I agree with those writers who say that one cannot fully understand a regenerative lifestyle or bioregionalism until one has lived it.
One gets a flavor of this experience from the comment by Berg and Dasmann who say, “Living-in-place means following the necessities and pleasures of life as they are uniquely presented by a particular site, and evolving ways to ensure long-term occupancy of that site. A society which practices living-in-place keeps a balance with its region of support through links between human lives, other living things, and the processes of the planet — seasons, weather, water cycles — as revealed by the place itself.”
One does not, however, have to move to an Ecovillage or dream oneself into an operating bioregion in order to begin to experience what this may be like, to learn from this experience and to move along the path to a regenerative life.
Some people are on a path which involves working on a regenerative project out in nature, teaching in an ecologically-oriented program or helping to facilitate a regenerative-oriented community. There are many others who would like to live more regeneratively even if they never end up in a place that is conceived as a bioregion. They have an active vision of living in harmony with nature and each other that they are continuing to explore.
Joe Brewer in his course “Living Into The Design Pathway” talks about the entrenchments that act as a cultural scaffolding to lock people into their current lives even though they may let go of some things like going to fancy shopping centers or driving a car. Relatively few people can let go of most of their cultural scaffolding to move to an ecovillage and even then they may still work outside the ecovillage. They have not fully escaped the surrounding capitalistic system nor will they at least in the short term. Interestingly, Joe’s subtitle for the Design Pathway course is “Learning how to live as a human being while helping regenerate the Earth.” I like this as a realistic framing of our challenge.
I am positing a legitimate place on this continua toward life in a bioregion or a regenerative life which is where one can live with a regenerative sensibility. Author Mitchell Tomashow quoted in my previous article speaks of a “bioregional sensibility.” I am expanding this to what I call a regenerative sensibility. To me, this means that we see the world through a regenerative lens based on a mental model that captures learning from our ongoing experiences. It means sensing the world around us in a deeper and broader manner.
It means being able to see the larger community of which we are a part. According to David Abram,
“This larger community includes, along with the humans, the multiple nonhuman entities that constitute the local landscape, from the diverse plants and the myriad animals — birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, insects — that inhabit or migrate through the region, to the particular winds and weather patterns that inform the local geography; as well as the various landforms — forests, rivers, caves, mountains — that lend their specific character to the surrounding earth.”
It means gaining a sense of “a place-specific intelligence shared by all the humans that dwell therein, but also by the coyotes yapping in those valleys, by the bobcats and the ferns and the spiders, by all beings who live and make their way in that zone. Each place has its own psyche. Each sky its own blue.” (Abram, 1997)
We do know that if one holds this as an image, if one thinks about living in harmony with nature and each other, if one develops a vision of such a world, then one’s actions and behavior will start to follow this. If we talk about this with others, we are beginning to socially construct this reality. We create discourses or campfires of conversations and collective learning that help us along this path.
If one follows this by building certain skills like listening deeply with respect, searching for common ground, one moves even further toward a regenerative way of life. If one manifests this through working on a specific project like creating a regenerative education curriculum, a community garden or a reforesting project one moves toward the desired vision. To do this, one needs specific skills of how to plant, how to make things, how to help others connect, how to engage others in learning.
If one is willing to live with humility in the space of “not-knowing,” if one is willing to act and also wait for what emerges, one makes further progress along the path to a regenerative life. Since there are many things that one can only learn by going through the experience and doing so with others, one has to act in the real world.
Can I and others do more? Of course. Do we appreciate those who make suggestions like, what if you created a community garden, eco-learning center, eco-study group? Do we appreciate those who suggest we learn more about permaculture, Prosocial, decolonization of the mind. Of course. Should we strive to do more? Yes. However, not at the expense of not being fully present with what we are currently doing. One needs the patience to allow life to unfold once we have acted in it. One colleague suggests the metaphor of being a “lazy gardener.”
We each need to find our own path towards a regenerative world and do the best we can do. As the Native America author, Sherri Mitchell has said,
“Every living thing has its own creation song, its own language, and its own story. In order to live harmoniously with the rest of creation, we must be willing to listen to and respect all of the harmonies that are moving around us.”
To this, I would like to add, it is the harmony produced by all of the songs that we each sing that helps to produce a regenerative world.