At a time when authoritative studies highlight our lack of progress on existing environmental goals and the scale of the threats we may face, we need to turn away from incrementalism, from rationing our unsustainability, towards new models of technological and economic innovation.
We need to drive a flowering of technology that is rejuvenative in its impact and biotic in its nature. Organisations, governments, companies and just plain everyone should be contributing to the sum total of life on this planet.
What is rejuvenative technology?
Rejuvenative technologies are behaviours and technologies that support, borrow from, utilise, work alongside or benefit from the Earth’s natural productive capacity. They may include recognised sustainable stewardship and production techniques, nature mimicking design, sustainable and net positive biological production, or the as yet emerging “lifelike” natural manufacture.
Our economy, our engineering and our technology must become both explicitly and inherently rejuvenative, to make a manifest contribution to the abundance, vitality and productive capacity of natural capital upon which they rely. Such an approach has a number of obvious benefits:
- It is creative, providing opportunities for growth — both economic and ecological.
- It is positive, capable of motivating entrepreneurs and innovators.
- It decouples activity from impact.
Rejuvenative technology and asset classes
Terrafiniti has conceived two major classes of rejuvenative technologies and assets; restorative activities and vital technologies.
Restorative human activities support and foster the protection and development of diverse, resilient and healthy ecosystems:
- Passive restorative activities utilise the strong natural growth and recovery capabilities of ecosystems. Value creation strategies would protect and manage ecosystems for sustainable harvesting and ecosystem services. This may simply include leaving them sufficiently undisturbed to allow natural recovery — protecting and building value by doing nothing!
- Active restorative activities harness natural production with verified net positive benefits in terms of the diversity, resilience and health of natural capital, e.g. sustainable biological production in sectors such as timber, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and industrial materials. Such approaches already exist in the form of certified sustainable management and stewardship.
Vital technologies operate within the ecological operating parameters of healthy natural systems and might, in addition, mimic the performance characteristics of natural production.
Circular vital technologies utilise scarce resources or have potentially harmful implications for ecosystems and human health using closed-loop systems such as total stewardship, circular materials handling & management and cradle-to-cradle industrial principles.
Lifelike vital technologies are biological and lifelike production technologies that borrow from and harness natural production techniques, including: ultra-low energy growth, abundant degradable production, waste-to-feedstock processes, room temperature materials production, sometimes referred to as biofacture.
A manifesto for rejuvenative technology
Growing a prosperous, equitable future on a habitable planet must become humanity’s mission. Delivering such a future requires technology designers and innovators to subscribe to the following pledges:
- Our lives depend upon other life; our technology should add to the volume and quality of animal, plant and human life.
- Our planet has abundant assets; our technology should concentrate upon the use of abundant materials or those which are plentifully and safely produced by the unique processes of life.
- Our planet has finite assets; our technology should use scarce resources sparingly and eternally through stewardship and circularity.
- All action requires energy; our technologies should utilise, develop and enhance renewable sources.
- Natural manufacturing is clean, safe and as yet unimprovable; our technologies should make use of the wondrous organizing and aggregating capacity of natural processes.
- Our potential market is vast; our technologies should be scalable and priced for access.
More life now!
Rejuvenative technologies can be summarised simply: They are a route to more life.
Recent decades have seen a huge reduction in the scale, complexity and resilience of life on this planet. With the possible exception of humanity, almost all other species are either in decline or are threatened by systemic environmental trends.
Such trends may yet run their course, but in the meantime humanity must work to re-green our planet. To plant, fertilise, utilise, encourage and add to the vast and wondrous biochemical magic of life so that we might thrive ourselves.
More life now!
This post first appeared on the Terrafiniti blog on May 28, 2013.