Our planet is burning. Society’s wounded. The economy in free fall. And then all these uncertainties around the Coronavirus pandemic. At this challenging moment in human history, millions of young people and their allies all over the world are using their voices to get heard. They want political and business leaders to take action.

We cannot think the climate crisis without the massive loss in biodiversity, the geopolitical order or the unprecedented polarization of society. Today for instance, 1% of the world population owns 50% of global wealth. And as the Guardian recently reported, this 1% was “responsible for the emission of more than twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorer half of the world from 1990 to 2015”. To fight climate change and support the poorer, the global community has, in historic moves, adopted the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement to stop global warming beyond 1,5°C. Cooling down the planet, regenerating nature and redistributing wealth is the horizon we are have to move towards to. Along racial justice and gender equality. Unfortunately however, our compasses to navigate to this horizon are broken.

The compass shows north, to the secretive lights at the magnetic pole.
Where does our heart’s compass show?

The world needs regenerative leadership to overcome systemic challenges

One of these compasses are sciences and their industrial applications. Mainstreamed neoclassical economics aren’t helpful to rebuild the economy nor are mainstreamed industrial agriculture conducive to soil quality and food production, not to mention biodiversity. As a path to solve the interconnected crisis, a rapidly growing strand of research on regenerative thinking and practice emerged. It includes among others regenerative agriculture and permaculture, regenerative communities, regenerative capitalism and regenerative leadership. These approaches offer concrete strategic pathways to mainstream the principles of “do no harm” and “do good”.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same kind of thinking that created it Albert Einstein said. In many ways, we have to re-invent our modus operandi. We are moving from linear to circular and systemic thinking. From hierarchical structures to network and circle structures. From waste to life cycle design, re-using, re-purposing and re-cycling. From control and command to facilitation and support. From competition to collaboration. From isolation to community. From intensive agriculture to extensive agriculture.

We are moving from data to information to meaning to wisdom

Regenerative leadership starts with creating collective, inclusive and concrete visions from the local to the global level. A sustainable strategy for lasting and socially supported change requires meaning, ownership, trust and empathy. To overcome the current crisis at deeper levels we have to regenerate our connection to our deep desires for quality relationships, clean air and water, good foods, peace and personal growth. It’s first an individual journey of grieving about the state of the world. We are moving from a narrative of separation from nature and competition among each other to a narrative of emerging out of nature and of cooperation between people.

But it’s also a collective journey of grieving and reinventing ourselves together. For instance, businesses have a key role in contributing to the regeneration of biological, social and economic systems. By unlearning old patterns based on outdated theories and learning sustainable and regenerative ones, we can create new ecosystems of regeneration, in the business world, but also in education or in politics. Of course, businesses have to survive economically. That’s why it’s so important to anchor them in their communities, creating synergies with stakeholders, supporting them with policies and access to finance. Switching to a regenerative business model is more than just reducing pollution and waste, it’s also about reinventing your purpose, your “why” on the planet. About asking questions on how your business and its staff can become more positive, energetic and supportive.

The regeneration of nature, society and businesses requires intelligence. Unfortunately, the current climate crisis is also an injustice to our intelligence. The deep disconnection from nature, and also to our gender perception, has coevolved with the neglection of our emotional, social and body intelligence, at the latest since the “enlightenment”. We have freed up thinking (previously controlled by the church), surely, but worshipped the myth of perfect rationality, from economics to hospital management. The reductionist and controlling scientific method has brought appliances in all domains of life. Has brought incredible GDP growth. But it was blind to the self-destruction of planet earth, of heating climate, mass extinction, hunger, poverty and suffering.

To clarify this narrative of separation of nature on the one hand and of our male and female energies on the other, the authors of “Regenerative Leadership”, Giles Hutchins & Laura Storm , cite one of the founding fathers of modern scientific method, Francis Bacon: “In his work Novum Organum, he speaks of exploiting and interrogating nature through reductive experiments, by ‘the hand of man she is forced out of her natural state, and squeezed and moulded’, mankind is able ‘to penetrate further’ beyond “the outer courts of nature” and ‘ind a way at length into her inner chambers’. He (Bacon) continues: ‘Nature being known, it may be master’d, managed and used in the services of human life’ as ‘the object of knowledge is the control of nature. Nature in itself has no purpose.”

And now, at the deepest crisis in human history: how rational are we, letting our planet burn, our communities fall apart and our economic stability vanish?

On the one hand, a sort of “new god of technology” seems to have emerged to reestablish rationality by replacing many human activities by computers and robots. Put simply, supporters of techno-deterministic approaches believe that life can be reduced to data. On the other hand, the majority of the population suffers from socio-economic hardship and health problems, including mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and loneliness. Under such conditions, it is no wonder that emotions take over. They are the expression of a profound sadness about the state of the world. Allowing this grieving to happen is key to be able to go the next step.

Nature-inspired design can be applied in architecture, urbanism or rural develoment

Another world is possible. If we reconnect to our own personal uniqueness and beauty, to the life-supporting qualities of nature, to our enormous potential as community and to a future where people, planet and economic activity are mutually supported by each other instead of competitively destroyed. A new beginning already emerges with pioneer companies adopting regenerative principles, with movements such as FridaysForFuture, with permaculture, with the sharing and bioeconomy, only to mention a few. Globally, the journey of regeneration may not be easy. But it can help us liberate, deepen relationships or discover new and rediscover old talents.

Let’s connect our visions for the future. And walk together to the horizon of regeneration.