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Regeneration is the Future

Josh McHugh headshot
Josh McHugh / Aug 12, 2019
Saving The World Will Take More than Sustainability: Why Regeneration is the Future.

Not long after dawn on New Year’s Day 2019, I was paddling a stand-up board across the glass-smooth Lake Norman near Charlotte, North Carolina, thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in the year ahead, when I saw a plastic bottle floating in my path.

Lake Norman, North Carolina

As I knelt down on the board to fish the mossy plastic out of the lake, I had a series of thoughts that combined to form something like a Eureka moment:

  1. We have royally messed up the planet.
  2. I believe that we, using our combined, globally networked ingenuity, can fix it.
  3. Almost all of the futures currently being described are bad and scary ones (fair enough, people need to understand how serious the situation is), but what are the detailed scenarios we actually want to bring about?
  4. I’m in the business of creating future scenarios.
  5. Let’s create future scenarios in which we have actually fixed things and talk about how we got there.
  6. I don’t have the domain expertise to create those detailed scenarios (yet!), so I’ll start collecting the visions of the people on the front lines of what I’ve since learned is being called Regeneration, a term that strikes me as more expansive and proactive even than the concept of a Circular Economy.

Why Now?

  1. I recently spent a week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and it’s clear that the world’s biggest companies are listening closely to the rising chorus of voices demanding that corporations take a substantial role in repairing the planet. More on that elsewhere, but it became undeniable at Cannes that “cause marketing” has gone from a niche tactic to Plan A for many of the Fortune 500. Brands are competing fiercely to outdo each other in showing us how their efforts are making a positive impact in the real world. The more world-repairing ideas we can give them to execute, the better.
  2. In April, my company helped produce the Small Change, Big Impact Food Summit at Harvard University, and I came away from it with a renewed sense of optimism about the widespread good that the innovators and organizations rethinking our food system can do for the environment and for humanity.

Here are of the inspirations I’ll be looking to and doors I’ll be knocking on in the weeks and months ahead (you’ve been warned, folks!):

  1. Dave Haynes’ regenerative agriculture thesis and his new firm rePlant Capital
  2. Otherlab founder Saul Griffith‘s dastardly plan to “unf*ck the planet”
  3. Project Drawdown, a phenomenally well-researched compendium of 100 solutions that together, if implemented successfully, are projected to reverse global warming by 2050
  4. Pamela Mang of Regenesis Group
  5. The companies undertaking the most ambitious regenerative projects
  6. My kids, who give me all the reason I need to put my shoulder to this wheel using the skills I’ve got

So – dear readers, I want to ask you a few things:

  1. What are the best regenerative ideas you’ve heard of?
  2. Who’s missing from the list above?
  3. Please join me on this stand-up paddleboard headed for the regenerative future by subscribing.
  4. Engage in a bit of collaborative futurism by filling out this questionnaire, looking back from the year 2049 on how you and your organization saved the world. I’ll draw from these responses for upcoming editions of HWSTW.

See the Questionnaire