Posts Tagged ‘regenerative’

Permaculture Transition Manual: a new guide for smallholders

Acclaimed permaculture teacher Ross Mars has just released a new book that will be a valuable resource for the burgeoning crop of small farmers working on modest landholdings, as well as for people moving toward increased self-reliance on their property while maintaining their jobs away from home.  As Mars notes, “Today in North America, the fastest growing forms of agriculture are small peri-urban farms of less than 20 acres growing vegetables for market.”

The Permaculture Transition Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Resilient Living is a hefty (450 page) resource that features in-depth guidance on all elements of permaculture design and personal homestead resilience—land, labor, wildlife, energy, and your own mindset—as well as case studies of four diverse projects.  We fully support Ross’s underlying respect for the value of permaculture’s insights:

Permaculture connected many streams of the world’s traditional knowledge with modern forms of science and urged ordinary people everywhere to continue that lineage of empirical investigation. The books were a prospectus for a worldwide distributed experiment in ecological subsistence agriculture for the post-industrial world.

That experiment is now over 30 years old, and I will argue that its fruits are abundant and that results have validated the original thesis well enough that we should expect it to meet the needs of a new generation of garden farmers whether they be former pastoralists settled into towns in Botswana or industrial workers made redundant by energy descent in Boston.

Check out the Table of Contents and Introduction. Then go get some dirt under your fingernails!

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Kramer on permaculture in life and finances

Here’s an author interview that takes some fresh new angles: Michael Kramer recently spoke to the folks at Urban Farm about the ways that permaculture has informed both his life and our resilient investing approach.  The interview can’t be embedded here, but you can hear it on the Urban Farm page: Michael Kramer on Permaculture and Economics.  Poke around their site a bit; you’re likely to find other articles and interviews that’ll be of interest.

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Slow money can jumpstart your resilient investing plan

Did you hear the joke about why the farmer crossed the road? The punchline is that she wanted to go to the bank to ask about getting a loan. Not very funny, except that by the logic of bankers and Wall Street, the idea that a farmer would qualify for financing might elicit a guffaw or two. Small-scale farming is considered a high-risk, low-return activity that any prudent investor should steer clear of.

And yet, wending their way across the highway to the farm, who’s that? Why, it’s a gaggle of Slow Money investors, taking action on their desire to build local food systems. Are they just being charitable, driven by idealism to donate a bit towards keeping a neighborhood farm alive? Not at all—they actually are investors, doing exactly what a traditional investor does. They are considering their own financial situation and how it fits into their overall portfolio. They are asking lots of questions, getting to know the business, assessing the risks, and looking for ways that not only their money, but their expertise, could help assure the success of their investment. And they are negotiating a deal that works for both parties.

Wall Street “professionals” can’t relate to this new breed of more creative and engaged investors because

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Best of 2015 from Stockholm Resilience Centre

Scandinavians have grappled with social challenges more diligently than most of the rest of the world, and it’s no different in the realm of resilience.  The Stockholm Resilience Centre has long been the global leader in researching and teaching about the nuts and bolts of what resilience is and what it can offer to communities, planners, and the world.  They’ve just compiled their most-requested new papers of 2015, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better syllabus for getting up to speed with the most current municipal experiments and global thinking in resilience.  Topics range far and wide, with a special emphasis on recent practical attempts to implement resilience, along with the important question of how we can or should assess or measure resilience.  If you’re active in local or regional resilience planning or Transition Town programs, you really do need to jump on over to the SRC website and peruse this collection.

Here’s a taste of the topics covered; their site includes a full-page summary of each one, some with video and most with a sidebar of related papers and links:

  • Learning to apply resilience: First in-depth analysis of a resilience assessment put into practice
  • Don’t fence me in: Managing ecosystems for predictable outcomes may backfire, new study warns
  • Beyond measure?: Reducing resilience to a few measurements can block deeper understanding
  • Planetary Boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet
  • Five factors for successful management of natural capital: Strategies for successful governance, for both people and ecosystems

Kudos to the Centre both for funding this important work, and for offering such complete summaries of each paper to help guide visitors to the ones that are most relevant for them.  Great work!

