Conservation Biology as Battlefield Triage . . . are
Endangered Tree Hospitals Sustainable for Centuries?
Conserving Plant Genomics requires Social Symbiosis:
Restoring a Cultural Environment Landscape Ethic
Penjing :   Endangered "Potted Landscapes"
to Teach, Train, and Propagate Environmental Values
Embedded in Cultural Landscape = SUSTAINABLE since 1728
"A land ethic ... reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land."
"We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel,
understand, love, or otherwise have faith in." -- Aldo Leopold

How can we sustain the conservation of Endangered Species and plant genomic resources over centuries, if we have failed already to conserve them over decades? By outsourcing that task to expert scientific institutions, the GSPC risks being a recipe for top-down failure -- because it isolates knowledge and compartmentizes values. Ecology has become the science of writing, "an ever more sophisticated refinement of the obituary of nature".   Endangered species stem from extinction of stewardship ethics -- socially-propagated traits. This site develops the case that social heritage cultivation could produce more effective genomic risk-management strategies -- by embedding stewardship responsibility in social practices, cultural environment niches, and social value systems.

At scientific and diplomatic fora, polite questions are raised about the Collapse of "Civilization". But the prevailing discourse adopts unrealistic parameters to limit the scope of imagination to intellectually comfortable -- and diplomatically tractable -- scenarios. Naive notions of "Sustainability" are incantations that repackage illusions of progressive social order from past history, and project them forward into our future:   "Civilization" may collapse with climate change, but somehow, the Old World Order of "Science" and Westphalian Nation-states will be "sustainable".   (Denial springs eternal.)

For a risk-management strategy to be realistic, its foundational assumptions must be exposed -- and assessed for risks. But our Conservation Biology Institutions are relying on the unexamined -- and risky -- assumption that current social Institutions are stable and sustainable.   A more realistic assumption is that climate change will place unprecedented stress on all human Institutions -- including Science, Democracy, and the Nation-state itself.   Long before any "Collapse of Civilization", many of its component ... "Institutional structures ... could disintegrate".

A 2013 report to the Royal Society asked, "Can a Collapse of Global Civilization be Avoided?" It recommended closer collaboration between Social Scientists and Natural Scientists to "develop ways to stimulate a significant increase in popular support" for conservation -- and more emphasis on "the mechanisms through which cooperation evolves" -- if we are to avoid collapse.

But a similar interdisciplinary research program has been conducted for 30 years -- by government scientific institutions tasked with safely managing radioactive wastes for centuries. Its critique and conclusions are described in the following paper, at the International Atomic Energy Agency:

As urbanized and digitized modes of life amplify the "Nature deficit disorder" of younger people, conservation by future generations becomes unsustainable -- "unthinkable". Reversing our own human "Extinction of Experience" and reviving biodiversity conservation are linked: This site explores an outreach initiative using "Potted Landscapes". By remodeling and re-inhabiting social practices of traditional Chinese Penjing and Japanese Saikei (middle-class bonsai), these "Potted Landscapes" would provide hands-on stewardship experience with -- and individual responsibility for -- Endangered Species of plants.   Can we transplant -- and cultivate -- endangered Stewardship ethics traits as evolving social norms in urban Cultural Environment Niches? Might this promote support for foreign biodiversity hotspots?

Conserving Endangered Plants by Cultivating Social Rhizomes :
Genomic Repositories as Local Lending Libraries of Landscape Art

Table of Contents

        + Introduction   (above)
        + Overview:   Risks to Botanical Conservation from Social Ecology Threats
-   Sustainability over centuries needed:
    1000 years of climate disruption already baked-in.
-   Socially Isolating Conservation Biology in Expert Institutions
    raises the Political and Economic Risks.
-   Risk of Knowledge shrinking into Endangered Specialties:
-   Surveys reveal profound Environmental Illiteracy, and
    Youth ages 18-24 are even more Eco-Ignorant than Adults ages 45-54.
-   Ecological niche Extinction unless
    Cultural niche Propagation of Knowledge and Values.
        + Dispersing Endangered Genomic Resources to Amateurs
-   Can the Benefits Outweigh the Costs and New Risks?
        + Lessons from Nuclear Waste Risk-Management Projects
-   Preservation of Knowledge and Memory across Generations
-   "Communication Measures To Bridge Ten Millennia"
        + Long-term Threats to Arboreta, Botanical Gardens,
                      and other Centralized Genomic Heritage Sites
-   Need for Integrated In-Situ / Ex-Situ Risk Assessments
-   Human Niche Construction:   Risks of Cognitive Bubbles.
-   Memory Extinction and Heritage Annihilation since the Library at Alexandria.
        + Saikei:   Restoration of Botanic Heritage
                            and Human Cultural Environment in Postwar Japan
        + Glyptostrobus as a Penjing Pilot Program Candidate Species
        + Values   in a Brave New World of Geo-Engineered "Nature":
                        Orienting a Moral Compass for "Human Nature"
        + FAQ, Feedback, and Email Contact


Overview:   Risks to Botanical Conservation
                  from Social Ecology Threats

Conserving endangered species of plants may be essential to stabilize the global climate. Endangered plant conservation also may be essential to stabilize global civilization (and perhaps to prevent human extinction).

This site explores the idea that outsourcing the task of Endangered plant species conservation to "expert specialists" is an unnecessarily risky strategy. Why? It isolates and concentrates human motivation, knowledge, and responsibility for Endangered plant conservation into specialized -- and shrinking -- socio-‍economic niches. Ironically, this strategy creates a new risk of plant extinction -- by making Endangered plant survival vulnerable to the social extinction of a few human Institutional Niches.

