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Sustainability from ecological anthropology: the second life of trees

What might a non-anthropocentric view of sustainability look like?  This would probably include regeneration of species alongside others in the ecosystem.  With some recent presentations, an idea that resonates with audiences is the “The Second Life of Trees”, credited by Tim Ingold (2002) to John Knight (1998).  Ingold sees continuity of life not only of each species, but in the co-respondences of species alongside each over many lifelines.

As background, Gilberto Gallopin (2003) is helpful in describing what sustainability might NOT be about.  Firstly, an extreme anthropocentric position.

Sustainability of the human system only. This position, if taken to the extreme, could result in the Earth becoming a totally artificialized planet if total substitutability of natural resources and services were possible. The classical economicist view, for instance, regards the economy as the relevant system, and relegates nature to the role of provider of natural resources and services and of a sink for the wastes produced by human activities (Figure 3).

This is consistent with the notion of “very weak sustainability” 10 (Turner 1993). The very weak sustainability approach asserts that natural and manufactured capital can substitute perfectly for one another.

Then, there’s an extreme biocentric position.

Sustainability of the ecological system primarily, even if it means elimination or displacement of the human component (Figure 4).

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What might a non-anthropocentric view of sustainability look like?  This would probably include regeneration of species alongside others in the ecosystem.  With some recent presentations, an idea that resonates with audiences is the “The Second Life of Trees”, credited by Tim Ingold (2002) to John Knight (1998).  Ingold sees continuity of life not only of each species, but in the co-respondences of species alongside each over many lifelines.

As background, Gilberto Gallopin (2003) is helpful in describing what sustainability might NOT be about.  Firstly, an extreme anthropocentric position.

Sustainability of the human system only. This position, if taken to the extreme, could result in the Earth becoming a totally artificialized planet if total substitutability of natural resources and services were possible. The classical economicist view, for instance, regards the economy as the relevant system, and relegates nature to the role of provider of natural resources and services and of a sink for the wastes produced by human activities (Figure 3).

This is consistent with the notion of “very weak sustainability” 10 (Turner 1993). The very weak sustainability approach asserts that natural and manufactured capital can substitute perfectly for one another.

Then, there’s an extreme biocentric position.

Sustainability of the ecological system primarily, even if it means elimination or displacement of the human component (Figure 4).

Read more (in a new tab)
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