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From ‘Sustainable’ to ‘Regenerative’—The Future of Food


From ‘Sustainable’ to ‘Regenerative’—The Future of Food

André Leu, Ronnie Cummins

Earlier this week, the paywalled site PoliticoPro reported that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture wants "farmers and agricultural interests to come up with a single definition of sustainability in order to avoid confusing the public with various meanings of the term in food and production methods."

We agree with Secretary Tom Vilsack that the word "sustainability" is meaningless to consumers and the public. It’s overused, misused and it has been shamelessly co-opted by corporations for the purpose of greenwashing.


Yes, it is a contested and coopted term. I doubt that will change any time soon, but I agree with authors about distinguishing regeneration from degeneration. Vilsak is just touting the needs of industrial (conventional) agriculture, so beware of any common definition emerging from his quarter.


I totally agree with the author, but at this point we still have a major problem. First of all outside of some major food chains many do not even carry organic produce. Secondly those who carry such produce and meant without antibiotics and growth hormones are out of reach to the majority because of the price.


During the past decade nearly every major corporation (both for profit and non profit) and government agency has created a department of sustainability and/or created a director of sustainability (or other high level, high paying title) position. Having discussed their roles with several of these “directors” the only logical conclusion is that these are glorified public relations departments and positions.


Even if the terminology does change and truthfully I think most people identify with the word “organic” not “sustainable” anyway, the story behind the label is what’s important. I.E., what kind of company is this and what sort of ethics are they operating under. Many people just aren’t willing to do the work to find that out. Whether it’s milk or a presidential candidate for that matter.

I’m not sure what the answer is beyond the power of exposing the untruths of this lovely era and being on your toes yourself. And as to eating the shit that passes for food today, there are many ways to provide for yourself and your family outside that circle of death. Again, the information is out there, it is possible and don’t let the naysayers and shills tell you can’t afford to eat healthfully. You can. It takes some work but it is do-able.


Organic food is expensiver than chemical industrial food, but in general, food has become a minor expense for people in upper, middle and even working classes in rich countries. With the increase in population of the last several centuries, land and housing have become more expensive, and especially with the huge advantages of living in central urban areas, it’s become very expensive there, or to get there every day from outside.

In the US, our emphasis on, obsession with, splitting into, individuality, and the privatizing of everything in society has caused us to focus on individualized living designs, at least for the upper classes, and individualized transport infrastructure giving the illusion of power, rather than public, communal transport. This makes travel more expensive (and energy and nature-intensive) and thus skewed toward the rich, and the choice between living near or traveling between home and work is more difficult and takes a larger percentage of larger incomes. Thus people are tied more into crowded central areas (or forced to live in relative isolation while constantly being told by the means of communication that 1. the means of communication are necessary for a decent life and 2. that centralized urban areas are the places to be, and nature and isolation are poor substitutes. All this is tied into the class system, and that also is sold by the communication system—television, radio, movies, internet, magazines, the system of celebrity…

So often the trigger for revolutions is the increasing price or decreasing availability of food, so in our system of psychological fascism, land/living space and many other things become more expensive, tying people into the increasingly industrial, impersonal, hierarchical, system of everything. The need of empire for mass submission while disequalizing society means basic necessities must be available for most (the number for whom they’re not available has to be kept low enough, and the group has to be kept uneducated and powerless enough to not be able to form an effective resistance. and in our society, anything radical enough to be a real solution to the climate and larger ecological crisis will inevitably be considered resistance to the dominant culture.

With a wise, supportive society-wide system, an ecological life is a significant advance in every way from our current life—happier, healthier, more equal and nurturing, more durable, more authentic inside and outside us so deeper psychologically and thus more fulfilling. It’s also easy, probably even easier than our current life, but in the absence of that system, trying to individually remedially construct an ecological life can be extraordinarily difficult if not impossible.

Part of an effective resistance is to boycott not only individual products and aspects of the system but the whole system. Unfortunately, the system as a whole can be sustained quite well without those few of us willing to sacrifice so much. so by far the most important part of the solution is political. And the whole interconnected system needs to be changed at once (in both senses). Political and economic equality and affordable public transport and housing and more, are crucial to making organic permaculture production affordable to sustain all of us, and thus provide a practical alternative as a system, to replace fossil fuel-intensive industrial food, clothing, materials, etc.


You might be able to find a local store that discounts organic veggies when they replace them with new ones. Or just try one organic thing that’s on sale. But you’re right, it’s a shame that there aren’t more stores offering these at lower prices. It does cost more to farm organically, but some of the bigger players are overcharging 'cuz that’s how they roll.


I agree something is better than nothing. We can pick the produce that carries less chemical residue. Quality food is worth the price, in terms of the labor and experience of the farmer, and in terms of the value of all human health. This is a struggle we can win if we keep at it, working for food sovereignty, food labeling, and increased minimum wage. Supporting your local farmer will pay social dividends in the face of climate challenges we will all face.


Funny thing. “Ssutainable” is a term used leading out of the UN with Agenda 21. Under this term, rural lands have been bought out by govt-led orgs.


Been thinking alot about the subject of this article and am now tending to agree with the need to make a distinction between regenerative and degenerative functions and processes. For example how can we regenerate underutilused allotment sites rather than allow them to degenerate and then be sold off for housing developments.

One possible solution is to allow on-site low impact enterprises and community services including low cost temporary structures from which to project manage these services. The reasoning being that most regenerative processes do not often create much ptofit snd therefore do not enable sustainable lifestyles especially when it comes to paying weekly bills so low cost temporary housing is a necessary compliment to regenerative processes especially if funding is not available or limited.

Therefore rules and regulations need to be regenerated as well to enable regenerative lifestyles.


The reality is that food is transported from its source to where it is consumed, mainly in cities. So nutrients go from the soil through to sewerage works and the, often into rivers or the ocean. The measures discussed do not take into account that immutable principle. Global soil fertility is declining rapidly despite sound efforts to slow that process down.