What We’re Reading And Watching

Regeneration will be a key business meme in the 2020s. This is the beginning of an open access library of key resources created by the Volans team. Please suggest resources you think should be included


The concept has long roots. In agriculture, it goes back to the practice of fallowing and more recently to concepts like permaculture, while in city planning there is a long history of urban regeneration. Among the pioneers Volans has spotlighted is Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project, an inaugural winner of the Green Swan Award. But the concept has gained new urgency because of the sheer number and range of resources we have undermined since the first Industrial Revolution, including our climate, soils, forests, wetlands, coral reefs, fisheries and the like. For insights into the degenerative impacts of our civilization, a useful start would be the Planetary Boundaries work of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

One of the most consistent business champions of regeneration has been Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, Inc. He was the first interviewee in our series of Meet the Regenerator conversations. Other major companies referring to the regeneration agenda include Procter & Gamble during the 2020 World Economic Forum meeting. At the smaller end of the spectrum there are companies like Vivo Barefoot. Perhaps the most startling recent voice on the theme has been that of Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, referenced above. Interestingly, a key influence on Walmart’s commitment and the phrasing of McMillon’s speech was Paul Hawken, whose book Regeneration is due for release in September 2021.

Contact Volans and join our work on Regenerative Leadership and a forward-looking board agenda with Board Intelligence.

Drawing on evidence to date, including Green Swan sessions we did with SOCAP Global and with Toniic, the answer would be the nexus of soils, water, agriculture, food, nutrition and health – one of the four sectors we are focusing on via the Observatory.

If the Regenerative Economy takes off as we expect, all sectors will be impacted, directly or indirectly. And among the other sectors that will be drawn in well before the end of this decade will be public policy, investment and education. All three will be covered in future iterations of the Observatory, with the financial world already covered under our Sector Scans, and the educational world covered under Education.

Too few is the inconvenient truth. But growing numbers are showing interest, notably those already involved in Green Swan Education program – so far covering Japan (Shizenkan University), the UK (Exeter University, Imperial College and UCL) and the USA (Bard College). Early student projects are covered in our Education section.

It’s often forgotten, but markets are social constructs – heavily shaped by governments and public policy. If the Regenerative Economy is to take off, politicians, policy-makers and the public sector generally will need to be actively involved over extended timescales. Given the greater freedom that cities and urban regions often have when compared to national and international government agencies, that’s a key reason why we are focusing in on cities as part of our Sector Scans. The scale of public sector recovery plans and budgets is another reason for paying attention to the political sphere, with the most obvious examples including the EU’s Green Deal and the Biden Administration’s stimulus plan (sometimes called the “Green New Deal“) in the USA. The politics will roil for some time to come, but the direction of travel is increasingly clear.

We would love to hear your suggestions under each of the following headings. To kick off the process, here are some of the sources we have found most useful. First, some of the books that have powerfully shaped our thinking. And one way we track relevant books is by convening the regular Green Swans Bookclub.

One voice warning of the misuse of the terms regeneration and regenerative is Joel Makower, Editor-in-Chief of GreenBiz. He notes that such terms can be the equivalent of “comfort food” for business leaders sensing the need for change – but uncertain as to what to do next. GreenBiz does us all a service by publishing critiques of regeneration alongside more upbeat articles and updates. And, whatever happens, we need to learn lessons from the front line of regeneration, in countries like China.


Books (non-fiction)

In addition to the books written by authors we have spotlighted in the Green Swans Bookclub, here are some others that occupy a prominent position on our desks or shelves – and while it may seem strange for a business reading list, we include Greta. At a time when business talks about stakeholder capitalism, Greta Thunberg speaks for billions of stakeholders as yet unborn:  

