From Science article:
…four lifestyle choices had a major impact: Become a vegetarian, forego air travel, ditch your car, and—most significantly—have fewer children.
Rachel Hahs posted some amazing biomimetic analogies and questions for understanding how we respond to our current time of crisis and transformation through a contemplation of how nature expresses resilience after catastrophes like fire — such nutritious food for thought in this solstice season!
…[H]ow do the prairie grasses, giant sequoias and aspens of the world actually do it – what is the nitty gritty of the biology? And then what are the very specific and clear parallel and divergent metaphors we can draw from these examples? What is our fire, sunlight and ash? What parts of our community do we protect above all else? What are our necessary resources, signals for exchange, sacrificial parts, triggers for growth? What packets of information do we disseminate far and wide in the hopes that we can take advantage of this disruption and the disruptions to come, and how do we learn from our natural models on how methods for improving our chances?
Here are some preliminary responses I had to her article:
For the weedy, pioneer species strategy, I suspect that one of the most important things to think about as ‘seeds’ are small packets of information that are inexpensive and easy to broadcast (e.g. blogs and other social media). The trick is to produce seeds/memes that can easily reach and germinate in the disturbed ground, then grow and reproduce successfully from there. If the disturbed ground in question is the disrupted and uncomfortable mental spaces that many of us find ourselves in, we need to consider what structure is most likely to reach such a target. What resources are likely to be available when the seed reaches that ground, to nourish and support its growth and reproduction?
In terms of the prairie’s and aspen’s strategies, thinking deeply (pun mostly intended) about what safe, underground networks we already have in place is an important strategy.
We can be grounded (ooh, there’s another) in the community connections we already have; strengthening this existing network, sharing resources, signaling one another about dangers and opportunities we have detected, we do the same work as the rhizosphere in many thriving ecosystems to preserve the resilience and diversity of the community. The idea that this rhizosphere must be protected from the devastating changes at the surface might be an argument in favor of finding ‘underground’ ways to keep these communities strong (be they old-fashioned face-to-face meetings or conscientious privacy measures and enhanced encryption of key electronic communications for more extended communities). I also really appreciate Rachel’s question about ‘sacrificial parts’ – what can we safely give up to survive the time of crisis, without risking the roots? My inclination here is to think about the parts of our lives that we have normalized, but that on deeper consideration we could get by without (perhaps even do better without).
There is much deeper that this biomimicry work can go, seeking even more analogies based on the biology of resilient species and ecosystems. What ideas arise for you? What ways for responding to catastrophe can we learn by engaging nature as model, measure and mentor?
This is a talk I gave last week at the conference “Spontaneous Beauties?” World Gardens and Gardens in the World at NTU (YouTube video of practice talk, and SlideShare of PowerPoints).
Three different approaches are transforming humanity’s relationship to the wider biosphere through innovative ecosystem stewardship, informed by our deepening understandings of ecology and complexity. Microbiome management promotes human health by cultivating the ecologies of microorganisms in, on and around our bodies, seeking to encourage beneficial symbionts and discourage invasive microbes that can trigger illness. Permaculture is a philosophy of gardening, food production and homestead management that fosters beneficial ecological interactions to cultivate healthy habitats for humans and other species. Rewilding is a strategy of landscape management that seeks to restore the balance and diversity of historic or prehistoric ecosystems by introducing species to fill trophic niches emptied by local extinctions. These approaches represent a radical shift of the post‐industrial human role in nature, from one of dominance, produce maximization and pest eradication to one of regenerative alliance and collaborative cultivation.
Keywords: microbiome, permaculture, rewilding, ecosystem, biodiversity, complexity
The UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goals took effect the first day of 2016. I’ll be leading a discussion of these goals at the upcoming NTU Sustainability Salon. As I see it, the most promising thing about this renewed effort is the intention to interlink these challenges, recognizing interconnections and building bridges between disciplinary silos.
Two fascinating and promising new articles regarding this fossil of a fuel (both from German Energiewende perspectives):
Craig Morris at Energy Transition makes the argument that, particularly in light of COP21 and the divestment movement, coal’s dropping price may not lead to more demand (as traditional economics would predict), but instead may be a consequence of the fact that no one really likes coal anymore. Even China’s coal use is down 5%, and their coal imports are down 35%. Is “The Invisible Hand” actually getting it right for a change, or is this really just demonstrating the efficacy of national policies in places like China and Germany?
This Science Climate Policy editorial notes that, although cheap coal is still Germany’s top energy source (43% in 2015) and top GHG emissions source (40% of carbon emissions), renewables are rapidly overtaking coal there. They are particularly heavy users of some of the least-efficient, dirtiest coal: lignite. Germany has pledged to go to 80% renewables by 2050 (and they’re committed to giving up nuclear power, and it’s not exactly the sunshine state up there, so it’s not as if they’re just doing it because it’s easy). Weaning themselves off coal is the only way they will get there. Agora Energiewende proposes halting all construction of new plants and lignite mines now, and closing down the older lignite plants beginning in 2018.
“The Stone Age did not end because people ran out of stones.”
Coal is the fuel that opened the way to the Industrial Revolution, for both good and ill. That was a long time ago, at the beginning of the Anthropocene. It really is time to move on to something better. Germany is one major industrial nation who’s getting serious about doing it, and China appears to be on her way as well. This is a most welcome reflection of the Great Work of our time.
“The university of the future doesn’t exist yet. We will build it in the next five years.”
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead (attiribution disputed)
CGP Grey gives a brief recap of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, do take some time to get in touch with gratitude for all the good things in your world. And do consider how many in the world have so much less. Then remember that the following day is
Black Friday Buy Nothing Day, now part of a complete Buy Nothing Xmas (courtesy of Adbusters) — a great way to start down the road to Degrowth.
At the very least, please avoid shopping at “the Dirty Dozen” this season: