Pete Corke's love for nature, nurtured through his walks in the coastal rainforests of British Columbia, Canada, inspired him to find ways to invest in the preservation of these precious ecosystems.

As the Director of Vision & Leadership at Kwaxala, an Indigenous-led and majority owned organization focused on protecting at-risk forests, Pete brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of creating a regenerative economic system.

With a background spanning technology, brand marketing, and supply chain management, Pete recognized that traditional conservation methods often left local economies poorer, relying heavily on philanthropy and government programs. He saw the need for a new approach that could generate sustainable economic value while protecting the environment.

Regenerative economics offers a solution by providing a for-profit orientation to conservation, benefiting communities and promoting biodiversity. However, accounting for the value of ecosystem services and ensuring the reliability of carbon credit markets can be complex. This is where Web3 technologies play a crucial role, providing tools to create transparency, trust, and custom solutions for documenting nature's value and connecting it to global markets.

Problems With the Current Extractive Economic System 

The current economic system primarily focuses on removing resources from the earth — creating a world that often overlooks the value of living nature.

As Pete Corke explains, "Living nature isn't represented in [our economy]. It's all dead and extracted from nature. And in fact, the only way of creating value-flows from the current system into protected nature is by literally burning the transactional medium, burning money through philanthropy."

In other words, the current economic system only recognizes the value of nature when it is extracted and sold, and the only way to direct money towards conservation is through philanthropic donations, which do not generate any economic returns or retain asset value.

This approach has led to a lack of ways to recognize the value of ecosystems and the services they provide. Remote communities, like those in British Columbia, Canada, face a tough choice between participating in the resource extraction that makes up most of the local economy or supporting conservation efforts that often lack economic incentives.

Additionally, the established laws and structures around land use are deeply rooted in this resource-focused economic system, making it difficult to create change. So how can one aim to operate within the current structure and transform the economics?

Pete emphasizes that "Traditional conservation makes British Columbia poorer. It's giving up tax revenues, it's giving up export revenues. And that's at a provincial level. At a local level, they're giving up jobs in remote communities."

The extractive industry's control over these structures poses a significant challenge to those seeking to create a regenerative economic system. As Pete points out, "It's not about replacing extractive economics. It's about creating an economic counterbalance to it."

Achieving this balance requires not only developing new economic models but also navigating complex laws and governance frameworks that have long prioritized resource extraction over regeneration.

Opportunities for Regenerative Economics

Despite the challenges posed by the current extractive economic system, there are significant opportunities for regenerative economics to create a counterbalance. Specifically, regenerative economics would be creating incentive-based conservation efforts that spur economic growth while protecting nature.

As Pete Corke explains, "The whole point of the regenerative economics space is, hey, we need a two polled [economic] world here to create a counterbalance."

One key opportunity lies in generating value flows to conserve natural areas and the local communities that support these ecosystems. Pete emphasizes the importance of creating "an economic activity that's based on regeneration [which] counteracts extractive economic value." 

Kwaxala is building a global network of protected forest areas that, at scale, generate economic markets for natural systems. Their projects demonstrate on-going returns for both forest communities and mindful investors. 

Most resource extraction happens on public lands, with companies buying the rights (to log, mine, or drill for oil) that give them use of that land. By buying these rights and safeguarding them, managing the land appropriately, and documenting the revitalization of these ecosystems, it’s possible to demonstrate the value of conservation in a global market. 

These thriving ecosystems provide numerous benefits to the people, industries, and municipalities who interact with them. They clean the air and water, offer mental health benefits to individuals, provide educational opportunities and recreational spaces for children, and attract tourism to communities. 

This only scratches the surface of the economic and social benefits of rich, site specific ecosystems, on both local and global levels, but we don’t have great ways to account for these benefits within our economy. One market tool is high quality carbon credits, which can be produced through the act of conservation to start accounting for these benefits. 

By developing mechanisms that allow individuals and businesses to invest in and hold value in living natural assets, regenerative economics can provide a viable alternative to extractive industries. Whilst carbon offsets and biodiversity credits represent an economic mechanism for recognising the services provided by nature, there are very few mechanisms that enable you to hold equity/investment value in the supply side of that value flow. But that is changing and Kwaxala is leading in that space.

The Next Economic Mechanism

Web3 tools, such as blockchain and smart contracts, offer promising solutions for creating transparency, provenance, and liquidity in regenerative economic systems. 

As Pete points out, "Web3 is so powerful because we're not trying to just build regenerative products, we're trying to build an entire regenerative stack and entire economic ecosystem that counterbalances the extractive ecosystem."

These tools enable the creation of new financial products and value flows that can be quickly prototyped and scaled, providing a more efficient means of realizing the potential of regenerative economics. 

Web3 technologies can help ensure the authenticity and on-the-ground truth of regenerative assets, such as carbon offsets, by embedding due diligence and provenance information directly into the digital tokens representing these assets. 

These technologies also allow transparent value redistribution back into the communities on the ground, ensuring that the regenerative economy is built from the foundations up in a far more equitable way than the extractive/colonial economy ever was. 

Ultimately, the success of regenerative economics hinges on shifting mindsets and creating a new paradigm that recognizes the inherent value of nature. As Pete states, "Nature doesn't just need a seat at the economic table, we need to acknowledge that it is the table and it's also the air in the room! The human economic system is a subsidiary of the natural economic system."

As the world faces mounting environmental challenges, the need for a regenerative economic system has never been more pressing. Pete Corke and Kwaxala's work in partnering with Indigenous communities, protecting at-risk forests, and generating regenerative returns through innovative financial mechanisms that allow anybody to hold equity value in a living forest serves as a powerful example of how we can begin to create a true counterbalance to the extractive economy.

By leveraging Web3 tools such as Holochain, regenerative projects can create a trustworthy data layer that ensures transparency and trust in regenerative economic systems. Holochain's architecture allows for the distributed storage and processing of vast amounts of data, essential for documenting ecosystem interactions and ensuring the integrity of regenerative assets.

Centralized solutions have often proved untrustworthy, with instances of carbon credit markets failing to deliver on their promises due to lack of oversight and accountability. These examples highlight the need for trustable solutions that provide transparent, verifiable, and tamper-proof records of regenerative assets and their associated impacts. Holochain's distributed data layer creates a system resistant to manipulation and greenwashing, ensuring the value generated by regenerative economics is genuine and long-lasting.

Recognizing the intrinsic worth of healthy ecosystems can create a new economic paradigm that prioritizes the well-being of both human communities and the natural world. The path forward requires collaboration, innovation, and a willingness to challenge entrenched structures.