Report of the Club of Rome 2018, Chapter 3.1: “Regenerative Economy”

Original author: Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Anders Wijkman
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3.1 Regenerative economy

Humanity is incredibly fast approaching disaster. The complete collapse of the system is quite possible. Evidence of human impact on the planet is undeniable. The radioactive residue of atmospheric testing is currently found in geological sediments. Human carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere and the ocean. Therefore, let's not fool ourselves: we face a huge number of problems caused by rapidly growing populations, overuse of resources and the associated pollution, loss of biodiversity and reduced availability of life support systems. They are mainly due to the ideological belief that the inability to maintain a significant increase in GDP will lead to economic collapse. This belief is deeply rooted in the mental models of almost all scientists and politicians (see the Anthropocene 1.6 picture in chapter 1.4). But this is not true. GDP measures nothing more than the speed at which money passes through the economy. (see section 1.12.2)

3.1.1 New Story

It can be terribly pleasant to say that nothing more can be done, so I stopped trying and joined the party on the advice of the Dark Mountain project. That would be the most irresponsible thing to do. We are the result of 2 billion years of evolutionary history. We must behave accordingly.

Besides, it is intellectually dishonest. There is a path to a beautiful future. Therefore, it is our responsibility to attempt to create this better world. Humanity can avoid this collapse. But to do this, you need to take into account that there is one thing that is more important than the others: a new narrative to counter the one that put us on the speeding bus. This is the main philosophy of the second chapter.

The neoliberal narrative has put humanity on the brink of ruin. But if the Keynesian narration is allowed to continue, it will lead to approximately the same result. It will reduce inequality, but will lead to excessive use of resources. A new narrative could tell us how to achieve a prosperous life in the ecological limit; ensure universal well-being by meeting the basic needs of all people; and ensure sufficient equality to maintain social stability and create the basis for genuine security.

So how, according to Buckminster Fuller, would look like “a world that works 100% for humanity”? What is it like to live there? Our films are largely apocalyptic. We know exactly how to fight a zombie. We brought a man to the moon. But we have no idea how people can happily inhabit the planet.

For the Club of Rome, as for many other people, the development of the basic principles of the new narrative is in the first place.

Donella Meadows taught us: “People don't need huge cars; they need respect. They don't need a closet full of clothes; they need to feel attractive, they need excitement, variety and beauty. People need identity, community, challenge, recognition, love, joy. In order to fill these needs with material things, it is necessary to establish an unquenchable attraction to false solutions to real and never-satisfied problems. The resulting psychological emptiness is one of the main forces underlying the desire for material growth. A society that can recognize and formulate its intangible needs and find intangible ways to meet them, will require much less material and energy costs and will provide a much higher level of human realization. ”

Our current economic narrative glorifies competition, ideal markets and unhindered growth in a world in which pronounced individualism is seen as an ideal model in the economy. As a result, we can observe a huge disparity. The “systemic financial institution” is destroying local self-determination, and, reportedly, millions of people are starting to hate their jobs. The Gallup Healthways annual survey of American workers' satisfaction warns that they are now much more unhappy than they have ever been.

Pope warned: "The outer deserts in the world are growing, because the inner deserts have become so huge." He also quotes the Earth Charter, which challenges humanity: “As never before in history, a common destiny urges us to look for a new beginning. Let our time be, which will be remembered as a period of restoration of the worship of life, determination to achieve stability, stimulate the struggle for justice and peace and the jubilant triumph of life. ”

The new narrative will emphasize the importance of care, respect for human dignity and scientific evidence that humanity will survive only if it learns to unite for the common good.

A good life can be taught. In such disciplines as positive psychology and humanistic management, the leading business thinkers talk about prosperity, conscious capitalism, natural capitalism, regenerative capitalism, and the need for major reorientation. Biologists study the “wooden network” - the concept that even natural forests represent more communication and cooperation than fierce competition. Political thinkers talk about initiatives to improve life, going beyond GDP and about happiness indexes. The international consortium, Leading for Well-being, is developing a new narrative to embrace the following concepts:
True freedom and success depend on the creation of a world in which everyone will succeed and prosper. Institutions best serve humanity when they recognize our individual dignity and strengthen our interconnectedness. In order to succeed, business and society must begin to pursue a new goal: shared welfare on a healthy planet.

