robertogreco + ecosystems   67

[Essay] | Faustian Economics, by Wendell Berry | Harper's Magazine
"The general reaction to the apparent end of the era of cheap fossil fuel, as to other readily foreseeable curtailments, has been to delay any sort of reckoning. The strategies of delay, so far, have been a sort of willed oblivion, or visions of large profits to the manufacturers of such “biofuels” as ethanol from corn or switchgrass, or the familiar unscientific faith that “science will find an answer.” The dominant response, in short, is a dogged belief that what we call the American Way of Life will prove somehow indestructible. We will keep on consuming, spending, wasting, and driving, as before, at any cost to anything and everybody but ourselves.

This belief was always indefensible — the real names of global warming are Waste and Greed — and by now it is manifestly foolish. But foolishness on this scale looks disturbingly like a sort of national insanity. We seem to have come to a collective delusion of grandeur, insisting that all of us are “free” to be as conspicuously greedy and wasteful as the most corrupt of kings and queens. (Perhaps by devoting more and more of our already abused cropland to fuel production we will at last cure ourselves of obesity and become fashionably skeletal, hungry but — thank God! — still driving.)"

"The normalization of the doctrine of limitlessness has produced a sort of moral minimalism: the desire to be efficient at any cost, to be unencumbered by complexity. The minimization of neighborliness, respect, reverence, responsibility, accountability, and self-subordination — this is the culture of which our present leaders and heroes are the spoiled children.

Our national faith so far has been: “There’s always more.” Our true religion is a sort of autistic industrialism. People of intelligence and ability seem now to be genuinely embarrassed by any solution to any problem that does not involve high technology, a great expenditure of energy, or a big machine. Thus an X marked on a paper ballot no longer fulfills our idea of voting. One problem with this state of affairs is that the work now most needing to be done — that of neighborliness and caretaking — cannot be done by remote control with the greatest power on the largest scale. A second problem is that the economic fantasy of limitlessness in a limited world calls fearfully into question the value of our monetary wealth, which does not reliably stand for the real wealth of land, resources, and workmanship but instead wastes and depletes it.

That human limitlessness is a fantasy means, obviously, that its life expectancy is limited. There is now a growing perception, and not just among a few experts, that we are entering a time of inescapable limits. We are not likely to be granted another world to plunder in compensation for our pillage of this one. Nor are we likely to believe much longer in our ability to outsmart, by means of science and technology, our economic stupidity. The hope that we can cure the ills of industrialism by the homeopathy of more technology seems at last to be losing status. We are, in short, coming under pressure to understand ourselves as limited creatures in a limited world.

This constraint, however, is not the condemnation it may seem. On the contrary, it returns us to our real condition and to our human heritage, from which our self-definition as limitless animals has for too long cut us off. Every cultural and religious tradition that I know about, while fully acknowledging our animal nature, defines us specifically as humans — that is, as animals (if the word still applies) capable of living not only within natural limits but also within cultural limits, self-imposed. As earthly creatures, we live, because we must, within natural limits, which we may describe by such names as “earth” or “ecosystem” or “watershed” or “place.” But as humans, we may elect to respond to this necessary placement by the self-restraints implied in neighborliness, stewardship, thrift, temperance, generosity, care, kindness, friendship, loyalty, and love.

In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define “freedom,” for example, as an escape from all restraint. But, as my friend Bert Hornback has explained in his book The Wisdom in Words, “free” is etymologically related to “friend.” These words come from the same Indo-European root, which carries the sense of “dear” or “beloved.” We set our friends free by our love for them, with the implied restraints of faithfulness or loyalty. And this suggests that our “identity” is located not in the impulse of selfhood but in deliberately maintained connections."

"And so our cultural tradition is in large part the record of our continuing effort to understand ourselves as beings specifically human: to say that, as humans, we must do certain things and we must not do certain things. We must have limits or we will cease to exist as humans; perhaps we will cease to exist, period. At times, for example, some of us humans have thought that human beings, properly so called, did not make war against civilian populations, or hold prisoners without a fair trial, or use torture for any reason.

Some of us would-be humans have thought too that we should not be free at anybody else’s expense. And yet in the phrase “free market,” the word “free” has come to mean unlimited economic power for some, with the necessary consequence of economic powerlessness for others. Several years ago, after I had spoken at a meeting, two earnest and obviously troubled young veterinarians approached me with a question: How could they practice veterinary medicine without serious economic damage to the farmers who were their clients? Underlying their question was the fact that for a long time veterinary help for a sheep or a pig has been likely to cost more than the animal is worth. I had to answer that, in my opinion, so long as their practice relied heavily on selling patented drugs, they had no choice, since the market for medicinal drugs was entirely controlled by the drug companies, whereas most farmers had no control at all over the market for agricultural products. My questioners were asking in effect if a predatory economy can have a beneficent result. The answer too often is No. And that is because there is an absolute discontinuity between the economy of the seller of medicines and the economy of the buyer, as there is in the health industry as a whole. The drug industry is interested in the survival of patients, we have to suppose, because surviving patients will continue to consume drugs.

Now let us consider a contrary example. Recently, at another meeting, I talked for some time with an elderly, and some would say an old-fashioned, farmer from Nebraska. Unable to farm any longer himself, he had rented his land to a younger farmer on the basis of what he called “crop share” instead of a price paid or owed in advance. Thus, as the old farmer said of his renter, “If he has a good year, I have a good year. If he has a bad year, I have a bad one.” This is what I would call community economics. It is a sharing of fate. It assures an economic continuity and a common interest between the two partners to the trade. This is as far as possible from the economy in which the young veterinarians were caught, in which the powerful are limitlessly “free” to trade, to the disadvantage, and ultimately the ruin, of the powerless.

It is this economy of community destruction that, wittingly or unwittingly, most scientists and technicians have served for the past two hundred years. These scientists and technicians have justified themselves by the proposition that they are the vanguard of progress, enlarging human knowledge and power, and thus they have romanticized both themselves and the predatory enterprises that they have served."

"If the idea of appropriate limitation seems unacceptable to us, that may be because, like Marlowe’s Faustus and Milton’s Satan, we confuse limits with confinement. But that, as I think Marlowe and Milton and others were trying to tell us, is a great and potentially a fatal mistake. Satan’s fault, as Milton understood it and perhaps with some sympathy, was precisely that he could not tolerate his proper limitation; he could not subordinate himself to anything whatever. Faustus’s error was his unwillingness to remain “Faustus, and a man.” In our age of the world it is not rare to find writers, critics, and teachers of literature, as well as scientists and technicians, who regard Satan’s and Faustus’s defiance as salutary and heroic.

On the contrary, our human and earthly limits, properly understood, are not confinements but rather inducements to formal elaboration and elegance, to fullness of relationship and meaning. Perhaps our most serious cultural loss in recent centuries is the knowledge that some things, though limited, are inexhaustible. For example, an ecosystem, even that of a working forest or farm, so long as it remains ecologically intact, is inexhaustible. A small place, as I know from my own experience, can provide opportunities of work and learning, and a fund of beauty, solace, and pleasure — in addition to its difficulties — that cannot be exhausted in a lifetime or in generations.

To recover from our disease of limitlessness, we will have to give up the idea that we have a right to be godlike animals, that we are potentially omniscient and omnipotent, ready to discover “the secret of the universe.” We will have to start over, with a different and much older premise: the naturalness and, for creatures of limited intelligence, the necessity, of limits. We must learn again to ask how we can make the most of what we are, what we have, what we have been given. If we always have a theoretically better substitute available from somebody or someplace else, we will never make the most of anything. It is hard to make the most of one life. If we each had two lives, we would not make much of either. Or … [more]
wendellberry  2008  economics  science  technology  art  limits  limitlessness  arts  ecosystems  limitations  local  humanism  humanity  humility  community  communities  knowledge  power  expansion  growth  interdependence  greed  neighborliness  stewardship  thrift  temperance  christianity  generosity  care  kindness  friendship  loyalty  love  self-restraint  restraint  watershed  land  caring  caretaking  morality  accountability  responsibility  respect  reverence  corruption  capitalism  technosolutionism  fossilfuels  waste 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
"Educating for a Sustainable Future

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Green Schools Conference
April 8 - 10, 2019 | The Green Schools Conference & Expo
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cloudinstitute  jaimecloud  sustainability  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  future  optimism  k12  highereducation  highered  systemsthinking  change  adaptability  ecosystems  responsibility  leadership  systems  criticalthinking  hope 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Think Like a Scientist: Renewal on Vimeo
[via: "How the Elwha River Was Saved: The inside story of the largest dam removal project in US history."

"I know firsthand what a hydroelectric dam can do to the environment. As a tribal member growing up on the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s reservation, the Elwha River and its two hydroelectric dams were in my backyard. Before the dams, whose construction began in 1910, the river was rich with several species of fish, including steelhead trout, and all five species of Pacific salmon. My great-grandfather and tribal elder, Edward Sampson, shared stories with me of catching 100-pound Chinook salmon, then watching the salmon populations decline when the dams came. Salmon have always been culturally and spiritually important to my tribe. They are treated reverently, and celebrated with ceremonies after the first catch of each year.

The Elwha dams were built without fish ladders, gently sloping structures that connect waters on either side of the dam. These ladders are important for anadromous fish, meaning stream-born fish that live part of their lives in the ocean and later return to their natal streams to spawn. Salmons are anadromous, and carry with them marine-derived nutrients that are important to the entire Elwha watershed ecosystem. Salmon carcasses provide nutrients for other wildlife and fertilizer for riparian vegetation.

My work has strengthened my ties to my home.

Without fish ladders, the dams blocked access by salmon to 90 percent of their historic spawning grounds, halted the flow of marine-derived nutrients into the ecosystem, and dramatically reduced salmon populations. They also negated agreements in the tribe’s 1855 Point No Point Treaty, which stated that it would have permanent fishing rights on the Elwha River.

The history of the dam was tightly woven in the history of my own family. My grandfather worked for the company that ran the dams for his entire career, while my grandmother was an activist working to remove the dams and restore the salmon populations. Then, on Sept. 17, 2011, the largest dam removal and river restoration project in United States history was set into motion. Both dams were removed, and the Elwha River began to flow freely again for the first time in 100 years.

My realization of the role people have in ecosystem health, brought about in part by watching my tribe fight for the removal of the dams and the restoration of the salmon, inspired me to pursue a career working in natural resources. I decided to return to my home on the reservation to pursue a degree in environmental science at Western Washington University, after attending the University of Hawaii at Mānoa for two years and studying marine biology. I was hired as an intern for the tribe’s wildlife program in 2014. Four months into my internship, I was hired for a part-time position by the tribe’s wildlife program manager, Kim Sager-Fradkin, while maintaining a full-time student schedule. In addition to a Columbian black-tailed deer mortality study, this program gave me an opportunity to study Elwha river otters and to be a part of an Elwha River Restoration wildlife monitoring project.

I am particularly proud of my involvement in the three-year, collaborative study monitoring Elwha wildlife recolonization. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the United States Geological Survey, the National Park Service, and Western Washington University were all involved. The study gave me the opportunity to survey beavers, songbirds, deer and elk, vegetation and large woody debris, and small mammal trapping surveys. The experiences I’ve had during this study observing wildlife interactions with the environment over time have reinforced my desire to further my education studying population ecology. Because of this, I will be starting graduate school at the University of Idaho with a newly-funded project to study cougar population size and structure on the Olympic Peninsula.

My work has strengthened my ties to my home. In the years since I’ve returned, I’ve become closer with my tribal and scientific communities, and have grown an even stronger appreciation for the Elwha River ecosystem. The river restoration has been a major success for the Klallam people, and proves the effectiveness of methods for ecosystem restoration that will hopefully be used as a model in other restoration efforts worldwide. And for me personally, the experience of working on this restoration project and seeing firsthand the regeneration of the former lakebeds and of the historic lands of my people has been incredibly reaffirming."]
elwah  elwahiver  washingtonstate  2018  cameronmacias  rivers  nature  conservation  ecosystems  ecology  wildlife  dams  salmon  multispecies  morethanhuman  fish  klallam  olympicpeninsula  clallamcounty  restoration 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Should Rivers Have Rights? A Growing Movement Says It’s About Time - Yale E360
"Inspired by indigenous views of nature, a movement to grant a form of legal “personhood” to rivers is gaining some ground — a key step, advocates say, in reversing centuries of damage inflicted upon the world’s waterways."
rivers  rights  nature  multispecies  morethanhuman  2018  personhood  chile  ecosystems  law  legal  jensbenöhr  patricklynch  indigeneity 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Letters of Note: Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088
"The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature's stern but reasonable surrender terms:

1. Reduce and stabilize your population.
2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you're at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.
7. And so on. Or else."

via ]
vonnegut  advice  future  environment  sustainability  selfishness  goodancestors  1988  2088  nature  planetearth  spaceshipearth  ecosystems  war  small  slow  waste  wastefulness  escapism  technosolutionism 
july 2018 by robertogreco
RWM - SON[I]A [Natalie Jemeijenko]
SON[I]A talks to Natalie Jeremijenko about learning by living together, about the vitality and shortcomings of the environmental struggles of the past, and about how to imagine our relationships with natural systems from this point on.
learning  howwelearn  cohabitation  relationships  systems  systemsthinking  environment  nature  ecology  ecosystems  2016  health  rwm 
july 2018 by robertogreco
The world is poorly designed. But copying nature helps. - YouTube
"Japan’s Shinkansen doesn’t look like your typical train. With its long and pointed nose, it can reach top speeds up to 150–200 miles per hour.

It didn’t always look like this. Earlier models were rounder and louder, often suffering from the phenomenon of "tunnel boom," where deafening compressed air would rush out of a tunnel after a train rushed in. But a moment of inspiration from engineer and birdwatcher Eiji Nakatsu led the system to be redesigned based on the aerodynamics of three species of birds.