Current rates of environmental degradation have put Conservation Biology in Battlefield Triage mode. The convergent Institutional groupthink needed to juggle crises is operating. But why evacuate the wounded, if our "Field Hospitals" are too close to the front lines, to be protected? Are Endangered Tree Hospitals sustainable for centuries?

For a risk-management strategy to be realistic, its foundational assumptions must be exposed -- and assessed for risks. But our Conservation Biology Institutions are relying on the unexamined -- and risky -- assumption that current social Institutions are stable and sustainable.   A more realistic assumption is that climate change will place unprecedented stress on all human Institutions -- including Science, Democracy, and the Nation-state itself.   Long before any "Collapse of Civilization", many of its component ... "Institutional structures ... could disintegrate".

Botanical Gardens occupy acres of prime real estate. Botanical Scientists occupy branches of prime academic property. Both are vulnerable to predatory Social Ecology "redevelopment" -- the Creative Destruction of Human Niche Re-Construction.

How long would it take, for an institutional niche in Science to become extinct? In 1988, 72% of the 50 top-funded U.S. universities offered botany programs. But by 2010, BGCI's survey found that more than half those remaining Botany programs had been eliminated, along with many related courses. By 2011, no ‍university in the UK offered a degree in Botany.   The short-sighted socio-economic nexus of "Hire Education for Higher Profit" no longer values the trait of Stewardship Ethics -- there is no social selection pressure to demand or supply it, nor to propagate any socially Endangered Trait of stewardship.

Nor did Peter Raven's Panglossian pep-talk in 2011 change that.   Values drive both economic funding, and epistemic framing. Hence it is Values that structure the social context, and the scientific search for Knowledge. The fact that defacto Departments of "Pesticide Genetics" and "Ag Econ Intellectual Property" are displacing Botany from the knowledge pantheon, does not mean that the same "Science" is being conducted under different names. Rather, different Questions are being asked, driven by different Values. And the Answers that "Science" gets, depend on the Questions that "Science" is willing to ask. (Moral Courage is another socially Endangered Trait.)   In economic parlance, who is "Willing To Pay" for which Questions to be asked by "Science"?   Who will own the Answers? For whose purposes, will the power conferred by Knowledge be used?

The "Extinction of Experience" throughout society is coupled with this impending Extinction of Expertise, as branches of knowledge become Endangered Specialties. To be viable, any plan to restore them to the Cultural Environment should recognize this fundamental linkage between Values and Knowledge -- neuro-scientists call it motivated cognition.   Homo-Economicus overreacts to short-term incentives.

But in the longer term, not even the unreal virtual reality of urban digital "Culture" can be isolated from "Nature". Climate change means "Nature" will restructure "Culture" ... with a vengeance. Ecosystem collapse will force rapid adaptation of human Institutions, if civilization is to avoid Cultural Environment collapse.

Human conflict ecology will heat up. This will manifest as more Migration and Resource Wars in Biodiversity Hotspots that hosted 81% of Wars since 1950 -- what the U.S. Army's official Strategic Context calls,   "An Era of Persistent Conflict".

Human conflict ecology also manifests as political and social strife within developed nations. Scientific institutions -- especially Climate Science and Conservation Biology -- already are targets. Moreover, because developed nations have historically relied on "Technological Fixes" (and military colonization) as "Social Safety Valves", the modern West may find itself culturally brittle -- unable to adapt to external stress, without unprecedented internal strife.

The U.S. socio-political environment long ago was polarized by "scientific experts" trying to prevent certain economically-motivated behaviors by laypersons. (The Endangered Species Act is widely vilified, and American landowners resist this law. Endangered species are killed, and knowledge of their existence is buried. This is a defacto insurgency in rural America -- a social practice of "Shoot, shovel, and shut up.")

"Science" is inherently politicized. Evolutionary escalation occurs, as businesses -- economic organisms -- mobilize Political resources to defend Economic resources, from incursions by any branches of "Science" they cannot capture Economically.   "Science" cannot escape our Social Ecology petri dish.

"The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy."
          -- Alex Carey

The Guardian (UK) headlined an article on America's 2012 elections, "Attacks paid for by Big Business are 'Driving Science into a Dark Era'", and quoted AAAS President Nina V. Fedoroff:

She confessed that she was now "scared to death" by the anti-science movement that was spreading, uncontrolled, across the US and the rest of the western world.

"We are sliding back into a dark era," she said. "And there seems little we can do about it. I am profoundly depressed at just how difficult it has become merely to get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms."

A Jan. 2013 Royal Society paper, "Can a Collapse of Global Civilization be Avoided?", recommends closer collaboration between Social Scientists and Natural Scientists to "develop ways to stimulate a significant increase in popular support" for conservation -- if we are to avoid collapse.   But Knowledge surveys suggest the social substrate for that "popular support" may inhabit a different planet!

Despite our proximity to collapse, Environmental Literacy among "modern" nations' populations is no greater today, than it was decades ago:

In 1991, the Wheat Foods Council (an industry trade group) was shocked at the findings of a nationwide Gallup poll they had commissioned:

Only 51% of Americans knew that "white" bread is based on wheat,
but 48% thought that oatmeal is produced from wheat!

In a 1993 nationwide Hart poll -- commissioned by Defenders of Wildlife -- not one single respondent mentioned Biodiversity or habitat loss as a major environmental threat. Only 22% of Americans had even heard of an issue called "the loss of biological diversity".

