Regeneration and Renewal

 

Every Friday, Atmos editor-in-chief William Defebaugh reflects on the week in climate and culture, sharing stories of insight and inspiration.

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“As wave is driven by wave
And each, pursued, pursues the wave ahead,
So time flies on and follows, flies, and follows,
Always, for ever and new. What was before
Is left behind; what never was is now;
And every passing moment is renewed.”
― Ovid, Metamorphoses

 

Jellyfish are renowned for a host of reasons, but chief among them is their ability to regenerate. The Turritopsis dorhnii, also known as the immortal jellyfish, continuously reverts between infancy and adulthood, creating its own closed-loop system. The Aurelia aurita (or the moon jellyfish) is also capable of renewing itself by aging backwards, along with regrowing its appendages and cloning in mass quantities.

 

Speaking of renewal, a new report from the Energy Information Administration has found that electrical energy from renewables is expected to at last surpass that of coal this year. It’s an impressive feat considering President Trump has offered little support in protecting vulnerable green energy jobs, instead tweeting that he will “never let the great U.S. Oil & Gas Industry down.”

 

Also this week, former staffers of Jay Inslee, the Democratic Governor of Washington who made the climate crisis the bedrock of his presidential bid last year, announced Evergreen Action—an initiative aimed at making climate the center of U.S. politics. The group’s first proposal, formed with Data for Progress, is for a $1.2 to $1.5 trillion stimulus package called a Clean Jumpstart for America, which would provide green jobs to the millions of Americans who have lost theirs during the pandemic.

 

In her latest piece for Vogue, Emily Farra points out how more fashion designers are taking inspiration from regenerative agriculture practices. As Patagonia’s head of sportswear Helena Barbour tells her in regards to the brand’s first line of regenerative cotton t-shirts: “When we realized the power of soil sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, it was a real aha! moment. It’s very dramatic to find something that doesn’t just mitigate a problem, or reduce the impact of a problem, but it actually does something good.”

 

Another radical way in which jellyfish regenerate? Certain species reproduce by fission (splitting in half), which they are able to do because they do not have brains or centralized nervous systems, but rather a series of nerve nets distributed equally throughout their bodies—a kind of democratization of power and intelligence that serves as a survival mechanism.

 

In our new issue, Elizabeth L. Cline writes that democratization represents fashion’s greatest hope for change: “If food and clothes were fairly priced, offered well-paying jobs to the greatest number of people, and were controlled democratically rather than by all-powerful companies, it could revolutionize our society. Our pace of life would slow, our communities could rebuild, consumption would taper off so that humans could strive for something other than individual fulfillment. True sustainability would feel less elusive.”

 

Jellyfish are not the only creatures capable of regeneration—in fact, every single species possesses cellular regeneration in some form. You might even say it’s what unites us, what connects us to all other forms of life on Earth: our ability to regrow and rebuild. To make ourselves new again.

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