Regenerative Economies for Regenerative Cultures

By Daniel Christian Wahl

Our current economic and monetary systems are structurally dysfunctional and at best serve a few (for a while) while more and more people share less and less. Under no circumstances will they deliver a healthy, meaningful and happy life for all. On a crowded planet with failing ecosystems we have to learn that out-competing others while destroying the planetary life-support systems is not an evolutionary success strategy. Win-lose games in the long run turn into lose-lose games. Yet there is another way! We can transform our global economy to play a subsidiary and collaborative function as we embark on strengthening resilient regional and local economies as the foundations of thriving, diverse, regenerative cultures.

We need to urgently break out of the vicious circle of bad economic design decisions — they reinforce a perspective of scarcity, separation and competition that drives ecological and social degradation. Human beings designed this system and human beings can redesign it to serve people and planet. Nothing about our current economic system — apart from the biophysical reality that you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet — is inevitable or unchangeable. Neo-liberal economics is a dangerous ideology that seems to produce mass delusion and collective suicidal tendencies oblivious to the biophysical reality and socio-ecological context.

Unlike biology and ecology, economics is not a science. We created our current economic system and we can redesign it, based on ecological insights, biophysical limits, and social values. A thriving economy will serve our common purpose: promoting the health and wellbeing of humanity and the community of life. To redesign economics from the ground up challenges us to design new monetary systems, trade policies and financial institutions, as well as scale-linked local living economies and regionally focused circular biomaterials economies. The role of the global economy should be subsidiary supporting global collaboration and resource- and information- sharing.

The regenerative processes that enable living systems to thrive must also characterise the economic systems designed to create conditions conducive to life. Local and global collaboration in the co-creation of regenerative enterprises and diverse bioregional economies that serve the thriving of regenerative communities and cultures can potentially unlock a very different future for humanity.

Healthy ecosystems functions form the basis for all agricultural productivity and all bio-productivity. This ‘primary production’ is the basis of all value creation. Without this biological basis we cannot maintain communities and societies — let alone civilisations. Regenerating and maintaining the biospheric health of the planetary ‘household’ that all life depends upon is a precondition for human thriving.

“Ecosystems form the basis of all wealth creation. […] Ecosystems provide societies with soil fertility, food, water, shelter, goods and services, medicines, stability, pleasure, knowledge and leisure. […] Today 60 per cent of the services provided by ecosystems are threatened. Economic activities aimed at achieving short-term wealth are destroying ecosystems worldwide and thus economies’ primary asset. Restoring damaged ecosystems is essential if we are to secure the livelihoods of future generations.”

– Willem Ferwerda 2012: 13

Here is a recording of an online talk I gave last April on the theme of ‘Regenerative Economies for Regenerative Cultures’. The talk had to be delivered online rather than in Lisbon as planned because of the lockdown.


Daniel Christian Wahl — Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.

Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures

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