In 2005, the National Environmental Education Foundation ("NEEF"; chartered by Congress in 1990) released its latest Environmental Literacy survey of American adults:

"45 million Americans think the ocean is a source of fresh water;
... and 130 million believe that hydropower is America's top energy source,
when it accounts for just 10% of the total."

NEEF also highlighted, "A more recent and disturbing phenomenon" -- that it characterized as "Nature-Deficit Disorder". NEEF identified 3 decades of failure in Environmental Education. It ascribed this to,

"the failure to comprehend how great an educational challenge it is to impart
both the sense of stewardship and the knowledge to back it up."

And NEEF warned,

"We are moving past the time when we can rely
on a cadre of environmental experts to fix our environmental problems."

Advances in neuro-biology that link cognition with emotion help explain why experts' attempts to teach environmental Knowledge -- in isolation from Values -- have failed.

Instead, we need cultural propagation strategies that interweave Knowledge with Values -- ethical, aesthetic, and/or emotional values -- if we are to, "develop ways to stimulate a significant increase in popular support" for conservation.   Knowledge and Values must co-evolve.   Otherwise, technological giants become moral midgets.

Our outsourcing of Knowledge education -- in isolation from Value propagation -- is failing to "sustain" many value-oriented traits besides Stewardship ethics. A 2012 Ethics survey of 23,000 American high school students found that 51% admitted cheating on an exam in the last year, and 14% admitted stealing from a friend in the past year.   30% even admitted lying on the Ethics survey!   Nevertheless, 93% are satisfied with their own ethics and character, and 81% say they are more ethical than most people they know.

Our appalling degree of Knowledge inequity constitutes a Cognitive Apartheid society. It is enabled by an outsourcing of Values and abdication of ethics that constitutes a Moral Dismemberment market.

(Adam Smith -- the pioneering Political-Economist -- bemoaned this cognitive division of labor's impact on individual human beings as, "Mental Mutilation".   [Wealth of Nations, V.i.f.60]
Max Weber bemoaned these social structures as "Instrumental Rationality".)

Considering these facts, it is a serious and legitimate moral question, to ask:   "Should a Collapse of Global Civilization be Avoided?"   That prompts a useful and important scientific question:   "Which structures of Global Civilization should go Extinct, and which traits should be cultivated, propagated, and adapted?"

Why take the unnecessary Social Ecology risk of "putting all our eggs in one expert Niche-basket" -- and perpetuating Cognitive Apartheid and Moral Dismemberment structures -- if we can use sociological diversification to reduce the risk of future extinctions?

Knowledge and Values will go extinct, unless embedded in social practices that are sustained in cultural niches. For example, a mere 60 years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Americans already had experienced a collective memory extinction:   "just 49 percent of Americans know that the only country ever to use a nuclear weapon in a war is their own."  

In stark contrast, for 210 years, the Knowledge and Values embedded in the myth of "George Washington and the cherry tree" have been sustained via social practices (storytelling) in cultural niches (families).

Similarly, although Japanese culture still remembers the wartime atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan failed to embed respect for "nuclear values" in the cultural niche of its Institutions dealing with peacetime nuclear energy. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown revealed a longstanding   unsustainable culture of nuclear coverup, malfeasance, and fraud within TEPCO (the Institution that operated the Fukushima nuclear power plant).

Can we provide a rigorous definition for "values" and "culture"? The National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering, think we must. Their report on the Deepwater Horizon blowout calls for a new "Culture of safety". The Chair of that panel gave this definition:

The chair of that National Academies panel then gave some Social Ecology architecture requirements for the co-evolution of sustainable cultural niches with their embedded social practices:

"To build a culture ... requires both MECHANISMS to be in place and ACTIONS ... to reinforce the use of these mechanisms.   · · ·   Looking at it from an individual's perspective there must be:
  • MECHANISMS that build competency by developing individual knowledge and skill
  • ACTIONS that show the motivation to act in accordance with behavioral norms when under stress and in dynamically evolving conditions."

It's risky to reduce the fate of all humanity to the form of scientific information that can be decoded only by a thin Social Ecology layer of technical or power-oriented Institutions. Instead, we need adaptive, fault-tolerant Social Ecology architectures that manage risk by redundancy and diversification:   encoding both Endangered genomic Knowledge and stewardship Values by embedding them in tangible social practices and robust rituals -- stabilized in cultural niches and sustained by co-evolving with social status selection pressures.

Biodiversity Knowledge and Values will go extinct, unless embedded in social practices that are sustained in cultural niches.

We have crossed several environmental "tipping points". We know that more than 1 thousand years of climate disruption is already "baked into" the future fate of humanity. To promote sustainability over long time periods -- centuries, and perhaps millennia -- this site develops (and critiques) an alternative idea:

We can disperse Endangered genomic resources -- and the knowledge, motivation, and responsibility for stewardship -- to broader sociological layers less structured by scientific cognition, and more motivated by shared values -- ethics, emotion, and aesthetics.

I emphasize that non-expert involvement is a complement -- not a substitute -- for expert leadership.


(Back to Table of Contents)


Dispersing Endangered Genomic Resources to Amateurs:
Can the Benefits Outweigh the Costs and New Risks?

Should amateurs be entrusted with the precious genomic resource that is an Endangered Species of plant? Initially, this might seem ludicrous -- a huge risk, with zero benefits.

