Monday, November 24, 2014

The Four Rs

As we think about social change, what are kind of change are we aiming for?

One term that many folks use--and I've used it a lot in the past (for 87 posts according to Bloggers label tally)--is sustainability.  (An early post I wrote on this is Sustainability, 10/14/08.)  At this point, I no longer believe that simple sustainability can be the objective.  While it's better to have things sustainable than not, being sustainable is the least we can do.  As one activist put it, "If you have a new relationship and someone asks you how it's going, how does it sound to answer, 'It's sustainable'?  Certainly not very enthusiastic."

What lies beyond sustainable?

1) Restorative.  The world is already degraded.  Do we want to sustain it in its present, debilitated state? Our first goal should be to return the planet back to healthy, thriving ecosystems.  Imagine streams cleared up, soil built back, forests and farmland restored.  One of the keys to restoring the planet is having more plants.  Plants take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, put more oxygen into the atmosphere, and provide food for animals and fungi.  (See my post on The Most Important Chemical Equations, 11/14/14)  Things like planting trees, growing food, and using green roofs all involve the use of plants and can help restore the air and build back ecosystems.

2) Regenerative.  Here we are going beyond restoring systems to creating systems that are renewing and revitalizing. We are keeping the momentum going, working toward a world that models the way ecosystems work and grow, and keep growing and keep creating new life. Compost is one way to do this. (See my post, Thinking in Circles, 1/6/13) It's important to note that we are talking about growth that's in balance, growing life within systems, not the kind of unrestrained growth of cancer or capitalism.  We're talking about new life, not just more of the same.

3) Robust.  Strong, sturdy, healthy, vigorous.  Not only renewing and regenerative, but capable of dealing with adverse conditions.  If we're talking about going beyond sustainable, we're definitely talking about creating things that are strong.  How do we protect fragile ecosystems?  How do we build systems that not only survive, but thrive?

4) Resilient.  Beyond even robust.   Able to withstand trauma and bounce back quickly from problems.  Here we create things that can be thriving and sustainable even when things get rough.  And, as we know, no matter what kind of world we work for and create, there will always be difficulties. Here we are building to last, and last in a way that supports dynamic, flourishing systems.  While nothing is invulnerable, things that are robust and resilient can take a lot of wear and tear.

Imagine creating a world that's restorative, regenerative, robust, and resilient.  Imagine something that's thriving and flourishing.  Doesn't that sound much better than sustainable?

Next, 4R communities.

Quote of the Day: "Resilience is true security." - Starhawk

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