The word “sustainable” is thrown around a lot these days. You could say that it’s trending or that it’s a buzzword, and some instances, it has become merely a stock word. The use of the word “sustainability” began growing in popularity back in the 1980s when the abuse of natural resources and dependence on fossil fuels shifted closer to the forefront of public concern. The concept of sustainability, however, has been around for as long as humans have.
For a practice or a product to be sustainable, it should meet human needs without degrading the environment.
The earliest human cultures, if they were still around to brag, might gloat that they were sustainable before it became popular. They had to be in order to survive. If these early humans had not carefully considered how they cultivated crops, hunted, fished or gathered water in a way that continued to meet their needs, the consequences were immediate and dire.
But, as humans evolved, our natural sustainable habits and instincts regressed. The more ubiquitous our resources became (or seemed to become), the lower the stakes got. And as is human nature, we blindly rejoiced in the bounty of the grocery store that remained stocked during droughts, the cheap meat produced from industrial farms, the water that ran right from the tap!
We overused. We depleted. Damage has been done. So now, the question: is it enough to just be sustainable? Is it enough to continue to take from the environment without degrading it any further?
Regenerative thinking recognizes that resources are being impacted and applies management techniques that work to restore. Re-generation in that sense is the new, and necessary, wave of sustainability. It is based on a holistic worldview that aims for a thriving, not just surviving, living system where the well-being of the whole system consistently increases. This system includes the land of course, but also people—or communities—and the economy.
For Common Ground, the objective is regeneration. Establishing a tropical agroforest on the land, a model of regenerative farming, leading to greater biodiversity and resilience. By supporting like-minded local businesses who also practice regeneration such as Maui Nui’s utilization of invasive axis deer, Ekahi Market’s line-caught ʻahi, and McPhee’s Bees’ preservation of the human-bee partnership, Common Ground bolsters the economy of Hawaiʻi and also perpetuates a decreased dependence on food imports and tourism. The mission is to foster communities that are not only self-sustaining but that also have the tools they need to continue to adapt, evolve and re-generate.