Given the dire straits of our Endangered Species, let's begin with the medical ethics proviso -- "First, Do No Harm" -- when experts release Endangered plants to non-expert care.   In designing a Social Ecology niche Re-Construction architecture for Ex-Situ Conservation, we can use models from other social Institutions that discharge value-laden resources from their custody:

 
	* adopting children, 
	* pairing Death Row animals with convicted human prisoners,
	* placing exotic wild animals at a private zoo facility, 
	* a museum loaning priceless art for a tour of other museums, or 
	* lending a copy of a rare historic book (not the original).  

So here is an outline of some Design Goals for a Penjing "Potted Landscape" Pilot Program :

 
	Develop individual expert stewardship and commitment.  

	Create a new dimension of personal value and social worth.  

	Establish a newly evolving social norm -- Stewardship -- 
		as a measure of social status and trustworthiness.  

	We must ensure that social value accrues to the Steward 
	for steadfast responsibility -- and prevent economic value 
	from attaching to the Penjing.  
	Otherwise, we risk "monetizing" the Endangered plant itself.  

	CITES is not adequate protection.  Instead, we must establish 
	a Certification program and lifelong Registration system, 
	to verify genetic-chain-of-custody, and track these 
	genomic resources as a heritage that belongs to all humanity.  

	Social stigma must intertwine with legal sanctions, to ensure 
	ill-gotten economic value is outweighed by negative social value. 

	Create a tangible new way of participating and acting 
		effectively for enviro preservation/restoration 
		(In contrast to "checkbook" or "point-and-click" 
		 outsourcing of enviro-ethical-emotional concern.)  

	Connect the individual-micro to the environmental-change-macro level -- 
		causally, symbolically, emotionally, and ethically.  

	Create a tangible way of measuring enviro effectiveness -- 
		an immediate gratification (or mortification) 
		linked directly to individual actions (or inactions).  

+ Develop LOCAL centers of expertise on Potted Endangered Landscapes  
	(Botanic Gardens, Native Plant Societies, major Bonsai Clubs):  

	Cultivate a constituency to promote economic funding -- 
	and political support -- for In-Situ Endangered Landscapes 
	(and people) in Biodiversity Hotspots. 

	Translate the  "Sister-City"  model: 
		Connect a Western Urban region to foreign Rural habitat.  

	Integrate Science into the Societal Fabric, by promoting 
		Community-based Research and Participatory Research.  

	The 2012 updated International Agenda recommends that 
		"Botanic gardens should: ...  
		 Seek to engage the general public in research 
		 activities through citizen science programmes." 

	But our society's habitual mindset of specialized knowledge has bred and 
	raised Cognitive Apartheid barriers to genuine participatory research, 
	on both sides of the Science expertise divide.  We must learn to 
	"Stop Operating with a Guild Mindset".  


+ Begin outreach as a Lending Library for Potted Endangered Landscapes:  

	Early Adopters must get training, have their proposed location 
	approved, pay a $deposit, and allow periodic onsite visits 
	by experts from the Lending Library -- for plant monitoring, 
	and for "continuing lifelong education" of the plant's Steward.  

	After brief initial training, a non-Endangered plant would be 
	entrusted to their care  (a plant whose survival requirements 
	are similar to those of the desired Endangered plant).  

	The Lending Library would decide when the Student Steward 
	could "graduate" -- and handle the responsibility of 
	nurturing an Endangered plant in a "Potted Landscape" ecosystem.  

	Only after proving their Endangered Landscape Stewardship 
	over a 5-year-long Probationary Period -- and successfully 
	propagating their species (returning a copy to the Library) -- 
	does an Endangered Species Adopter "own" their Penjing.   

	(Propagation can involve co-equal, participatory "Citizen Science"; 
	 or outsourcing the propagation task to experts, if there is 
	 too great a mismatch between citizen capabilities and plant needs.)  

	What about unexpected life changes?  People change jobs, homes, 
	gain new pets or children, get sick, die, and can no longer 
	fulfill their Stewardship responsibilities.  

	The Lending Library must work closely with a Penjing Repository.  
	(They may be the same, or different entities).  As an example, the 
	Hawaii State Bonsai Repository acts as the custodian of memorial bonsai, 
	and serves as a display center, and a liaison with the community.  

(Back to Table of Contents)

Only 49% of Americans remember the only nation 
		to use nuclear weapons in war was their own. Chernobyl ... is it a Temple of the Ancients?
Cultural Memory Extinction:
Only 49% of Americans
remember
the only nation
to use nuclear weapons
in war was their own.
Chernobyl ... what does it mean? Can you decode this?
Cultural Memory Extinction:
Chernobyl --
how long
will we remember it?
"Who remembers
  the annihilation
      of the Armenians?"

-- Adolph Hitler, 22 Aug. 1939

Lessons from Nuclear Waste Risk Management Projects:
"Communication Measures To Bridge Ten Millennia"

Genomic repositories must be sustainable for many centuries. It seems risky to assume our current "Centralized-Expert-Elite" models (i.e, Arboreta and Botanical Gardens, institutional genetic banks, etc.) will accomplish this. Rather than the Social Ecology strategy of "putting all our eggs in one Niche" it seems wiser to disperse both some genomic resources -- and some genomic stewardship commitment -- to "Non-Expert" layers in sociological hierarchies.

How do we design (and robustly evolve) a cognitive and emotionally-committed Social Infrastructure to survive the intimidating timescale of centuries?   We must recognize the possibility that our current social Institutions of "Science" and "Democracy" may not be eternal. They -- and increasing numbers of "Failed States" -- may collapse into ungoverned spaces long before the "End of History".

We should consider "lessons learned" from a related problem: Beginning in the early 1980s, the US Office of Nuclear Waste Management began studying how to impress upon future generations -- not merely the Knowledge that a site contained nuclear wastes -- but more importantly, the Value attached to them. (In this case, a very negative value.)

