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7-Generation
Living Root Bridges as exemplars of Legacy Projects, image © Aliaksandr Mazurkevich | Dreamstime.com

BIOREGIONAL PROJECTS

We are weaving together a local tapestry of mutually-reinforcing, regenerative projects of all sizes that, together, can make a meaningful long-term difference. You can add to this tapestry.

The living root bridges in Meghalaya in northeast India are an exemplar of a complex, intergenerational, cultural-ecological, regenerative "Legacy Project." The work happens in the context of lifetimes across generations: the young are taught by the old how to steward the bridges to the benefit of the entire community, in harmony with the ecology of the place.

Legacy Projects are the regenerative building blocks of the bridge to a Bioregional Earth, a world in which we are in right relationship with Natural Law. They are "breakthrough" activities that can change what's possible in a given bioregion. They must be carefully chosen and strategically executed, focusing not on mitigation and adaptation (important but separate activities), but on stewarding the regeneration of life. #ChangeTheStory.

Regeneration is the powerful process of life restoring and renewing itself. Regeneration is a dance with life. We can weave, wild-gather, cultivate, compost, plant, harvest, sew, carve, thresh, winnow and construct a life that honors the limits and abundance of our place. Because life is self-organizing and regenerating, even small shifts we make in life processes away from harm and towards sustaining life, open up possibilities that multiply themselves.

Drawing on the foundation laid out in The Design Pathway for Regenerating Earth, we need portfolios of these kinds of projects in bioregions around the world, from the passionate projects of students and other community members to the large-landscape restoration projects of conservation authorities.

Contrast the living root bridges to the bridges we have in "modern" places around the world. The collapse of the bridge in Baltimore is one example. The bridge was an engineering feat, made of thousands of tons of concrete and steel. Yet it collapsed – five years of work gone in five seconds. Instead of steel and concrete, it looked like it was made of matchsticks. The things we think are indestructible are, in fact, extremely tenuous.

If you know a bridge is going to collapse, how much effort do you put into keeping it standing? Do you tighten the bolts? Paint it? Repave the road? In some cases, you might. But the more important activity is to get to work on a better-designed bridge beside the old bridge. Even if you aren't completely finished when the old bridge collapses, at least you have a head start on the new bridge.

Legacy Projects are creating the new bridge, staying focused on regeneration in our bioregion. More than a decade ago, Canadian scientist and environmentalist David Suzki wrote a provocative piece on how we must change to a biocentric approach: "Environmentalism has failed. Over the past 50 years, environmentalists have succeeded in raising awareness, changing logging practices, stopping mega-dams and offshore drilling, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But we were so focused on battling opponents and seeking public support that we failed to realize these battles reflect fundamentally different ways of seeing our place in the world. And it is our deep underlying worldview that determines the way we treat our surroundings."

We are in ecological and cultural overshoot – the world as we know it is in a process of collapse. Every Legacy Project is vital, a part of creating parallel structures and processes. Each must be regenerative, affirming and nurturing life at the center of every step. Legacy Projects are created in harmony with ecological principles and a deep understanding of place, with an emphasis on skills and wisdom passed down across generations.
Regenerate Earth
7-Generation GTB is about people and place – social regeneration (generations in community) and ecological regeneration (community in bioregion). We're bringing together generations to learn from and with each other, and take meaningful, strategic, regenerative action in their place, their bioregion – in this case, the GTB (Greater Tkaronto Bioregion). The GTB Bioregional Learning Center is the keystone structure supporting (re)learning about our bioregion, and it includes a School Community Network.

There's no simple definition or steps for a Legacy Project. You need to explore into it.

Legacy Projects challenge us to Dream Bigger and Create Legacy. You start with dreams – the things you believe in and that mean something to you. To find dreams, look up at the stars. Look for that North Star, the one that will point you in the right direction. Think of Martin Luther King Jr with "I have a dream." We may never fully achieve our dreams, but it's the reaching for them, following that North Star, that's so important. Said cultural and environmental thinker Thomas Berry, "If a particular society's cultural world – the dreams that have guided it to a certain point – become dysfunctional, the society must go back and dream again. We must reinvent the human… by means of story and shared experience."

Take whoever you are and make it bigger, more meaningful – your life story in the context of the story of all lives/life on this planet in the even bigger context of lifetimes across generations. #ChangeTheStory.

A dream is the front end of a legacy. Legacy, fueled by dreams, is your ability to create a meaningful, lasting, positive difference. Look down to the ground at your feet for legacy. What can you do on the ground, through literally and figuratively nurturing rich soil and growing things for others and the future? Y/our legacy, the things you/we do and say and think and aspire to every day, is creating the future right now. We don't take that power, that responsibility, seriously enough. Said poet Maya Angelou, "You have no idea what your legacy will be. Your legacy is what you do every day. Your legacy is every life you've touched, every person whose life was either moved or not. It's every person you've harmed or helped. Everything you've done or not done. That's your legacy." In truth, your entire life is really your legacy project.

We're creating a process for individuals, groups, and organizations to explore into Legacy Projects. It's called Liminal Learning – which is really a bridge itself. Liminal = in-between, transitioning; to be on the edge of something new. We are all on the edge of something new – and uncertain. As young people feel their dreams are broken, and many older adults feel like the legacy they hoped to leave is broken, this is a way to feel into living in the unknown – and still find what matters. It's a shift from worry and alienation to wonder and collective experimentation.

The Liminal Learning process moves through Landing (arriving and literally connecting with the land); Sensing (how do we make sense?); Knowing (what's our story and how do we know?); Realizing (a life worth living); and finally Launching (into a new way of being, Legacy Projects, and stewarding the life place around us). More to come.