A good life should not be worth the planet. In subsection 3.14, the World Happiness Index is considered as a combination of material sufficiency and pronounced life satisfaction. Nature is stable not because it is created, but because it regenerates.

3.1.2 Natural Capitalism: The Transition Line

Creating a sustainable civilization will require sensible political measures. They should be implemented in communities by non-profit organizations and interested leadership, especially in cities. Also, it is impossible without the participation of the business sector. In many cases, the rules must be determined by the state or the international community.
Fortunately, there are strong business arguments for the prosperity of companies if they are engaged in reducing their waste through efficiency, redevelopment of how they produce and provide all of their services, and also start using concepts such as closed-loop economics and biomimicry. All this will allow them to manage so as to restore both human and natural capital. (see section 3.8)
This line of transition to what is called natural capitalism is beginning to be realized by an increasing number of corporations. The Global Compact Accenture 2016 UN survey among more than 1,000 company executives found that 97% believe that sustainability is important for the future success of their business. Openness has become a critical factor, and 79% of the driving force for sustainability has taken brand vision, trust and reputation.

Companies are beginning to implement the first principle of natural capitalism: the cardinal use of all resources is more productive. Neoclassical economists will tell you that markets make companies as efficient as they can be cost-effective. For the most part, it is a myth. Every company in the world can significantly increase the productivity of its resources and thereby reduce costs if the resources it uses are not sold at very low, often subsidized prices. Entrepreneur and financier Jigar Shah assumes that it will be profitable to eliminate about 50% of greenhouse gas emissions through constant technological innovation. However, such a statement cannot be misused to declare carbon prices unreasonable!

3.1.3 Reschedule all

For an economy working for the good of life to become a reality, significant structural changes will be required, which in many cases are already under way. The second principle of natural capitalism is: re-plan how we supply energy, feed, produce and provide the desired services, using approaches such as biomimicry and closed-loop economics.

The discipline of biomimicry, created by Janine Benius, established the principles on which the business rests. They differ from our modern experiences. Many corporations are now working with organizations such as the Biomimicry Guild in order to reschedule how they create and deliver products and services using the principles of nature. Nature creates a range of products and services using only sunlight without perennial toxins at ambient temperature, using water-based chemistry without unnecessary loss. Companies that implement these approaches re-discover that it saves money and provides excellent service.

The subsidiary approach outlined in Section 3.12.3 implies and requires action by the state: to stop subsidizing resource consumption and instead raise the price of resources. In order not to harm the economy, it is possible to do this in small steps and in a neutral way with respect to income, keeping the level of taxes at the same low level in order to reduce the fiscal burden on the things we want to see in the bright future.

3.1.4 Regenerative Control

The third principle of natural capitalism is to manage all institutions in such a way that they are regenerative with respect to human and natural capital. The principles of a regenerative economy were set forth in the book Regenerative Capitalism, a member of the Rome Club of John Fullerton. Like biomimicry, it relies on the principles of nature, but applies them to managing the economy.

Fullerton indicates that there are models and principles that nature uses to build stable and beneficial systems throughout the world. These eight principles can guide us in creating an economy that works in accordance with the rest of the world, creating conditions that are favorable to life:

  1. The right relationship: Preserving the sacred continuation of life and the recognition that the human economy is woven into the human culture that is built into the biosphere itself.
  2. Innovative, adaptive and responsive: Using a person’s innate ability to use innovation and create new things in all areas of society.
  3. To treat wealth holistically: True wealth is defined in terms of the well-being of “holistic” achieved through the unification of multiple forms of capital.
  4. Authorized participation: financial wealth is fairly (although not necessarily evenly) distributed in the context of an expanded view of true wealth.
  5. Robust circular flow: Continuously striving to minimize the consumption of energy, materials and resources at all stages of the production cycle, reuse, recovery and recycling of materials.
  6. Prevalence of the “edge effect”: Creative collaboration will increase the ability to create added value through relationships, exchanges, and fault tolerance.
  7. Finding balance: Balance stability, long-term ability to learn and grow stronger from effective shocks, which, although more dynamic, can create a fragile concentration of power.
  8. Community Honors and Places: Efforts to build healthy, stable communities and regions, both real and virtual, within an interconnected place-oriented economy mosaic.