The Department of Energy commissioned several studies from researchers. The semiotician, Dr. Thomas Sebeok, composed a report titled, "Communication Measures To Bridge Ten Millennia". In discussing solutions to the problem of nuclear semiotics, Sebeok recommended a deeply-embedded social system of signs aimed at warning future civilizations from entering geographic areas contaminated by nuclear waste. The report proposed a "folkloric relay system", and the establishment of an "atomic priesthood" of physicists, anthropologists, and semioticians to socially-encode the true meaning of a hazardous waste site.

(It's worth noting that the department of the US Office of Nuclear Waste Management that commissioned Dr. Sebeok's report, was called the "Human Interference Task Force"!)

Sebeok's proposal for an "atomic priesthood" has its own sociological risks. But this critical medium for communication across millennia would rely, not solely on "abstract knowledge" of "scientific experts", but also on robust social practices -- rituals and myths -- as its "epistemic Carrier Wave" to transmit the critical "Signal" down many generations, despite possible "Noise" of conflict and ecological collapse.

Francois Bastide and Paolo Fabbri proposed a different (but equally unconventional) epistemic Carrier Wave -- the breeding of so called "Ray Cats" -- since the cohabitation of cats with humans seems to be a sustainable symbiosis. These Ray Cats would change significantly in color when exposed to radioactive emissions, and thus would serve as "Living Detectors" of danger. In order to sustain the motivating value of this message for centuries, the importance of the cats would need to be set in the collective awareness through proverbs and myths. Those proverbs and myths in turn could be propagated -- not by a scientific elite -- but rather via the Aesthetic Arts -- through poetry, music and painting.

Setting aside the obvious flaw (we don't know how to create cats that immediately turn color, then drop dead when exposed to radiation),   the essential point remains:

Sustainable Social Practice Embedded in Cultural Landscape Niches: SUSTAINABLE for 550 years -- Potted before Columbus. 550 year-old Pine Bonsai
Potted before Columbus
Sustainable Social Practice Embedded in Cultural Environment Niches: SUSTAINABLE for 230 years. 230 year-old Cypress Bonsai

It's risky to reduce the fate of all humanity to the form of scientific information that can be decoded only by a thin Social Ecology layer of technical or power-oriented Institutions. Instead, we need adaptive, fault-tolerant Social Ecology architectures that manage risk by redundancy and diversification:   encoding both Endangered genomic Knowledge and stewardship Values by embedding them in tangible social practices and robust rituals -- stabilized in cultural niches and sustained by co-evolving with social status selection pressures.

Note that in Asia, the cultural and social practices of Penjing and Bonsai -- along with Living Libraries of their genomic heritage -- have survived for centuries, by being interwoven into the social fabric via the Aesthetic Arts of poetry, music, calligraphy, and painting.

Chinese civilization, in particular, survived recurrent intervals of profound collapse. Chinese history was a series of Dynastic Cycles -- each successive Dynasty eventually became corrupt, and failed to be a good steward for Heaven causing the Mandate of Heaven to be withdrawn. Stewardship failure was perceived to cause Natural Disasters, leading to famines and civil war. After a population crash and a Warring States period, a new Dynasty would unite the fragments of civilization, and begin Rectifying the Names -- to re-align human Language with Reality-based Nature. But sooner or later, human fallibilities would dominate, leading to the corruption of language ("Names") and politics, and so the Dynastic Cycle repeated.

In China, when a dynasty collapsed -- as with Europe's Dark Ages -- Knowledge and Values were preserved by withdrawing into "Social Rhizomes":

More than 600 years after the Tang dynasty had collapsed, famous Ming dynasty paintings of the Tang-era "Eighteen Scholars" illustrate how the social practices of gardening, landscape painting, and Nature appreciation -- the Aesthetic Arts of Penjing -- had become deeply embedded and thoroughly interwoven in China's cultural niches.

Decades of study by the "hard-science" Radioactive Waste Risk-Management community have converged on an international consensus: Long-term risk-management responsibility cannot be isolated within (arguably unsustainable) elite scientific institutions. Rather, this socially-isolated expertise must be complemented, by integrating stewardship into the social fabric and the cultural environment.

Likewise, the "hard-science" Conservation Biology community should consider this approach, summarised in this excerpt from the 2011 collective statement by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory across Generations :

"Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory (RK&M) across generations is needed to support lengthy and complex decision-making processes   · · ·   It is a recognised management task that spans unprecedented time-horizons in which technical, scientific, societal and cultural information is interwoven.   · · ·   to preserve records, knowledge and memory ... across generations   ...   Future systems ... should not rely only on technological provisions.   A   'systemic' approach should be engaged whereby the various components of the system complement each other, provide for redundancy of message communication, and maximise the survivability of a recognisable message."

See also:


(Back to Table of Contents)

Re-evaluating
the
In Situ -- Ex Situ
Conservation Paradigm

"Ex Situ conservation has traditionally been relegated to a subsidiary position ...
However, the
possibility of being able
to conserve all species in
their natural surroundings

-- the underlying principle
    of  In Situ conservation
--
is increasingly
being questioned
in today's reality.

