Stories of Regeneration

Introduction to Principles of Regenerative Development

Western New York has a rich legacy of development. Situated against natural resources such as Lake Erie and Niagara Falls, the region has long been a hub for innovative ideas, advancement, and governance. In particular, Buffalo’s history is a unique one, with stories full of opposites. From its fame as an industrial hub to its infamy as an industrial wasteland, it has seen both the best of times and the worst of times. With such a tumultuous past, it is difficult to see where the city of Buffalo and the region at large currently stand. Are we still looking to heal the wounds inflicted by decades of neglect and abuse, or are we standing on a brink of a Buffalonian Renaissance? The answer to this question is, in many ways, both. We have the chance to build up our home and help Buffalo once again reach its full potential, but we must also acknowledge the existing systems of inequity and ecological harm that result from a long history of unwise development. We can’t move forward without remembering where we came from.

Through practices of regenerative development, we can build an economically, socially, and politically viable Buffalo for the many generations to come. Regenerative development, as opposed to extractive development, is a guiding principle for development that dictates that we develop only that which gives back to the environments, communities, and cultures that it impacts. Working to create an economy and society that benefits the larger population, regenerative principles rely on holistic thinking and actions. We can enact change that is beneficial for the society at large by taking into account the interrelated nature of environmental, social, economic, and political resiliency.

There is a long tradition of regenerative perspective and practice in our region. The Haudenosaunee of Western New York lived, and continue to embody, the principles of regeneration. This confederacy of six nations governed themselves under the Great Law of Peace and the Law of Regeneration. The former is the basis of a participatory democracy, grounded in the authority of the people and their responsibility to care for one another and their common home. In line with the Great Law of Peace, practices of retributional justice are replaced with those of restorative justice to help diverse communities peacefully address conflict, heal harm, and collectively govern through healthy, collaborative relationships. The Law of Regeneration calls for an active, collective practice of self-governance by diverse people that builds on their bioregion’s collective strengths to cultivate long-lasting prosperity. The Law of Regeneration requires three fundamental principles and practices: 1) seventh generation planning, 2) giving thanks for the web-of-life that sustains us, and 3) the law of the seed, designing with nature to support ecosystems. In combining cultural values of gratitude and sustainability, the Haudenosaunee cultivate practices which contribute to the natural world around them. These principles guide ecologically responsible development and fair allocation of resources.

Members of the WNYEA are working to once again bring the Haudenosaunee principles to the forefront of discussions on the environment, economy, and society. Through “Stories of Regeneration,” we hope to lift up this critical work being done in the Buffalo Niagara community. By revitalizing our environmental assets, we not only enrich the natural world around us, but we also find new ways to engage the human population with their ecological heritage. This improves the vitality and wealth of the region as well as the habitats of all beings who co-exist in these spaces.

Our stories feature five key campaigns and initiatives led by WYNEA members and partners:

  • The Our Outer Harbor Coalition
  • Scajaquada Corridor Coalition
  • Stella Niagara Conservation Efforts
  • Youth and Climate Justice Campaign
  • Collaboratory for the Regenerative Economy (CoRE)

Each of these projects reflects the movement towards a more just form of governance and participatory action, as they directly address the needs of community stakeholders.

About the Project and Author:

“Stories of Regeneration” is a project that showcases practical applications of regenerative principles in the Buffalo Niagara region. It was created by the Western New York Environmental Alliance’s 2018 High Road Fellow, Ashni Verma. As part of this process, Verma has conducted fieldwork and research in order to bring the voices of community leaders to the public at large.

Entirely new to Western New York, Ashni Verma spent the summer of 2018 immersing herself in all things regeneration. Her time in Buffalo changed her perspective on how important an interdisciplinary view of issues in environment, politics, and economics is in creating solutions that benefit the whole of society. She hopes that this comes through in her work and emphasizes the need for broader communication across sectors and disciplines.

Ashni Verma is a sophomore studying Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. Although originally from Northern California, she chose to spend the summer of 2018 in Western New York in order to learn more about economic development and the social sector.

Through the High Roads Fellowship, a program run by Cornell in Buffalo and the Partnership for the Public Good, she was placed with the WNYEA as an intern. During the summer of 2018, she worked to create a Field Guide on the Regenerative Economy in Western New York, a multimedia report that introduces readers to theories and practical applications of regeneration in the region.

She hopes that her research will help contribute to the work done by Alliance members on the just transition to a new economy.

The Campaigns:

Our Outer Harbor Coalition

Youth and Climate Justice Initiative


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