Excerpts from Introduction to Third Phase Transition: Solving The Anthropocene Crisis

On the meaning of resilience

“All scientific evidence today points towards the conclusion that we have come full spiral. Linear metabolism is causing havoc. It is threatening to deplete not only natural resilience and resources, but also the social cohesion of humanity as a self-associating species. It is risking society’s relapse into disintegrating barbaric forms. This, in turn, would mean incapacitating us in front of the sixth mass extinction, becoming its helpless victim and executioner at one and the same time.”

“Depletion of social cohesion and depletion of earth system’s resilience are intimately linked. Mixing these two up, however, like present sustainability research routinely does, by corrupting the term ‘resilience,’ can only contribute to a catastrophic outcome. Resilience has been and will remain a scientifically sound ecological concept. Lending itself to, just as well, signifying the dangerous utopia, that stabilising and fortifying social status quo would be possible, in the face of continuously accelerating global change of ecology, becomes the most treacherous kind of conceptual corruption. ‘Environmental champions’ smile in the spotlight, together with ‘green’ multibillionaires. Can you imagine something more dishonest and confusing, than selling out ‘resilience’ to those destroying it? The ‘sustainability’ establishment thereby tends to transform itself from a part of the solution to a part of the problem. You cannot take one single step towards a solution if you start by falling flat to linear metabolism as your own horizon.”

“[T]his uncertain situation [of natural science searching for scientific integration, while failing because of the underdevelopment and confusion of social science] has sometimes led natural scientists to admittedly transferring their own solid concepts – like for example ‘ecology’ or its ‘resilience’ – to the social domain without fundamentally re-determining them. This has resulted in conceptual corruption and confusion.”

“Human society needs to embed itself anew into global ecology and its circular metabolism. This restoration of natural metabolism cannot be done by humanity ‘returning to nature,’ however, reversing civilisation’s Holocene-spanning urbanisation trend. Nor can it be produced through generalising unaltered copying of practices from earlier metabolic practices. Even less can it be achieved by disregarding the natural resilience of the earth system, bulldozing it by mindless projects of unilateral, uncontrollable, and unbounded technological mock fixes of so-called ecological engineering. On the contrary.”

“No centralised surveillance and data collection on people’s lives needs to be included in such a system [of IT evolving collective human intelligence]. The survey and control function of Internet should be redirected towards the very earth system. The resilience, from specific ecologies to the overall life system of Planet Earth, is what needs to be surveyed, in order to guide humanity’s metabolic phase transition. Preserved and reinforced biodiversity becomes the given measure.”

Go back to quotes