Firstly, there is the impact of climate change, ... Secondly, the concept of 'wilderness' is being challenged by the documentation of the widespread impact of human activity on habitats across the globe and through time. ...
The fixed concept of
'natural surroundings'
may therefore be
approaching meaningless

for a number of species."
230 year-old Cypress: Embedded in Cultural Environment Niches: SUSTAINABLE for 230 years. Kanto Quake Survivor

Long-term Threats to Arboreta, Botanical Gardens, and other Centralized Genomic Heritage Sites

This section is not a comprehensive Risk Assessment of our Ex situ Bio-Heritage sites, nor does it provide a taxonomic Threat Model. But I fear no one else has done that work either. Searching the web for terms like "Botanical Gardens" combined with phrases like "Risk Assessment" or "Threat" finds three categories of information: (1) Risks that visitors to botanic gardens might encounter; (2) Risks to botanic gardens from the threat of Invasive Species; and (3) Threats to In Situ plants, typically in tropical habitats of less developed nations.

Yet many of our Ex Situ repositories are individually vulnerable to various threats. And our repositories are collectively vulnerable to systemic threats. Might entire clades risk extinction, from threats to a small number of individual repositories?   In modern society, valuable digital information is replicated, and hosted at multiple sites, selected via strategies designed specifically to withstand systemic threats. Can the same be said for valuable Ex Situ genomic information?

Can we afford to make Ex Situ risk assessment a low priority? Consider that the Hayward fault runs within one half mile of the UC Berkeley Botanic Gardens. A 2008 risk assessment of seismicity on Bay Area faults put the probability of a major earthquake at 63% within 30 years.   When (not "if") a quake of that magnitude occurs, it will cause massive damage, and not insignificant loss of life. As with similar incidents in the past, there may be cascading failure mechanisms. Downed power lines and broken gas mains may ignite fires, yet water lines to support firefighting will be broken.

550 year-old Pine:
Potted before Columbus Embedded in Cultural Landscape Niches: SUSTAINABLE for 550 years -- Potted before Columbus. Kanto Quake Survivor

In Japan, the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 may have been the "perfect storm" of cascading failure: An atmospheric pressure-differential and weight of a typhoon-caused storm surge may have triggered the quake. Fires and water supply disruption ensued. Facts were obscured, but rumors ran rampant. As the Cultural Landscape's familiar frameworks collapsed, ethnic distrust exploded:   Over 6000 Koreans were massacred, and political assassinations were conducted amidst the disorder.

In California, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake released similar cascading chaos, disrupting physical and Cultural Infrastructure:   Broken gas mains, fires, water supply loss, and ethnic cleansing targeting Chinese.   It's worth noting that fires from the 1906 quake almost entirely destroyed the collection of the Botany Dept. at the California Academy of Sciences -- except 1,497 type specimens that the curator had segregated from the main collection.

(Off-site Bio-Heritage backup would be a safer, more "Fault-tolerant" risk-management architecture, than evacuating specimens   · · ·   while the adjacent building burns!)

A major California earthquake could simultaneously threaten many important botanical gardens along California's long coastal fault zone. Have the risks of all systemic threats to Ex Situ biodiversity been adequately assessed?

Human Niche Construction:   Risks of Cognitive Bubbles      

The "GSPC" is a delusional wish-list masquerading as "strategy".   In contrast, BGCI's "International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation" is somewhat more reality-based. It devotes 1.5 of its 48 pages to "Integrated Conservation" -- by which it means integrating In Situ conservation with Ex Situ conservation. Unfortunately, BGCI has not pursued the logical implication -- i.e., that systemic threats warrant undertaking similarly integrated risk assessments.

More important, is the conceptual failure to Integrate "Natural" with "Cultural" environments. Although BGCI's Agenda mentions saving physical "Cultural Heritage" sites, the idea of conserving or restoring ethical "Cultural Heritage" traits is absent. But synergistic strategies that integrate "Natural Environment" conservation with "Cultural Landscape" restoration of endangered stewardship ethics may be essential.

Is the conservation biology Institutional Niche unaware of Gene-Culture Coevolution,
and the ever-evolving process of Human Niche Construction in producing our planetary Prisoners' Dilemma?

Niche-driven "Extinction of Experience" causes Extinction of Values -- at both the individual and cultural levels. So-called "advanced" nations, are advanced primarily in their pathological cultural selection pressure for a monocultural tropism that senses and values only Economics and Entertainment. Any realistic assessment of threats and risks, should identify this reductionist extinction of cultural Value diversity as an underlying driver and enabler of all other risks.

In-situ and Ex-situ Risks:
Please evaluate from an integrated Nature-Culture perspective.
  
		Risks of NATURAL DISASTERS - illustrative examples ::  

Earthquake 

Tidal Wave  

Weather/Climate - Hurricane winds, Drought, hail, rain floods ::  

