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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

6. A Viable Gaiasphere: Planetary Patriots and Matriots

Billson, Janet Mancini and Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, eds. Female Well-Being: Toward a Global Theory of Social Change. London: Zed Books, 2005. Billson is Director of Group Dimensions International, Rhode Island, and Fluehr-Lobban is Professor of Anthropology and Women's Studies at Rhode Island College. We choose this volume for its content and to again make the statement that a fundamental aberration of human civilization remains its denigration, both physically and mentally, of the equal place and contribution of women. On the day this is written, one reads in the NY Times of an acid attack in Afghanistan upon female students who dare attend high school. The longer such imbalance is not set right, the harder it will be, if possible at all, to achieve an egalitarian sustainable earth. We cite the publisher’s synopsis and a quote from the book by John Stuart Mill from the 18th century, just as true today.

This global survey starts from the belief that the significant transformations in women‘s lives need to be fully documented and interpreted. It illustrates the critical challenges faced by women in the 20th century using original data from countries in every world region. The case studies are written by teams of scholars, educators, and policy analysts in Canada, the United States, Colombia, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Japan, Bangladesh, Thailand, South Africa, Sudan, and Kenya. The catalysts for change in female well-being are identified from trends from 1900 to 2000 in infant mortality, maternal mortality, literacy, life expectancy, education, work, income, family structure, and political power. Trends are analyzed in the light of the century‘s major events, legislative initiatives, social policies, and leadership, to illustrate the processes that enhance, sustain, or detract from the female condition. (Publisher’s Website)

The principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes – the legal subordination of one sex to the other – is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement…it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, no disability on the other. (John Stuart Mill, 392)

Birkeland, Janis. Design for Sustainability. A Sourcebook of Integrated Eco-Logical Solutions. London: Earthscan Publications, 2002. A workbook guide for the intentional transition from an industrial society based on Newtonian mechanics to a viable world of self-sufficient communities which draws upon the indigenous wisdom of an organically self-organizing nature.

Birkeland, Janis. Positive Development: From Vicious Cycles Through Built Environmental Design. London: Earthscan, 2008. The Queensland University of Technology professor of Architectural Studies provides a practical workbook for an imperative sustainable transition. As readers know, piecemeal fixes, bailouts to set the clock back, (or should they be out on bail) will only make things worse and put off a reckoning day. Only a total change of approach from “single-issue reduction” to human countryside and citywide rehabitation in an ecological homeostasis will heal and save.

Bolen, Jean Shinoda. Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World. Boston: Conari Press, 2005. Not a minute too soon, the beloved Jungian psychologist and author summons the long suppressed feminine wisdom and action. If our world, so stressed by male violence and rapacious plunder, is to survive and flourish for the children’s sake this palliative empathy and compassion is in great need. We quote from the publisher’s website.

The message to all the women of the world is "Wake Up! Arise! Do not ask for permission to gather the women. What cannot be done by men, or by individual women, can be done by women together. Earth is Home."

Bristow, David and Christopher Kennedy. Why Do Cities Grow? Insights from Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics at the Urban and Global Scales. Journal of Industrial Ecology. 19/2, 2015. University of Toronto civil engineers find far-from-equilibrium, open system principles, after decades of research studies, to have a mature appropriate suitability to explain and empower viable human societies.

This forum article explores thermodynamic understanding of the growth of cities, including theoretical foundations, observations, and analysis. The general theory of nonequilibrium thermodynamics is reviewed, as well as discussing the hypothesis of maximum entropy production. Calculations of exergy gradients in a few cities and settlements, along with measures of anthropogenic heat loss in further cities, support the notion that cities are dissipative structures. The observation that primary energy use per capita increases in Singapore and Hong Kong as they grow is further evidence to support the thermodynamic understanding of the growth of cities, indicative of an increasing rate of entropy production. At the global scale, the strong linear relationship between global urban population and total global energy use, and the distribution of city sizes according to Zipf's law, can be understood as emergent results based on thermodynamics. (Abstract)

Broad, William. A Web of Sensors, Taking Earth’s Pulse. New York Times. May 10, 2005. A Science Times lead article reports on an intelligent bioplanet beginning to instrument itself so as to maintain and enhance its own viability. Wireless beacons in rivers, a global net of stations to measure landform and sea mantle strains and deformations, (a world tsunami warning system is part of this effort) and constant surveillance of urban, rural, agricultural and wilderness atmospheres are examples.