Nakatsu’s case is a fascinating example of biomimicry, the design movement pioneered by biologist and writer Janine Benyus. She's a co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute, a non-profit encouraging creators to discover how big challenges in design, engineering, and sustainability have often already been solved through 3.8 billion years of evolution on earth. We just have to go out and find them."
biomimicry  design  classideas  janinebenyus  biology  nature  trains  shinkansen  japan  birds  sustainability  biomimetics  form  process  plants  animals  2017  circulareconomy  ecosystems  systemsthinking  upcycling  cities  urban  urbanism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
80-Year-Old Man Hasn’t Watered This Sealed Bottle Garden Since 1972 And It’s Still Alive
"Almost 54 years ago, David Latimer had opened a bottle and had planted a seed that would soon amaze the entire world. Whereas the ecosystem was closed, it was functional. Yes. David Latimer has successfully and surprisingly grown a plant that was sealed inside a glass bottle.

According to sources, the plant was sown on a Sunday of the Easter in 1960. Inside a 10-gallon glass carboy, David added a small amount of compost and some water. In 1972, he opened the bottle again to add just a little amount of more water and then that was it. The glass bottle was destined to be sealed.

Where this might seem like an undoable and unachievable thing, it has been done and it has been achieved. A sustained ecosystem is now growing by the day in David Latimer’s sealed glass bottle and is an amazing version of our earth at a micro level."
classideas  via:doingitrong  terraratiums  1972  2018  biosphere  biology  ecosystems 
april 2018 by robertogreco
On how to grow an idea – The Creative Independent
"In the 1970s, a Japanese farmer discovered a better way to do something—by not doing it. In the introduction to Masasobu Fukuoka’s One-Straw Revolution, Frances Moore Lappé describes the farmer’s moment of inspiration:
The basic idea came to him one day as he happened to pass an old field which had been left unused and unplowed for many years. There he saw a tangle of grasses and weeds. From that time on, he stopped flooding his field in order to grow rice. He stopped sowing rice seed in the spring and, instead, put the seed out in the autumn, sowing it directly onto the surface of the field when it would naturally have fallen to the ground… Once he has seen to it that conditions have been tilted in favor of his crops, Mr. Fukuoka interferes as little as possible with the plant and animal communities in his fields.

Fukuoka’s practice, which he perfected over many years, eventually became known as “do nothing farming.” Not that it was easy: the do-nothing farmer needed to be more attentive and sensitive to the land and seasons than a regular farmer. After all, Fukuoka’s ingenious method was hard-won after decades of his own close observations of weather patterns, insects, birds, trees, soil, and the interrelationships among all of these.

In One Straw Revolution, Fukuoka is rightly proud of what he has perfected. Do-nothing farming not only required less labor, no machines, and no fertilizer—it also enriched the soil year by year, while most farms depleted their soil. Despite the skepticism of others, Fukuoka’s farm yielded a harvest equal to or greater than that of other farms. “It seems unlikely that there could be a simpler way of raising grain,” he wrote. “The proof is ripening right before your eyes.”

One of Fukuoka’s insights was that there is a natural intelligence at work in existing ecosystems, and therefore the most intelligent way to farm was to interfere as little as possible. This obviously requires a reworking not only of what we consider farming, but maybe even what we consider progress.

“The path I have followed, this natural way of farming, which strikes most people as strange, was first interpreted as a reaction against the advance and reckless development of science. But all I have been doing, farming out here in the country, is trying to show that humanity knows nothing. Because the world is moving with such furious energy in the opposite direction, it may appear that I have fallen behind the times, but I firmly believe that the path I have been following is the most sensible one.”

The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka


In my view, Fukuoka was an inventor. Typically we associate invention and progress with the addition or development of new technology. So what happens when moving forward actually means taking something away, or moving in a direction that appears (to us) to be backward? Fukuoka wrote: “This method completely contradicts modern agricultural techniques. It throws scientific knowledge and traditional farming know-how right out the window.”

This practice of fitting oneself into the greater ecological scheme of things is almost comically opposite to the stories in John McPhee’s Control of Nature. There, we find near-Shakespearean tales of folly in which man tries and fails to master the sublime powers of his environment (e.g. the decades-long attempt to keep the Mississippi river from changing course).

Any artist or writer might find this contrast familiar. Why is it that when we sit down and try to force an idea, nothing comes—or, if we succeed in forcing it, it feels stale and contrived? Why do the best ideas appear uninvited and at the strangest times, darting out at us like an impish squirrel from a shrub?

The key, in my opinion, has to do with what you think it is that’s doing the producing, and where. It’s easy for me to say that “I” produce ideas. But when I’ve finished something, it’s often hard for me to say how it happened—where it started, what route it took, and why it ended where it did. Something similar is happening on a do-nothing farm, where transitive verbs seem inadequate. It doesn’t sound quite right to say that Fukuoka “farmed the land”—it’s more like he collaborated with the land, and through his collaboration, created the conditions for certain types of growth.

“A great number, if not the majority, of these things have been described, inventoried, photographed, talked about, or registered. My intention in the pages that follow was to describe the rest instead: that which is generally not taken note of, that which is not noticed, that which has no importance: what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds.”

Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by George Perec


I’ve known for my entire adult that going for a walk is how I can think most easily. Walking is not simply moving your thinking mind (some imagined insular thing) outside. The process of walking is thinking. In fact, in his book Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World, David Abram proposes that it is not we who are thinking, but rather the environment that is thinking through us. Intelligence and thought are things to be found both in and around the self. “Each place is a unique state of mind,” Abram writes. “And the many owners that constitute and dwell within that locale—the spiders and the tree frogs no less than the human—all participate in, and partake of, the particular mind of the place.”

This is not as hand-wavy as it sounds. Studies in cognitive science have suggested that we do not encounter the environment as a static thing, nor are we static ourselves. As Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch put it in The Embodied Mind (a study of cognitive science alongside Buddhist principles): “Cognition is not the representation of a pre-given world by a pre-given mind but is rather the enactment of a world and a mind… “ (emphasis mine). Throughout the book, the authors build a model of cognition in which mind and environment are not separate, but rather co-produced from the very point at which they meet.


“The Telegarden is an art installation that allows web users to view and interact with a remote garden filled with living plants. Members can plant, water, and monitor the progress of seedlings via the tender movements of an industrial robot arm.”


Ideas are not products, as much as corporations would like them to be. Ideas are intersections between ourselves and something else, whether that’s a book, a conversation with a friend, or the subtle suggestion of a tree. Ideas can literally arise out of clouds (if we are looking at them). That is to say: ideas, like consciousness itself, are emergent properties, and thinking might be more participation than it is production. If we can accept this view of the mind with humility and awe, we might be amazed at what will grow there.

breathing [animation]


To accompany this essay, I’ve created a channel on called “How to grow an idea.” There you’ll find some seeds for thought, scattered amongst other growths: slime molds, twining vines, internet gardens, and starling murmurations. The interview with John Cage, where he sits by an open window and rejoices in unwritten music, might remind you a bit of Fukuoka, as might Scott Polach’s piece in which an audience applauds the sunset. The channel starts with a reminder to breathe, and ends with an invitation to take a nap. Hopefully, somewhere in between, you might encounter something new."
intelligence  methodology  ideas  jennyodell  2018  masasobufukuoka  francesmoorelappé  farming  slow  nothing  idleness  nature  time  patience  productivity  interdependence  multispecies  morethanhuman  do-nothingfarming  labor  work  sustainability  ecosystems  progress  invention  technology  knowledge  johnmcphee  collaboration  land  growth  georgesperec  walking  thinking  slowthinking  perception  language  davidabram  cognitivescience  franciscovarela  evanthompson  eleanorrosch  buddhism  cognition  johncage  agriculture 
april 2018 by robertogreco
a rat is killed, a man broken, a horse splashes | sara hendren
"Take small steps. In an experimental approach to social change, presume that we cannot know the consequences of our interventions in advance. Given this postulate of ignorance, prefer wherever possible to take a small step, stand back, observe, and then plan the next small move. As the biologist J. B. S. Haldane metaphorically described the advantages of smallness: “You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mineshaft; and on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away. A rat is killed, a man broken, a horse splashes.”

Favor reversibility. Prefer interventions that can easily be undone if they turn out to be mistakes. Irreversible interventions have irreversible consequences. Interventions into ecosystems require particular care in this respect, given our ignorance about how they interact. Aldo Leopold captured the spirit of caution required: “The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the parts.”

Plan on surprises. Choose plans that allow the largest accommodation to the unforeseen. In agricultural schemes this may mean choosing and preparing land so that it can grow any of several crops. In planning housing, it would mean “designing in” flexibility for accommodating changes in family structures or living styles. In a factory it may mean selecting a location, layout, or piece of machinery that allows for new processes, materials, or product lines down the road.

Plan on human inventiveness. Always plan under the assumption that those who become involved in the project later will have or will develop the experience and insight to improve on the design."
2018  sarahendren  seeinglikeastate  jamescscott  urbanplanning  socialservices  government  everyday  maps  mapping  legibility  highmodernism  socialengineering  reversibility  small  slow  humanism  humans  ecosystems  markets  community  cooperation  scale  scalability  taylorism 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Atlas for the End of the World
[via: ]

"Coming almost 450 years after the world's first Atlas, this Atlas for the End of the World audits the status of land use and urbanization in the most critically endangered bioregions on Earth. It does so, firstly, by measuring the quantity of protected area across the world's 36 biodiversity hotspots in comparison to United Nation's 2020 targets; and secondly, by identifying where future urban growth in these territories is on a collision course with endangered species.

By bringing urbanization and conservation together in the same study, the essays, maps, data, and artwork in this Atlas lay essential groundwork for the future planning and design of hotspot cities and regions as interdependent ecological and economic systems."

"The findings of this research are threefold: first, a majority of the ecoregions in the hotspots fall well short of United Nations' 2020 targets for protected lands; second, almost all the cities in the hotspots are projected to continue to sprawl in an unregulated manner into the world's most valuable habitats; and finally, only a small number of the 196 nations who are party to the CBD (and the 142 nations who have sovereign jurisdiction over the hotspots) have any semblance of appropriately scaled, land use planning which would help reconcile international conservation values with local economic imperatives.6

By focusing attention on the hotspots in the lead-up to the UN's 2020 deadline for achieving the Aichi targets, this atlas is intended as a geopolitical tool to help prioritize conservation land-use planning. It is also a call to landscape architects, urban designers, and planners to become more involved in helping reconcile ecology and economics in these territories.

Set diametrically at the opposite end of modernity to Ortelius' original, this atlas promotes cultivation, not conquest. As such, this atlas is not about the end of the world at all, for that cosmological inevitability awaits the sun's explosion some 2.5 or so billion years away: it is about the end of Ortelius' world, the end of the world as a God-given and unlimited resource for human exploitation. On this, even the Catholic Church is now adamant: "we have no such right" writes Pope Francis.7"

"This immense and ever-expanding trove of remotely sensed data and imagery is the basis of the world's shared Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The subject of this cyborgian, perpetual mapping-machine is not only where things are in space, but more importantly how things change over time. Because the environmental crisis is generally a question of understanding what is changing where, we can say that with remote sensing and its data-streams we have entered not only the apocalyptic age of star wars and the white-noise world of global telecommunications, but more optimistically, the age of ecological cartography.

The "judgment and bias" of this atlas lies firstly in our acceptance of the public data as a given; secondly in the utilization of GIS to rapidly read and translate metadata as a reasonable basis for map-making in the age of ecological cartography; thirdly, in our foregrounding of each map's particular theme to the exclusion of all others; and finally in the way that a collection of ostensibly neutral and factual maps is combined to form an atlas that, by implication, raises prescient questions of land-use on a global scale."

"Who are the Atlas authors?
The Atlas for the End of the World project was conceived and directed by Richard Weller who is the Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism and Professor and Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). The Atlas was researched and created in collaboration with Claire Hoch and Chieh Huang, both recent graduates from the Department of Landscape Architecture at UPenn now practicing landscape architecture in Australia and the United States."
biodiversity  culture  future  maps  anthropocene  earth  multispecies  environment  ecology  ecosystems  mapping  data  visualization  infographics  dataviz  bioregions  atlases  geography  urbanization  cities  nature  naturalhistory  california  classideas  flora  fauna  plants  animals  wildlife  morethanhuman  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  economics  endangersspecies  statistics  richardweller  clairehoch  chiehhuang 
january 2018 by robertogreco
An Atlas for the End of the World
"The Atlas for the End of the World is a project started by Penn architect Richard Weller to highlight the effects of human civilization and urbanization on our planet’s biodiversity.
Coming almost 450 years after the world’s first Atlas, this Atlas for the End of the World audits the status of land use and urbanization in the most critically endangered bioregions on Earth. It does so, firstly, by measuring the quantity of protected area across the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots in comparison to United Nation’s 2020 targets; and secondly, by identifying where future urban growth in these territories is on a collision course with endangered species.

There’s lots to see at the site: world and regional maps, data visualizations, key statistical data, photos of plants and animals that have been modified by humans, as well as several essays on a variety of topics.

And here’s a fun map: countries with national biodiversity strategies and action plans in place. Take a wild guess which country is one of the very few without such a plan in place!"

