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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

Levin, Simon. Crossing Scales, Crossing Disciplines: Collective Motion and Collective Action in the Global Commons. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 365/13, 2010. In a special issue on the life sciences for the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary, with free access online, the Princeton University systems ecologist deftly identifies and enlists a beneficial complementarity of free entities and a supportive group, of competition and cooperation, that graces nested evolutionary scales from microbes to mammals. As the quotes aver, it would obviously avail us to intentionally carry on this natural wisdom as a way to heal and guide more sustainable, peaceful, human societies.

Two conflicting tendencies can be seen throughout the biological world: individuality and collective behaviour. Natural selection operates on differences among individuals, rewarding those who perform better. Nonetheless, even within this milieu, cooperation arises, and the repeated emergence of multicellularity is the most striking example. The same tendencies are played out at higher levels, as individuals cooperate in groups, which compete with other such groups. Many of our environmental and other global problems can be traced to such conflicts, and to the unwillingness of individual agents to take account of the greater good. One of the great challenges in achieving sustainability will be in understanding the basis of cooperation, and in taking multicellularity to yet a higher level, finding the pathways to the level of cooperation that is the only hope for the preservation of the planet. (13)

Cooperation is widespread in the biological world, especially in human societies. Bacteria signal one another by exuding chemicals, and exchange mutual favours. Amoebae organize themselves into slime molds, insects into swarms, birds into flocks, fish into schools, ungulates into herds. Primates have the most highly developed social organizations of unrelated individuals, relying on highly developed cultural practices to maintain the integrity of their societies.
But the tribes and societies and cultures we build become devices for conflict among groups, and too often it is that conflict and competition that strengthens the membership bonds. When groups come together, it is often because there is a common enemy. How can we get beyond this in achieving the survival of our species, and of our planet?
We must recognize that we have a common enemy, and that enemy is the extinction that awaits us if we do not change our ways. It is war and pollution, it is biodiversity loss and climate change, it is all the things that threaten the quality of our life, as well as our survival. The sooner we acknowledge this common threat, the sooner we can achieve the cooperation that will bond us all together. (16 – 17)

Levin, Simon, et al. Social-Ecological Systems as Complex Adaptive Systems. Environment and Development Economics. 18/2, 2013. A 17 member, world class team from Europe and the US, including Kenneth Arrow, Paul Ehrlich, and Gretchen Daily, call for a redress of ineffective programs by turning to a proper, practical avail of these ubiquitous dynamics. In this way, a truly organic self-organizing and correcting resilience can be naturally facilitated.

Systems linking people and nature, known as social-ecological systems, are increasingly understood as complex adaptive systems. Essential features of these complex adaptive systems – such as nonlinear feedbacks, strategic interactions, individual and spatial heterogeneity, and varying time scales – pose substantial challenges for modeling. However, ignoring these characteristics can distort our picture of how these systems work, causing policies to be less effective or even counterproductive. In this paper we present recent developments in modeling social-ecological systems, illustrate some of these challenges with examples related to coral reefs and grasslands, and identify the implications for economic and policy analysis. (Abstract)

Lewin, Harris, et al. Earth BioGenome Project: Sequencing Life for the Future of Life. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 115/4325, 2018. Twenty-four environmental biologists and ecologists at leading institutes, universities, museums, and botanical gardens from the USA, UK, Denmark, Switzerland, and China outline a decadal program to sequence, read, and curate the genomic code of essentially all creatures great and small. The profligate diversity of Earth life’s whole scale genetic repository can then serve critical biospheric and anthropospheric conservation programs.

Increasing our understanding of Earth’s biodiversity and responsibly stewarding its resources are among the most crucial scientific and social challenges of the new millennium. Herein, we present a perspective on the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP), a moonshot for biology that aims to sequence, catalog, and characterize the genomes of all of Earth’s eukaryotic biodiversity over a period of 10 years. The outcomes of the EBP will inform a broad range of major issues facing humanity, such as the impact of climate change on biodiversity, the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems, and the preservation and enhancement of ecosystem services. The far-reaching potential benefits of creating an open digital repository of genomic information for life on Earth can be realized only by a coordinated international effort. (Abstract)

The Earth BioGenome Project will create a new foundation for biology, informing a broad range of major issues facing humanity, such as the impact of climate change on biodiversity, the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems, and the preservation and enhancement of ecosystem services. Powerful advances in genome sequencing technology, informatics, automation, and artificial intelligence, have propelled humankind to the threshold of a new beginning in understanding, utilizing, and conserving biodiversity. For the first time in history, it is possible to efficiently sequence the genomes of all known species, and to use genomics to help discover the remaining 80 to 90 percent of species that are currently hidden from science. (EBG website)

Lionnet, Francoise, et al. The Human Face of Development. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 29/2, 2003. An introduction to a special issue on Development Cultures which debates issues such as global feminist ethics, the individual/collective and universalist/cultural relativist dichotomies and indigenous African wisdom.

