The regenerative turn ... reciprocity embedded in living ecologies | Egmose, Jacobsen | 2021

In special issue of Globalizations, Egmose, Jacobsen, Hauggaard-Nielsen & Hulgård (Roskilde U.) describe a current view of a global problematique as a “plural crisis”.

… what we are facing is a truly plural and interconnected crisis, named by its multiple symptoms: the climate – (IPCC, 2019); ecological – (IPBES, 2019); economic – (Piketty, 2013); and even – and perhaps most essentially – epistemological crisis (Santos, 2008).

The perspective is different in the Global North, than in the Global South.

It is in this particular context we draw attention towards what we currently see as a ‘regenerative turn’ re-emerging in the margins of industrialized farming and consumption, which might imply shifts from historical notions of mastery and extraction towards renewed attentiveness and human engagement. […] This development, we argue, can be understood as somatic extractivism exploiting natural resources in close conjuncture with modern industrialism (Fraser & Jaeggi, 2018) and with increasing global inequality (Piketty, 2013).
In contrast, and for centuries, traditional farmers have managed diverse self-sufficient and self-regulating locally adapted agriculture with ingenious practices that often result in both community food security and the conservation of agrobiodiversity (Altieri, 2004). It is such practices often associated with the so-called global South, which we now see as a regenerative turn in the so-called global North. This is the case in the field of agriculture where practices of agroecology, permaculture and regenerative farming emerges (Ferguson & Lovell, 2014; Soto et al., 2020; Wezel et al., 2015). These pay greater attention to the inherent capacity of living ecologies to regenerate through diversity and reciprocity in human-nature relations. This renewal is the case in democratic urban and rural counter-movements challenging the way we inhabit the ecologies in which we are embedded (Fadaee, 2017; Martinez-Alier et al., 2016).

Practices and epistemology are currently largely based on sciences “built on dualistic Cartesian division between humans and nature.”

While there has been progress on resilience science, there’s a criticism of “systems thinking”.

How can we understand the inherent capacity of the living to regenerate? Over the last decade, the notion of resilience has attracted increasing attention amongst scholars. This spans the political, social and environmental sciences and conceptualizes an adaptive capacity to resist outer pressure for everything from the atmosphere, organizations, to cities and agriculture as eco-systems (Folke, 2006). Not surprisingly, this ‘resilience’ concept has gained popularity in the context of the climate crisis, given its promise to withstand environmental disasters. For example, in the context of farming, shifting from sole cropping to crop-diversification, which counters the current commercial cultivars that narrow the genetic base, is a well-known strategy. It offers productive, diversified and resilient agroecological cropping systems less dependent on external inputs than current systems (Brooker et al., 2015). However, while the concept of resilience importantly draws attention to the inherent capacity to regenerate, its epistemological foundation in system thinking risks neglecting the ontological relatedness of embedded living ecologies. Where this is so, demands to master, cope and securitize are reproduced for everything from high-carbon urban lifestyles to unsustainable agriculture (Blythe et al., 2018; Dalby, 2013). What we can learn from resilience thinking is that an essential feature of the living is the inherent regenerative capacity to sustain. But we need to transcend the epistemological boundaries of systems thinking in order to acknowledge the ways in which we are not only detached from but also truly embedded in living ecologies. This requires relational epistemologies, which acknowledge the indefinite entanglements of the living.

I won’t disagree that systems thinking needs to move beyond the 1980s era in which many have been stuck.

What we need, is to re-negotiate what reciprocity means. And ask: what human qualities characterize responsibility; carefulness; attentiveness? How can we translate such qualities across multiple practices, knowledges and contexts grasping entanglements of the living?


Egmose, Jonas, Stefan Gaarsmand Jacobsen, Henrik Hauggaard-Nielsen, and Lars Hulgård. 2021. “The Regenerative Turn: On the Re-Emergence of Reciprocity Embedded in Living Ecologies.” Globalizations 18 (7): 1271–76.