As the world is discussing how to become sustainable, some call for just more technology to solve our environmental, economic and social challenges. In his recent book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”, Bill Gates calls for speeding up “clean tech” development around the world. At a time where we now actually have more human-made materials than biomass: is it just more “data farms” that we need to prevent the sixth mass extinction?

This article is part of Perspectivist’s #Regenerate21 series. Join our next event on Natural Intelligence with Leen Gorissen on 25 February to discover more regenerative answers to the challenges of the 21st century!

“We now know that the world is not a machine. It is a living system and it operates on Natural, not on Industrial Intelligence. So it is time to learn how life works and to align our innovation strategies to the time-tested strategies that kept life alive for millions of years.”

Leen Gorissen

For Innovation Biologist Leen Gorissen, author of “Natural Intelligence”, it is Earth Tech that we need. Her scientific investigation into the wisdoms and innovation principles of nature has revolutionary, yet very practical implications for the way we design, among others, production, urban spaces and ecosystem regeneration. In fact, the solutions to resolve our climate and economic emergency are already all on the table – from Nature-Based-Solutions to Clean Tech. The question is: which solutions are most adapted to our current context?

Natural Intelligence is about asking better questions

While clean tech may find some important applications in specific domains, its linear and limited impact seems however insufficient for solving challenges that are inherently complex and show real world characteristic such as non-linearity, uncertainty, volatility and randomness. To ensure we’re not rushing to answers to narrow questions (ex.: how do I decrease emissions by 10%), Leen Gorissen powerfully proposes to shift our intellect and awareness on the root causes of today’s ecocide, helping us find another way of viewing our role in solving it.

Building upon ancient knowledge to reinvent ourselves

All past revolutions in economics, lifestyles and worldviews started with a powerful question. In the case of Natural Intelligence, it may be the question on how we can use the intelligence of 3,8 billion years of life to ensure life can thrive again – at the time of the ongoing sixth mass extinction. The question puts our human role on earth back into perspective, inviting us to listen to and learn from, instead of controlling and eroding, nature.  

Examples

For instance, an IMF study shows that restoring the whale population to their pre-whaling numbers is a much more effective and safe solution to draw down carbon then geo-engineering. Whales have been doing that for millions of years and there are no negative unintended side effects and risks. Furthermore, the research presented in the movie Kiss the ground demonstrates that regenerative agriculture has huge potential to draw down carbon from the atmosphere and store it in healthy soils. That’s not only better for the climate but for human health too: healthy soils means healthy food means healthy humans.

Business innovation reviewed

Beyond boosting the health of ecosystems, the Natural Intelligence framework has also powerful implications for the way we work and innovate in business. Today, according to Leen, “business monopolies and monocultures of thought and technology are just as brittle in the face of disruption as monocultures of weed in a farm field.” Redesigning and diversifying business in accordance to natural principles can activate potential for cooperation, creativity and co-evolution – ultimately producing better results – also on the Triple Bottom Line.

Industrial Intelligence (for profit logic)

Anthropocentric
Mechanistic
Reductionistic
Linear cause & effect
Reactive

–> Degenerative outcome
Natural Intelligence (for life logic)

Biocentric
Living systems-based
Systemic
Relational
Anticipative

–> Regenerative outcome
Own illustration based on the Nature of Innovation framework by Charles Krone