Talk about regenerative cryptoeconomics is all the rage lately. Spend of few minutes scrolling through crypto Twitter and you will likely come across hashtags for #regen, #solarpunk, and a host of beautifully designed futuristic cityscapes.
While the promise of a better, more sustainable future with happy humans and a healthy environment is a great motivator, if we want to create this future we need to start thinking about and designing systems that will enable this future.
This starts with understanding what regenerative design is, what are some key principles we can apply when designing new systems, and how crypto values and incentives fit into this picture of creating a better world.
The concept of regenerative design grew out of permaculture and the goal of developing regenerative agricultural systems.
Regenerative design is a systems approach to design that is intended to revitalize or restore communities, human, and natural resources.
The goal of regenerative design is to develop systems and networks (communities) that are restorative and emergent, benefitting both humans and the broader ecosystem. It does this by focusing on creating circular economies for sustainable consumption and to improve resource efficiency in the system.
From its initial conception of creating regenerative agriculture systems, regenerative design has expanded to include regenerative architecture, regenerative economics, and even regenerative communities.
When I first came across discussion about regenerative design, I was curious if this was the same or different from principles like green design or sustainability. There are a couple of important distinctions worth noticing.
Green design focuses on reduction. The main goal of green design is to reduce energy consumption, eliminate waste, minimize environmental impact, or reduce environmental exposure to harmful materials.
Sustainable design focuses on net-zero or net-positive systems. The goal of sustainable design is to balance economic, environmental, and social responsibilities. It is possible to design systems that meet the goals of the current population without depleting resources needed for future generations. Sustainable design often operates are concepts like net-zero or net-positive systems. Net-zero systems are where the total amount of energy is equal to the amount of renewable energy generated. Net-positive systems not only reduce the negative impacts, but have a positive impact or positive externality on the ecosystem.
Regenerative design focuses on relationships that create flourishing ecosystems. Regenerative design creates feedback loops that allow for adaptability and emergence within the system, leading to ecosystems that are more resilient and have the potential to thrive and flourish. While sustainable design focuses on the balance of the economic, environmental, and social responsibilities of the system, regenerative design focuses on mapping the relationships of the system and places more importance on conservation and diversity within the system. Critical to this design approach is the co-evolutionary relationship between humans and the system.
Now that we have a better understanding of regenerative design, it is helpful to have some key principles to keep in mind when thinking about how we can improve systems.
Since regenerative design started with agriculture there are many examples of successful projects. Most everyone has heard about how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park restored the ecosystem and promoted many other plants and animals thriving.
Regeneration International has a list of farms that are currently implementing these principles, and the Billion Agave Project being one example of how a systems approach can produce flourishing ecosystems even in desert climates.
Regenerative design is a much more recent trend in architecture, which has implemented green design and sustainable principles for the past couple decades. There are not a lot of examples of regenerative architecture projects, but the most famous might be the Bosco Verticale residential towers in Milan, Italy.
Over the next decade we will see more of these design principles applied to the built environment and the communities in which we live and work.
We are also starting to see regenerative design in the restoration and renewal of communities. Self-organizing collectives are forming and working towards a shared purpose. These communities rely on coordination and collaboration in order to build a movement that can create the tools and infrastructure needed. These types of communities promote leadership and transform not only the people, but also the way they organize, share resources, and use capital assets.
The last area we are seeing implementation of regenerative design is in economic systems that regenerate capital assets that contribute to the well-being of society.
Regenerative cryptoeconomics is the use of crypto values and incentives to design new kinds of regenerative systems, applications, and networks. We can already see that regenerative networks share many of the qualities and characteristics that we find in DAOs. The advantage of DAOs is they can use crypto to incentivize certain behaviors and actions in ways that non-crypto communities can’t take advantage of.
In my next article I will be exploring how crypto values and incentives can facilitate the creation of regenerative communities, applications, and protocols. By starting small, Web3 can start to create systems that are more likely to be resilient and regenerative. As more and more micro-systems can be built, we can create a network of smaller systems that have the potential to create a larger regenerative ecosystem.
By having a better understanding of regenerative design and some of the key principles, we can start to envision building small regenerative networks that have the potential to restore society as a whole.