It’s gonna sound a little crazy, but there are really only three kinds of systems: extractive, sustainable, and regenerative. We hear a ton of talk about sustainable systems these days. But that’s because our society is mostly based on extractive systems, so sustainable systems are a big step up. So, what are all three system types?
The Extractive System
An extractive system is basically a mining system. Resources that cannot be regenerated are pulled from a system or resources are removed faster than they can be regenerated. This basically results in a system that is losing resources over time.
In some cases if extraction is slowed the system can become sustainable. Don’t worry I’ll talk about sustainable systems in a second. But the key to understand about extractive systems is that at some point they will burn out.
The Sustainable System
A sustainable system is one where resources are pulled out at the same rate that they are regenerated. This means you can’t be pulling out resources that cannot be regenerated.
Right now there’s a big push to move our agriculture systems to a sustainable system. Modern industrial agriculture is almost exclusively an extractive approach and has done a lot of damage to our landscape. A sustainable system should in theory be able to go on forever.
The Regenerative System
And last but definitely not least is the regenerative system. And I bet you can guess how this one works! In a regenerative system resources are replenished at a rate faster than they are removed.
Much of North America was this type of system before the Europeans arrived. The Native Americans managed the wilderness to improve it’s usefulness for people and wildlife. A regenerative system gets better with time.
But Why Should You Care About These Systems?
You should care because your life is a bunch of systems. Your body is a system. If you don’t eat enough quality food then you’re operating your body in an extractive system. If you save and invest money then you’re operating your finances in a regenerative system.
Understanding these systems can help give you perspective to make better desicions to actively design the life you want. If you’re constantly dumping your time, which can never be recovered, into and extractive financial system you won’t make much progress toward your goals.
Look at the way your living your life and find where you have extractive systems and see if you can improve them. Just small steps can make a big difference. I assure you I’m not perfect and have several I’m working on myself!