It represents the thing you're willing to sacrifice to get ahead, whether that be morality, beliefs or resources (time for example). The podcast examined different ways in which we can build trust in the community, especially one as big as 8 billion humans. It examines Ethereum and proof of stake cryptocurrencies, and DAOs (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations), and how these, by using transparency and collectivised trust, can represent a future for our species. Heady stuff, but deeply interesting.
The crypto we used to enter into the course, in its innovative "Better Than Free" model (which means we are rewarded for graduating), is very intriguing in its own right. A proof of stake crypto, it relies on its community using the incentive structures built into its algorithm to collaborate and invest in regenerative projects, ideas, and movements. Indeed, 50 million seeds (worth roughly £1 million) have already been distributed to more than 60 projects worldwide. The movement is beginning.
The concept behind the Regen Network took hold of me after I read a Wired article making the case for Interspecies Money. This Network allows land stewards around the world to sell their ecosystem services (clean air/water, resilient food systems, mitigation of extreme climate events) directly to buyers around the world. Effectively, it incentivises regenerative land use practices by opening them up to investment, ensuring that farmers and land stewards are given proper monetary reward for good methodologies. This could be revolutionary as we move toward battles for land usage in "Global Lung" areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Brazilian Amazon.
Most Inspiring People
Taiwan's innovator extraordinaire, civic hacker and current Digital Minister wowed me in this interview with TED she held during the pandemic. Her idea of using humour to beat rumour, collaborating with journalists, scientists, comedians and memeologists to counter misinformation struck me as something so simple and brilliant that I realised just how low my expectations were for (British) politicians these days. She touts broadband as a human right, created a mandatory mask rule using psychology (we don't touch our faces while wearing mask, thereby reducing infection spread), and helped to prevent a major lockdown in Taiwan using innovative digital strategising to catch any cases as soon as they occurred. Somebody to follow closely.
We met Precious, a regenerative Zimbabwean farmer, in session one, and she made quite an impression. Her model fo Holistic Decision Making, focusing on connecting money to values, creating a high quality of life, and protecting a future resource space, was simple and elegant. She focuses on remembering what we value for the present and the future, and staying within those bounds, living consistently to those morals. Her challenge to us was to embrace Abundance Thinking, compelling us to think, "What could happen over and above what I actually see." What a way to envisage the future.
“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Le Guin was an American author known primarily for her science fiction work. She was an engaged participant in both the environmental and women's movement, and this shows in her work. In The Dispossessed she imagines a society without state, organised religion, and private property. People do not use possessive pronouns in this society ("You can share the handkerchief that I use"), and sexual acts are not associated with proprietary idioms "something two people did, not something one person did, or had."
As somebody writing, consuming, and pondering on optimistic, anarchist, or utopian sci fi, I found this new voice in my world to be a refreshing and awakening one.
Courses to continue learning into adulthood
Once we leave traditional education, it can feel like the only forms of learning available to us are through the books we decide to consume, the documentaries we stream, and by living vicariously through our children when they appear. Unless we decide on a career U-Turn, actual learning in the focused and involved fashion in which we spend our youth can be difficult to grasp.
But online education, especially that spurred on during the pandemic, presents an alternative route that can be just manageable despite the time demands we feel we are under. This course represented that for me. An opportunity to dive into a community, new systems of thinking, and an return to learning, that I hadn't realised I was craving. I relished it, and the new avenues of thought it has brought.
If you wish to sign up to the new cohort of Tools For The Regenerative Renaissance, input your email for updates here.