They are consistent with the fundamental principles of nature, which are very similar to those that we know from the principles of human psychology and the emerging discipline of humanistic management.

Regenerative capitalism is already evident in expandable projects and local enterprises. The Capital Institute's Guide to Investing in a Regenerative Economy covers 34 companies that implement regenerative principles. In order for the principles to become the “source program” for the global economy, it is necessary to apply them in large global enterprises.

Increasingly, large companies are becoming aware of the need for a new story. DNV-GL, a 150-year-old Norwegian company, is committed to strategies such as creating a regenerative future. Belonging to a trust fund, they are able to look at the company's responsibility in the longer term than is possible in most listed companies. Bjorn Haugland, Director of Sustainable Development at DNV-GL, argues that the change strategy "should reach hearts and minds, as well as inspire action and give hope, telling positive change stories."

These principles apply at least to developing countries. A great example is the work of the development alternative (section 3.2)

Similarly, the transition to regenerative agriculture can better feed people and at the same time absorb carbon from the air and return it to the soil. Critics say that “only conventional industrial agriculture can feed people; we need GMOs, we need more artificial additives. ” But this is absolutely wrong (see section 3.5). Indeed, according to estimates by the World Food Organization, 70% of all food on earth comes from small farms.

And this is good news: it means that we do not need to redo much of our agriculture, we just need to help farmers, who mostly do everything right, avoid the mistakes of industrialized countries, and get access to the best methods of regeneration.


Figure 3.1

The Savory Institute is involved in the restoration of the vast pastures of the world through training and practice of holistic management and holistic decision-making. This has enabled professionals to turn deserts into thriving pastures, restore biodiversity, revitalize streams, rivers and water sources and fight poverty and hunger. The institute claims that this is the most promising way of dealing with global climate change: imitating grazing — the second largest carbon sink — evolved along with massive herds of grazing animals. In nature, carbon is not the biggest poison. Waste is an inappropriate resource. In nature, this is the application. Holistic control creates healthy communities of soil microorganisms to absorb carbon. Perhaps most importantly, it re-carbonates the soil and restores natural nitrogen cycles,

The importance of carbon sequestration is one of the strengths of David Spratt and Philip Sutton. Other studies show that capturing one ton of carbon per acre per year is, on average, reasonable on well-groomed grasslands. And Adam Sachs notes that “We are only beginning to understand the potential of intensive planned grazing of animals, which break the covered surface of the soil with hoofs, fertilize, moisturize and aerate the earth, and make the land hospitable for thousands of vital soil organisms.

There is no climate conservation strategy that is close to the potential of the soil. ” Sachs states that “There are about 12 billion acres of land worldwide, mostly destroyed by human misuse, which we can recover. With a modest tonne per acre, we can extract twelve billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year. These are six parts per million (part./million) - and even if we foolishly continue to add 2 units each year, it is still less than a 30-year trip back to a stable pre-industrial 280 ppm, compared to today's dangerous 393 " . It should be noted that since writing this by Sax, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was measured at levels up to 403 ppm.

Companies, communities and citizens recognize that the survival of everyone depends on responsible behavior. Systemic policy changes are needed, including individual actions, actions of community groups and actions of the corporate sector.

A more favorable future is possible. Humanity is able to avoid a complete collapse of the system, and thereby create a favorable future. Achieving this goal is the task of every person living today. We invite readers to join.

To be continued ...

For the translation, thanks to Ale Blankemer. If you are interested, I invite you to join the “flashmob” to translate a 220-page report. Write in a personal or email

More translations of the report of the Club of Rome 2018


Chapter 1.1.1 “Different types of crises and feelings of helplessness”
Chapter 1.1.2: “Financing”
Chapter 1.1.3: “An Empty World Against Full Peace”

Chapter 3.3: “Blue Economy”
Chapter 3.11: “Financial Sector Reforms”
Chapter 3.13: “Philanthropy, investment, crowdsourcing and blockchain”
Chapter 3.14: “Not one GDP ...”
Chapter 3.15: “Collective Leadership”
Chapter 3.16: “Global Government”
Chapter 3.18: “Literacy on the Future”


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