🌿Wild Ones # 44: Environmental Communication Digest
Environmental keyword: 'Probiotic' + Communicating Carbon Offsets + Finding the Mother Tree: How trees talk to each other + More!
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“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
The Climate Solution Actually Adding Millions of Tons of CO2 Into the Atmosphere. By Lisa Song, ProPublica, and James Temple, MIT Technology Review: “New research shows that California’s climate policy created up to 39 million carbon credits that aren’t achieving real carbon savings. But companies can buy these forest offsets to justify polluting more anyway.”
The writing in this in-depth and well-researched piece gave me a good understanding of how carbon offsets work (or rather aren’t working). But I especially found the maps and cartoons to be a great example of how to use text and visual environmental communication together in compelling ways.
👀 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.”
Four Open Tenure track positions in Biodiverse Anthropocenes at the University of Oulu, Finland: “The positions are aimed at candidates from across multiple disciplines (and in particular they encourage transdisciplinary scholarship) spanning a range of research focuses, including human-environment relations, geographies, sustainability and biodiversity genomics.”
Re-thinking nature-based solutions: seeking transformative change through culture and rights: A briefing for the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. By Helen Tugendhat in The Forest People’s Program: “The term ‘nature-based solutions’ is both widely used and controversial. It remains ill-defined, despite some high-profile efforts to clarify it, and some of its most enthusiastic supporters include industries and governments responsible for much of the historical and ongoing damage to the planet and communities worldwide.”
Reflecting on place: environmental education as decolonisation. Simone Thornton, Mary Graham, and Gilbert Burgh in The Australian Journal of Environmental Education: “We argue that to face climate change, all education, from kindergarten to tertiary, needs to be underpinned by environmental education...We conclude that educators must look for what [Va] Plumwood calls ‘experiences that do not fit the dominant story’ to disrupt an important link in the chain of climate change by developing ‘traitorous identities’ able to challenge the dominant culture.”
COVID-19 as a Framing Device for Environmental Protest: The ECOSYSTEM HEALTH Metaphor. By Anaïs Augé in Environmental Communication.
Feasting Wild: In search of the last untamed food. By Gina Rae La Cerva: “Feasting Wild is a remarkable celebration of biodiversity, Indigenous and women's knowledge, our vital connection to nature, and delicious flavors!”
Penser les glaciers comme des acteurs d’un monde que nous habitons en commun (“Think of glaciers as actors in a world we inhabit together”). In Le Monde. An op-ed written by a group of activists in France calling “to reinvent our relationship with the mountains.”
Mother Culture: For sperm whales, family is paramount. By Carl Safina in Emergence Magazine.
Can we shop our way out of the climate crisis? The Green Fix on ethical consumerism. By Cass Hebron in the Green Fix.
Creating an Inhabitable World for Humans Means Dismantling Rigid Forms of Individuality. By Judith Butler in Time Magazine.
The Octopus Teacher’s Student: Craig Foster reflects on a relationship that changed his connection to the natural world. Interviewed by Brandon Keim in Nautilus.
In a Green Shade: The English & Nature: An ongoing environmental portrait project that explores & celebrates our diverse connections to this green & pleasant land. A photo series by Michael Wharley in the Inkcap Journal.
💬 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.
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