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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VIII. Pedia Sapiens: A New Genesis Future

4. Sustainable Ecovillages: Social Protocells

Andersson, Claes and Petter Tornberg. Toward a Macroevolutionary Theory of Human Evolution: The Social Protocell. Biological Theory. 14/2, 2019. Reviewed more in Emergent Evolutionary Transitions, these Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden systems scholars achieve an overdue perception by which societal groupings can be seen to take on a guise akin to life’s original protocells.

Anthony, Carl. Just, Green, & Beautiful Cities. Yes! Magazine. Summer, 2005. In a special issue on urban and rural ecovillages, this article by the director of the Ford Foundation’s Sustainable Metropolitan Communities Initiative offers pathways to revitalize and humanize city neighborhoods.

Armstrong, Rachel. Vibrant Architecture: Matter as a CoDesigner of Living Structures. Online: De Gruyter Open, 2015. This consummate work by the Newcastle University systems architect is fully online at www.degruyter.com/view/product/448453, and available in paper from Amazon. With phrases as Millennial Nature, Hylozoic Ground, Vibrant Manifesto and more, it is a practical initiative for a future organic personal, public and planetary abidance deeply rooted in a lively, conducive cosmos. With notice of Vibrant Matter (2010) by Jane Bennett, Once Out of Nature (2013) by Bruno Latour, along with 32 references pages, the conceptual basis is a natural animate materiality whose manifest evolution proceeds from universe to us, cosmos to culture. This endeavor we add, with many other akin, ought to be seen in a procreative vista as both our human discernment, and its intended passage to a new future genesis creation. It is advised that by avail of a self-organizing “natural computation,” present at life’s origin, community settlements from hamlets to megacities can be reinhabited as sustainable organisms. See also her How Do the Origins of Life Sciences Influence 21st Century Design Thinking? in the Proceedings of the European Conference on Artificial Life, online at MIT Press, 2015.

I do not propose to construct a particular architecture to embody these ideas, but to identify a new technological platform based on the interactions of lively, material assemblages that may increase the range of possible species of new architectures. These options are outlined in a manifesto, so that spatial programs may be regarded as transformers of matter, such as green leaves converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugar and water, rather than simply positioning buildings as geometric obstacles in a landscape around which living things are compelled to move. (5)

My research suggests that architectural design practice may explore a more Nature-based form of making, by proposing that matter can spontaneously act through a new technological platform enabled by assemblage formation. In this context, Nature can be thought of as being composed of terrestrial, heterogeneous (material) agents that are not commanded by a single providence, or (meta)agency, but are free to differentiate. Indeed, my research proposes that not only is Nature an agency that can be materially moulded by physical interventions such as gardening, but may be further shaped according to cultural and technological milieu. (22)

The cosmos is composed of many different species of stardust and despite our advanced, secular knowledge, we imagine these primordial substances give rise to a universe, fashioned in our own image, in which Nature and the technological expressions of the human mind, are cleaved. This chapter (Vibrant Matter in Practice) proposes that the material agency within vibrant matter is a real, physical phenomenon and ultimately a testable proposal, which is based on a new set of ideas about reality that paint a portrait of our universe. This is far more autonomous, lively and sensitive than the one that has historically framed western discourses. The lively character of vibrant matter is examined with this context and its agency attributed to real fundamental forces, grounded in quantum physics. My research seeks to empower matter by recognizing that its innate vitality resides within molecular bonds, which forge assemblages that can interact with and respond to their surroundings. (71)

We are in the midst of a transition from an industrial to an ecological paradigm of practice. This is not as simple as making a substitution of an object-centered view of reality and supplanting it with process, complexity, networks and nonlinearity. (2) Responding to grand global challenges such as, climate change, increasing population density and the sustainability of cities, architects and designers have been looking for new ways of working with a whole range of strategies to counter the net effects of global scale, intensive industrial practices that are effectively reverse-terraforming our planet. Insights from the origins of life sciences point towards new opportunities in design thinking. Its quest is invested in the transition from inert to living matter – a complete reversal of the industrial paradigm. (Article, 2)

Barnaud, Cecile, et al. Multi-Agent Simulations to Explore Rules for Rural Credit in a Highland Farming Community of Northern Thailand. Ecological Economics. 66/4, 2008. Geographers apply this method drawn from artificial intelligence and nonlinear economics to first gain a mathematical basis and, as a test case, to aid such local inhabitants to better sustain their livelihood.

A multi-agent system (MAS) can be defined as a collection of autonomous entities interacting with each other and with their environment. (616)

Barry, Dan. Living in Tents, and by the Rules, Under a Bridge. New York Times. July 31, 2009. In ironically, Providence, RI, a “community” of 80 or so adult souls across 4 decades in age, for reasons of bad luck, job loss, alcohol, despondency, and fate, have wound up residing under an Route I 95 overpass. Yet a modicum of camaraderie has arisen by sheer necessity, along with rules about no fighting, weapons, hygiene, food sharing, and other survival issues. Multiplied by the thousands all over the planet, most fraught groups are probably harsher, worse off, more violent. An obscenity in this nation splurging trillions on military fiascos. A practical aim of this website is to document and convey a universal natural principle of cellular communities nested within each other from prokaryotes to societies. With such an innate guide, the next phase of human habitation would be, with e.g. historian William McNeill, communities that average 100 folks so as to enhance both individual welfare and social viability.