	http://www.rbge.org.uk/the-gardens/2012-weather-round-up 
"impacts resulting from [2012] weather have been: the loss of around 130 trees ... At RBGE's Edinburgh Garden alone, 34 trees were felled by the 100mph winds on January 3, some of which were up to 125 years old." Greenhouses/Glasshouses had, "over 600 panes of glass shattered, exposing many plants from lush regions of South East Asia to the cold." Suzanne Martin, RBGE's climate officer with ClimateXChange, Scottish Government's centre of expertise on climate change said:
"We need to start considering how the climate is predicted to change and to understand the types of impact that may have on our botanic gardens. ... more extreme events such as heavy rainfall and storms is broadly consistent with climate change predictions while providing a powerful example of a degree of uncertainty to which we must adapt." Fire - e.g,. at Utah's Santa Clara City Arboretum :: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_L._Shepherd_Desert_Arboretum http://www.sccity.org/arboretum/ "As of 2012, the arboretum is closed to the public and is undergoing restoration after a series of wildfires. Non-native tamarisk trees had taken over the riparian area along the Santa Clara River and had choked out the native vegetation -- and then burned." Human Pandemic Risks of UNNATURAL DISASTERS - illustrative examples :: POLLUTION :: Infestation by invasive (including newly-mutating) Species Fungicide, e.g, defective DuPont Benlate killed the higher plants. Industrial Accidents - acute spikes above "normal" air pollution. Air Pollution - spikes promoted by weather changes (inversions, etc.):
[13 Jan. 2013 (AP): Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said ... density of PM2.5 particulates had surpassed 700 micrograms per cubic meter in many parts of the city. The World Health Organization considers a safe daily level to be 25 micrograms per cubic meter.]
ECONOMIC PRESSURES :: Government Funding reduction Private Donations reduction Endowment Risks (external financial market, and insider embezzlement) "Modernization" and Redevelopment to "realize value" of scarce urban land. Resource theft and poaching HUMAN CONFLICT ECOLOGY :: - Political Economy of Conflict Timber: Cry havoc, and let fell the Logs of War. - Library at Alexandria. - Bamiyan Buddhas. - Looting/vandalism of Iraqi National Museum. - Looting/vandalism of Cairo's Egyptian Museum in early "Arab Spring". - Timbuktu:
As of early Jan. 2013, "Turbaned fighters control major towns in [Mali's] north, carrying out amputations in public squares just as the Taliban did. Since taking control of Timbuktu, they have destroyed 7 of the 16 mausoleums listed as World Heritage Sites."
- "Patriotic Vandalism" of Botanic Gardens. E.g, during World War II, American vandals damaged the Japanese section of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. (It was not done by Japanese-Americans: They were all imprisoned in Internment Camps.) HUMAN DELUSION EPIDEMIOLOGY :: - (Perhaps the 2 previous items should be dual-listed here too!)
- "Race for the Cure" chopped down 16 endangered Glyptostrobus trees.

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Saikei Landscape
Saikei Landscape

Saikei:   Restoration of Botanic Heritage and
Human Cultural Environment in Postwar Japan

Bonsai cultivation is a long and labor-intensive practice. Bonsai techniques place stress on both the human cultivator, and the plant. This human and horticultural stress limits the social and botanic propagation potential of Bonsai.   As an alternative, Saikei was created. The practice of Saikei was designed to revivify -- both the Botanic Landscape and the Environmental Psychology -- of a nation that had experienced a devastating war-induced collapse.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki left an indelible cultural imprint on Japanese. But Americans have experienced an extinction of collective memory:   "just 49 percent of Americans know that the only country ever to use a nuclear weapon in a war is their own."

At war's end, the Cultural Landscape of Japan lay in ruins. All frameworks of human order were eroded or destroyed. The symbolic value of the Emperor had been degraded, and the Imperial Palace grounds ravaged by firebombing. The ancient Giant Bonsai remaining in the Imperial Gardens collection -- those that had survived the devastating 1923 Kanto earthquake -- were among the war's collateral damage.

550 year-old Pine Bonsai Embedded in Cultural Landscape Niches: SUSTAINABLE for 550 years -- Potted before Columbus. Potted before Columbus
Kanto Quake Survivor;
Wounded in World War II.
230 year-old Cypress Bonsai Embedded in Cultural Environment Niches: SUSTAINABLE for 230 years. Kanto Quake Survivor;
World War II Veteran.

Many of those ancient trees were old-growth Giant Bonsai.   Periodically, for the pleasure of the Imperial Court, the old-growth Botanical Treasures of this collection were "rotated" to new places -- by servants carrying them on litters, or by loading them on wagons. It was customary to bring Giant Bonsai up to 3 meters tall into banquet halls.   Although this rotation strategy was mobilized to disperse the Bonsai ex-situ to reduce wartime risks, nevertheless, much of Japan's cultural botanic heritage succumbed to the systemic depredations of human conflict ecology:

"In 1926 -- that is, after the Great Kanto Earthquake -- there were more than 5,000 bonsai in the possession of the Imperial Palace. In 1976 there were 600 trees. This was an 88% drop or loss, or the saving of only one out of every eight or so of the pre-war trees. (What would our private or public collections be like diminished to only 12% of their current sizes?)"

The following is an extended excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for Saikei:

At the time Kawamoto began developing the rules and form of saikei, the practice of bonsai was at a critical low point in Japan. The labor-intensive cultivation of bonsai had been near-impossible under wartime conditions. Many bonsai, in development or completed, had died in the nation's major collections, as well as in the gardens of individuals across the country.[7] Post-war economic conditions made the purchase and cultivation of a real bonsai almost impossible for average Japanese households.

Kawamoto created a simple form of tree display providing many of the aesthetic and contemplative qualities of bonsai, while also supporting the cultivation of plant stock that could eventually be used as bonsai material.

In post-war Japan, saikei was seen as an environmentally and economically responsible way to propagate trees for eventual use in bonsai. Even economically constrained individuals or families could enjoy many of the contemplative and aesthetic benefits of bonsai, without incurring the effort and the costs related to mature bonsai specimens. The same benefits accrue to saikei today.

Saikei was designed to be an easier practice to participate in than bonsai. A saikei container provides liberal quantities of soil, easing the burden of careful watering and root pruning that mark bonsai cultivation. ... The trees themselves do not require a great deal of shaping or other manipulation, compared to bonsai.