Liu, Jianquo, et al. Systems Integration for Global Sustainability. Science. 347/963, 2015. Eleven senior environmentalists across the United States, with international roots, declare that any practical remediation over a finite biosphere must be done in a holistic, all inclusive fashion. Separate projects that may address water, energy, food, only should be integrated into common, unified programs.

Global sustainability challenges, from maintaining biodiversity to providing clean air and water, are closely interconnected yet often separately studied and managed. Systems integration—holistic approaches to integrating various components of coupled human and natural systems—is critical to understand socioeconomic and environmental interconnections and to create sustainability solutions. Recent advances include the development and quantification of integrated frameworks that incorporate ecosystem services, environmental footprints, planetary boundaries, human-nature nexuses, and telecoupling. Although systems integration has led to fundamental discoveries and practical applications, further efforts are needed to incorporate more human and natural components simultaneously, quantify spillover systems and feedbacks, integrate multiple spatial and temporal scales, develop new tools, and translate findings into policy and practice. Such efforts can help address important knowledge gaps, link seemingly unconnected challenges, and inform policy and management decisions.

Lucht, W. and R. K. Pachauri. The Mental Component of the Earth System. Schellnhuber, Hans Joachim, et al, eds. Earth System Analysis for Sustainability. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004. The authors consider what effective cognitive systems are needed for peoples to fully address and respond to the sustainability imperative? Four elements: GeoScope – interplay of observation and theory; GeoGraphy – how apply generalized knowledge in societies; GeoMind – aspects of personal identity; and GeoAction – a balance of representation and governance; are proposed in reply.

Marshall, Stephen. Cities, Design, and Evolution. London: Routledge, 2009. A University College London urban planner proposes to “Learn from Science and Nature” as a way to reinvent, reorient and vitalize human habitations. By gathering many recent studies, he achieves a deft employ of evolutionary themes together with emergent, self-organizing, multifractal complexities. A deep mathematical viability can thus be discerned whereof cities are most like an ecosystem. (See also Waltner-Toews, et al, herein)

Mayor, Frederico. The World Ahead: Our Future in the Making. London: Zed Books, 2001. A former director of UNESCO defines four “contracts” with society, nature, culture and ethics by which to address the critical issues of population, poverty, cities, food, energy, women, environment, education, and peace. Seven principles are suggested: trust the people, care for the planet, smart is beautiful, prepare for peace if you want peace, give to others if you wish to receive, a global democracy, and lastly, it is our future to create.

McDonagh, Sean. The Death of Life. Dublin: Columbia Press, 2004. An environmentalist, author and priest in the tradition of Thomas Berry and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin contends that for too far long the Catholic church has distrusted and denigrated a world seen as flawed and fallen. In a new millennium, a creation theology is more appropriate that can value and care for a deeply numinous nature. Of special concern to McDonagh is the precipitous extinction of animal species through habitat destruction.

Melillo, Jerry, et al. Ecology and the Transition to Sustainability. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 3/1, 2003. In this new journal from the Ecological Society of America, an introduction to a special issue on Visions for an Ecologically Sustainable Future. The ESA program for a relevant 21st century science and practice is summarized in this overview article, along with several case studies. A formal vision statement and action plan can be accessed at www.esa.org/ecovisions.

Merchant, Carolyn. Reinventing Eden. New York: Routledge, 2003. Historian Merchant summarizes a quarter century of her insightful critiques of the masculine devastation of the Earth that began with her 1980 landmark The Death of Nature. Rather than this Enlightenment agenda to recover a primal age through controlled environments such as shopping malls and gated communities, a respectful rapport with nature and a reciprocity between women and men is advised which can preserve an essence of original wilderness.

Like others, I yearn for a Recovery from environmental decline – for my own vision of a postpartiarchal, socially just ecotopia for the third millennium. A partnership ethic implies a remything of the Edenic Recovery Narrative or the writing of a new narrative altogether. The new story would not accept the patriarchal sequence of creation, but might instead emphasize simultaneous creation, cooperative male/female evolution, or an emergence out of chaos or the earth. It would not accept the ideal of subduing the earth, or even dressing and keeping the garden, since both entail total domestication and control by human beings. Instead each earthly place would be a home, a community, to be shared with other living and non living things. The needs of both humans and nonhumans would be dynamically balanced. (242)

Milani, Brian. Designing the Green Economy: The Postindustrial Alternative to Corporate Globalization. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. An indictment of rapacious corporations backed by a practical manifesto for achieving ecologically sustainable, humane, local communities. The book’s laudatory preface is written by Thomas Berry.

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