This idea’s not new to this site but it’s worth repeating and articulating in different ways. The text below is from a response I gave to a public Facebook post about terms like “regenerative” and “sustainable” being insufficient descriptors of permaculture.
I like the term regenerative, and its polar opposite degenerative, as descriptors of different practices depending on their ecological impact.
Lots of terms, like “sustainable” as I think you’d agree, are somewhat ambiguous either in their meaning or their subjectivity of success. A horrific example of that is how susceptible the 3 ethics of permaculture are to corporate greenwashing. Paul Wheaton of Permies.com has emphasized that, noting that companies like Monsanto could hijack permaculture ethics, e.g. claim they’re practicing “people care and fare share” by “creating jobs” or using tech to mine food from soil. The techniques they use are bad in so much as they degrade the systems we rely on.
Regenerative and degenerative are not so ambiguous or vulnerable. Does this activity regenerate or degenerate the systems it relies on? I need food, I buy food, what systems and processes are needed for me to buy food? Does the way I buy food regenerate, or degrade, the systems needed for me to buy food?
Contrasted with degradation, “regenerative” becomes easier to understand. It’s a term that can serve as a sharp distinguishing factor. I also suspect regenerative vs. degenerative practices correlate with mutualism and diversity: Is there mutual benefit? Is there diversity? Maybe all the more likely it’s a regenerative activity.