The following section articulates one of the three important properties of regenerative systems in the context of the business world and the eight forms of capital.


Regenerative Enterprise Part 4: Extraction vs. Cultivation

Extract: “To pull or take out forcibly”16

Cultivate: “To apply oneself to improving or developing,”

“Raise or grow”17

We live in a world where huge amounts of living capital are ripped from the earth, hammered and smelted and twisted into material capital, and traded to create financial capital. The scale of this extraction is hardly fathomable by the human mind. In the over-developed nations where the authors live, stories are told about why this extraction is necessary and good: “Consumers are purchasing more and more things,” “The economy must keep growing,” and others. Massive ecological and cultural degradation tell a different story: extractive industries and processes destroy the foundation of our wealth and our very lives.

In the context of this book, we define extraction as the removal of capital from a system in a way that diminishes its overall the health, function, or resilience. A nearly ubiquitous example of the current extractive economy is the mining of soils known as agriculture. Millions of tons of soil are inexorably lost every year through tillage, biologydestroying chemical fertilizers, and the resulting rapid erosion. Dr. David Pimental of Cornell University estimates that some farms lose more than 250 tons of soil per acre per year, destroying their ability to produce food: “As a result of erosion over the past 40 years, 30 percent of the world’s arable land has become unproductive.”18

The extractive economy asks, “How much can we get out of this landscape?” or, “What can we take from these people or this place to make a financial capital profit?”

Within the framework of Regenerative Enterprise, the questions become: “What are we cultivating in our interaction with this landscape? How can our connection with the system we are harvesting from grow the integrity, resilience and long-term viability of these people and this place? In this context, we define cultivation as the addition to and removal of capital from a system in a way that develops and evolves its health, function, and resilience.

When a regenerative ‘cultivation’ approach is applied to agriculture, a productive revolution ensues. Agricultural systems like Permaculture, GROW BIOINTENSIVE ®, and Holistic Management®, demonstrate that agriculture can actually grow soil instead of depleting it. How can this understanding be applied across other fields and arenas? What, exactly, are regenerative systems cultivating?


16 “Extract.” Merriam Webster Dictionary. Web. Accessed 5 Mar. 2013.

17 “Cultivate.” Oxford American Dictionary Online. Web. Accessed 5

March 2013.

18 Pimentel, David. “Soil Erosion: A Food and Environmental Threat.”

Environment, Development, and Sustainability Journal 8.1 (2006), 119-137.


An excerpt from:

Regenerative Enterprise: Optimizing for Multi-Capital Abundance by Ethan C. Roland & Gregory Landua

©2013 Ethan C. Roland & Gregory Landua. All Rights Reserved.