Regenerative Culture

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Chalice lighting

We come together with all we are

We bear tendernesses and great strengths

Together, let our wounds be tended

Let our strengths shine, joining together as a great beacon

Driving away the shadows of hopelessness

Dispelling the darkness of disconnection

Lighting the way to a more just and loving future

Reading: from Designing Regenerative Cultures, by Daniel Christian Wahl 

A regenerative human culture is healthy, resilient and adaptable; it cares for the planet and it cares for life in the awareness that this is the most effective way to create a thriving future for all of humanity. The concept of resilience is closely related to health, as it describes the ability to recover basic vital functions and bounce back from any kind of temporary breakdown or crisis. When we aim for sustainability from a systemic perspective, we are trying to sustain the pattern that connects and strengthens the whole system. Sustainability is first and foremost about systemic health and resilience at different scales, from local, to regional and global.

Reading: by Beth Maiden, XR Machynlleth regenerative culture group

Almost everyone I talked to in the wake of April’s rebellion in London described taking part as ‘overwhelming’, even if they had a great time (which most had)! Actions like these are very intense and complex, and it’s hard work for most of us to participate. Hard work physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Suddenly, for days, a week, two, we are like a tiny pop-up nation, requiring systems for decision-making, communication, care and support, and more. Feelings run high as we co-create community, trying to respond collectively to a fluctuating, unpredictable environment that can change in an instant.

Then, just as suddenly, we are home, coming down from it all. Trying to make sense of what just happened, how it felt, what worked, what didn’t. What was joyful, what was painful. The whole roller coaster of feelings we’ve just ridden.

We’re often so focused on the ‘action’ part of activism that we forget that driving it all is emotion. We act because we feel something. And when we are acting, we keep on feeling – highs, lows, joy, grief, anger, love, hope, elation, and of course the comedown after.

And so we need space to process. Space to share all that comes up for us – the common ground, and the different experiences. Space to celebrate. Space to release grief and pain. Space to gather back in all of the parts of ourselves that are so easily lost in these big overwhelming actions and in the fight of everyday life. Space to be witnessed as whole, imperfect, feeling beings. Space to witness each other.

Message: by Andy Pakula

When I was a kid, I was a little scientist. Like so many children, I was curious about how the world works and I did little experiments. I mashed up berries from a particular shrub in front of our house – I think we called them mushelberries because they were plump and full of goo. 

I was fascinated about the way the Sun’s rays could be focused with a magnifying glass. If I got it just the right distance from a leaf the heat would be intense enough for smoke to appear and a hole to appear. Anything with fire or heat was fascinating, to tell the truth. 

At some point, I learned that it is possible to make a closed terrarium – something like the ones on the cover of the handout. This amazed me. No air was getting in our out. There was no rain from outside. No fertiliser. And yet, somehow, the life in the terrarium could continue indefinitely.

My mum would never let me get one or make one unfortunately. Also, I suspect that – pre-Internet – I couldn’t really get hold of a good set of instructions on how to do it.

But I did come to understand that, in that closed bottle, there was a whole life system. The water in the bottle would evaporate and then condense on the inside of the bottle to return as miniature rain.

The plants would produce absorb carbon dioxide during the day and use it to make energy and oxygen. They would use the oxygen at night as they used the stored energy and produce carbon dioxide. 

The microbes in the soil would also do all kinds of magic, creating more carbon dioxide for the plants to grow.

It is a closed system. It needs only sunlight for everything to work.

A closed terrarium of this sort is a regenerative system. That is, every resource it consumes it also produces. It does not need to drill for oil, mine for coal, cut down forests, drive cars, fly in planes, or use electricity. Everything it uses, it regenerates.

We are going to talk more about regenerative systems today, but mostly in the context of regenerative culture. Regenerative thinking, though, is very much applied to ecology and agriculture and architecture. It is a way of thinking that is important to the future of the planet. 

We first thought we could strip as much resources from the planet as we wanted – that it was almost limitless in quantity. And then we began to aim for sustainable use – the idea that we wouldn’t use so much that there wouldn’t be enough for our children and grandchildren. 