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Root Capital: “Investing in Resilience” for world’s farmers

Root Capital is a well-established nonprofit social investment fund that focuses on small farm businesses in the developing world.  They lend capital, provide training, and build the local market ecosystems that can help these small and growing businesses thrive. Like many others, Root Capital is rallying around the idea of resilience as a practical and powerful way to respond to the uncertainties of our changing climate.  Their new Issue Brief addresses this head-on; it’s called Investing in Resilience: A Shared Value Approach to Agricultural Extension.  As they note in the Executive Summary:

The science is clear: climate change is coming. What is less clear is how climate change will impact specific farmers, supply chains, or countries over different time horizons, and how stakeholders should prepare for these impacts. . .  . This issue brief focuses on scaling the use of climate-smart practices among smallholder farmers by working through local agricultural enterprises, such as farmer cooperatives or processors. Aggregating hundreds or often thousands of dispersed smallholder farmers, these enterprises represent a significant, but often overlooked, channel for delivering “last mile” agricultural extension – that is, services that provide farmers with the information and skills they need to improve their farming practices.

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New Grist series: Industrial Evolution

We all recognize the plusses and minuses wrought by the industrial revolution.  But how many of us are tuned into the potentially even more transformative potentials of the current Industrial Evolution? The venerable eco-media site Grist is putting a new, more human spin on some of the same territory covered by the folks at Singularity (the techno-zeal of which can sometimes be more than a little discomfiting, even as it inspires).  Grist’s Industrial Evolution series starts with this statement of purpose:

What if we were on the brink of a sustainable tech revolution, and we didn’t even know it? Not the kind of revolution that would put solar panels and low-flow shower heads in every home in America, but one that would fundamentally change how our technologies interact with the natural world?

Thanks to recent advances in biotechnology, we can now engineer biological systems like machines. And thanks to advances in sensor technology, wireless networking, and materials engineering, we can build machines that act biological. Together, these trends could usher in a more sustainable future — one where our built world seamlessly integrates with the environment, rather than disrupts and destroys it.

But that will only happen if we develop these new technologies in a conscientious and responsible way. In this series, we speak with a group of individuals who are doing just that. They’re scientists, artists, and thinkers, and they see a high-tech, sustainable future on the horizon.

There are ten articles in the series so far, with more continuing to be rolled out.  Check it out!

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Future Economy: rhetoric or reality?

There seems to be no shortage of “practical visionaries” with big ideas about how we’re reshaping our global and local economies to be more just, ecological, and responsible.  A joint initiative of EcoTrust and e3 (economists for equity and the environment) called Future Economy is producing reports that seek to answer the key question about such initiatives: are they mostly hype and hope, or are they something really new that’s emerging and can make a large-scale difference?

The first minute or so of this video gets at the purpose here:

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Conservation finance poised for mainstream markets

Restoring wetlands, protecting working forests and farmland, and enhancing wildlife habitats are some of the most exciting avenues for resilient investing.  Such efforts provide tangible returns in the form of regional resiliency, and increasingly, they are being packaged into traditional investment vehicles that offer reliable financial returns as well.  Earlier this year, senior executives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse, and others gathered to discuss what they see as a burgeoning market for conservation finance. “The mantra of this event is, ‘scalability, repeatability, investability’” said John Tobin, managing director and global head of sustainability at Credit Suisse.  And the numbers being bandied about are certainly exciting for those of us who’ve been touting the trailblazing—but modest—grassroots efforts of various regional organizations that have, until recently, been the primary movers and shakers in this realm.  Consider: while conservation efforts by governments and foundations have been funded to the tune of about $50 billion/year, 

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Corporations buying forests to create sustainable supply chains

Ikea and Apple have both recently bought up large tracts of working forest land, in order to assure that their wood and paper products are coming from sustainably managed forests.  Ikea, which supposedly uses 1% of the world’s commercial wood supply, is aiming to scale back its use of wood by half, and to become net forest-positive (growing more trees than it uses) within five years. For its part, Apple is partnering with The Conservation Fund to manage its forests for both sustainable harvesting and habitat health; it hopes to see other companies doing the same in years to come.  On the one hand, this could be seen as a corporate land-grab, but at the same time it represents an attempt to take more corporate responsibility for their supply chains; Ikea, for example, has been criticized for the un-sustainable practices of a Russian supplier.  At the very least, in owning the tangible asset of the forest themselves companies will have clear incentives to assure that they remain healthy and productive for decades to come.