Brown, Lester. Eco-Economy. New York: Norton, 2001. The founder of the Worldwatch Institute and now president of the Earth Policy Institute advises that the old destructive mode of nature serving commerce and economics be changed to a natural sustainability with an ecological basis.

Brown, Valerie and John Harris. The Human Capacity for Transformational Change: Harnessing the Collective Mind. London: Routledge, 2014. Valerie Brown is Director to the Local Sustainability Project, Australian National University, and John Harris is Head of Environmental Science, University of Canberra. Amongst works seeking to save the earth, their unique approach emphasizes life’s persistent evolution toward a more effective collective intelligence. If we altogether could intentionally, respectfully, recognize and avail the novel resource of a worldwide “noosphere” gaining knowledge on its own, this could provide the common guidance we so much need. An expansive array of thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Norbert Weiner, James Lovelock, Gregory Bateson, Christopher Alexander, and especially Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, are enlisted to brace this vista.

Table of Contents: Part 1. Changing Minds 1. Living with transformational change: a future for the collective mind 2. The Darwinian mind: the next step in human evolution 3. The Gaian mind: people and planet as a self-organising system 4. The cybernetic mind: human social networks in cyberspace 5. The Herculean mind: seven challenging tasks 6. A collective mind: asking reflective questions Part 2. Changing Society 7. Inclusive language: hearing all the voices 8. Transformation science: a science of change 9. Collective governance: democracy for the next millennium 10 Collaborative economy and gift relationships 11. Life-long education: learning without limits 12. The collective self: asking introspective questions Part 3. Changing Worlds 13. Utopian thinking in a connected world.

The era of the collective mind is already underway in twenty-first century society. As the leading edge of thought, it is re-examining long-standing biological and social features of humanity and rethinking the question of what it means to be human. There can be a new freedom and dignity in the future of the collective mind. New ways of experiencing, knowing, being and becoming that can put humanity in reach of new kinds of worlds through a collective and ethically-guided influence on inevitable transformational change. (15)

Bryner, Gary. Gaia’s Wager. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001. In a modern version of Pascal’s wager, it would do us well to act as if the earth was, in fact, a self-regulating but critically-poised, organically unified biosphere and base our environmental policy upon this premise.

Burnside, William, et al. Human Macroecology: Linking Pattern and Process in Big-Picture Human Ecology. Biological Reviews. 87/1, 2012. Burnside, with James Brown, Melanie Moses, and Marcus Hamilton, University of New Mexico, Oskar Burger, Max Planck Institute, and Luis Bettencourt, LANL, achieve an expansive placement and integration of we Homo Sapiens within encompassing spatial environments and temporal evolution. This involves as its crux the “acquiring and allocating” of energies from hunter-gatherer times to industrial metabolisms and urban intensities. In this regard, life histories, social networks, linguistic diversities, cultural systems, disease epidemics, and so on, are entrained in this sense. As a result, from our collaborative retrospect, deep similarities and continuities can be traced as if an evidently singular anatomical and physiological, human to humankind, gestation-like development.