[See also: ]
anthropocene  maps  mapping  atlases  geography  urbanization  cities  nature  naturalhistory  california  classideas  flora  fauna  plants  animals  wildlife  multispecies  morethanhuman  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  biodiversity  ecology  economics  ecosystems  endangersspecies  visualization  data  statistics 
january 2018 by robertogreco
What the Arete Project stands for
"1. We offer a higher vision for higher education. Current academic culture values achievement over learning, knowledge over wisdom, research over teaching, and frills over substance. The Arete Project provides an education in the liberal arts and sciences that helps students become thoughtful, responsible, and virtuous human beings. Students are invested with responsibilities that extend far beyond their GPAs; instructors are valued first as teachers and mentors and second as scholars; and education takes place as a communal enterprise in a setting of rustic simplicity.

2. We educate for service and leadership – with real stakes. Many leadership programs are little more than simulations. Many service-work programs are guilty of “voluntourism.” But at the Arete Project, students must create, sustain, and govern their own educational community, as well as work towards the wellbeing of the institution itself. Student self-governance is real. If the cow isn’t milked, she may sicken, leaving the kitchen without dairy products. If recruitment emails aren’t sent, we may have no applicants the next year. Students must take real responsibility for these critical and other functions of the organization.

3. We provide an educational antidote to social fragmentation. It is no secret that our world has fractured deeply along lines of income, identity, and ideology. Our programs require students to step outside of their comfort zones and to build and share an educational space with people from very different backgrounds. The intimacy of the community (including students, staff, and faculty) allows trust and real relationships to flourish; these relationships, in turn, enable the difficult conversations that our society so badly needs to have.

4. We train thoughtful stewards of the natural world. Though we are all ultimately dependent on the ecosystems around us, few of us feel that dependence in our daily lives. The Arete Project asks students to live for extended periods of time in rustic accommodations within rural and wilderness settings, and much work and recreation is out of doors. The labor program in particular – by having students grow their own food and build their own shelter – provides a chance to think deeply about humans' relationship to nature."
education  areteproject  lauramarcus  highered  highereducation  learning  knowledge  wisdom  teching  research  substance  frills  liberalarts  mentoring  responsibility  service  leadership  voluntourism  servicelearning  self-governance  governance  fragmentation  society  inequality  inclusivity  inclusion  lcproject  openstudioproject  relationships  conversation  stewardship  nature  ecosystems  ecology  sustainability  interdependence  labor  work  ideology  criticalthinking  pedagogy  academia  colleges  universities 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Profile: AURA: Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene
"We have entered the Anthropocene - a new geologic epoch, defined by unprecedented human disturbance of the earth’s ecosystems.

The Anthropocene is a confusing age. At a time when humans have come to be a 'force of nature' that is instrumental in causing rapid, often unintended, changes to the earth they inhabit, nature in its classical sense is over. Nature itself has become a cultural side-effect, a side-effect full of unintended consequences.

At the heart of our confusion is the problem of unintentional design on anthropogenic, i.e. human disturbed, landscapes. Human projects do not always result in the landscapes of which we dream. Climate change is one example of unintentional design; new zoonotic diseases are another. As these examples suggest, we tend to imagine unintentional design as a danger to human survival. But what if anthropogenic landscapes were sometimes also sites of new designs for living—unplanned but still life-enhancing?

New approaches that cut across the conventional divide between the human sciences and the life sciences are required to consider these Anthropocene dilemmas.  "Living in the Anthropocene: Discovering the potential of unintentional design on anthropogenic landscapes" is a research project at Aarhus University that seeks to study these dilemmas.

Headed by Niels Bohr professor and anthropologist Anna Tsing, the project aims to open up a novel and truly trans-disciplinary field of research into the Anthropocene.  Applying insights and methods from anthropology, biology and philosophy, the  project will focus on the 'co-species landscapes' that humans and other species come to co-inhabit in the Anthropocene.  The projects suggests that a descriptive and trans-disciplinary approach is needed to understand the kinds of lives that are made and the futures that are possible in the ruined, re-wilded, and unintended landscapes of the Anthropocene."
annalowenhaupttsing  anthropocene  capitalism  climatechange  nielsbohr  aarhusuniversity  multispecies  ecosystems  landscapes  anthropology  biology  philosophy  morethanhuman  annatsing 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Remeasuring Stephen Jay Gould
"At its core, Mismeasure argues that the twentieth century’s IQ tests share a desire to justify race and class hierarchies with the nineteenth century’s more primitive measures of cranial features and theories of criminal physiognomy. In both eras, researchers rationalized the status quo with the premise of immutable, hereditary intelligence and the fallacy of reification, which held that intelligence can be reduced to a single number and those numbers used to rank people on a linear scale."

"At the end of their article, Lewis et al. wrote, “were Gould still alive, we expect he would have mounted a defense of his analysis of Morton.” This is a virtual certainty: Gould openly acknowledged his errors throughout his career and called “factual correction . . . the most sublime event in intellectual life.” Gould cannot defend himself, but, since Lewis et al. can, it’s curious that they have not responded to more recent peer-reviewed studies that refute key aspects of their work."

"Gould wrote his 1989 book, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, in large part to counteract the bias toward experimental science. The Burgess Shale in British Columbia includes the greatest repository of fossils from the Cambrian explosion, the dawn of multicellular life. As Gould’s book notes, scientists working with these fossils radically changed paleontology’s core concepts. Contrary to earlier studies, many of the shale’s fossils do not have known ancestors. This means that life was, in crucial ways, more diverse at the outset of the multicellular period than since. Current species evolved from only a few “lucky” surviving lineages.

Because the work involved “mere” description and no experimental work, the new interpretations did not make headlines. Gould contrasts this with the other great paleontological development of the late twentieth century, the “Alvarez hypothesis,” which holds that dinosaur extinction resulted from extraterrestrial impact.
The impact theory has everything for public acclaim — white coats, numbers, [Alvarez’s] Nobel renown and location at the top of the ladder of status. The Burgess redescriptions, on the other hand, struck many observers as one funny thing after another — just descriptions of some previously unappreciated, odd animals from early in life’s history.

Both discoveries told the same compelling story; both “illustrat[ed] . . . the extreme chanciness and contingency of life’s history,” yet only the “Alvarez hypothesis” made the cover of Time magazine.

The same privileging of “hard” science explains why media outlets picked up the attack on Gould’s analysis but not his subsequent vindication. These reports all emphasized that Lewis et al. had literally remeasured hundreds of skulls in the Morton collection (presumably while wearing white lab coats). As one more recent critique noted, however, “from the standpoint of evaluating Gould’s published claims, the re-measurement was completely pointless.” “Gould never claimed that Morton’s [later] shot-based measurements, which is what Lewis et al. compared their new measurements to, were unreliable.” Confirming their bias toward experimental methods, “Lewis et al. are . . . falsifying (their word) a claim Gould never made.” Such a glaring conceptual problem should prompt us, as it would have prompted Gould, to inquire into this supposed controversy’s historical context."

"In Wonderful Life, Gould argued that the evolution of intelligent life represents such a unique and improbable outcome, that, if you started life over at the beginning of the Cambrian explosion, different early organisms would have survived the period’s decimation, and we would never have existed at all:
Homo sapiens, I fear, is a “thing so small” in a vast universe, a wildly improbable evolutionary event well within the realm of contingency. Make of such a conclusion what you will. Some find it depressing; I have always regarded it as exhilarating, and a source of both freedom and consequent moral responsibility.

Gould’s sense of moral responsibility figures in his column’s other main project — what Marxists would recognize as his critique of ideology and what he called “the social implications of the scientific assault upon pervasive biases of Western thought.”

Gould listed four such biases: “progress, determinism, gradualism, and adaptationism.” They persist because they serve as a great comfort to many. Determinism and adaptationism tell us that we are meant to be here and are well suited for survival; gradualism and progress tell us that change occurs in predictable ways. In short, these biases teach us that everything happens for a reason.

As Gould pointed out, even progressive causes like the environmental movement fall prey to these biases’ hubris. Green activists too often assume that the earth is so delicate that we can destroy it and that, therefore, we shoulder the responsibility of saving it. With a New Yorker’s sarcasm, Gould responded, “We should be so powerful!”

He insisted that humans — not the earth — are the ones in danger. But this view does not make climate change any less of a crisis. As he put it:
Our planet is not fragile at its own time scale, and we, pitiful latecomers in the last microsecond of the planetary year are stewards of nothing in the long run. Yet no political movement is more vital and timely than modern environmentalism — because we must save ourselves (and our neighbor species) from our own immediate folly.

With his leftist organizing experience and his awareness of the consequences of human development on our own survival, you might expect that Gould would have devoted numerous columns to the ecological crisis. But he waited, he explained, until he could contribute something more than a repetition of “the shibboleths of the movement.”

In his essay on the extinction of the land snail Partula on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia, Gould argued that we should grieve for the scientist Henry Crampton whose lifetime of dedication to studying Partula on a remote island under adverse circumstances was erased by the unintended consequences of introducing predatory creatures into the environment. Though Gould was also an expert on land snails, as he explains it, the point is that we need a humanistic ecology too, “both for the practical reason that people will always touch people more than snails do or can, and for the moral reason that humans are legitimately the measure of all ethical questions — for these are our issues not nature’s.”"

"It is tempting to label these remarks as Pollyannaish, but Gould was not naïve. The philosopher in him spoke of the “Great Asymmetry”: one destructive act can undo years of careful effort, but decent people still vastly outnumber their counterparts. At the same time, the veteran political organizer in Gould knew it would take concerted action. His essay on Papa Joe closes:
We will win now because ordinary humanity holds a triumphant edge in millions of good people over each evil psychopath. But we will only prevail if we can mobilize this latent goodness into permanent vigilance and action.

The call for “permanent vigilance and action” under the rubric of “tough hope” in response to the work of reactionary extremists who reject modernity was Gould’s final theme as a public intellectual. With the Left returning to its duty to organize and remembering its roots in the projects of the Enlightenment and modernity, we must commit ourselves to Gould’s legacy of “tough hope.”"
stephenjaygould  politics  history  2017  jasonlewis  samuelmorton  sociology  learning  certainty  uncertainty  correction  vigilance  action  racism  hope  humanism  sustainability  climatechange  ecosystems  ecology  progress  determinism  gradualism  adaptationism 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Why do we Talk about Cities as Laboratories? – Andrew R. Schrock – Medium
"In many ways, cities are quite unlike laboratories. Scientific laboratories are carefully controlled environments. Cities are unruly spaces that resist measurement and management. Where did this vision of come from, and what are the implications of its rise?"

"Latour and Woolgar were interested in the idea of border crossing, but were even more concerned about how laboratories held a particular power in society."

"The prevailing wisdom of the day was that cities were harmful and dehumanizing. Park, by contrast, situated cities as beneficial ecosystems. Cities could be mapped and studied much an oceanographer would research a coral reef or a forester would approach a forest. The empirical “bottom-up” approach to social research Park and his collaborator Eve Burgess suggested was enormously influential on urban sociology."

"Approaching cities as laboratories provided insight into human collectivity and made social problems visible, but also controllable."

"Latour would warn us that scientific authority is the true power structures that undergirds more formalized Politics. Vague but persuasive combinations of mobile media, “civic tech,” and urban design are starting to be taken seriously by academia, political institutions and funding agencies.

It is not yet clear how these new players will achieve their most audacious hope. This hope is often not about a new mobile app, or even technology itself. City-lab hybrids don’t want to just work around cities and city government. They want to change how they function. They are never just tinkering."
cities  laboratories  2017  andrewschrock  brunolatour  stevewoolgar  collectivism  collectivity  ecosystems  sociology  politics  scientism  academia  policy  government  governance  robertpark 
may 2017 by robertogreco
“Today’s world has no equivalent” – BLDGBLOG
"Ted Nield’s book Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet—previously discussed back in 2012—is an exercise in what has long been referred to here as landscape futures.

In Nield’s case, this means literally imagining what the surface of the Earth might look like after hundreds of millions of years’ worth of tectonic transformations have deformed it beyond all recognition. Supercontinent could thus be read alongside Jan Zalasiewiez’s The Earth After Us as a useful guide for thinking about radical landscape change on a truly inhuman timescale.

Nield writes, for example, that, “even if some civilization of 200 million years ago had completely covered [the Earth] in cities and then wiped itself out in some gigantic global nuclear holocaust, nothing—not even the faintest trace of some unnatural radioisotope—would now remain on the surface.” Some of us might think that writing books, for example, is a way to achieve immortality—or winning an Oscar or becoming a national leader—yet covering the entire planet with roads and buildings is still not enough to guarantee a place in any sort of collective future memory. Everything will be erased.

The book goes from a speculative, but apparently realistic, scenario in which subduction zones might open in the Caribbean—thus dragging North America back toward a seemingly inexorable collision with Eurasia—to the future implications of past tectonic activity. Supercontinents have come and gone, Nield reminds us, and the cycle of these mega-islands is “the grandest of all the patterns in nature.” “750 million years before Pangaea formed,” he writes, “yet another [supercontinent] broke up; and before that another, and so on and on, back into the almost indecipherable past.”

At one point, Nield asks, “what of older supercontinents? What of the supercontinent that broke up to give us Pangaea? And the one before that? Compared with Pangaea, those lost worlds seem truly lost. As with all geological evidence, the older it is, the less of it survives, the more mangled it has become and the harder it is to interpret.”
It is all but impossible to picture them—to see oneself standing on them—as you can with Pangaea. They have their magical names, which lend them reality of a sort despite the fact that, for some, even their very existence remains controversial. About Rodinia, Pannotia, Columbia, Atlantica, Nena, Arctica or distant Ur, the mists of time gather ever more thickly.

The amazing thing is that this cycle will continue: long after North America is expected to reunite with Eurasia, which itself will have collided with North Africa, there will be yet another splintering, following more rifts, more bays and inland seas, in ever-more complicated rearrangements of the Earth’s surface, breeding mountain ranges and exotic island chains. And so on and so on, for billions of years. Bizarre new animals will evolve and bacteria will continue to inter-speciate—and humans will long since have disappeared from the world, unable to experience or see any of these future transformations.