In the meantime, as you start to explore into your Legacy Project, you can use the Three Questions and Three Dimensions below to help focus your thinking and action.

THREE QUESTIONS


Three Guiding Questions

Dream, a story about hopes and dreams across a lifetime, is a way to start talking about Legacy Projects with all ages. Inspired by Dream, you can discuss the three big questions:

What does it mean to be human? This question touches on the value, meaning, purpose of an individual life and life in general. We have the Listen to a Life Contest and Legacy Links to help delve into this question. It's an especially interesting question at this moment in history when human beings have affected the planet so significantly. Says Graham Saul, part of our Group of Seven, "Humanity's relationship to the world has fundamentally changed over the past 75 years. What's changed is we've moved from having an impact on a portion of the world at any given moment, to having an impact on the entire world. For the first time in history, we became a force that was really able to shape and change the world as a whole. And simultaneously, we began to learn about that world." Have human beings learned that they are at the top of the pyramid of life or at the bottom? We are at the bottom. Think about the fact that plants can live without us, but we can't live without plants. One thing that makes humans distinct is our ability to tell and live by stories. Are humans self-centered and greedy by nature or, if we are living into a life-affirming story, can we come together as caring stewards of the living planet?

How can we think like a planet? This question moves us from "me" to "we," from the individual to relationships in community and as a part of an ecological whole. Indigenous peoples talk about being in right relationship with each other and all living beings. To navigate through our current predicament, we need each other and we need to take collective action in our bioregion – the smallest scale reflecting planetary processes. Can we engage in unprecedented collaboration and fulfill our role in the larger whole of life? Says Carol Campbell, part of our Group of Seven, "A lot of our schooling systems are built on survival of the fittest… It's the basis of an ego system, all about the individual and the ego of that person. My hope would be to shift from ego to eco-system. To learning how to really connect with each other and all life."

What's y/our legacy? Individually and collectively, we all have the power to make a lasting, meaningful difference. "Now" isn't just this moment; we need to start thinking in terms of the interconnection of time in a "long now" because today is yesterday's tomorrow. How will we use this power? It comes down to all the little ways, every day, that we help shape a world that's more cruel or kind, competitive or collaborative, destructive or respectful. Legacy is the future our actions create. Says Peter Whitehouse, part of our Group of Seven, "One of the things that defines us as human beings is that we look for purpose. We have the ability to see ourselves aging and recognize that we're going to die. We can also recognize that our purpose can continue beyond our own death. That's legacy. What I would like my legacy – and our legacy as a species – to be is that we worked hard together, and had a little fun along the way, in order to try to achieve something better."

The Three Questions interconnect your life story (Q1) with a bigger story (Q2) across time (Q3).

THREE DIMENSIONS


Legacy Projects are widely variable activities. What connects Legacy Projects of all kinds, from the small, like a school farm in downtown Toronto, to the much larger, like the restoration of the Don River? We've identified Three Dimensions of a Legacy Project you should keep in mind: North Star Worth, Intergenerativity, and Eco-Connection.

North Star Worth A Legacy Project is about something timely and timeless that has North Star Worth. Is it regenerative, does it center and affirm life? It should matter to you, and matter in your community and the world over the long term. It represents the dream that's the front end of the gift of legacy each person, each group, each community can create. You have to consciously identify and articulate North Star Worth – and that's an important part of the value of a Legacy Project. How often do you take the time to think about what really matters and why it matters? This kind of thoughtful discussion is critical as we wrestle with how the world got to where we are, a vision for the future, and pathways to get there. 

Intergenerativity A Legacy Project involves two or more generations, an intergenerational action team. It's about collaboration and Prosocial Principles, and looks to meaning in the commons (i.e. what belongs to all of us – air, water, land) over the context of lifetimes across generations. Legacy Projects take advantage of what Dr. Peter Whitehouse has termed Intergenerativity. Intergenerativity is the big-picture, innovative spark that can happen when you bring together the perspectives of different generations. It's also about going between (issues, silos, ideas) to go beyond, including connecting science and the humanities. Through Intergenerativity we can expand our understanding of time and internalize the bigger flow of life as we build on what has come before and contribute to what comes after us.

Eco-Connection Everything is interconnected – including the past, present, and future. From physicist Lawrence M. Krauss: "Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics – we are all stardust. We are all connected to each other and the universe in the most basic way." So Legacy Projects must consciously center a regenerative Eco-Connection. It's interesting that "economy" and "ecology" share a common etymological root. Why is it that in a modern context they point to perspectives that rarely seem to connect? Especially as we grapple with big challenges like climate change, we must act in a way that recognizes everything we do is connected to the world around us, what we truly value (people and planet), and the value we take out and put in. In Legacy Projects, we encourage people to connect to the land and include a tree, either literally or figuratively, as a symbol of Eco-connection. The tree, from the Tree of Life to family trees and everything in between, is one of the most-used symbols in cultures around the world.

Interconnective, bigger thinking and action are rare and difficult in today's world. Let's #ChangeTheStory.

PROJECT PORTFOLIO


We are compiling a portfolio of regenerative Legacy Projects as inspiration and as part of a new Bioregional Funding Ecosystem.

A Portfolio of Projects brings together fragmented, decontextualized activities in the bioregion. It makes existing and new regenerative projects visible to each other and the community; enables a holistic evaluation of needs and priorities for integrated landscape planning and multisolving; supports coordination and cooperation for whole-system social and ecological regeneration at the bioregional scale; enables mutual learning across projects; and multiplies effort through synergies.

People need to see regenerative projects of all sizes and types, and we need to collectively work together to value and fund projects across the bioregion. With the interest of both local and international funders, some exciting possibilities are emerging.