How A Regenerative Revolution Could Reverse Climate Change
Earlier this month the world’s leading climate scientists released the most urgent warning on climate change to date. It describes the implications of our current warming trajectory, including dire food shortages, large-scale human migration and crises ranging from a mass die-off of coral reefs to increasingly extreme weather events. To reverse course, the report calls for a global transformation of historically unprecedented speed and scale. As one of the IPCC study’s co-chairs emphasized, “The next few years are probably the most important in our history.”
Among the ambitious ideas to meet this challenge is to enable a regenerative revolution, one that supplants our extractive economic model and goes beyond “sustainability” to draw down carbon and reverse course on climate change. Marc Barasch is among the leaders striving to galvanize such a transformation. He is the founder and executive director of the Green World Campaign, and an environmental activist who co-convened a first-of-its-kind conference for a regenerative society earlier this year. In our interview he shares what a regenerative revolution might achieve, how technology can help, and how we could advance this economic transition.
Lorin Fries: There is a surge in discussion around “regeneration.” What does it mean?
Marc Barasch: Regeneration is a design principle that works to ensure that all inputs and outputs, upstream and downstream, people and planet, conduce to the health of the whole system.
As someone who has been a cancer patient, I tend to think in healing metaphors—it’s not just attacking the disease, but activating the body-wide immune system. It’s going beyond remediating the symptoms to healing the root causes of pathology. If sustainability is about avoiding negative footprints, regeneration is about leaving positive handprints—lots of them.
Regeneration means not just lowering CO2 emissions to prevent further damage, but looking at how to potentially reverse climate change—designing endeavors that are not just carbon-neutral, but "carbon-negative.” It’s not being content with a model of sustainability where a company’s operations are fundamentally extractive but it sprinkles in corporate social responsibility to mitigate some of the harm. Rather, it’s building regeneration into the operations themselves, resulting in positive environmental impacts and improving human wellbeing.