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Inspiration and practical advice: investing in food, soil

Resilient investors are typically very attuned to the need and opportunities for investing in local, regional, and global farmland and habitat regeneration. Even recently, it was often difficult to find viable avenues for making these investments, but things are changing fast.  See our Zone 6 resources for many tangible, evolutionary options; and here are two recent online articles that offer both practical advice and big-picture perspectives that may inspire you to dig into this zone more actively.

The first is a great overview from Don Shaffer of RSF Social Finance.

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Fullerton launches evolutionary “Regenerative Capitalism” initiative

John Fullerton, a former Managing Director at JPMorgan, has embarked on an ambitious new initiative to foster what he calls “regenerative capitalism.”  Among the core principles he identifies are:

  • To view wealth not just as money in the bank, but as the richness we acquire through cultivating human connections and our connection to the natural environment;
  • To ensure capital flows towards every level of our human networks enabling all individuals to reach their potential and to make their fullest contribution to society as a whole, both for themselves and the health of the whole; and
  • To maintain a balance as economic actors between collaborativeness and competition; efficiency and resilience; and small, medium, and large organizational structures.

We’ve long taken heart in Fullerton’s big-picture perspectives on the blind spots in the current economic paradigms, and it’s easy to see the ways that his vision overlaps with the resilient investing framework, especially in our shared expanded definition of wealth and focus on investing (dollars and time) in personal assets and the tangible assets of our regional and global environment.

The Regenerative Capitalism white paper was developed in collaboration with many of our favorite leading-edge thinkers, including Allan Savory, Hunter Lovins, Gar Alperovitz, Paul Hawken, and Hazel Henderson; you can read or download the full white paper, or the 15p Executive Summary.  See also the Capital Institute’s website, which is currently featuring an 8-minute video introduction to the new project.

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Bigger isn’t better. Better is better.

Leslie Christian is one of the shining lights of humane finance, and in her most recent missive, she zeroes in on a subject near and dear to our permie hearts: the importance of putting our money to work in service of healthy soil and intact habitat.  She brings us into the room as she and a circle of collaborators find their way toward new models for owning and managing farmland (the image is from their property, Living Lands), and then takes us along to a meeting of NatureVest, a new Nature Conservancy initiative aimed at bringing private investment into some of their conservation efforts.

But then she steps back and challenges those who dismiss such efforts as “on-offs” that are not worth our time because they can’t scale; her title says it all: Getting Off the Scales. The rest of the piece is a clarion call for a new way of looking at growing good ideas—getting bigger is often counterproductive; instead, let’s replicate and localize the core impulse and benefits of such projects.  We’re totally behind her appreciation for the inherently local qualities that underlie what we call regenerative investing.

You should definitely go read the whole thing (it’s only a few powerful paragraphs); here’s a teaser:

We seem to think it’s appropriate to scale everything—farms, education, healthcare, and even relationships. Yet, people and places are so much more diverse, nuanced and interdependent than assembly-line products or software code. When we scale enterprises that directly serve people and places in all of their uniqueness and weirdness, we must inevitably standardize our understanding of those people and places. In the process, we surely fail to engage them and ourselves fully. We sacrifice quality for quantity.  My reaction to scale is visceral and intense. I find it dehumanizing, single-minded, and boring!

These are the kinds of investments that should take over the world—not by scaling so that VCs and Wall Street can swoop in and do their “magic”, but by inspiring the participants, engaging the public and working at an essential level—real dirt, real trees, real plants, real people, real understanding and real value.

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