JOIN US FOR A WATERSHED MOMENT AT “PARKSVILLE 2019”: What happens on the land matters – “We can decrease our Destructive Footprint while increasing our Restoration Footprint,” said Storm Cunningham when providing a restorative development context for reconnecting hydrology to ecology in order to re-establish creekshed function in a changing climate

Note to Reader:

Everywhere one turns these days, some form of the words “renewal”, “restoration” or “regeneration” appear. Storm Cunningham was the catalyst of that global “re” trend when he published The Restoration Economy in 2002. This was followed by reWealth in 2008. Coming in 2019 is his third book, RECONOMICS: Resilient Prosperity For All.

Storm Cunningham’s books are meant to launch a new dialogue, not to resolve or end one. He believes that we need to start talking about, thinking about, and researching the “whole” created by the myriad activities that are already restoring our built and natural environments worldwide.

Storm Cunningham is founder of and the hands-on publisher of the global news journal REVITALIZATION. He has made multiple presentations to British Columbia audiences over the years, and has a particular affinity for Vancouver Island.

At the Parksville 2019 Symposium, Storm Cunningham will deliver a FREE public lecture to provide the bridge between the first and second days of this watershed moment. At the conclusion of Parksville 2019, he will reflect on what he heard throughout the 2-day symposium and conclude with an inspirational message based on what he has learned about Vancouver Island initiatives.

TO LEARN MORE, download a copy of the brochure: “Parksville 2019: Second Annual Vancouver Island Symposium on Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate – Make Better Land Use Decisions & Move Towards Restorative Land Development” (April 2-3-4, 2019)

Reconnect hydrology and ecology – what happens on the land in the creekshed does matter to streams!

Storm Cunningham has been called “the world’s thought leader on community revitalization and natural resource restoration”. His message:

When collaboration goes beyond the watershed restoration ‘silo’, it can yield partnerships with local and regional revitalization efforts. This, in turn, can yield new funding and political support for restoration.”

Storm Cunningham might be the only revitalization facilitator who addresses all aspects of renewal; natural and cultural resources, urban and rural communities, industrialized and lesser-developed countries, etc.

In his first book,  The Restoration Economy, Storm Cunningham posited that three disruptive-but-positive trends are reshaping the design, planning, and implementation of regenerative projects in the 21st century, whether individual properties or landscape-scale initiatives: 1) asset renewal, 2) asset integration, and 3) stakeholder engagement.

In the decades since, he has evolved his message significantly. His focus is on how almost any discipline can become a vital contributor to the rapid, resilient renewal of communities and regions.

The Challenge: Design with Nature

“In my experience, the civil engineering profession has trouble adopting the restorative mind-set.  The main problem is that engineering is all about control and certainty. Urban planners have a similar problem. But living systems—like watersheds and cities—resist control, and exhibit surprising behavior when they are healthy,” states Storm Cunningham.

“This is why 80% of the revitalizing work done by urban planners and civil engineers in the 21st century will undo 80% of the work their predecessors did to cities and nature in the 20th century. We don’t fully understand complex systems, so humility and adaptive management are needed to restore nature, and to revitalize cities.”

We Can Create the Future We Want

“Visionaries, designers, planners, policy makers, and project managers abound. Strategists are rare. As a result, resilience and revitalization efforts often fail due to 1) bad strategy, and 2) no strategy. Since strategies are our path to success, they become our primary interface with our world. Thus, what we restore, restores us. What we revitalize, revitalizes us.”

Vision and Strategy Go Hand in Hand

“Without a Strategic Renewal Process, disappointment is – sadly – the norm after resilience and revitalization efforts,” stated Storm Cunningham.

“This is true of rural towns, metropolitan areas, and regions alike.

“But, don’t let all this talk of process obscure a simple truth: if your mission/vision isn’t worthy – and you aren’t committed to it – the most perfect of processes won’t save you.”

Ecological Footprint /Restoration Footprint

“The whole idea of reducing our footprint is great, I said to Bill, but what about the flip side? Shouldn’t we also be measuring the restorative effects that our society, and our economy, are having? My point was that, at the same time as we are decreasing our destructive footprint, we can also be increasing our restoration footprint. That is a core message of restorative development.”

