Link to talk

William Rees, Nora Bateson, Rex Weyler, Nate Hagens

What Is Ecology?

  • study of Emergence, complex adaptive systems, self organization, dissipative nature and evolution of living systems
  • study of inter-relational processes (process-relational worldview)
    • relationships do not stand still, they are dynamic (danger of static models)
      • relationships evolve through communication, what is possible to communicate?
  • Ecological thinking implies humility (epistemic humility), as opposed to engineering thinking’s “arrogant” implementation of correctives
    • Nature does not do things one at a time
      • organisms change other organisms, while being changed by them, these changes happen at several orders (nth order)
        • moth with owl eyes represents a second order relationship (moth’s predator are rodents, and owls are the predators’ predators)
      • complexity is inconvenient to the habits of trying to get control or manage
        • thinking we can pick one thing we want to change often ends up creating a mess

  • In ecology everything is interconnected -interbeing-
    • illusion of separation and of the Self
    • our language primes us to think of trees as separate from soil, and from fruits and from us, while there’s no clear boundary for any of them - language shapes our world
    • we operate with the conception that humans are not animals and not part of nature
      • social constructs get reinforced due to Confirmation Bias and synapses getting stronger
    • need to expand our conception of self
  • Taoism had understood early about the complexity of ecology, the deriving humility, and the value of following nature’s way

How to approach current predicament using Ecology

  • we don’t have a lot of time if we’re talking about saving “business as usual”
  • in a crisis, staying calm and helping others do the same is the main rule
    • panicking, rushing to apply (engineering) solutions is not going to help
    • engineering solution of introducing renewables hasn’t delivered the progress (co2 reduction) we aimed for
  • we’re not making progress because we don’t understand the problem well

Unsustainability is a natural phenomenon

  • humans have it and so do every other species
  • three tendencies shared by species (think of locusts, frogs, mice)
    • to grow exponentially in favorable environments
    • to expand to all available habitats
    • to use all available resources
  • with fossil fuels, technology and peace humans were able to temporarily relieve the balancing feedback loops keeping their population in check (diseases, food crises, wars) and population exploded

Contraction is inevitable

  • like all other species, once available resources are depleted, population crashes again
    • all the currently proposed solutions are tiny and actually perpetuating the status quo (growth imperative model)
    • with business as usual, the population contraction won’t be voluntary but imposed by nature
    • the longer we pursue these fantasized engineering fixes, the harder we’re gonna fall
  • It’s a natural population boom-bust cycle, only this is the first time that it’s on a global scale
  • Human population growth is a huge taboo issue in the environmental movement
    • not about reducing population but reducing unwanted births. making contraception easily available and accessible
    • the reason we have the taboo is that population discussion come in at the level of control, what we are actually talking about is support, that is provided to families

Nourishing Unintentional Communities

  • A problem with intentional communities is that they have a pre-determined mission statement, which ends up being the source of conflict
    • pressure on how people should think, be and feel
  • Cultivating skills on how to be with somebody
  • Shifting the personal development question
    • from “How do I develop” or “Who do I become”
    • to “Who can you be when you’re with me” - “How do we meet an unfamiliar and dangerous situation together”
    • Creating a relationship such that whatever comes we can be together to address it

Because Life

  • What’s the point is a wrong question
    • what’s the strategy we will use? what’s it for? how we’re going to do it?
  • What’s the point of the forest? The forest is just foresting
  • the reason for tending to life is because life
    • all these question point to a result, to an end-point, and make us miss other possibilities

Final takeaways

  • Accepting our animal nature, and let go of human exceptionalism
    • we’re stuck in a self-referencing system that insists on finding solutions from the same set of beliefs, values and attitudes that created the problem - tautology
    • we’re in an ecological thinking pattern that’s allergic to “ecological thinking”
    • we’re in a context that’s allergic to context
  • Accepting limits of the planet we live on