But we see the impact of endlessly using resources and endlessly pumping waste products into the water and the air. Now, we begin to think about a future that is more than sustainable – a future that is based on regenerative approaches.

I have been very impressed by Extinction Rebellion and I’m delighted that New Unity is involved and becoming more involved. We’ve known about climate change for years, for decades even – and despite all the reports, the science, the international alarms that have been sounded, and all the environmental charities that have focused on this coming catastrophe, it seems like governments and industries have been doing business as usual. 

Climate change made the headlines rarely, usually when some big announcement is made – and then it disappears again, eclipsed by the latest Trump outrage, the most recent twist and turn with Brexit, or a rumour of conflict within the Royal Family.

Extinction Rebellion has figured out how to get noticed and how to keep the coming climate catastrophe in our view. 

But this is not all that impresses me. Plenty of movements have got attention. Violence gets attention. Vandalism gets attention. 

But I noticed from the outset that Extinction Rebellion seemed to be unfailingly, well, nice. They were apologetic to people who were delayed when they blocked traffic. They were kind and compassionate to the police – and have been criticised harshly for doing so.

And they have been unerringly caring for one another. 

This is a glimpse into the regenerative culture of Extinction Rebellion.

It shows up plainly in the reminder that is shared before every meeting:

“Regenerative Culture reminder: We are transitioning to a regenerative culture. It is a culture of respect and listening, in which people arrive on time to commitments. And deal with conflicts when they arise, using short feedback loops to talk about disagreements and issues without blaming and shaming. It is a culture in which we cultivate healthy boundaries by slowing down our yes’s and returning tasks when we are unable to follow through. We are all crew.”

The culture XR is building is one that aims to prevent human beings from being used up, or burnt out. It aims to create a system that is self-renewing.

It includes maintaining healthy community by dealing with disagreements promptly and directly. 

It emphasises respect and its most obvious embodiment – listening

It asks people to be slow to say yes so they don’t work with regret and resentment.

And finally, we are all crew. No one is the only important person. Even the clear leaders of XR do their best to keep a low profile.

Healthy community. Mutual respect. Taking on only what is right for you. We are all crew.

I have also been pleased to notice the extensive similarities between the culture of XR and the culture of New Unity. Both organisations begin meetings with caring, deep check-ins. Both are dedicated to being there for each other. Both insist on addressing disputes directly and promptly. Both make room to involve people as much as they want and in many different ways.

Of all of the wonderful qualities of the XR culture, the one that sticks with me is “we are all crew”. It brings to mind my favourite New Unity song, the one we started with today – Blue Boat Home. The Earth is our vessel sailing through the universe and we, kindred souls, are its crew.

It is a concept that both excites me and makes me uneasy. 

“We are all crew” means that no one is a passenger, free to sleep in their cabin and leave the work to others. 

It also means that that no one is captain. No one has all the answers. No one is the hero that changes everything. Change happens through all the small actions. It is bringing out the strengths of the people that makes things better, that creates change.

I love this because it means we are all in it together and all responsible. I am happy to be a catalyst. 

But I’m also uneasy about the potential of devaluing expertise. We’ve seen a lot of that in the US lately and it has made people happy to deny climate change. Expertise matters. If I’m on a plane, I don’t want everyone on the plane to be crew taking an equal part in flying the thing – I want the experts doing that!

As we are talking about “we are all crew”, I want to do something radical now. I want to ask you to provide the rest of this message.

Here’s the question: What would it mean for New Unity to more fully live into the words “we are all crew”? What would it look like? What would be the impact?

Take a few minutes now to talk with one or a couple of people – or just think on your own. After you’re done, I’ll open it up to you to speak.

Let us continue always to be together with care

To strive toward our vision with love

To bring out the best in each one of us

And bring about a better life for all

Closing words

Power arises not from a single hero but from the strengths of the many

People together uniting in care

Uniting in responsibility

Uniting in passion

This can change things

This is how we heal the wounds of the present

It is how we build the future