Genesis of the Vision for Restorative Development

“I have been an amateur herpetologist all my life and I just love reptiles and amphibians. I am also a scuba diver. The combination of the two passions led me to the restoration focus that has defined my career,” continued Storm Cunningham.

“My Aha Moment occurred around 1990 when I volunteered to assist a German scientist with a project in Jamaica. He was working on a really unique and effective technology for restoring coral reefs quickly. He needed volunteer scuba divers to help him place the experiments on the ocean floor. So I went down there for a week.

Make Less Worse or Make Better – Which Will It Be?

“During that week, I saw his experiments in action, and they were really eye-opening. That was when it struck me that we do not have to be satisfied with the normal kind of sustainability paradigm – which is merely slowing down the rate of damage and reducing the amount of pollution and destruction.

“At that moment, I realized that the goal of making the world “less worse” does not go far enough. Rather, we have it within our power to undo previous damage and make the world better. That’s when the idea of a restoration economy hit me.

“As I wrote in the Restoration Economy, a working definition of restorative development is: the process of adding new value to natural or built assets, ideally in a manner that detracts neither from their other preexisting values, nor from the value of other assets.”

Trimodal Development Perspective – An updated version of a graphic from The Restoration Economy

The Three Modes of the Development Life Cycle

“Maturing civilizations stand on three legs: new development (adaptive conquest); maintenance/conservation; and restorative development (adaptive renewal),” explains Storm Cunningham. “Dominance periodically shifts from one leg to another, fundamentally altering technology, culture, and commerce. We are now in such a transition.

  • Adaptive Conquest: This crude pioneering mode launches most communities and civilizations, but destroys irreplaceable assets if prolonged. New development is fast becoming less profitable, less desirable, and less possible.
  • Maintenance/Conservation: This calmer mode is always present, seldom dominant.
  • Adaptive Renewal: This dynamic, high-energy mode restores the existing built environment and natural environment. Restorative development is nearing dominance – in construction, ecology, government and business.

“Obvious? Sure. But we’ve failed to formally acknowledge these three modes of development in our economic and social dialogue,” wrote Storm Cunningham in 2002. “This failure substantially delayed  our inevitable transition to the long-lasting ‘third’ mode – restoration (the real ‘third wave’?).

“This has been a tragic oversight, because, of the three development modes, restorative development is the only one that can fuel continual economic growth without limit. Fortunately, the ‘restoration backlog’ is creating such pressure that we seem to be making up for lost time.

“Those leaders who become aware of this vast new frontier of opportunity, and who guide their community, national, and company futures in this direction, will be the foremost leaders of the twenty-first century,” he concluded.

Dewealth, Preservative Wealth, and reWealth

There are three types of wealth creation in this world, says Storm Cunningham.

Destructive wealth, or “dewealth” is derived from depleting the earth’s resources and ecosystems and replacing them with such transitory assets as office complexes and shopping malls. It’s the model that enabled the building of new civilizations, but can also destroy them if they don’t shift into a renewal mode.

Then there is preservative wealth, which derives from preserving assets and maintaining systems, while neither depleting nor actively replenishing the world’s assets.

Finally, there is regenerative wealth, or “reWealth,” derived from replenishing natural and cultural resources, by restoring, reusing, renovating, regenerating the built environment.

That’s the premise of Cunningham’s book, reWealth! (2008), which serves almost as a handbook for readers following up on his earlier book The Restoration Economy (2002).

The Restoration Economy

The Restoration Economy introduced the huge and multifaceted industrial opportunity that gave the book its title. It was the first book to encompass restoration of both built and natural environments, documenting the crises, disciplines and industries that lie beneath what Cunningham sees as a global trend toward renewal.

In reWealth! he makes a clear distinction between what he calls dewealth and rewealth economies. The first depletes resources, depletes wildlife habitat, degrades the environment, and, in return, yields something called progress. In contrast, a rewealth economy restores all those things, leaving everything better than it was when we found it.

In proposing rewealth, what he is really proposing is a new economic model.

“Making our old economic model greener and more sustainable,” he said, “is like inventing a healthier form of cancer, rather than eliminating it.”

The principles outlined in the book apply to every level of society, from neighbourhoods up. And they can be applied without spending a lot of money.