🌿Wild Ones # 44: Environmental Communication Digest

Environmental keyword: 'Probiotic' + Communicating Carbon Offsets + Finding the Mother Tree: How trees talk to each other + More!

Hi everyone, welcome back to Wild Ones, a weekly digest by me, Gavin Lamb, about news, ideas, research, and tips in environmental communication. If you’re new, welcome! You can read more about why I started Wild Ones here. Sign up here to get these digests in your inbox:

🌱Environmental Keyword


“A probiotic approach involves using life to manage life…Often probiotic approaches use keystone species, or species with disproportionate agency relative to their ecological abundance, to manage ecosystems. Probiotic enthusiasts tend to stress the importance of biological abundance and diversity for delivering the resilience of their target system— from the body to the farm to the nature reserve…”

– Jamie Lorimer, in The Probiotic Planet (2020).

I’ve really enjoyed following Jamie Lorimer’s work over the past few years. When I was writing my dissertation, I drew a lot of inspiration from his fascinating 2015 book: Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature.

Lorimer, who is a professor of environmental geography at Oxford, just published a new book: The Probiotic Planet Using Life to Manage Life. The book delves into the environmental keyword ‘probiotic’ to understand a range of emerging approaches in two areas – environmental care and health care – which ‘use life to manage life,’ as he puts it.

The two cases he uses as examples of growing enthusiasm for ‘probiotic approaches’ are rewilding in environmental management and biome restoration in human health care.

In the introduction, he explores how to make sense of human relationships with nature through the contrast between ‘probiotic’ and ‘antibiotic’ approaches to bodily and planetary well-being:

“I use the adjective “probiotic” in an expansive sense to describe human interventions that use life to manage life, working with biological and geomorphic processes to deliver forms of human, environmental, and even planetary health…Like the term “probiotic,” I use “antibiotic” in an expansive sense to mean much more than a class of pharmaceuticals that restricts the growth of specific microbes. Being antibiotic describes systematic efforts to secure the Human through the control of unruly ecologies. It involves efforts to eradicate, control, rationalize, and simplify life that are common.”

  • Read the preface and introduction to The Probiotic Planet here.

  • And here is a helpful Twitter thread Jamie Lorimer wrote about his new book since he wasn’t able to do the usual book launch due to the Covid-19 pandemic:

📚 What I’m reading

👀 What I’m watching

  • How trees talk to each other. A TED talk by forest ecologist Suzanne Simard: “‘A forest is much more than what you see,’ says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery – trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.”

🎧 What I’m listening to

Finding the Mother Tree: An Interview with Suzanne Simard. Interviewed by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee in Emergence Magazine.

“I’m standing on the shoulders of thousands of years of knowledge. I think it’s so important that we all recognize this. There is so much knowledge there that we’ve ignored.”

Suzanne Simard

📰 News & Opportunities

  • The Aloha State Declares a Climate Emergency: “Hawaii’s recent climate emergency declaration marks a first for the U.S. The Frontline explores what this could mean for the federal level and all of us living through this crisis.”

📚 Research

💡 Ideas

💬 Quotes I’m thinking about

  • “Human life arises from and is sustained by the biophysical matrix we call ‘nature,’ as embodied locally in the Earth and its neighboring star. Our breath and bread, our gadgets and cities derive from nature, and so, indirectly, do our metaphors and philosophies. In an age of ecological breakdown and mass extinctions, how can we write compellingly about our place in nature?”

    Scott Russell Sanders, in a fascinating workshop on “writing beyond the environment” I’m taking now hosted by Emergence Magazine.

Thanks so much as always for your interest in my work, and if you found this digest useful, please consider sharing with others who might find it interesting too😊 I'd also love to hear from you. Leave a comment to let me know what you think about this digest, what areas of environmental communication you’re involved in/most interest you, or anything you’d like to see more of in Wild Ones:)

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