Beatley, Timothy. Native to Nowhere: Sustainable Home and Community in a Global Age. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2005. In a time of worldwide sameness, how can local peoples achieve a meaningful, ambient sense of place and abode? A professor of Sustainable Communities at the University of Virginia offers many insights and strategies for living together in cities and the countryside with frugality, aesthetics, sharing and celebration.

Bohm, Steffen, et al. Ecocultures: Blueprints for Sustainable Communities. London: Routledge, 2014. University of Essex sustainability scholars offer a global survey of ecovillage habitations, broadly defined, as a viable alternative to a presently unsustainable consumptive civilizations. Typical chapters are Maritime Ecocultures: Bajau Communities of Eastern Indonesia, The Evolution of EcoDetroit, and Living Ecocultures of the Great Transition.

The world faces a ‘perfect storm’ of social and ecological stresses, including climate change, habitat loss, resource degradation and social, economic and cultural change. In order to cope with these, communities are struggling to transition to sustainable ways of living that improve well-being and increase resilience. This book demonstrates how communities in both developed and developing countries are already taking action to maintain or build resilient and sustainable lifestyles. These communities, here designated as ‘Ecocultures’, are exemplars of the art and science of sustainable living. Though they form a diverse group, they organise themselves around several common organising principles including an ethic of care for nature, a respect for community, high ecological knowledge, and a desire to maintain and improve personal and social wellbeing. Case studies from both developed and developing countries including Australia, Brazil, Finland, Greenland, India, Indonesia, South Africa, UK and USA, show how, based on these principles, communities have been able to increase social, ecological and personal wellbeing and resilience.

Botta, Marta. Evolution of the Slow Living Concept within the Models of Sustainable Communities. Futures. Online January, 2016. A University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, Sustainability Research Centre scholar presents case studies of Damanhur, Italy, Toarps Ekoby, Sweden, and Masdar City, Abu Dhabi as exemplars of viable ecological, communal, and personal habitations. SLOW LIFE is an acronym for Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wholesome and Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences. As it becomes increasing imperative that industrial consumption must be replaced if we are to save the Gaiasphere, such radically organic and cooperative mores need to be identified and nurtured.

Chiras, Dan and Wann, Dave. Superbia. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2003. With a subtitle 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods, this illustrated work explores how the impersonal wasteland of suburban sprawl can be readily changed into habitable natural neighborhoods. Simple steps include common backyards, tree and scrub plantings, community gathering areas and meeting house, along with much getting to know each other and sharing life’s journey. But again it requires a cooperative, ecological mindset and cosmology which we do not yet have.

Christian, Diana Leafe. Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities. Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society Publishers, 2003. Real pathways to nascent, embryonic community for earth’s genesis future.

An intentional community is a group of people who have chosen to live or work together in pursuit of a common ideal or vision. An ecovillage is a village-scale intentional community that intends to create, ecological, social, economic, and spiritual sustainability over several generations.

Dawson, Jonathan. Ecovillages: New Frontiers for Sustainability. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2006. A Schumacher Society Briefing wherein the director of the Global Ecovillage Network extols the many individual, social and environmental benefits of living together in a viable reciprocity of person, community, and bioregion.

Downton, Paul. Ecopolis: Architecture and Cities for a Changing Climate. Dordrecht: Springer, 2009. A principal of Ecopolis Architects in Adelaide, Australia provides a unique volume with a reciprocal balance of theory and practice. As a recount of the author’s work experience, it can stand as a new synthesis of the ecological or organic city movement from Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller to Christopher Alexander and Richard Register. Pierre Teilhard is included by way of the visionary Arcosanti designs of Paolo Soleri, along with insights from Vladimir Vernadsky. A key concept throughout is that of an “urban fractal” such that local communities are microcosmic exemplars of a nested anatomy and physiology which may span from neighborhoods to a metropolis, each and all graced by the same viable human scale pattern and process.

But one wonders if this sustainability singularity will require a revolutionary admission of a living genesis universe to embrace and facilitate such intentional, cooperative reinhabitation? A further appropriate and evident phase of life’s progressive gestation of wholes within wholes might be realized as self-sufficient ecovillages of an average one-hundred folks, somewhat as a next advance of “social protocells.” By these lights, an organic rebuilding of Haiti or Chile after earthquakes via such integral biological communities could implement the African adage “it takes an ecovillage.”

From 2008, for the first time in human history, half of the world’s population now live in cities. Yet despite a wealth of literature on green architecture and planning, there is to date no single book which draws together theory from the full range of disciplines - from architecture, planning and ecology - which we must come to grips with if we are to design future cities which are genuinely sustainable. Paul Downton’s Ecopolis takes a major step along this path. It highlights the urgent need to understand the role of cities as both agents of change and means of survival, at a time when climate change has finally grabbed world attention, and it provides a framework for designing cities that integrates knowledge - both academic and practical - from a range of relevant disciplines. Identifying key theorists, practitioners, places and philosophies, the book provides a solid theoretical context which introduces the concept of urban fractals, and goes on to present a series of design and planning tools for achieving Sustainable Human Ecological Development (SHED). Combining knowledge from diverse fields to present a synthesis of urban ecology, the book will provide a valuable resource for students, researchers and practitioners in architecture, construction, planning, geography and the traditional life sciences. (Publisher)

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