Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Anthropocene and the noösphere

Hello, day one. So many questions, so little time. First things:


Apologies that I won't be able to spend too much time nurturing/tending/gardening these musings - i.e. responding to you, the community. Though, time and energy permitting, I would like to.

The thing is, I muse so much anyway, that I might as well post some of them here, rather than just losing so many in throw-away emails or burying them in threads that don't go very far.

Ivan has convinced me to do this, after nagging for some months (he thinks I qualify as sufficiently opinionated and discursive - qualities that often work against me, so I'm encouraged they might be of value here). Let's see if I can post things of interest to you.

My most recent consuming interest has been influenza and CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) - ie factory farms. But I have a long and strong interest in Global Change - eg the "great acceleration" of the Anthropocene as Will Steffen, Paul Crutzen and John McNeill call it. I have been writing and speaking, academically, on such topics for close to 20 years now - with a degree of activism too (which goes back longer than 20 years, eg I was arrested at the Franklin Dam demonstration in Tasmania, Australia, in 1983.)

I think of the "great acceleration" as like being the eye of a needle, a tunnel, a channel humanity is entering into, beyond which lies either clear water or chaos. It is a fascinating, challenging, and potentially catastrophic passage. I feel a duty of care to warn about that, and to do what I can to make sure humanity does emerge from it in a better position. I know that probably sounds conceited but I am a doctor (I was a family practitioner for about a decade), so I'm used to being a bit prescriptive. I was also corresponding lead author for the chapter on human well-being in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

That was a four year exercise involving about 90 futurists. Of those 90 I was probably the least optimistic, at least officially. But that experience also helps qualify me to sound this warning. How many of you have heard of Cassandra? Spot quiz - was Cassandra right or wrong?

I have to go now. Please come back .. maybe in few days or weeks I'll have posted something else. Meantime, if you are interested in these topics (and I'm just scratching the surface above) try visiting the website of the NGO of which I am co-founder or try searching for my name - Colin Butler - on google. Lots come up. There is a lot of writing on the BODHI website, eg in "Medical Director's desk". (And various journal papers of mine, such as an essay about the Millennium Assessment process, published in the journal EcoHealth, in 2005 - called "Peering into the Fog".)

Finally, this is my first ever attempt at a blog. I assume people can post responses, but I'm not really sure. If you can, and if you do, please remember the second point I made at the start: I won't be able to respond very often, perhaps at all. I don't mean to be rude.

Best wishes


PS the noösphere? - .. you are already part of it. Hope to come back to that in future posts.