While describing some of the potential ecosystems and landscapes that might result from these tectonic shifts, Nield writes that “our knowledge of what is normal behavior for the Earth is extremely limited.”

Indeed, he suggests, the present is not a key to the past: geologists have found “that there were things in the deepest places of Earth history for the unlocking of whose secrets the present no longer provided the key.” These are known as “no-analog” landscapes.

That is, what we’re experiencing right now on Earth potentially bears little or no resemblance to the planet’s deep past or far future. The Earth itself has been, and will be again, unearthly.

In any case, I mention all this because of a quick description found roughly two-fifths of the way through Nield’s book where he discusses lost ecosystems—landscapes that once existed here but that no longer have the conditions to survive.

Those included strange forests that, because of the inclination of the Earth’s axis, grew in almost permanent darkness at the south pole. “These forests of the polar night,” Nield explains, describing an ancient landscape in the present tense, “withstand two seasons: one of feeble light and one of unremitting dark. Today’s world has no equivalent of this eerie ecosystem. Their growth rings show that each summer these trees grow frenetically. Those nearer the coast are lashed by megamonsoon rains roaring in from [the lost continent] of Tethys, the thick cloud further weakening the feeble sunshine raking the latitudes at the bottom of the world.”

There is something so incredibly haunting in this image, of thick forests growing at the bottom of the world in a state of “unremitting” darkness, often lit only by the frozen light of stars, swaying now and again with hurricane-force winds that have blown in from an island-continent that, today, no longer exists.

Whatever “novel climates” and unimaginable geographies lie ahead for the Earth, it will be a shame not to see them."
blgblog  geoffmanaugh  naturalhistory  earth  tednield  immortality  humans  pangaea  ecosystems  change  forests  darkness  adaptation  geography  time  climate  climates  landscapes 
august 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no.3: non-ecological thinking
"When we think of the power to focus on a particular problem and solve it, we generally think of it as a useful ability. But what if the power to focus comes at the exclusion of the larger picture? Those responsible for putting new technological products into the public domain are often guilty of thinking in very localised terms - in other words, non-ecologically. This constraint is essentially about a chronic lack of lateral thinking; of being so focused on the immediate action or problem that implications for the broader ecology are ignored.

This was pioneering ecologist Charles Elton’s advice in 1927:
When an ecologist says ‘there goes a badger’, he should include in his thoughts some definite idea of the animal’s place in the community to which it belongs, just as if he had said, ‘there goes the vicar.

More recently, the cultural critic Neil Postman described technological change as ecological (in ‘Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change’, 1998):
Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. I can explain this best by an analogy. What happens if we place a drop of red dye into a beaker of clear water? Do we have clear water plus a spot of red dye? Obviously not. We have a new coloration to every molecule of water. That is what I mean by ecological change. A new medium does not add something; it changes everything. In the year 1500, after the printing press was invented, you did not have old Europe plus the printing press. You had a different Europe. After television, America was not America plus television. Television gave a new coloration to every political campaign, to every home, to every school, to every church, to every industry, and so on.

So what happens when that dye is added? There are some obvious history lessons. To return to the nature analogy, for example, there is the introduction of humans - and with them rats, pigs, dogs, and monkeys - to Mauritius in 1505. (It was the Portuguese who first landed in Mauritius, a few years after discovering our little previously uninhabited island.) Mauritius was the home of the fabled, and sadly flightless, dodo bird. The dodo had evolved to fill a niche and naturally became complacent on its peaceful island, too relaxed in a world without predators to handle the first signs of globalisation. The flightless birds were completely unprepared for the new mammals … and as a result, they didn’t last long. Interestingly, the story of the dodo is not yet over: although the bird became extinct centuries ago, a certain species of tree that depended on the dodo for its own existence is only now following its path to extinction.

In market terms, meanwhile, there is the demise of independent local shops since the 1970s - made obsolete by supermarkets, shopping malls, and big box stores. The incursion of these consumer flytraps destabilized the harmony of communities and destroyed the fragile ecosystems of the high street and city centre - ecosystems that local governments have for years now been trying to regenerate, with varying degrees of success.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons why disruption occurs. Megastores like Whole Foods and Costco are nice to have nearby (as we at Crap Futures know very well, living on a remote island without their convenience). Food is usually cheaper and everything is in one place. Likewise Uber, which provides a better, neater, cleaner, cheaper, more efficient service than the established taxi companies in many places. The old taxi companies, like the flightless birds, became complacent in their gentle habitat; the Uber dogs came along and ate them up. But it won’t end there. As Uber’s Travis Kalanick said in a recent speech: ‘We don’t want to be like the taxi guys who came before us – we embrace the future.’ Uber drivers could well be replaced by the autonomous car in the not-too-distant future - a contingency Uber is aware of and hopes to see happen under its own control.

As the complexity of human ecosystems increases, the potential disruptors are becoming more subtle.

Perhaps the best example is the mobile phone. It started as just a portable phone, then a particularly small portable phone (what Germans sensibly named a ‘handy’). At this stage it still had relatively limited potential to disrupt. But then ‘smart’ features and supporting networks were gradually added, until suddenly the mobile phone had the ability to stir up and irreparably alter huge swathes of the urban ecosystem with app-based service companies such as Uber. In the past, interactions between user and product were temporary and limited - telephone cables fixed the context, isolating and containing the effect. The ubiquity and mobility of products today means that the effects of interaction create a complexity that cannot be readily understood - implications are far harder to imagine and more far-reaching. This only means that it is increasingly important to find ways of imagining these knock-on effects before they happen.

John Steinbeck paints a beautiful image of ecological complexity in The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951), an account of the six-week specimen-hunting trip Steinbeck took in the Gulf of California with the marine biologist Ed Ricketts:
One merges into another, groups melt into ecological groups until the time when what we know as life meets and enters what we think of as non-life: barnacle and rock, rock and earth, earth and tree, tree and rain and air. And the units nestle into the whole and are inseparable from it … all things are one thing and one thing is all things – plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.

Steinbeck’s description of life in the tide pool poetically captures the complexity of scales, timeframes, and interactions that operate in a natural ecosystem - a complexity that is echoed in technological and cultural systems.

Some important questions to ask are:

How will a product be used, and by whom?

How will it interact with other (especially networked) products in the environment?

What happens when the product is moved to another habitat, possibly one it was not intended for, or to which it is not ideally suited?"
crapfutures  charleselton  1927  1998  neilpostman  ecosystems  systemsthinking  technology  future  complecity  production  environment  bighere  longnow  johnsteinbeck  nature  huamsn  anthropocene  globalization  2015  change  mauritius  dodo  disruption  local  power 
january 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 1: progress dogma
"Despite the name, Crap Futures is not all gloom and doom. We may view notions of progress with a sceptical eye, but we still subscribe - heartily, even - to the pursuit of a better world, however small our contribution might be.

In that spirit of improvement - and to introduce the first in our new series on constraints - let us turn for a moment to Ray Bradbury, the presiding Crap Futures muse. In his short story ‘A Sound of Thunder’ (1952), the protagonist, Eckels, travels back to the Late Cretaceous period to track and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The slogan of the company that organises these tours, Time Safari, Inc., is straightforward: ‘Safaris to any year of the past … we take you there, you shoot it.’ Time Safari’s main job, aside from organising tours, is making sure each hunter leaves no footprint, literally or figuratively, in or on the past (or future - whatever, it’s confusing).

The spark in Bradbury’s cautionary tale is Time Safari’s meticulous treatment of the prehistoric ecosystem. With the vast timeframes involved, minute changes to a particular point in the past - increasing exponentially through time - can lead to dramatic differences in everything proceeding from that point. To avoid contaminating the past and altering the future, an ‘anti-gravity metal’ path hovers above the prehistoric jungle, from which hunters are instructed never to stray in even the slightest. The possible impact of any deviation from the path is conveyed in dramatic terms by the tour guide: ‘Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids. Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity.’ The hunters even wear special ‘oxygen helmets’ to avoid introducing ‘bacteria into the ancient atmosphere’.

Naturally enough, however, Eckels panics at the sight of the Tyrannosaurus and accidentally steps off the path. This leads to a typically Bradburyesque climax - which we won’t spoil here for those of you who haven’t read it.

The key message of Constraint No. 1 is that unlike Time Safari, most of those with a hand in ‘how the future happens’ have no motivation to think about long term consequences of their actions. So blinded are they, in fact, by the bright lights of progress and its successor innovation that any potentially negative impact is ignored. This positivistic message about technology is endemic, and is only being exacerbated by the ‘thumbs up’ and ‘like’ culture of the social network. Unfortunately, as we know, life is complicated and unforeseen negative outcomes happen.

Progress dogma keeps us on the current technological trajectory - it is belief as a motivational force of change. It gives this trajectory huge momentum, meaning that is is virtually impossible to change course. If you’ll pardon the bleak image, it’s a bit like the Titanic sailing directly into potentially fatal waters without a care in the world.

Once we remove the constraints of positive thinking, it becomes possible to more realistically apprehend the future in (some of) its complexity, helping us to figure out what to avoid as well as where to aim. So, how can we rethink progress to identify possible implications? How can we disconnect from the utopian mantra and twentieth-century mindset of positivist corporate culture?'
crapfutures  raybradbury  design  titanic  dinosaurs  sciencefiction  scifi  innovation  constraints  progress  technology  systemsthinking  time  longnow  bighere  skepticism  timesafari  implications  consequences  caution  positivism  future  duediligence  diligence  change  ecosystems  californianideology  2015 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Creating Fictional Data Services and Their Implications — Design Fictions — Medium
"When conceptualizing a service or product based on data, I first transform visions into a tangible visualization, or prototype that anyone in a multi-disciplinary team can feel and understand. Additionally, I generally create Design Fictions that explore possible appropriations of the envisioned data service along its life. Taken together, prototypes and fictions present tangible concepts that help anticipate opportunities and challenges for engineering and user experience before a project gets even founded. These concepts give a clearer direction on what you are planning to build. They are a powerful material to explain the new data service to others and they act as a North Star for a whole team has a shared vision on what they might to want build.

Taken together, prototypes and fictions present tangible concepts that help anticipate opportunities and challenges for engineering and user experience before a project gets even founded.

This is the approach I aimed to communicate last week in a 5-days workshop at HEAD design school in Geneva to an heterogeneous group of students coming from graphic design, engineering, business or art backgrounds.

Part 1: Sketching with Data

Through the manipulation of a real dataset participants apprehended its multiple dimensions: spatial, temporal, quantitative, qualitative, their objectivity, subjectivity, granularity, etc.

Part 2: Creating implications

Writing a fictional press release forces to use precise words to describe a thing and its ecosystem. Quite naturally it leads to listing Frequently Asked Questions with the banal yet key elements that define what the data service is good for.

Take Aways

Data visualizations, prototypes and design fiction are ‘tools’ to experiment with data and project concepts into potential futures. They help uncover the unknown unknowns, the hidden opportunities and unexpected challenges.

Data visualizations help extract insights, and prototypes force to consider the practical uses of those insights. Design fictions put prototypes and visualization in the context of the everyday life. They help form a concept and evaluate its implications. The approach works well for abstract concepts because it forces you to work backward and explore the artifacts or the byproducts linked to your vision (e.g. a user manual, an advertisement, a press release, a negative customer review …). It encourages a global thinking with the ecosystem affected by the presence of a data service: What do people do with it over time? Where are the technical, social, legal boundaries? Some answers to those questions give a clearer direction on the data product or service you are planning to build."
fabiengirardin  speculativefiction  designfiction  data  fictionaldataservices  2015  prototyping  dataviz  datavizualiation  visualization  systemsthinking  ecosystems 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Research shows Aboriginal memories stretch back more than 7,000 years
[Wayback: ]

"Aboriginal society has preserved memories of Australia’s coastline dating back more than 7,000 years. That’s the conclusion that University of the Sunshine Coast Professor of Geography Patrick Nunn reached in a paper published in Australian Geographer.

The study looks at Aboriginal stories from 21 places around Australia’s coastline, each describing a time when sea levels were significantly lower than today. Professor Nunn said present sea levels in Australia were reached 7,000 years ago and as such any stories about the coastline stretching much further out to sea had to pre-date that time.

Stories describe changes

“These stories talk about a time when the sea started to come in and cover the land, and the changes this brought about to the way people lived – the changes in landscape, the ecosystem and the disruption this caused to their society,” he said.

“It’s important to note that it’s not just one story that describes this process. There are many stories, all consistent in their narrative, across 21 diverse sites around Australia’s coastline.”

Professor Nunn said his interest in how stories met science was piqued during his extensive tenure at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. He said the time span of the memories in the Australian Aboriginal stories he studied, however, appeared unmatched by any other culture.

“Anything that goes back thousands of years – nearly 10,000 years in some cases – has to be quite exceptional,” he said.

“It’s a remarkable time period when we consider our own memories and what we can remember even with the aid of books and other information.

“I believe these stories endured that long partly due to the harshness of Australia’s natural environment, which meant that each generation had to pass on knowledge to the next in a systematic way to ensure its survival.”"

[more: ]
aborigines  aboriginal  australia  history  climatechange  maps  mapping  memory  oraltradition  stories  storytelling  patricknunn  coastline  ecosystems  landscape  oceans  sealevel 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Watch how this beautiful game exhibit helps kids figure out ecosystems - Boing Boing
[i see hints of Electroplankton in some of the visuals here.]

"The New York Hall of Science's new Connected Worlds exhibit is a series of six interactive ecosystems that spreads across the walls of its Great Hall, united by a 3000 square foot interactive floor. Kids can use their hands to plant seeds, or to move real logs to divert water and notice the effects on the various environments. Healthy ecosystems produce creatures that migrate among the different worlds.

