How special (or not) is biology?

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Over seventy years ago, Erwin Schrödinger in his famous book ‘What is Life?’, posed the following question: ‘How can the events that take place in space and time and within a living organism be accounted for by physics and chemistry?’. A fundamental change of metaphors: from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network. The entire material world, ultimately, is a network of inseparable patterns of relationships, including the planet as a whole is a living, self-regulating system. Evolution is no longer seen as a competitive struggle for existence, but rather as a cooperative dance in…

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A reminder to navigate toward a new order of complexity

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The broadest of perspectives can locate the shift underway on planet Earth as the most recent scene in a vast pageant of cosmic emergence. A cosmological panorama takes us beyond the ambit of daily life and beyond even the larger compass of human history, offering a vantage point for pondering the contemporary predicament. About 3.8 billion years ago, life appeared on Earth, opening a new chapter in the story of the universe. Biological evolution has been a wondrous adventure of tenacity and inventiveness through titanic episodes of extinction and proliferation. One uncommonly dexterous line—the primates—proved particularly consequential, giving rise to…

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Concerned about tipping points? YES!

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In a biophysical perspective, the Earth is a system that primarily gets its energy from the sun, while the economy is seen as a metabolic organism that develops within the limits of the biosphere. Anthropogenic pressures on the Earth System have reached a scale where abrupt global environmental change can no longer be excluded. The resilience of the planet has kept it within the range of variation associated with the Holocene state, with key biogeochemical and atmospheric parameters fluctuating within a relatively narrow range. At the same time, marked changes in regional system dynamics have occurred over that period. Despite…

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Focal point of the economic transformation

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We cannot prevent an ever-worsening ecological collapse when we apply a religion of never-ending industrial growth and increasing human population far beyond what our finite earth systems can support. Our economy depends entirely on cheap, affordable energy which, even with today’s massive subsidies of fossil fuel production, is running out. While capitalism sometimes thrives on creating artificial scarcity — even for non-competitive goods —it also promotes the idea of endless economic ​​growth. Economic models where the organizing parameters are scarcity, control, hoarding, hierarchies, and relationships of power being held over others and defined by the production and consumption of goods…

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We can do better.

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Humans are now living within a period of the Earth’s history appropriately named ‘The Anthropocene’. The name is derived from the observed human influence and indeed increasing dominance of climatic, biophysical, and evolutionary processes occurring at a planetary scale. The issue of human dominance is not simply climate change (as bad as that is), it is the whole capitalist development paradigm that is at the dark heart of maldevelopment—that which undermines and destroys the very foundations of all life on earth. During a relatively short period of human history, we have seen the emergence of a growth-addicted industrial-technological society that…

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TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

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The persistent march of a warming climate is seen across a multitude of continuous, incremental changes. CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Ocean heat content. Global sea level rise. Each creeps up year after year, fueled by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. From declining Arctic sea ice and record-breaking heatwaves to melting glaciers and worsening droughts, the increase in global average temperature is being felt around the world. And while climate records are being routinely broken, the cumulative impact of these changes could also cause fundamental parts of the Earth system to change dramatically and irreversibly. Broadly, these impacts reflect gradual changes caused by a climate that is steadily warming. However, there are parts of the Earth system…

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Main lesson from our amazing journey.

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The Universe is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. The Universe is immense, estimates suggest at least two trillion galaxies. It comprises all of energy in its various forms, including electromagnetic radiation and matter, and therefore planets, moons, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. The universe also includes the physical laws that influence energy and matter, such as conservation laws, classical mechanics, and relativity. Most galaxies are between 10 billion and 13.6 billion years old. Our universe is about 13.8 billion years old, so…

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Work

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Sophisticated machines are fast outpacing jobs. What does this mean for the future of work? And if there are no jobs, what we will do with our time? When a great number of factors congeal and the future of a complex system is dependent on a multiplicity of actors, there is never only one possible future. We need to take account of a plethora of changes that intermesh – from demographics to the possibility of sustained major migratory movements (associated with security, war, and conflict and destined in future to be increasingly caused by the fall-out effects of climate change)…

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Humans, amazing!

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Life’s evolution follows a pattern of diversification and subsequent integration of diversity at higher levels of complexity. Throughout evolution this integration has predominantly been achieved through new forms of cooperation and symbiosis. It is time to reperceive life as a planetary process of cooperation in which a unified whole expressing itself on nested temporal and spatial scales of complexity evolves in intimate reciprocity as a living planet. Life is a regenerative community rooted in patters of symbiosis and cooperation that creates shared abundance and conditions to life. Competition clearly does exist, but in far smaller proportions than over our myopic…

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We are in a moment of deep institutional inertia

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After 40 years of comprehensive climate reports by the world’s leading authority (the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC],) the IPCC has made the most significant single change to its climate position and predictions in its decades-long history! The IPCC now says we can no longer prevent many of the worst consequences of global warming. A glance at the news media on any given week will likely highlight all sorts of climate change impacts. From declining Arctic Sea ice and record-breaking heatwaves to melting glaciers and worsening droughts, the increase in global average temperature is being felt around the world. Broadly, these impacts reflect gradual changes caused by a climate that is steadily…

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