Humans have a dual nature. We are subject to the same natural laws and forces as other species yet dominate global ecology and exhibit enormous variation in energy use, cultural diversity, and apparent social organization. We suggest scientists tackle these challenges with a macroecological approach—using comparative statistical techniques to identify deep patterns of variation in large datasets and to test for causal mechanisms. We show the power of a metabolic perspective for interpreting these patterns and suggesting possible underlying mechanisms, one that focuses on the exchange of energy and materials within and among human societies and with the biophysical environment. Examples on human foraging ecology, life history, space use, population structure, disease ecology, cultural and linguistic diversity patterns, and industrial and urban systems showcase the power and promise of this approach. (Abstract, 194)

Our premise is that human ecology is also a natural science, so it can be pursued using the same conceptual framework, analytical rigour, methodological approaches, and technological tools that ecologists apply to non-human systems. (195) We characterize dimensions and consequences of the human niche: interactions with the environment that affect the abundance, distribution, diversity, and social, economic, and technological development of human populations. We adopt a metabolic perspective that focuses on the exchange of energy and materials between humans and their environments and the flows, pools, and transformations of these resources into, out of, within, and among societies. We cover a wide spectrum, from how minimally acculturated hunter-gathers form social groups to forage for food, exchange information, and use space, to how modern technological societies use extra-metabolic energy, especially fossil fuels, and resource supply networks to support dense populations in large cities. (195)

Given the analogy of industrial metabolism with biological metabolism, consider how a contemporary society is like a whole organism. Both require energy and resources, which are delivered through networks. Biological metabolism is fueled by energy-rich sugars and micronutrients delivered by vascular networks. Modern ‘industrial metabolism’ is fueled by energy-rich oil, coal, and natural gas and by nuclear, solar and hydroelectric power. Fuels and electricity are delivered by physical networks of pipe lines, power grids, roads, and railroads and by shipping and air traffic lanes. Recent work linking vascular networks and body size may underlie these similarities. (204)

Callicott, J. Baird. Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. The University of North Texas research professor, and editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, proceeds to join Aldo Leopold’s (1886-1948) remedial Land Ethic with his early glimpses of a biospheric import. Widely read for his day, Leopold drew upon the Russian esotericist Pyotr Ouspensky (1878-1947), and many others, for deeper gleanings of an innately animate environment. With this unique resource, Callicott goes on to sketch a 21st century version that avails James Lovelock’s self-regulating Gaia system, along with the holistic geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky (1863-1945), unknown to Leopold.

While an engaging study, it is cast in an academic argot, and constrained by what one is allowed to say in that venue. Vernadsky, with Pierre Teilhard also noted, abided in a greater dynamic reality whereof humanity, via intentional reason, is a central emergent agency. But if a phenomenal identity and purpose cannot be broached, any imperative natural guidance is lost. As a result, the work worries over an “anthropocentrism” that favors people, which is anathema to most scholars. A resolve could be some form of “holistic moral non-anthropocentrism” as a reciprocity of mindful people with a communal planet.

Bringing together ecology, evolutionary moral psychology, and environmental ethics, J. Baird Callicott counters the narrative of blame and despair that prevails in contemporary discussions of climate ethics and offers a fresh, more optimistic approach. Whereas other environmental ethicists limit themselves to what Callicott calls Rational Individualism in discussing the problem of climate change only to conclude that, essentially, there is little hope that anything will be done. Instead, he encourages us to look to the Earth itself, and consider the crisis on grander spatial and temporal scales, as we have failed to in the past. Callicott supports this theory by exploring and enhancing Aldo Leopold's sketch of an Earth ethic in "Some Fundamentals of Conservation in the Southwest.” (Publisher)

The noosphere, in the form of scientific knowledge and its technological application, is – like its parent stock, living matter – a planetary phenomenon. In sharp contrast to both speculative philosophies, which bear the stamp of their individual excogitators, (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hegel), and to dogmatic, sectarian religions, which are tethered to a founder, science is a collective cognitive corpus distributed throughout the network of human brains scattered over the entire planet and connected by all the various means of communication – conferences, journals, books, now the Internet. For Vernadsky, because scientific cognition is the only kind of cognition that is independent, impersonal, distributed, self-organizing, self-correcting, and planetary in form and scope, it is the only kind of cognition that constitutes the noosphere. (193)

Camara, Antonio. Environmental Systems. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. A detailed work on the preparation of environmentally relevant multimedia websites.

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