It's intended to teach young folks about how systems work, especially in the contest of ecology and sustainability. Prolific game designer and artist Zach Gage (we last spoke to him about fortunetelling apps and accidental clones, but he does all kinds of things) consulted on the project:

"My biggest pushes were for ensuring that the takeaways for children were experiential (to be unpacked later with educators/family members/friends) rather than a set of point-by-point facts or statistics," he writes. "I strongly believe that part of the power of games is that they can convey experiences, not just lessons, and that experiences can be key in teaching certain topics that are too complex to ever truely understand—in this case, systems thinking."

As a kid I remember very little about my class trips to museums besides the worksheets, where we had to study exhibits and then write down what they told us about how the world works. Strangely I can't remember anything specific that I learned—just that I sat for a while copying down a diagram of a flower by hand, more interested in its infrastructure than in any fact the image could convey.

Learn more about the Connected Worlds project here, or see it for yourself at the New York Hall of Science, where it'll be housed for the next 5-10 years!"
games  gaming  seriousgames  ecosystems  museums  children  play  education  immersion  2015  leighalexander  connecetedworlds  interdependence  science 
july 2015 by robertogreco
ECO - Announcing A New World – Strange Loop Games
"Our next project is called Eco, and it’s a game in a new genre we’re calling a Global Survival Game.

What does that mean exactly? It means you play in a multiplayer world that has the possibility of being permanently destroyed, resulting in server-wide perma death. What’s more, the reason it’s destroyed would be the players’ own fault. It’s not that different from our own world in that way.

“This ecosystem is your only lifeline in a race against time.”

It works like this: a new server is started, and players enter at the beginnings of civilization. There’s a world-destroying cataclysm looming, like a drought or a flood or a meteor heading for the Earth, several real-time weeks away. In order to prevent that catastrophe from happening, you need to build a civilization and advance technology and resources to the point that the crisis can be averted.

However you’re not alone in this world. Besides the other players, you’ll be sharing the world with a detailed wilderness simulation full of plants and animals. They simulate 24 hours a day, living out their lives with or without human interaction, growing, feeding and reproducing. Together they form an ecosystem rich with resources, resources that you must use to survive and develop a civilization.

However, these resources are finite. Chop down every tree and fail to plant more? They won’t be growing back. Hunt every elk for food? They’re now extinct. Pollute a section of land with mining runoffs? Your crops are poisoned. This ecosystem is your only lifeline in a race against time, your source of resources that will either prevent humanity’s destruction, or become the source of its destruction when the group squanders its resources.

Thus you’re facing two existential crises simultaneously: an external threat that you must avert, and the threat of causing your own destruction. A rock and a hard place.

To solve this you’ll need to collaborate among a group of dozens of players (and eventually hundreds or thousands of people as we grow the game). You’ll need a strong economy that generates resources that can build the civilization, but that does so in a way that doesn’t destroy the ecosystem. You’ll need to make key decisions as a group as to the best approach to do that, and the game provides you a tool for that, a virtual government.

In Eco you can propose and vote on laws that then become physical limitations in the world. Limit the number of trees each player can chop down per day to 10 for example, and they will be physically prevented from chopping an 11th. To aid in arguing for these type of decisions, the player can use data collected from the ecosystem simulation, using graphs and data as support for laws. Together these features create an extremely powerful tool, a way for the group to guide itself and align its interests in the face of impending crises.

It won’t be an easy journey. Despite everyone occupying the same world and having the same interest in its survival, individual incentives will make for vastly different positions. Is your character a lumberjack specializing in cutting down trees for their livelihood? You’re likely going to have a different idea as to how many trees should be allowed cut down than others. We’re all in this together, and yet the only enemy is ourselves, the individual’s needs vs the group’s.

Will you find a balance? Will your world survive, or be lost and wiped from existence? Eco is possibly the first video game where your character can actually save the world, because the alternative is for once possible."
games  videogmes  gaming  seriousgames  ecosystems  systemsthinking  simulation  strangeloopgames  civilization 
june 2015 by robertogreco
If you need me, I’ll just be over here staring at... — Casey's Notes and Links
"If you need me, I’ll just be over here staring at the pictures in Limits to Growth (1972), by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers. and William W. Behrens III. Ok?"
2015  1972  caseygollan  donellameadows  growth  limitstogrowth  charts  graphs  slow  space  time  environment  nature  ddt  population  ecosystems  industry  industrialcapital  modeling  worldmodels  economics  policy  resources  timelines  jorgenrandes  williambehrens  dennismeadows 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Is it time to cut adrift from island thinking? – Libby Robin – Aeon
"Island-mindedness is born in island places, but the islands of the mind have a broad appeal. Is this hard-wired? Recognising an island of safety and refuge might have enabled our hominin ancestors to find stepping stones out of Africa in times of environmental stress. The concept of the island has long been prominent in literature and useful in science: biologists and geographers, national park managers and archaeologists, linguists, geneticists and evolutionary theorists have all turned at times to the model of the island. Yet it might no longer be a great model for the new needs and concerns of our rapidly globalising century."

"An island is as much metaphor as it is physical place. Nature and wilderness reserves became the real nature for quantitative biological theorists. They could ignore the complex stuff of urban development and human communities. An island could stand for the Garden of Eden, in an age when wilderness was the highest ideal for conservation.

Islands are also devices for thinking mathematically, for simplifying the real world and leaving out messy variables. MacArthur and Wilson were conscious of the complexity of the processes they wished to explain quantitatively – processes such as dispersal, invasion, competition, adaptation and extinction. An island-based theory, they acknowledged, left out ‘many of the most troublesome – and interesting – problems’. Ecological principles need sound theories and statistical significance if they are going to attract support from governments and policymakers. Ultimately, they argued, islands and continents need to be understood together, but the island was the basis for mathematical certainty – for laws – in the management of nature. Their final chapter, ‘Prospect’, argued that biogeography was mature enough to ‘be reformulated in terms of the first principles of population ecology and genetics’."

"The island had seemed an ideal field for ‘experimentation’, but island biogeography did not take sufficient account of time and history, and the assumption that the island’s ecological future was heading steadily towards some sort of ‘balance’ was misplaced. In 1986, the Finnish philosopher-ecologist Yrjö Haila argued that the equilibrium model had ‘ossified into a simple formula that began to suppress creative thinking instead of stimulating it’.

Haila advocated ‘a broader, pluralistic appreciation of the role of theories in general’. But ecologists have found it difficult to let go of the elegance and parsimony that equilibrium theories embody, and to see the way life works afresh without theoretical assumptions. In 2006, the ornithologist and oceanic island specialist David W Steadman argued: ‘Data that fail to support an ‘elegant’ model are often regarded as noise or the exception that proves the rule. Elegant models made by deified people die hard.’

Wilson’s fame gave the equilibrium theory a longer life than its data supported. The balance of nature was attractive beyond science, and it has a romantic following, particularly among conservationists and nature lovers who support the national parks and ‘wilderness’ ideals. The US Wilderness Act is now 50 years old, and things have moved on during the Great Acceleration of change in the same period.

Even as the theory of island biogeography was gaining supporters, the critique of the balance of nature was gathering pace within ecology. National parks and nature reserves management took for granted that nature could somehow heal itself, if protected from humanity. Experimental ideas about islands drove – and at times limited – the conservation agenda, because managers still indulged the idea that nature could be fenced off, or isolated from the threat of humanity. In the past half-century, during which the human population has more than doubled, theories for protecting nature from our overexploitation have proliferated. Biological extinctions have accelerated unabated."

"In the ‘post-national’ 21st century, borders are no longer as fixed as national jurisdictional law suggests. Australia has, at times, excised itself from its islands to handle the politics of asylum‑seeking. Would-be migrants, seeking refuge in Australia, are held on offshore islands until their status is legitimated or denied. By this means, successive Australian governments have deprived vulnerable people, including children, of basic human rights. For the sake of domestic political convenience, the nation of the plastic stencil sometimes defines itself without the islands where refugee boats land. The fact that people abandon nations and passports because of global pressures, because of the impossibility of being at home where they were born, is part of what is changing the nature of nations in a global world. People are no longer from where they came from. They become citizens of where they wash up, or the world. Island-mindedness – the separation of places from other places – is no longer an option.

In this global world, it is flows and circulation, rather than land parcels, that are important. Just as Google maps and GPS have become widespread, territoriality is changing. Flows are about land-and-sea-and-sky-and-people – a collective consciousness that is hard to represent on a 2D map or a phone app.

The island-minded idea of nature, separated from culture, has also changed. Some say we are at the ‘end of nature’: there is now a human signature on all the global flows: the biophysical system is also cultural, as the new epoch of the Anthropocene is imagined. To rework the poet John Dunne, no island-nation is ‘entire of itself’, nor can any island-nature be other than ‘involved in mankind’. Perhaps the bell now tolls for the last island: the blue marble of planet Earth, an island in the infinity of space."

"Surtsey is still bleak and black, but mosses and lichens, windswept grasses and stunted shrubs now soften its edges. All its creatures still live as much with the global systems of winds and storms as on the precious fragment of land that erupted 50 years ago. Surviving on such a remote island is, paradoxically, a mark of cosmopolitanism. Only plants and animals that travel easily will flourish there."
libbyrobin  via:anne  2014  iceland  islands  science  isolation  cosmopolitanism  judithschalansky  picoiyer  surtseyisland  peterveth  charlesdarwin  alfredrusselwallace  galápagos  alexandervonhumboldt  newzealand  australia  bali  lombok  ecology  biology  life  robertmacarthur  edwardowilson  ecosystems  discreetness  nature  wilderness  complexity  extinction  dispersal  invasion  adaptation  competition  biogeography  geography  lordhoweisland  yrjöhaila  equilibrium  conservation  adrianmanning  jakobvonuexküll  flows  circulation  borders  people  humans  separation  anthropocene  darwin 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Alex O. Awiti: Platform for Engaged Global Citizens: Time to end the multigenerational Ponzi scheme
"Capitalism evolved out of feudalism. Although the basis of power has changed from land to money and the system has become more mobile, the distribution of power and wealth has not changed that much. It’s still a hierarchical power structure, it was not designed with ecological sustainability in mind, and it won’t achieve that as it is currently constituted.

The main reason I believe capitalism is not up to the challenge is that it improperly and systemically undervalues the future. I’ll give two illustrations of this. First, our commodities and our carbon burning are almost universally underpriced, so we charge less for them than they cost. When this is done deliberately to kill off an economic competitor, it’s called predatory dumping; you could say that the victims of our predation are the generations to come, which are at a decided disadvantage in any competition with the present.

Second, the promise of capitalism was always that of class mobility—the idea that a working-class family could bootstrap their children into the middle class. With the right policies, over time, the whole world could do the same. There’s a problem with this, though. For everyone on Earth to live at Western levels of consumption, we would need two or three Earths. Looking at it this way, capitalism has become a kind of multigenerational Ponzi scheme, in which future generations are left holding the empty bag.

You could say we are that moment now. Half of the world’s people live on less than $2 a day, and yet the depletion of resources and environmental degradation mean they can never hope to rise to the level of affluent Westerners, who consume about 30 times as much in resources as they do. So this is now a false promise. The poorest three billion on Earth are being cheated if we pretend that the promise is still possible. The global population therefore exists in a kind of pyramid structure, with a horizontal line marking an adequate standard of living that is set about halfway down the pyramid.

The goal of world civilization should be the creation of something more like an oval on its side, resting on the line of adequacy. This may seem to be veering the discussion away from questions of climate to questions of social justice, but it is not; the two are intimately related. It turns out that the top and bottom ends of our global social pyramid are the two sectors that are by far the most carbon intensive and environmentally destructive, the poorest by way of deforestation and topsoil loss, the richest by way of hyperconsumption. The oval resting sideways on the line of adequacy is the best social shape for the climate.

This doubling of benefits when justice and sustainability are both considered is not unique. Another example: world population growth, which stands at about 75 million people a year, needs to slow down. What stabilizes population growth best? The full exercise of women’s rights. There is a direct correlation between population stabilization in nations and the degree to which women enjoy full human rights. So here is another area in which justice becomes a kind of climate change technology. Whenever we discuss climate change, these social and economic paradigm shifts must be part of the discussion.
Given this analysis, what are my suggestions?

• Believe in science.
• Believe in government, remembering always that it is of the people, by the people, and for the people, and crucial in the current situation.
• Support a really strong follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.
• Institute carbon cap-and-trade systems.
• Impose a carbon tax designed to charge for the real costs of burning carbon.
• Follow the full “Green New Deal” program now coming together in discussions by the Obama administration.
• Structure global economic policy to reward rapid transitions from carbon-burning to carbon-neutral technologies.
• Support the full slate of human rights everywhere, even in countries that claim such justice is not part of their tradition.
• Support global universal education as part of human-rights advocacy.
• Dispense with all magical, talismanic phrases such as “free markets” and promote a larger systems analysis that is more empirical, without fundamentalist biases.
• Encourage all business schools to include foundational classes in ecology, environmental economics, biology, and history.
• Start programs at these same schools in postcapitalist studies.

Does the word postcapitalism look odd to you? It should, because you hardly ever see it. We have a blank spot in our vision of the future. Perhaps we think that history has somehow gone away. In fact, history is with us now more than ever, because we are at a crux in the human story. Choosing not to study a successor system to capitalism is an example of another kind of denial, an ostrich failure on the part of the field of economics and of business schools, I think, but it’s really all of us together, a social aporia or fear. We have persistently ignored and devalued the future—as if our actions are not creating that future for our children, as if things never change. But everything evolves. With a catastrophe bearing down on us, we need to evolve at nearly revolutionary speed. So some study of what could improve and replace our society’s current structure and systems is in order. If we don’t take such steps, the consequences will be intolerable. On the other hand, successfully dealing with this situation could lead to a sustainable civilization that would be truly exciting in its human potential."

