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Crafting the Long Tomorrow

Crafting the Long Tomorrow
Biosphere 2

Bruce Clarke presented Cognition not Consciousness: Gaian Systems for a Planetary Society and announced the launch of the Gaian Systems planetary cognition lab at Crafting the Long Tomorrow , held at Biosphere 2, February 21-24, 2019

The idea pitch:

David Grinspoon’s 2016 book Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future reasons persuasively from Gaia theory, astrobiology, planetary science, and SETI research in making large-scale pitches for long-term agendas that he calls “planetary changes of the fourth kind.” For instance, from the inadvertent mess that is anthropogenic climate change, we would proceed to perfect deliberate global alterations that, if done right, would involve some form of collective buy-in. This means, in particular, very long-term investments in the kinds of planetary science and space programs we will need to ensure planetary defense against rogue asteroids and comets and successful rather than blundering geoengineering and terraforming schemes at the planetary scale. Grinspoon aims his readers toward the possibility of a “mature Anthropocene” that “begins with our mass awareness of our role as world changers.”

However, is a collective subject of such a “mass awareness” to be found? Grinspoon tackles this question head on: “Is there even any kind of a coherent ‘we’ who is responsible for our behavior on a global level? Not obviously.” Nonetheless, he affirms that “there is a sense in which global humanity is trying to make up its mind about something important for the very first time.” Global warming “is awakening us to our planetary nature.” Grinspoon tries on a range of rhetorical maneuvers in search of a collective formula for a capably singular “planetary nature.” We may condense these to the following formula: awareness and action--and especially, global awareness and action.

These are fine mantras, but they won’t get the whole job done. Why not? The problems Grinspoon describes are good to bear in mind as we form in groups to plot future courses for humanity at the planetary level. Awareness and action is basically a behavioral model (awareness is to action a sensory stimulus is to motor response) appropriate to individual organisms but not to the social systematics at the heart of the question. Resting one’s hopes on a notion of collective awareness that leads directly to right collective action leaves crucial operational links unobserved--the social systems and media technologies indispensable to the processes at hand.

The necessary societal reckoning can be achieved only by mediating the differences that will always lie in the in-between. Thus, the sorts of idealistic discourses Grinspoon and many others have tried on, sometimes banked on—“planetary consciousness,” “planetary identity,” “worldwide mind,” and the like—are bound to unravel before the baseline detail that awareness cannot depart the closure of individual minds unless effectively coupled to the continuous communications of social processes. The question has to become, as near as I can tell, can a sufficiently representative portion of us consolidate to constitute a global political society that can institute radically long-term planetary efforts on behalf of the biosphere altogether?

For additional details, visit the symposium site.