Rabbit Holes 🕳️ #65
From speaking nature to the techno- vs. biosphere, how to be animal, botanarchy and the sustainability leaning curve
THIS WEEK → 🌿🗣️ Speaking Nature 🌐🆚🌎 Technosphere vs Biosphere 🦁 How To Be Animal ➕ Botanarchy 🚿 Sustainability Learning Curve
Rabbit Holes 🕳️
As always, here are three perspective-shifting ideas to rewild your mind and help you create a better world, plus some extras below. Enjoy!
#1 🗣️🌿 Speaking Nature
TEK – i.e. traditional ecological knowledge – is increasingly emerging as a new knowledge field with people recognizing the wisdom of indigenous cultures regarding sustainability and regeneration. Environmental linguistics is a fascinating science field within that. I especially loved this sentence: “Nature-centric concepts in the language makes you see the environmental differently”.
“Working with Indigenous communities to understand the environmental knowledge embedded in their languages is the goal of “environmental linguistics,” a line of research Harrison [an Environmental Linguist] describes in a 2023 article in the Annual Review of Linguistics. […]
[David Harrison:] It was mind-expanding to learn that language can be connected to the environment in ways that I hadn’t really encountered before. […] For example, the preferred way to say “go” in Tuvan [Siberian nomads] refers to the direction of the current in the nearest river and your trajectory relative to the current. […] When I once hosted a Tuvan friend in Manhattan, he asked me, “Where’s the river?” So I took him to the west side of Manhattan and showed him one of the rivers. And he took note of it, so he could use the Tuvan topographic verbs properly in New York City. […]
Learning these nature-centric concepts in the language makes you see the environment differently. […]
What Indigenous people have in their languages is a program for sustainability. […] If a Tuvan says, “You should clean the sacred seasonal campsite,” that is kind of meaningless when translated into English, because we don’t have the concept of such a thing. But the Tuvan word for this, xonash, evokes a deeply emotional and sentimental response from Tuvan speakers, who are immediately aware of a whole range of beliefs and behaviors that follow from that concept. Sustainability is built into their language and worldview. […]
What Indigenous people know about their natural environments far surpasses what Western scientists know and is uniquely expressed in their languages. […] I remember meeting a man named Reuben Neriam in Vanuatu. I spent more than a week working with him and a team of botanists from the New York Botanical Garden, looking at photographs and specimens of plants. He was able to name more than 2,000 plants, which is astonishing. And he didn’t just name the plants, he talked about where and when they grow, when should they be harvested, how they’re processed, and what medicinal and nutritional properties they have. There’s this immense knowledge base that’s truly unappreciated and unknown to Western science. […]
We have to overcome our bias that Western science is superior to Indigenous ways of thinking.”
» Knowable Magazine | Indigenous languages are founts of environmental knowledge by Katharina Zimmer (interviewing David Harrison)
#2 🌐🆚🌎 Technosphere vs Biosphere
Another excellent recently published article about the tech- vs nature-focus debate that I see increasingly emerging. Framing it as technosphere vs. biosphere is quite interesting as it gives one this macro-level perspective. I believe the challenge here is to transform technology into a symbiotic and, thereby, also bio-productive part of the biosphere.
“As animals, humans are the denizens of the biosphere. It is our mother ship. But in recent decades the biosphere has been eclipsed by an entirely human-made construct. This new artificial environment began to emerge sometime during the Industrial Revolution when humans employed coal and then oil to rework the world with machines. These machines now make and measure every imaginable thing. They do so according to their human designers and, increasingly, machines.
First came an eruption of cities, followed by roads, rails and planes to supply and connect them. More materials and technologies accumulated in rapid succession […]. By the end of the 1950s it became clear that humans had used stores of fossil energy to build something very distinct from the biosphere. This new entity not only cannibalized resources from a finite planet but posed a threat to its very existence with continuous streams of toxic waste from its machines.
Today technology and its material demands have colonized every biological zone on Earth and shape virtually all human life. By definition the technosphere represents an artificial (and parasitic) offshoot of the much-abused biosphere. It includes glass, concrete, asphalt and plastic, roaring furnaces and humming digital paraphernalia. It includes motors, missiles, the internet and all the energy humans wrangle to power them. […]
Yet few people and even fewer leaders recognize where we’ve arrived. Technosphere residents, servants or inmates (you can pick the appropriate noun) remain largely blind to its size and intent. […]
With every tonne of fossil fuels the technosphere consumes, it extracts another six tonnes of material stuff including sand, metal, rock, wood and stone. As such the technosphere possesses its own metabolism, continuously appropriating resources like some Napoleonic army. Its fresh water demands alone divert the equivalent of a Mediterranean Sea every year. […]
In 1900 the mass of human civilization equalled about three per cent of global biomass. Today the weight of the technosphere’s manufactured abundance exceeds that of all living things on the planet.”