My sense is that this is very thoughtful.

I have no problems with capitalism as way to link resources and human ingenuity to produce good and services. Consider the expansion of knowledge and technology that has led to great advances in medicine. The reason we are in deep trouble today is because of the way we choose to measure outcomes of good and services. We should depart from GDP and consider using Net Domestic Product (NDP). So this way we account for the deterioration of ecosystem services such as clean air, fertile soils, clean water, and biodiversity. We must now begin to grapple with measuring the real demand of domestic growth and expansion of the so called wellbeing on national and global ecological resources. We must get the accounting right or we will destroy irretrievably, the production base.
kimstanleyrobinson  capitalism  economics  feudalism  future  sustainability  environment  ponzischemes  generations  gdp  ndp  ecosystems  consumerism  consumption  growth  hyperconsumerism  inequality  climatechange 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Great Bear on Vimeo
"A Coastal First Nations led collaboration with researchers from leading academic universities provides remarkable insights into the importance of bears and the other keystone species to the ecosystems of the Great Bear Rainforest."

[See also: ]
bears  wildlife  animals  science  tourism  ecotourism  2014  britishcolumbia  greatbearrainforest  nature  cascadia  firstnations  economics  ecosystems 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Special | Current Conservation
"The ten key messages from Action and Policy, with the three key messages guiding this Special Issue highlighted in bold. Source:

1. Urbanisation is both a challenge and an opportunity to manage ecosystem services.

2. Rich biodiversity can exist in cities.

3. Biodiversity and ecosystem services are critical natural capital.

4. Maintaining functioning urban ecosystems can significantly enhance human health and well-being.

5. Urban ecosystem services and biodiversity can help contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

6. Increasing the biodiversity of urban food systems can enhance food and nutrition security.

7. Ecosystem services must be integrated in urban policy and planning.

8. Successful management of biodiversity and ecosystem services must be based on multi-scale, multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder involvement.

9. Cities offer unique opportunities for learning and education about a resilient and sustainable future.

10. Cities have a large potential to generate innovation and governance tools and therefore can -and must- take the lead in sustainable development.

Cities provide the everyday living environment for a rapidly growing proportion of the world’s population. They also leave footprints in ecosystems in other parts of the world. Increasing the livability in urban environments and self-sufficiency of cities is thus a crucial step towards increasing sustainability of local and global developments. Ecosystems provide humans with everything from food, to feelings of joy and protection against storms. Much of the well-being of future generations will depend on the choices we make today. It is thus crucial to base urban development trajectories on supporting and enhancing ecosystem functions, which can also provide cost-effective solutions."
cities  nature  urban  urbanism  biodiversity  ecosystems  urbanization  policy  urbanplanning  planning  sustainability  environment 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Metafoundry 4: Indicator Species
"Yesterday, Dan Hon wrote about the culture of the Silicon Valley start-up scene in his newsletter, under the heading “Not All…” It’s clear to me that Dan’s trying hard not to tar everyone in the tech industry with the same broad brush (I sympathize; both of us have friends in startupland) but it’s also clear that he’s finding something seriously amiss.

For me, the title itself was the giveaway. What Dan was describing was not just the actions of individuals, but of a system. It’s not so much that tech bros are bad in and of themselves, it’s that they’re a indicator species for an ecosystem. Like an algal bloom, their overabundance is a sign that the balance is amiss.

The Silicon Valley startup ecosystem depends on venture capital. If VCs are putting in money, they want to see a return (and a big one, because of the expectation that nine out of ten companies, at a minimum, will crash and burn). And they want to see it ASAP, because that’s how the time value of money works, and because companies are burning money like liquid hydrogen as they try to achieve lift-off. So there’s an enormous pressure on founders to produce, which inevitably selects for people who are prepared to sleep under their desk for the chance of having a breakout company (and, not incidentally, making an enormous return for their VCs, who are presumably sleeping soundly in their nice Design Within Reach beds). The system doesn’t select for women, for people who have families or lives outside of work, for thoughtful people. And by not selecting for them, it actively pushes them out, creating a culture that rejects and is intolerable for them (witness the much-documented sexism and ageism of tech culture). On top of all that, we as a culture socialize boys to be over-confident in themselves and to be deeply messed up about gender, and then there's the Dunning-Kruger effect, and then we give them a bunch of money. So it’s not surprising that tech bros (or be both more precise and less ad hominem, techbro behaviors) come out of this system.

But there’s more to it. What makes a startup a startup isn’t that it’s new (we call that a ‘small business’), it’s that it grows rapidly, ideally exponentially. That pushes startups toward bits, not atoms (near-zero incremental cost), towards anything that leverages Metcalfe's Law, towards dark patterns of nonconsensual behaviour towards users (like strip-mining Contacts lists), towards eroding user privacy, to dumping everything users have created when the startup is acquihired, and towards falling back on invasive online advertising because having a viable business model was a distant second to growing a user base.

And of course, most people building startups are mediocre, in the way that we humans are generally mediocre: we are greedy, solipsistic, unaware of our implicit biases. But putting all these pieces together, we have a system that selects for, supports, and nurtures socially hostile techbro behaviors, that solves techbro problems and alienates everyone else. And so the people who display these behaviors thrive. But I certainly know smart, thoughtful, committed people who are doing worthwhile, interesting, and ethical work in startups. I have friends in companies like Mapbox, Threadable, Keyboardio, and The Echo Nest, and they are working and succeeding in tech culture despite it being a system that's stacked against people like them, in exactly the same way that (go figure) women who succeed in tech do so despite the structural barriers in place. And just like the women in tech that I know, I can see them struggle and pay the costs of trying to succeed in that system.

Coda: I sent my original rant to Scott Smith; having just returned from a trip to Silicon Valley with his family, he responded to me in an e-mail by talking a bit about how some parts of this cultural systems are visible even to outsiders.

This take is doubly interesting because I've just come back from a few days in SV, the last 48 hours of which were largely spent taking our kids around the Valley (including taking a half day to drive them around Google, Facebook and Apple HQ campuses) to see what it really looks like day-to-day. And spending time with my teenage daughter in particular, asking her what she saw—the people (the lack of women), the postures, the environments. She picked up right away that it was a lopsided culture. And we spent time discussing about how the power flows there, who has it, and what impact they are having on SF as a city, and on the world. We watched the Google buses pick up and drop people off, took in locals’ interactions in cafes and restaurants, and walked into the store at Apple’s main building to see new recruits (and tourists) shopping. This part of the trip wasn't really planned in advance—Susan and I just decided it would be an interesting experience once on the ground—to show the kids the other end of the pipe, so to speak, and give them an idea who is making things “for them” that shape their social and economic expectations and interactions."
debchachra  siliconvalley  scottsmith  technology  2014  startups  systemsthinking  ecosystems  echochambers  vc  gender  power  money  google  facebook  apple  sanfrancisco  economics  society  labor  influence  policy  politics  californianideology 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Should You Fear the Pizzly Bear? -
"In New England today, trees cover more land than they have at any time since the colonial era. Roughly 80 percent of the region is now forested, compared with just 30 percent in the late 19th century. Moose and turkey again roam the backwoods. Beavers, long ago driven from the area by trappers seeking pelts, once more dam streams. White-tailed deer are so numerous that they are often considered pests. And an unlikely predator has crept back into the woods, too: what some have called the coywolf. It is both old and new — roughly one-quarter wolf and two-thirds coyote, with the rest being dog.

The animal comes from an area above the Great Lakes, where wolves and coyotes live — and sometimes breed — together. At one end of this canid continuum, there are wolves with coyote genes in their makeup; at the other, there are coyotes with wolf genes. Another source of genetic ingredients comes from farther north, where the gray wolf, a migrant species originally from Eurasia, resides. “We call it canis soup,” says Bradley White, a scientist at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, referring to the wolf-coyote hybrid population.

The creation story White and his colleagues have pieced together begins during European colonization, when the Eastern wolf was hunted and poisoned out of existence in its native Northeast. A remnant population — “loyalists” is how White refers to them — migrated to Canada. At the same time, coyotes, native to the Great Plains, began pushing eastward and mated with the refugee wolves. Their descendants in turn bred with coyotes and dogs. The result has been a creature with enough strength to hunt the abundant woodland deer, which it followed into the recovering Eastern forests. Coywolves, or Eastern coyotes, as White prefers to call them, have since pushed south to Virginia and east to Newfoundland. The Eastern coyote is a study in the balancing act required to survive as a medium-size predator in a landscape full of people. It can be as much as 40 percent larger than the Western coyote, with powerful wolflike jaws; it has also inherited the wolf’s more social nature, which allows for pack hunting. (In 2009, a pack of Eastern coyotes attacked and killed a 19-year-old Canadian folk singer named Taylor Mitchell in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.) But it shares with coyotes, some 2,000 of which live within Chicago’s city limits, a remarkable ability to thrive in humanized landscapes.

“We’re kind of privileged in the last 100 years to watch the birth of this entity,” White told me, “and now the evolution of this entity across this North American landscape that we’ve modified.” Evolutionarily speaking, coyotes diverged from gray wolves one million to two million years ago, and dogs from wolves roughly 15,000 years ago. Yet over the past century, as agriculture moved to the Midwest and California, farmland in the East reverted to woodlands. The rise of fossil fuels reduced the demand for firewood. Forests spread, and deer and other prey proliferated, while human intolerance for wolves kept a potential competitor at bay.

Thus did humans inadvertently create an ecological niche for a predator in one of the most densely populated regions of the country. In an exceedingly brief period, coyote, wolf and dog genes have been remixed into something new: a predator adapted to a landscape teeming with both prey and another apex predator, us. And this mongrel continues to evolve. Javier Monzon, an evolutionary biologist at Stony Brook University, has found that Eastern coyotes living in areas with the highest densities of deer also carry the greatest number of wolf genes. Another scholar of the Eastern coyote — Roland Kays, a zoologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh — estimates that the Eastern coyote’s hybrid ancestry has allowed it to expand its range five times as fast as nonhybrid coyotes could have. In the urbanized Northeast, of all places, an abundance of large prey seems to have promoted a predator whose exceptional adaptability has derived, in large part, from the hodgepodge nature of its genome."

"The widespread evidence of intermixing has spurred a reassessment of the notion that hybrids are born failures. In its place a more nuanced view has taken hold: While hybridization can certainly be destructive, it may also expedite adaptation. New creatures may emerge seemingly overnight from cross-species mating. “Long after speciation, even nonsister species can actually exchange genes, some of which are useful,” James Mallet, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, told me.

Indeed, today’s hybrids may signify more than just the erosion of biodiversity. They may signal a kind of resilience in the face of sudden environmental change."
biology  evolution  species  nature  animals  hybrids  hybridity  anthropocene  climatechange  crossbreeding  via:javierarbona  science  2014  biodiversity  genetics  environment  ecology  ecosystems 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Toward a Poetics of Skateboarding | The American Reader
"But for all of its private jargon, skateboarding’s poetry has never been linguistic. It is forever embodied and also, though this is difficult to speak of seriously, spiritual. How else to explain its appearance in Uganda without even a single retail outlet to support it? In fact, the only conveyable language of skateboarding, outside of participation and socialization in the activity itself, has always been spoken through film.

In broad terms, skate media splits time between documentation and advertisement, and their commercial evolution has skewed ever more crass and spectacular. Recent work from select video artists, however, attempts to confront the activity’s basic mystery and meaningful meaninglessness. Non-skateboarders have tended not to look very closely at these films. They mostly do not care. Skateboarders meanwhile care far too much to care exactly why. In any case, it’s here that an attempt toward a poetics of skateboarding must begin."

"Nor can we call such an effort unselfish. My own struggle with the mystery of skateboarding began five years ago, fifteen after I first stepped onto a board, when I began work on my second novel. The problem I encountered was that none of skateboarding’s confectionary can or should be dismissed. Speaking technically and contra Ian Mackaye, skateboarding today is a sport and a hobby both, along with countless other things: a therapy, an obsession, a conservative anti-drug. In its basic meaninglessness, skateboarding has become the tool that takes the shape of whoever’s hand it’s in."

"What in those first years had fit awkwardly into a de facto rubric of athletics—a sport to be timed and judged for athletic merit—became in the 1970s something more rhetorical. The ethos was the punk scavenging of revolution by way of repurposing. Whatever prefigurations of the object we had seen, never before had they been deployed creatively. To speak in China Mieville’s terms, what emerged was something counterposed to the comfort of the uncanny. The activity, new, unrecognized, and bounded only by imagination, was abcanny."

"While the basic spirit of skateboarding might have remained constant since the addition of polyurethane, the marketplace around it quite obviously has not. Now and once again the importance of skateboarding in our time is on the increase. Today, it is on Fox. It is on ESPN with real-time algorithms for evaluating tricks. Once more the marketplace would have us comprehend skateboarding as a sport.

We know on first glance that skateboarding, in its dominant form of street activity, stands apart from ball and net athletics. It seems uninterested, too, in velocity and stopwatch performances. But the first challenge to the rubric of sport begins even lower, at a semiotic level. You and I could, if we wanted, go and shoot lazy jumpshots on a netless schoolyard hoop, or go to the driving range and smack buckets of balls into the green void. We can take our gloves to the park and throw grounders and pop flies and apply tags to invisible runners. But for any of these to qualify as “basketball,” “golf,” or “baseball,” we would require the structure of competition and order of rules.

