Saturday, July 21, 2018

''Entering The Symbiocene'' -- Professor Glenn Albrecht argues that the next era in human history should be The Symbiocene (from the Greek sumbiosis, or companionship). He created this concept in 2011 as an almost instinctive reaction again the very idea of the Anthropocene.

''Entering The Symbiocene''

Glenn Albrecht in Australia argues that the next era in human history should be The Symbiocene (from the Greek sumbiosis, or companionship). He created this concept in 2011 as an almost instinctive reaction again the very idea of the Anthropocene.

Exiting The Anthropocene
It has been proposed that humans are now living within a period of the Earth’s history appropriately named ‘The Anthropocene’ (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000). The name is derived from the observed human influence and indeed dominance of all climatic, biophysical and evolutionary processes occurring at a planetary scale. The issue is not simply climate change (as bad as that is) it is the whole Capitalist development paradigm that is at the dark heart of mal-development; that is, development that undermines and destroys the very foundations of all life on Earth.
Gone is the relative stability and predictability of the past 12,000 years as the established patterns and regularity of Holocene phenology begin to fall into chaos. While some cosmic constants remain such as the cycles of day and night, the moon’s influence on the tides, the date of the solstices and the length of time the Earth takes to go around the sun, many other patterns and rhythms of Earth phenology are undergoing major change. A rapidly heating climate puts things out of whack. Synchronicity and timing are all important and when, for example, the instinctual migration of mammals and birds tied to ‘locked in’ global rhythms and patterns fails to coincide (trophic mismatches) with the great warming-accelerated flourishing, flowering and fruiting of once reliable food supplies … death and extinction follow.
In the Anthropocene, the so-called ‘new normal’, or what I prefer to conceptualise as ‘the new abnormal’, life will be characterised by uncertainty, unpredictability, genuine chaos and relentless change. Earth distress, as manifest in global warming, changing climates, erratic weather, acidifying oceans, disease pandemics, species endangerment and extinction, bioaccumulation of toxins and the overwhelming physical impact of exponentially-expanding human development will have its correlates in human physical and mental distress. I have written about solastalgia or the lived experience of negative environmental change as one emergent form of mental distress (Albrecht 2012a, Albrecht 2012b).
We need to get rid of the foundations of the concept of the Anthropocene before it covers many more decades of history of Earth. If all of the above are the outcome of human dominance of the planet, then I do not wish to be identified with The Anthropocene. I want this period in history to become redundant as soon as possible since, the longer it prevails, the more likely we will suffer catastrophic failure as a species here on Earth. While this would be a tragedy of huge proportion for humans, we will take with us thousands, perhaps millions, of other species as well. Popular literature and film already portray such an apocalyptic turn in human-nature relationships
While we have already tried to build a new and viable society around concepts such as democracy, sustainability, sustainable development and resilience, all these terms have been corrupted by forces determined to incorporate and embed them into the Anthropocene where they become ‘business as usual’. ‘Sustainability’ is inadequate as a concept because it does not specify what is to be sustained and over what time frame it is to be sustained. ‘Sustainable development’, equally, fails to define what it is about development that is to be sustained … except perhaps, development itself (Albrecht 1994). Yet, global-scale development which is diametrically opposed to micro-life and planetary-scale forces puts us on the path to dislocation then extinction.
The concept of ‘resilience’ (Holling 2001, Walker and Salt 2006) has also been appropriated by forces determined to pull it into the gravitational influence of toxic industrial society on a globalised scale. Instead of helping us rebound into configurations of successful models of living after disturbance, we are now seeing complex adaptive systems and ‘resilience’ being used to justify the ongoing existence of processes and activities that are driving humans to disease and extinction. Coal, oil and gas fracking industries now use their public relations departments to spin the message that their industries are not only sustainable, but ‘healthy’ and resilient as well. The ongoing ‘resilience’ of technically non-sustainable and undesirable features of social systems are more correctly termed “negative resilience” (Gallopín, 2006) or “perverse resilience” (Holling 2001, Ráez-Luna, 2008). These forms of resilience occur where pathological social relationships that are oppressive and exploitative of humans and ecosystems (life) are rendered resistant to change by economic and political subsidies (donations and corruption), political support, bullying, actual violence, terrorism and vested interests.
Dominance by powerful vested interests has also become characteristic of what is called democracy. Rule by the people (demos) has become corrupted by rule (kratos) by the powerful (oligarchy or plutocracy). It’s worse than that; Capitalism is now run by what can be technically called corruption. Corporations and oligarchs (authoritarians) use their power and influence to buy policy and manipulate or minimise regulation. It is this form of ‘government’ that is blatant in most parts of the world but more powerful if not more subtle in the so-called advanced countries of the Western World.
We could call this form of political-economy Corruptalism (Cohen 1993) or what I prefer to call ‘Corrumpalism’ (from the Latin corrumpere ‘to destroy’). I define Corrumpalism as the ability to corrupt and destroy the integrity of a social system and its biophysical foundation by perverting all forms of development via the use of mis-information, falsehoods, money and/or violence to achieve self-interested outcomes that are the opposite of cultural and ecological interests. We are seeing Corrumpalism played out in a public way with the recent VW scandal, the FIFA scandal, Olympics scandal, the Exxon climate change scandal, the ISIS oil scandal and many more worldwide from intensely local to global scales. There can be no ‘Good Anthropocene’ given the corruption that has already taken place.
In order to counter all these negative trends within The Anthropocene we clearly need, within popular politics and culture, visions and memes of a different future. To get the detail into these visions, we will need more novel conceptual development, since the foundation on which we are building right now is seriously flawed and conducive of nothing but great waves of ennui, grief, dread, solastalgia, mourning and melancholia. We must rapidly exit The Anthropocene with its non-sustainability, perverse resilience, authoritarianism and its corrumpalism. The new foundation, built around a new meme, will need to be an act of positive creation.
Entering The Symbiocene
I argue that the next era in human history should be The Symbiocene (from the Greek sumbiosis, or companionship). I created this concept in 2011 as an almost instinctive reaction again the very idea of the Anthropocene (Albrecht 2011). The scientific meaning of the word ‘symbiosis’ implies living together for mutual benefit and I wish to use this profoundly important concept as the basis for what I hope will be the next period of Earth history. As a core aspect of ecological and evolutionary thinking, symbiosis and its associated symbiogenesis, affirms the interconnectedness of life and all living things (Scofield and Margulis 2012).
As many thinkers have pointed out, such interconnection and interaction puts humans back into the community of life and resists the Hobbesian and Spencerian views of nature as essentially hostile and a competitive war of all against all. No doubt, conflict between organisms exists, but an overall balance of interests (eco-homeostasis) is in the total interest of all life. In addition, ecology itself is a radical concept in that it requires of us all to live within the limits of nature and to live with all the other life forms that share this home we call the Earth. In this contemporary historic moment of our appreciation of the threat of global warming, one the earliest thinkers to warn us of its dangers (in 1962), Murray Bookchin, summarised cogently what an ecological understanding of the world means and what it does to our understanding of our place within it:

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