Life Sustains Life 2. The Ways of Re-Engagement With the Living Earth

In Akeel Bilgrami (ed.), Nature and Value. New York: Columbia University Press (2019)
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This article argues that we need to learn from the living earth how living systems sustain themselves and use this knowledge to transform our unsustainable and destructive social systems into sustainable and symbiotic systems within systems. I first set out what I take to be four central features of sustainable living systems according to the life and earth sciences. Secondly, I set out what I take to be the main features of our unsustainable social system that cause damage to the ecosphere on the one hand and give rise to the illusion of independence from it on the other hand. I then turn to several ways of responding to the sustainability crisis that are informed by this way of thinking about our interdependent relationship in and with ecosocial systems. These are ways of dis-engaging from our unsustainable practices, beginning to engage in practices of re-engaging and reconnecting socially and ecologically, and thus beginning to bring into being unalienated and sustainable ways of life on earth. If the symbiotic interdependency thesis of the first section is true, then participants in these connecting practices should be empowered in reciprocity by the interdependent relationships they connect with, and thus initiate expanding virtuous cycles. This reciprocal empowerment is discussed in the final section.

Author's Profile

James Tully
University of Victoria


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