Systems such as these have no bearing on skateboarding, of which even the most negligible acts, no matter how brief or private, simply are skateboarding. Consider: between my home and the nearest skatepark is a well-paved boulevard with sewer caps embedded into the blacktop every half block or so. A source of joy for me is to push down this boulevard and pop tiny ollies over these sewer caps, sometimes barely scraping my tail, other times popping hard and pulling my knees up to my chest. These are not tricks proper, just ways to see and engage with the street’s reality. This is not, as athletes might call it, practice; I am not training for a future event. It is travel, yes, but the joy has little to do with the scenery or distance covered. In the purview of skate competition, this pushing down the boulevard, the single most fun I have in any given day, is not a scorable act of skateboarding. It is worth zero and it is worth everything.

In a world increasingly data-driven and surveilled, skateboarding lives beneath scoring and resists all datazation by establishing everything as a performance. It deflects the surveillance state by its primal devotion to documenting and sharing itself, monitoring every possible development, repetition, and failure. It pre-empts the onslaught of observation by embracing it. To pre-empt is to deflect, but also to admit defeat. Luckily, skateboarders are shameless—in this way, they’re the perfect actors to play the role of themselves.

Our potential heuristic now approaches what literary and cultural theorists today speak of, with a smirk, as the so-called authentic self. But a skater, whether standing on his stage, behind a camera, or at a keyboard, sees and thinks and performs precisely as what and who he is. What other memberships function in this or a similar manner? Parenthood. Romantic partnership. Citizenship. Does artistry?


To date, the most complete attempt to theorize skateboarding has been Iain Borden’s Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body (Berg, 2001). Borden, a Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at The Bartlett, University College London, treats the activity of skateboarding as a Lefebvrian practice with a potential to become its own sort of architecture: not of construction, but by the “production of space, time, and social being.” He traces the history of skateboarding into the 1990s’ street skating movement, and speaks of the way this “oppositional subculture” rethinks architecture “as a set of discrete features and elements…recomposing it through new speeds, spaces and times.” The gears of capitalism create spaces in which behavior is prescribed and easily accounted for. Skateboarding’s opposition is thus a compositional process, partially of the individual body, which is recomposed against the “intense scopic determinations of modernist space,” and partially of a deeper critique of urban life: “production not as the production of things but of play, desires and actions.”"

"By contrast, today’s most compelling skateboarding films aim to capture not only the play of skateboarding, but enact what Borden calls the “positive dialectic that restlessly searches for new possibilities of representing, imagining and living our lives.” The “Panoramic Series” from Philip Evans, for example, relieves the actor from the full burden of attention. Here Evans follows Phil Zwijsen through his hometown of Antwerp:"

"The skater, Austyn Gillette, appears only after the environmental context, resulting in a portrait not of one or the other, but both. The subject is, as skateboarding’s always has been in practice, the interactions between city and individual body. Alongside recent work by Mike Manzoori, Evan Schiefelbine and select others, these films find energy beyond the progressive trickery of athletics, or the documentation of extant geographies. They combine the skateboarder’s practice—creative, productive—with a distinctly non-skateboarding meta-awareness of the activity’s potential for meaning. Their grounding within the geist of skateboarding is obvious: there is nothing a skater spots more quickly than the fraud, or tourist. These are films made by skateboarders who have lived within the activity’s world, and who choose to leverage the activity as a tool to understand itself. How long, they ask, must a toy endure before it becomes something else? What does it become, and does this mean it has ceased to be a toy?"

"Roberto Bolaño called surrealism “something convulsive and vague, that familiar amorphous thing.” If indeed there is ever to be a poetics of skateboarding, familiarity will have to play a role. Suvin argued that science fiction’s value lay in its ability to effect cognitive estrangement. Campbell’s film documents and creates ostranenie by the re-presentation of a familiar world as captured by, and portrayed through, the glance of the radical dreamer. In fact, what Cuatros does better than any film I’ve seen is remind us that skateboarding’s heuristic usefulness is ontological. Its topos is not that there is a world inside the world, but rather: there is a world the exact shape and texture of the world that you know laid seamlessly over top of it, and you, for some reason, fail to see how beautiful it can be.

Convulsive, vague, and conveyed by slidy looks. Campbell’s subject is our ineffable, binding thing, that lurking, trembling essence that he can only render by images and motions of the surreal. The artist whose art was born from skateboarding has made an object about skateboarding that conveys this birth and mode of being. Skateboarding infects the filmmaker infects the musicians infects the viewer. Viewer goes out skating. Skateboarding is self-perpetuating in this way. It is always itself and something else, it is infectious, it is comprehensive and sublatable to the core. This is how the infinite comes to be—once born, skateboarding can never now die.

But the dreamscape of Cuatros Sueños Pequeños is not an expression of this infinity. Rather, it is mimetic. What world is this?, asks the skateboarder. A familiar one we have seen so many times that it’s rendered unseeable. More importantly, what is to be done in it? The answer, like Campbell’s film, is incoherent, and thank goodness. The answer is anything at all."
skating  skateboarding  skateboards  quantification  measurement  urban  urbanism  surveillance  iainborden  meaning  film  video  robertobolaño  thomascampbell  cuatrosueñospequeños  performance  datazation  repetition  monitoring  failure  documentation  process  capitalism  henrilefebvre  space  place  play  culture  movement  infectiousness  inspiration  feral  ecosystems  socialbeing  time  architecture  landscape  kylebeachy  understanding  experience  robertzemeckis  pontusalv  punk  metrics  schematics  markets  poetics  filmmaking  darkosuvin  sciencefiction  ianmackaye  technology  history  circumstance  california  socal  sports  chinamieville  abcanny  zines  creativity  competition  commercialization  commercialism  commoditization  diy  systems  rules  revolution  resistance  practice  authenticity  artistry  philipevans  philzwijsen  colinkennedy  stasis  motion  austyngillette  mikemanzoori  evanschiefelbine  javiermendizabal  madarsapse  dondelillo  cities  meaninglessness  participation  participatory  democracy  tribes  belonging  identity  spirituality  social  socializati 
july 2014 by robertogreco
playfulsystems: Game company (of ex-Ubisoft... - Fresser.
[Embedded video: ]

Game company (of ex-Ubisoft folks) mapping and photographing the entire world with drones for a series of games.

(via Drones Are Mapping The Entire Planet (For A Video Game))

Crazy. But here’s the more interesting parts to my mind:

”Weather and temperature are directly pulled from reality to be re-injected into the game weather system.

So, if your character is in New-York and right now (in the real world) it’s 5 AM, raining and chilling in New-York, then your Character will experience the same conditions in the game.

Your character is “active” in the world even when you’re not connected

Time is a very important resource in the game, combined with the skill tree system it’s also your best ally to train your character. Making sure your character is doing relevant things when you’re not playing in front of your computer is a key strategy for survival.

Using the Activity Tracker you will be able to manage your character’s schedule like you would manage your own agenda (from a browser or using your smartphone).”"
videogames  earth  climate  landscape  games  gaming  kevinslavin  2014  reroll  ecosystems 
february 2014 by robertogreco
indy johar founder of HUB westminster on co-working spaces
"designboom visited architect indy johar in london to learn more about his extensive study into socially driven sustainable urban organization. ‘the intersections of culture and technology have contributed to a mindset of ‘own less, use more‘, he explains, ‘and the concept of ‘ecosystems’ fits the contemporary landscape of work much better than the centralized model of decades past’.

‘we’re effectively going to see the corporate model become the uncorporate model,’ johar predicts, with large companies breaking down into separate but interwoven branches for their physical infrastructure, investment, and learning platforms. as a result, there is a pressing need to open up the office, moving away from divided departments and cubicles and towards what he describes as a ‘fluid mix’ wherein executives, startups, suppliers, and talent makers are all part of a larger ecosystem. as a result, there is a pressing need to open up the office, moving away from divided departments and cubicles and towards what he describes as a ‘fluid mix’ wherein executives, startups, suppliers, and talent makers are all part of a larger ecosystem."

"most HUBs are comprised of three types of environments: collaborative, semi-private, and private.all of them are conceptualized as blank canvases — while they provide basic furniture and necessities, the focus of the space is not on superfluous decoration but rather how people fill it and what they do with their time there. hubbers bring all kinds of personal objects and possessions to make their workspace, even in the sprawling open collaborative areas, feel uniquely theirs; and the HUBs feature creative touches inside and out, whether they’re built to resemble a giant red bus as in singapore or highlight their walls with colorful assemblages designating the HUB locations worldwide. microcosms of the work world in themselves — and thus a prevision of grander changes in society and culture — the HUBs are a perfect place to study human behaviour and watch out for the next trends in office furniture."

"the diversity of new needs means that office furniture manufacturers are also for the first time not restricted to international standards and regulations regarding the precise dimensions and production specifications of chairs and desks, permitting an expanded level of creativity and aesthetic vision. but the enduring effects of the new world of work will extend far beyond that. the design of office furniture and environments is equally shaped by changes within office culture and its increasing emphasis on collaboration and communication."

[video also here: ]
indyjohar  coworking  2014  howwework  lcproject  openstudioproject  sharing  ownershap  hub  community  work  officespaces  offices  interiors  furniture  classroomdesign  design  architecture  organizations  officeculture  flexibility  ecosystems  place  thirdspaces  communitymanagement  uncorporate  infrastructure  platforms 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Naomi Klein: How science is telling us all to revolt
"Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

In a 2012 essay that appeared in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change, Anderson and Bows laid down something of a gauntlet, accusing many of their fellow scientists of failing to come clean about the kind of changes that climate change demands of humanity. On this it is worth quoting the pair at length:
. . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. "

"We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of even their own research. Most of them were just quietly doing their work measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as the Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that they “were unwittingly destabilising the political and social order”.

But there are many people who are well aware of the revolutionary nature of climate science. It’s why some of the governments that decided to chuck their climate commitments in favour of digging up more carbon have had to find ever more thuggish ways to silence and intimidate their nations’ scientists. In Britain, this strategy is becoming more overt, with Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writing recently that scientists should avoid “suggesting that policies are either right or wrong” and should express their views “by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena”.

If you want to know where this leads, check out what’s happening in Canada, where I live. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has done such an effective job of gagging scientists and shutting down critical research projects that, in July 2012, a couple thousand scientists and supporters held a mock-funeral on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, mourning “the death of evidence”. Their placards said, “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth”.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly: blockading fracking activity in Balcombe; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters (at tremendous personal cost); taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small. In Brad Werner’s computer model, this is the “friction” needed to slow down the forces of destabilisation; the great climate campaigner Bill McKibben calls it the “antibodies” rising up to fight the planet’s “spiking fever”.

It’s not a revolution, but it’s a start. And it might just buy us enough time to figure out a way to live on this planet that is distinctly less f**ked."
resistence  2013  naomiklein  bradwerner  climatechange  ecosystems  environment  neoliberalism  capitalism  postcapitalism  revolution  jeremygrantham  jasonbox  kevinanderson  growth  profits  sustainability  economics  fracking  rsistance  friction  billmckibben  destabilization  spikingfever 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Hacking Nature — 5 Viridian Years — Medium
"Conservation by its nature idealises a picture of the wild from the past. But evolution by its nature is not static"

"In a rousing TED talk George Monbiot dreams of a re-wilded Western Europe where “mass restoration of ecosystems” would give a “portal into an enchanted kingdom” roamed by ancestral megafauna. In such a dream world the resurrection of woolly mammoths would be more than a scientific vanity project, and aurox, sabre-tooth tigers and the bizarre menagerie of paleolithic beasts could follow. But it’s a world without much room for human inhabitants and the alternative reality needn’t be a dystopian wasteland, devoid of life. We have the tools and knowledge to retain what exists, if carefully managed and cautiously approached. And what’s more, there is new wonder to be found in the ingenuity of life to exploit ecological niches of our own creation."
conservation  viridianmovement  2013  robinbisson  georgemonbiot  environment  sustainability  environmentalism  evolution  ecosystems  nature 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Stand together or fall apart » No measure of health
"But I still have a lot of time for the gradualists, too. For one thing, a lot of fiery radicals miss opportunities to make real improvements in our lives within existing systems. Legalising same-sex marriage neither ended homophobia nor helped anyone who doesn’t fit a fairly traditional domestic template, but how many deportations has it forestalled? Obamacare is gravely compromised—a shadow of the reform it should have been—but how many bankruptcies will it prevent? Just because these are partial, provisional victories doesn’t mean they weren’t worth fighting for, and won’t stop me from cheering for them.

Just as importantly, I still share the gradualists’ fear. A while back, I tweeted something to the effect of “How can we have the Revolution without La Terreur?” and no-one answered. That’s not exactly a scientific measure, but I still don’t have an answer, still haven’t heard a good one from anyone else, and fear that the trauma that is Egypt today proves the point. Without such an answer, the thought of a true rupture still gives me sickening vertigo.

So what can we do? I like to look for middle ways, but I don’t see an adequate one here. I still write to electeds, and I will vote when I’m finally allowed, but I’m consciously minimising the time I spend on this kind of politics, because the potential wins are so dispiritingly far short of the change we need. The best I have is doing what I can to build and support human scale alternatives to the intermediated, dehumanising political economy we have as a default. In my more idealistic moments, I think we can just slowly render the old, ossified systems irrelevant and watch them fade away. Usually I see it as prototyping."
timmaly  quinnorton  ta-nehisicoates  2013  eldangoldenberg  tejucole  politics  policy  gradualists  democracy  middlegrounds  canon  action  activism  beginners  welcome  makerspaces  community  libraries  tools  toollibraries  communitiesofpractice  cynicism  compassion  conviviality  cooperation  coops  despair  work  decentralization  ecosystems  interdependence  lcproject  openstudioproject 
august 2013 by robertogreco
My body’s plant and animal companion species | Design Culture Lab
"Since my research tends to focus on large-scale, public issues in this area, I thought it might be interesting to look at what’s going on at more small-scale or personal levels, and maybe even explore what a multispecies autoethnography might involve."
medicine  symbiosis  companionspecies  plants  nature  animals  davidrelman  bacteria  humanmicrobiomeproject  biomes  microbiomes  multitudes  songofmyslelf  waltwhitman  ecosystems  humanbody  body  2012  annegalloway  microethology  bodies 
december 2012 by robertogreco
AnandTech - The iOS 6 Review: Maps Thoroughly Investigated and More
"… like most of the other iCloud enabled features, cloud tabs does a good job of encouraging customers to buy within the Apple ecosystem. It’s a somewhat worrisome future that we’re headed towards where everyone is building these fairly independent platforms that work best within an ecosystem rather than across boundaries. For now the sacrifice seems worth it as the payoff is something that works very well, but I worry about what happens down the road if you’re forced to buy a device not because it’s the best device for you, but because buying an alternative would hurt the experience on another, unrelated device."

