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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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Earth Life Emerge
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VIII. Earth Earns: Our Open Participatory Earthropocene to Ecosmocene CoCreativity

5. A Viable Gaia: A Sustainable, Familial Unity: Planetary Patriots and Matriots

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.

Chown, Steven and Kevin Gaston. Macrophysiology for a Changing World. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 275/1469, 2008. “Environmental physiologists” contend that such a perspective can vitally appreciate the systematic changes in the litany of climate, biodiversity, habitat loss, invasive species, overexploitation, pollution, et alia, so as to coordinate appropriate responses. With regard to efforts to counter “global warming,” an inadequate term, a familiar concept for folks would be to realize that the biosphere is actually trying to set (or reset) a homeostatic temperature, akin to 98.60 F, for its latest phase of phenomenal humankind.

Chu, Ted. Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential: A Cosmic Vision for Our Future Evolution. San Rafael, CA: Origins Press, 2014. An international economist with degrees from Fudan University, Shanghai and a doctorate from Georgetown University, now based in Dubai, achieves a unique synthesis of traditional wisdom with our latest scientific transfigurative prowess. With a Foreword by theologian John Haught, it is made clear that he does not intend a machine takeover as the near Singularity. An early chapter records an original Axial Age for both Eastern and Western cultures, especially as a “Yin-Yang reality.” By these lights a Second Axial Age is proposed to commence an intentional transformative procreation of a Cosmic Being. The overall message, akin to the prescience of a Nikolai Fedorov and Pierre Teilhard, is an “hourglass view” (127) whence temporal creation does not end with us, but needs to wholly pass through its human phenomenon on earth, which has “a critical role in cosmic evolution.”

Cleveland, Cutler, et al, eds. The Economics of Nature and the Nature of Economics. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2001. Advances in the theory, concepts and practical application of ecological economics and sustainable development.

Cockell, Charles. Space on Earth: Saving Our World by Seeking Others. London: Macmillan, 2007. The Open University geomicrobiologist argues for a common viability of biosphere and spacesphere. A grand scientific and technological project can at once promote alternative energy sources and reveal life’s fecund ubiquity across celestial reaches. A typical chapter is Greening the Universe.

But the space-faring environmental ethic provides a completely new reason for ecosystem preservation and conservation – an understanding that ecosystems have universal value as unique interstellar examples of life and evolution. (123)

Cocks, Doug. Deep Futures. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003. An Australian ecologist explores avenues to a more sustainable and humane abide in the near and far future. A novel approach to do this is to appreciate societies as complex self-organizing systems set within an evolutionary emergence. As humankind might then be perceived to form a global brain, its activity of perpetual education ought to be fostered for the good of everyone.

The chapter (Learning Forever) is a search for guidelines for making world society into more of a learning society that it is now, a learning society being one in which high priority is given to the social learning task, that is to building up of a sufficient body of collective knowledge (useful information) to ensure quality survival. For example, more knowledge of how the world and universe work, with a degree of emphasis on human behavioral and mental processes, is particularly important. (xvi) Society is then a complex adaptive system in which many participants are interacting and modifying their own behavior in response to others, that is, co-evolving. (180)

Corcoran, Peter, editor-in-chief. Toward a Sustainable World: The Earth Charter in Action. Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2005. After Prefaces by Mikhail Gorbachev and Maurice Strong, and a Foreword by Wangari Maathai, the comprehensive volume documents the laudable mission of the Earth Charter Initiative to accomplish a vital transition to local and global sustainability. Among its authors are Mary Evelyn Tucker (Living Cosmology), Leonardo Boff (Community of Life), Jane Goodall (Our World’s Youth), Alberto Cárdenas Jiménez and Mateo A. Castillo Ceja (Just, Participatory, Peaceful Societies), and so on. The book in its entirety can be accessed at this website: www.earthcharter.org.

Crist, Eileen and H. Bruce Rinker, eds. Gaia in Turmoil: Climate Change, Biodepletion, and Earth Ethics in an Age of Crisis. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010. Reviewed more in A Living Planet, a section of some 8 chapters such as “Sustainability and an Earth Operating System” by Tim Foresman explore in depth a biological remediation of our rapacious growth culture.

Crossette, Barbara. Women Seek Louder Voice as World Peacemakers. New York Times. May 28, 2000. To note just one valiant effort. As a conflagration of male violence fueled by assault rifles takes over the continent of Africa, women are trying to apply their network and nurture skills to peacemaking. In Somalia for example, a “demobilization” campaign gives young men food, shelter and an education in exchange for guns, “which is really what they want.”

Dale, Ann. At the Edge: Sustainable Development in the 21st Century. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2001. A better future can be achieved by reconciling three intertwined aspects – ecological, social and economic. A good glossary is included.

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