A New Outlook on the Future of Sustainability

by Alec Watts

The word “Sustainability” has been widely spoken about over the past decade or so. People are learning about their impacts and how to mitigate them so we can sustain. Webster defines sustainability as “the ability to be maintained at a certain level or rate”. So, to sustain means to be at one level constantly without an upward or downward change in trajectory. For so long I told people “we must sustain” because we are currently living unsustainably and eventually it will catch up with us. Yes, this is true, but now I see an even greater issue. That is, even if we sustain at this level, we will not bounce back. The degradation to our planet and our people that has been caused over the last century is not sustainable. So, I offer a new word to describe the future: regeneration.

Regeneration means to restore to a better, higher, or more worthy state. We now have the responsibility to regenerate a world that has been destroyed for far too long. Throughout my journey in the sustainable world I have transitioned from sustainability to regeneration when I speak to people about what must be done. We must regenerate our systems, communities, and environment to a state that can be sustained. We cannot sustain yet we must regenerate.

Regeneration comes from a symbiotic relationship with the natural systems of the earth. The planet existed long before us, so it understands what it takes to survive. Each living organism on this planet plays a role in the delicate balance of life. Our oceans, forests, grasslands, jungles, mountains, rivers, and streams are all cogs in a machine that must be kept healthy to sustain life. This is where we have failed. 80% of our forest have been lost, roughly 50% of marine population has been eliminated, 50% of coral reefs have been lost, 1/3 of the earth’s soil has been degraded and human chronic health disease and cancer is at an all time high. This is not a coincidence. Our global systems have destroyed the balance between life and death. Human and environmental health has never been in worse position. We have divorced ourselves from a healthy relationship with nature and now people are mentally and physically ill, pollution is destroying our air, water, and food, and we are more trapped than ever all that the expense of short-term profits and jobs that we hate.

Its time to WAKE UP. Take responsibility for your health and regenerate your body by understanding where the food that you eat comes from. How the foods that enter your body affect your mood and feelings, but also how the sourcing of the food affects others downstream. In his book, Undo, Dr. Dean Ornish outlined these four pillars to eliminate chronic disease: drink water, move your body, stress less, and love more. Darin Olein outlines Nutrition, Hydration, Oxygenation, Alkalization and Detoxification as his 5 life forces in his book Superlife. First, we regenerate our bodies by understanding what they need and where what we put in them comes from. Then we regenerate communities by bringing people together and teaching each other the best ways to feel good, live well, and love more. It begins with individuals reconnecting to the land, each other, and ways of life that have been taught for centuries. We have the knowledge and now greater technology to foster growth, so let’s grow!

Now we can address the global systems that need to adapt to a new way of living. Now that people live a life more conducive to life, these same people will be demanding that the world do the same. Our goal here is to enjoy life without causing hardship to generations to come. I would argue that those goals are complementary. If we can reduce our impact on the world, we will feel better, if the role we play every day in is helping others and the planet we are also helping ourselves, if we live a healthy lifestyle we will have the energy and peace of mind to enjoy our time with others. At the end of the day it is really about what we prioritize. Regenerating our bodies through healthy habits will allow us to revitalize a broken planet.

Its easy to be pessimistic with all the bad things we see and hear about climate change and human impact on the environment, but what is amazing is the resilience within nature. Soils can return to nutrient dense crop breeding machines in just three years. The oceans can revitalize and restore at the same time and the human body can rid itself of years of mistreatment, just 7 days. It is possible but it’s going to take us all. Effort from everyone to get out of their comfort zone and live a slightly different lifestyle. Where we are aware of our impact on each other, nature, and our bodies, where we vote with our dollars for brands that are committed to regeneration, where we speak up in our work life to demand that companies prioritize regenerative objectives, where governments work together to fix broken systems and where all people come together for the first time come together to combat the greatest threat the world has ever seen. Climate change and global degradation is the largest threat humanity faces today. The good news is we have the technology, education, awareness, and frameworks to move towards a regenerative society. We just need the commitment before its too late. Its time to adapt and I desperately need you to come with me because we must act now!