[via: ]
platformization  closedsystems  ecosystems  downsidesofseamlessness  2012  entrapment  platforms  walledgardens  apple  ios6  ios 
october 2012 by robertogreco
Innovation in Open Networks
"Moore's Law and the Internet have dramatically lowered the cost of the creation and distribution of information, fundamentally changing the way we collaborate. We no longer live in a world of central control but rather in ecosystem of "small pieces loosely joined" with innovation on the edges. Open source software and open standards thrive in this environment and push the networks to be even more open, making it possible that the agility we see in software and consumer Internet services may spread to hardware. Joichi Ito will show what startups, the MIT Media Lab and citizen geiger counters in Japan have in common."
joiito  opennetworks  open  2011  towatch  mitmedialab  medialab  mit  japan  smallpieceslooselyjoined  control  ecosystems  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  innovation  networks  startups  from delicious
november 2011 by robertogreco
Kevin Kelly - Google+ ["All companies die. All cities are nearly immortal…Is the internet more like a company or more like a city?"]
"All companies die. All cities are nearly immortal.

Both are type of networks. But there are two basic network forms: organisms or ecosystems. Companies are like organisms, while cities are like ecosystems.

All organisms (and companies) have share many universal laws of growth. Creatures age in the same way, whether they are small animals, large mammals, starfish, bacteria, and even cells. All ecosystems (and cities) also share universal laws. They evolve and scale in a similar fashion among themselves — whether they are forests, meadows, coral reefs, or grasslands, or villages."
kevinkelly  cities  web  internet  biology  organizations  organisms  networks  ecosystems  companies  2011  geoffreywest  coral  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco
Doors of Perception weblog: How to make systems thinking sexy
"We will not transition successfully to a restorative economy until systems thinking becomes as natural, for millions of people, as riding a bike…a big ask. How do we get from here, to there?

…Buckminster Fuller Challenge is 1 of more important projects to address this task—& serving on jury was by far hardest work I did last year.

Our task was easily enough stated: select "a bold, visionary, but tangible initiative that has significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems". To that headline—challenge on its own—was appended a daunting set of criteria for the assessment of each entry: Did it apply a whole systems approach to all facets of the design & development process? Is the project ecologically responsible? Is it feasible—not just in an ideal world, but using current technology & existing resources.? Can the project's claims be verified by rigorous empirical testing? &, is the project replicable? Can it scale & be adapted to a broad range of conditions?"
design  architecture  policy  systems  systemsthinking  buckminsterfuller  johnthackara  ecology  ecosystems  transitiontowns  transitionculture  energy  future  planning  operationhope  brownrevolution  blueventures  alasdairharris  politics  guntherpauli  economics  growth  from delicious
june 2011 by robertogreco
Land and Place [Xskool]
"Life Places: Xskool will nurture understanding of city-region as a sponge of interacting ecologies: bioregions, foodsheds, watersheds, energy, mobility, food, people. Participants will learn about opportunities to combine restoration of wetlands, prairies, forests, & marshes w/ roads, bridges, houses, utilities & such new urban features as vegetation corridors, biomes, aquatic systems, bluebelts.

Living systems/Permaculture: One definition of permaculture is learning from nature how to meet daily life needs while reducing work & energy required. Xskool does not mean the abandonment of science or technology, & it will not forment a retreat from city back to nature. Cities will be the context for much of work done by tomorrow’s designers.

Food & Fibre: Global food systems are unsustainable in terms of enviro-impact, health, & social quality. Up to 25% of eco-impact of an ‘advanced’ city can be attributed to food systems. Similar constraints apply to flows of textiles…"
xskool  johnthackara  ecosystems  bioregions  foodsheds  watresheds  mobility  food  people  urban  urbanism  cities  education  learning  unschooling  economics  deschooling  permaculture  systems  systemsthinking  energy  efficiency  environment  sustainability  textiles  global  design  future  classideas  from delicious
june 2011 by robertogreco
Presence and Perception [Xskool]
"Perceiving and re-connecting: Xskool will engage with artists in seeking ways to help us perceive the unseen, or the invisible: Ways to re-imagine the built world as a complex of interacting ecologies: energy, water, mobility, food. Ways to enrich our understanding of space, time, materiality, and process. Ways to steer our focus to open versus closed systems.

Presence and distance: It would be easier to travel less, and telecommunicate more, if the sensation of ‘being there’ were more engaging than it is now. Xskool will involve artists, theatre directors, fashion designers, psychologists, game designers – even philosophers – in effort to improve the design of remote communication.

Hosting and Coordinating: A whole-systems, transdisciplinary approach involves the need to connect and coordinate stakeholders with differing perspectives. How do we design conversations to be participative rather than directive? How to identify and organize hubs; the role of time-based events…"
xskool  ecosystems  systems  systemsthinking  ecology  networkedecologies  presence  perception  closedsystems  opensystems  open  complexity  complexsystems  energy  water  mobility  food  art  design  communication  johnthackara  process  materiality  transdisciplinary  from delicious
june 2011 by robertogreco
Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef: US Is Becoming an "Underdeveloping Nation"
"principles of an economics which should be are based in 5 postulates & 1 fundamental value principle…economy is to serve the people & not the people to serve the economy…development is about people & not objects…growth is not the same as development, & development does not necessarily require growth…no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.…the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible. & the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

…If you go through that list, one after the other, what we have today is exactly the opposite.

Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point & stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. But we continue developing ourselves."
economics  environment  democracy  activism  development  growth  2011  manfredmax-neef  chile  us  underdeveloping  greed  finance  ecosystems  systemsthinking  disparity  poverty  politics  policy  life  from delicious
march 2011 by robertogreco
Ecological Footprint Quiz by Center for Sustainable Economy
"The Ecological Footprint Quiz estimates the area of land and ocean required to support your consumption of food, goods, services, housing, and energy and assimilate your wastes. Your ecological footprint is expressed in "global hectares" (gha) or "global acres" (ga), which are standardized units that take into account the differences in biological productivity of various ecosystems impacted by your consumption activities. Your footprint is broken down into four consumption categories: carbon (home energy use and transportation), food, housing, and goods and services. Your footprint is also broken down into four ecosystem types or biomes: cropland, pastureland, forestland, and marine fisheries."
environment  sustainability  ecology  science  ecosystems  earthday  calculator  quiz  from delicious
february 2011 by robertogreco
Communication Nation: The connected company
"average life expectancy of a human being in 21st century is ~67 years…average life expectancy for a company is…has dropped precipitously, from 75 years (in 1937) to 15 years in a more recent study…

I believe that many of these companies are collapsing under their own weight. As companies grow they invariably increase in complexity, & as things get more complex they become more difficult to control.

…As you triple the number of employees, their productivity drops by half (Chart here).

This “3/2 law” of employee productivity, along with the death rate for large companies, is pretty scary stuff. Surely we can do better?

…secret, I think, lies in understanding the nature of large, complex systems, & letting go of some of our traditional notions of how companies function. [Proceeds to explain]
business  management  collaboration  complexity  organizations  small  scale  flexibility  adaptability  organisms  connectivism  listening  adaptation  space  social  society  cities  urban  urbanism  design  culture  socialbusiness  planning  people  humans  inefficiency  efficiency  division  identity  ecosystems  activelistening  from delicious
february 2011 by robertogreco
Facebook and the Enterprise: Part 9a: Meandering around with ecosystems – confused of calcutta
"An ecosystem is a system whose members benefit from each other's participation via symbiotic relationships (positive sum relationships). It is a term that originated from biology, & refers to self-sustaining systems...

* An ecosystem is a community, an integral functional unit.
* An ecosystem consists of living organisms as well as physical & chemical environmental factors.
* An ecosystem promotes the flow of nutrients & energy.

The borders of the enterprise will have to get more & more porous, until a time comes where the border has disappeared. People will belong to multiple communities, those multiple communities will overlap in many & varied ways. Innovation will blossom at the edges of the communities, as professions collide, as the distinctions btwn some of the professions continue to blur. And it is up to us to ensure that technology does not become a barrier for such creativity."
community  tcsnmy  transparency  freedom  autonomy  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  interdisciplinary  jprangaswami  facebook  relationships  conversation  sharing  ecosystems 
july 2010 by robertogreco
sevensixfive: But Today We Collect Gizmos
"The application of a heuristic gizmo is an act of pattern recognition - the intuition that some set of undifferentiated circumstances is isomorphic to some other set that was previously encountered, even if the context was wildly different. ... It has been said that things hardly "exist" before the fine artist has made use of them, they are simply part of the unclassified background material against which we pass our lives. The application of gizmo metaheuristics requires a certain kind of approach to interdisciplinary work and expertise: try it first, then read the manual. Like a western tourist using chopsticks, there is an attitude of being cheerfully out of one's depth, but willing to learn, and eager to add this new technique to the repertoire and impress the folks back home."

[See also: ]
fredscharmen  architecture  cities  collecting  patterns  urbanism  patternrecognition  tcsnmy  classideas  art  science  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  recombinantgizmos  gadgets  gizmos  theadjacentpossible  hacking  hacks  glvo  mashups  frankenstein  robertsmithson  reynerbanham  vernacular  collections  objects  folkart  closed-loop  ecosystems 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Urban Resilience § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM
"Merging complex systems science and ecology, resilience scientists have broken new ground on understanding—and preserving—natural ecosystems. Now, as more and more people move into urban hubs, they are bringing this novel science to the city."
resilience  complexity  systems  urban  urbanism  ecosystems  ecology  science 
february 2010 by robertogreco
The City Is Here: Table of contents « Adam Greenfield’s Speedbird
"Only by reckoning w/ these constraints & limitations will we formulate robust urbanist practice for 21st century, Newer Urbanism capable of fully embracing potential of networked informatic technologies while turning them to our own various ends...will require a new way of conceiving of public objects as informational utilities…new agreements regarding use of public space…& perhaps even new conception of practice of citizenship. None of these strategies will be sufficient on its own...list is far from comprehensive...successfully managing challenges of networked city will mean understanding it not just as an ecosystem but as single conjoined process unfolding in time...deeply seamful process, presenting all who encounter it with million gleaming hinges: apertures allowing you to reach in, withdraw useful intelligence, tweak its performance to your own...necessities, or plug its outputs as inputs into yet other running processes. Now, as never before, the city is here for you to use."
adamgreenfield  internetofthings  everyware  urban  urbanism  books  thecityishereforyoutouse  networked  ecosystems  disruption  network  electronics  ubicomp  space  design  technology  architecture  future  cities  environment  place  spimes  iot 
february 2009 by robertogreco
WorldChanging: Chinook Salmon Invade South America
"People introduced chinook to southern South America for aquaculture about 25 years ago, but now the species has started self-sustaining & rapidly expanding in wild...While North American counterparts are dwindling South American chinook are flourishing"
chile  aquaculture  animals  fish  nature  invasivespecies  environment  ecosystems  southamerica  northamerica  us  cascadia  alaska  canada  salmon 
june 2008 by robertogreco
chris woebken I selected projects - a new relationship to e-money
"I designed devices for different spending behaviors, imagining new parasitical services sitting on top of bank accounts that create feedback mechanisms and a new relationship to our bank-account as an extension of ourselves. I am interested in exploring
currency  via:adamgreenfield  money  transit  transport  urbancomputing  design  rfid  datamining  economics  ecosystems  future  payment 
may 2008 by robertogreco
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Map shows toll on world's oceans
"Only about 4% of the world's oceans remain undamaged by human activity, according to the first detailed global map of human impacts on the seas."
climate  ecology  ecosystems  environment  impact  marine  maps  oceans  pollution  science  world  research  via:foe 
february 2008 by robertogreco
Waldron Island
"In the late 1930s the former Federal Bureau of Island Management introduced rattlesnakes to curtail the rat population...[they] did not curtail the rat population as much as expected...proved to be much more adaptable...developed a quite robust populatio
waldron  islands  washingtonstate  history  animals  ecosystems  waldronisland 
september 2007 by robertogreco
Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century - Google Book Search
"Technological changes have displaced the hierarchical corporation/organization; corporations are decentralizing and externalizing, creating networks of "industry ecosystems" that will replace the top-down organizations of the past"
organizations  management  administration  society  technology  schools  future  lcproject  work  networks  socialnetworks  ecosystems  industry 
july 2007 by robertogreco
The National Institute for Play: Home Page
"The National Institute for Play unlocks the human potential through play in all stages of life using science to discover all that play has to teach us about transforming our world."
brain  development  ecosystems  education  play  mind  playtheory  social  innovation  playethic 
july 2007 by robertogreco
How to Disappear
"A series of 30 hand-drawn panels outlining a recipe for turning urban neighbourhoods into real communities" - Coudal Partners
community  green  howto  sustainability  ecosystems  neighborhoods  economics  urban  environment  illustration  activism  society 
may 2007 by robertogreco

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