Tag Archives: etymology

“Regenerative” as a Distinguishing Term

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.

Truth – Tree

“Our word “true” is closely related to the word “tree”. They both grew from the same root in the ancient Proto-Indo-European word “deru”, which mean “oak”. In many languages the vast Indo-European family, the same roots have produced words that mean “strength” or “strong”. The related word “druid” sounds a bit like “true” and meant, “one who knows oaks”. A tree and the truth are both things of beauty. They are both strong; they hold up. The closer one looks at them, the more there is too see. Truth has deep roots in reality and reaches toward heaven. Truth, like good wood, has strong fiber that bear weight and hang together. Truth is beautiful and orderly when closely inspected under high resolution where falsehood quickly pixelates showing itself to be full of holes. What is true is real, and that is its advantage over a lie.”
– Will Bason on FB