  • The Power of Creative Destruction, Philippe Aghion, Céline Antonin and Simon Bunel, Belknap Press, 2021. Joseph Schumpeter nailed it. Capitalism periodically tears itself apart to create the conditions for new types of value creation to emerge. How do we use the powers of creative destruction to help grow the Regenerative Economy?
  • Light to Life,the Miracle of Photosynthesis and How it Can Save the PlanetRaffael Jovine, 2021. Exploring new ways in which plants can help slow and reverse global warming.
  • How to Save Our Planet: The Facts, Mark Maslin, Penguin Books, 2021. Basic reading for anyone wanting to understand the challenge and how we might achieve genuine system change.
  • Value(s): Building a Better World for All, Mark Carney, William Collins, 2021. The former Governor of the Bank of England on how our values and conceptions of value must change.
  • The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy, Mariana Mazzucato, and Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism, Allen Lane, 2021. One of the most interesting economists alive explores the future of capitalism.
  • How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, Bill Gates, Allen Lane, 2021. A key idea here is that governments and the private sector need to work together to drive down the “green premiums” that slow the diffusion of climate solutions.
  • Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, Elizabeth Kolbert, The Bodley Head, 2021. Fir decades we have changed nature for the worse. Can we now learn to change it for the better?
  • How to Spend a Trillion Dollars: Saving the World and Solving the Biggest Questions in Science, Rowan Hooper, Profile Books, 2021. A fascinating book, spotlighted in our ‘Education‘ section.
  • Green Swans: The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism, John Elkington, Fast Company Press, 2020. The genesis of – and manifesto for – the Observatory. With 16 pages of references and endnotes, signposting the information sources we drew on in evolving the Green Swans agenda.
  • Impact: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change, Sir Ronald Cohen, Ebury Press/Penguin Random House, 2020. A roadmap for the Impact Economy.
  • The Regenerative Life: Transform Any Organization, Carol Sanford, Our Society and Your Destiny, Hachette Book Group, 2020. A guide to organizational change from one of the leading thinkers in this space.
  • No-one is Too Small to Make a Difference, Greta Thunberg, Penguin Books, 2019. Inspirational.
  • Regenerative Leadership: The DNA of Life-Affirming 21st Century Organizations, Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm, 2019.
  • Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth, Charles Massy, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018 – set to be a foundational book for the regenerative agriculture movement.
  • Wilding: The Return to Nature of a British Farm, Isabella Tree, Picador/Pan Macmillan, 2018. Again, a foundational text.
  • Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Penguin Books, 2017. A core text – and a springboard for Paul’s forthcoming book, Regeneration(due late 2021).
  • Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think like a 21st Century Economist, Kate Raworth, Cornerstone, 2017. Another leading economist on her vision of the future, now being adopted by cities like Amsterdam.
  • Designing Regenerative Cultures, Daniel Christian Wahl, Triarchy Press, 2016. An early pioneer in regenerative thinking ponders the culture change aspects of the Regenerative Economy.
  • Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia/Penguin, originally published 2005, updated 2015. An oldie, but a goldie – and a key link for the Yvon Chouinard interview in our ‘Meet the Regenerators‘ section.
  • Eden Again: Hope in the Marshes of Iraq, Suzanne Alwash, Tablet House Publishing, 2013. The inside story on one of the greatest ecosystem restoration projects ever attempted, linking to our Azzam Alwash interview in the ‘Meet the Regenerators‘ section.

Books (fiction)






This is a list that can only grow, in many dimensions of fiction. One that we particularly appreciate is science fiction, which can be an important source of insight on the regeneration agenda – as underscored by our Green Swan Zoom interview with science fiction author David Brin (due May 2021). Among the authors he mentions in the interview is Kim Stanley Robinson, who often returns to the subject of degeneration versus regeneration. Among KSR’s books we read in 2021 were New York 2140 and The Ministry for the Future. Another author well worth tracking is Ramez Naam, whose energy forecasts are mentioned in our sector scan on energy.

An interesting piece on the usefulness of speculative fiction in helping us cope with such crazy times appeared recently in TechCrunch. In the conversation, speculative fiction author Eliot Peper says: “Current events are a painful reminder that unlike fiction, reality needn’t be plausible. The world is complex and even the wisest of us understand only a tiny sliver of what’s really going on. Nobody knows what comes next. So while it may feel like we’re living in a science fiction novel, that’s because we’ve always been living in a science fiction novel. Or maybe speculative fiction is more real than so-called realist fiction because the only certainty is that tomorrow will be different from today and from what we expect. Depicting a world without fundamental change has become fantastical.

TED Talks, videos and films

To come, but here are some possible starting points:



More to come, but some possible starting points include:

As we dig deeper into the Regenerative Economy, we are compiling an online, open access library of resources.



  • Green Swans: The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism, John Elkington, Fast Company Press, 2020—probably with link to a sample chapter
    • Call of the Reed Warbler by Charles Massy
    • Regenerative Leadership by Giles and Laura
    • Paul Hawken’s Regeneration, etc
    • Rowan Hooper’s How to Spend a Trillion Dollars: Saving the World and Solving the Biggest Questions in Science, profile, 2021—linking to the Labs agenda


  • Link to David Brin’s TASAT platform.
  • Books like Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 and The Ministry of the Future
  • Online resources, e.g. podcasts, TED Talks,
  •  Videos and films
  • Paul Hawken, Regeneration, Bioneers, 2013
  • Allan Savory, How to Reverse Desertification and Fight Climate Change, TED Talk, 2013
  • Walmart CEO Doug McMillion’s presentation on regeneration
  • Rights of Nature agenda
  • 2040: Join The Regeneration, 
  • Media Coverage of Observatory:
  • e.g. Kamp Solutions 2021 interview between Juriaan Kamp and John Elkington on the Green Swans agenda and the Observatory 
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