#3 🦁 How To Be Animal
This a super interesting article that connects TikTok trends like #ratgirlsummer with anthropocentrism, human-nature dualism, species extinction, loneliness, and the benefits of imagining ourselves as other creatures not only to connect more with nature but also to become better at being human. This links to my thoughts on re-humanizing, which I should now maybe rather call re-animalizing.
“It is a uniquely precarious moment to be an animal of any kind. All around us, other species are disappearing some 10,000 times faster than base extinction levels […]. Amid habitat loss and the conversion of wild spaces into agricultural and suburban ones, real-life animals are increasingly being usurped by anthropomorphised doppelgängers. We encounter them daily in pop culture, advertisements, and online. According to a 2018 paper in PLOS Biology, the average French citizen, for example, sees more than four ‘virtual’ lions every day, which means that in a year, she witnesses more lions than exist in the whole of West Africa. […]
On the one hand, we live in an anthropocentric society where human life is privileged to devastating ecological effect. On the other, as we play out increasingly online existences – lubricated by instant deliveries or the way we work and stream at home, alone – misanthropic solitude has also become increasingly normalised (just look at the memes). Not only are we failing to consider other species, we are flailing in our connection with one another. […]
Popular discourse tends to silo these two issues, imagining that the breakdown in intra-species connection has nothing to do with the inter-species one, and vice versa. Looking at the moments where we visualise ourselves as nonhuman, though, suggests that in examining our own experiences of ‘being animal’ we can learn to live and connect better in our human bodies, too. […]
The rapid technologising of modern life has separated all of us from our bodies, but rather than view ourselves in union with our nonhuman neighbours, we tend to get defensive. Hungry for our own dignity, we dig deeper into the myth of our exceptionalism. […]
The moat between ‘human’ and ‘animal’ has rarely been so large. I put the words in quotes because, of course, the binary is false. To say ‘“Animal” … is one of the ways we say “Other”,’ writes philosopher David Wood. […]
‘The world is now dominated by an animal that doesn’t think it’s an animal,’ writes the natural philosopher Melanie Challenger in How to Be Animal (2021). ‘And the future is being imagined by an animal that doesn’t want to be an animal.’ It is shame that drives us to evade our animality, contends philosopher Martha Nussbaum in the book Hiding from Humanity (2004), so uncomfortable are we with our own ‘propensity to decay and to become waste products ourselves’.
The more we confront the degradation of our oceans and lands, however, the more we must face that it’s not just animal habitat under threat – it’s our habitat, too. Faced with this mounting unliveability, we look to the nonhuman for ideas of survival. […] Part of the strangeness of trying to connect with a species beyond ourselves is that the act of grasping can feel oddly familiar. […] To perform the nonhuman is also to consider the ways we perform the human […].”
“Anarchism gets a bad rep. In the popular imagination, anarchists dress in black, they smash windows and hurl firebombs at police. Or else, they are young social misfits with green hair and too many piercings. […] But what if anarchy could be beautiful, what if it could bring local communities together planting flowers in the streets?”
‘I call it botanarchy’: The Hackney guerrilla gardener bringing power to the people by Damien Gayle
“The same fossil fuels that are driving the climate crisis are driving this health crisis. The Environmental Protection Agency keeps finding cancer-causing chemicals derived from fossil fuels—such as dioxins, benzene, and naphthalene—in the air, in our water, our food, our furniture, our clothing, the utensils we cook with…. They are also in our bodies. […] Oil, gas, and coal are making the planet sick and making people and other animals sick.”
You Can’t Have Healthy People On A Sick Planet by Jane Fonda
“Degrowthers, eco-modernists, collapsologists, ecofeminists, Transition Towners, survivalists, ecosocialists, green new dealers, etc. Everyone is convinced to have found the best solution. […] While there is value in healthy debate, these feuds too often degenerate into egocentric cockfights that damage the popularity of the very idea of sustainability.”
A response to Hannah Ritchie: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Economic Growth by Timothée Parrique
🚿 Shower Thoughts
That’s it for this week’s Rabbit Holes!
Please support this newsletter by sharing it with your friends and colleagues and thereby help me gain more reach! Alternatively, you can also contribute by ☕️ buying me a coffee.
Thanks for supporting my work! 😊