As a particular saikei ages, some of its trees may grow out of proportion to the rest of the display. This change is expected and in fact is one of the goals of saikei. ... Removing oversize trees from the saikei leads naturally to potting them individually and cultivating them as bonsai. After removal of these trees, the saikei can be augmented with new trees, restyled to suit the remaining trees, or dismantled and redesigned to a new plan. In all cases, the trees are retained and continue to be cultivated under the saikei principle of developing potential new bonsai.

Saikei does not focus on the detailed form of each tree, which is a prime objective for bonsai. The trees in saikei are not expected to be the mature, thick-trunked specimens that are common in bonsai. For the trees to be in scale with even a large saikei display, they cannot be much more than four to six inches in height. ... As a result, the saikei trees are often immature and thin-trunked, with small root structures and simple branching.

Saikei allows multiple species of tree to be placed in a single landscape, and allows other plant forms like flowers and grasses, [unlike bonsai]. Because of this flexibility in plant materials, saikei can be designed to show the progress of the seasons in much greater variety and detail than can a mono-culture bonsai planting. Aesthetically pleasant reference to the seasons is an important tradition in Japanese gardens, and a saikei display can be much more garden-like than a bonsai display. Deciduous and flowering trees, which change through the growing season, can be mixed with conifers that will remain green all winter. Spring leaves and flowers, summer fruit, autumn coloration and leaf-fall, and the contrast of bare-branched deciduous trees with snow-covered evergreens can represent the annual cycle of an entire garden in the space of a tea-table.     (End of Wikipedia excerpt)

Note that -- like Penjing -- the mixed plantings of Saikei provide an ECOLOGICAL CONTEXT for EPIGENETIC stimulation of an Endangered Species.


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Glyptostrobus as a Penjing
Pilot Program Candidate Species

Why care about Glyptostrobus pensilis -- an Endangered Species of conifer?   Conservation biologists and Botanic Gardens should take off their habitual "expert glasses", and look at Glyptostrobus from the viewpoint of an eco-illiterate public that is suffering the extinction of experience:   Glyptostrobus is a Charismatic Megaflora!     It's beautiful!   That's why Glyptostrobus was traditionally used in Penjing (ornamental Chinese potted landscapes -- similar to Japanese bonsai, but less distorted by stress).

(Also called Glyptostrobus lineatus, it is commonly mis-named Chinese Water Fir or Chinese Water Pine. Glyptostrobus is in the Cupressaceae family, so a more accurate common name is "Chinese Water Cypress".)

Glyptostrobus has scientific value -- this relict is the only surviving member of an ancient lineage of conifers. For a "deep time" perspective, consider that the diaspora of the Glyptostrobus family tree reflects the breakup of Pangea -- the ancient super-continent.   Ironically, much of the coal we burn -- thereby endangering our climate -- may be ancient Glyptostrobus biomass.

Besides its beauty and its deep-time roots,   Glyptostrobus has several other advantages as the initial Penjing Pilot Program candidate species:

  • Although Glyptostrobus is IUCN Red-listed as "Critically Endangered" in the wild, many botanical gardens have viable trees preserved ex situ. Hence, Glyptostrobus can be propagated and distributed domestically -- without triggering CITES or CBD overhead.
  • Ex-situ domestic propagation of Glyptostrobus by botanic gardens can help boost the "data-deficient" scientific learning curve, and this knowledge may help efforts to propagate Glyptostrobus in the last remaining wild populations in-situ.
Sustainable Social Practice Potted in 1626. SUSTAINABLE for 386 years by embedding in Cultural Environment Niches.
Potted in 1626
Sustainable Social Practice Potted in 1626. SUSTAINABLE for 386 years by embedding in Cultural Environment Niches.
Sustained for 386 years
in Cultural Environment Niches
  • Since the wild population of Glyptostrobus has now dwindled to fewer than 400 trees, it is not inconceivable that -- aided by improved propagation techniques -- every surviving in-situ Glyptostrobus could be replicated, and dispersed ex-situ among botanic gardens. The full complement of genetic diversity might thus be preserved, and available for (quasi "in-situ") re-introduction at some future time and place.
    That would constitute a profound and measurable impact, by this Penjing Pilot Program. Can a mere handful of individuals "change the world"? This tangible, hands-on Experience at the micro level might succeed in changing an Endangered Species' survival prospects at the diffuse, abstract, and recalcitrant macro level.
  • The remaining wild populations of Glyptostrobus are concentrated in a few locations in Vietnam and the Lao PDR (Laos). This geographic vulnerability may also be an asset, as the in-situ survival prospects of Glyptostrobus can be linked to the fate of small and specific habitats. But heightened visibility of these places -- to foreign eyes -- must be managed carefully. Well-meaning efforts by Americans to promote "eco-tourism", or pressure the host governments for more environmental protection, could backfire.
  • Glyptostrobus is described as a "Tough and Adaptable Tree" by the UC Davis Arboretum. At the SFA Mast Arboretum in Texas, Glyptostrobus survived record heat in 1998, and record cold in 1989. The SFA Mast Arboretum experienced 5 hard freezes in spring 1989 that damaged new growth even on native oaks, but Glyptostrobus was undamaged. Then in December 1989, came the record-breaking hard freeze of 0°F (-18°C). Glyptostrobus' survival is consistent with Sakai's 1971 experimental lab measurement of -20°C cold-hardiness (obtained by freezing cut shoots, then inspecting for damage).
  • Non-experts who become "early adopters" of Endangered Species Penjing risk killing them with "too much love" -- i.e, overwatering. To be viable, a program must scale-up. But if the initial Pilot Program species drowns, it will discredit subsequent attempts to get "buy-in" from propagule donors and botanic gardens who trans-ship the specimens.
    Glyptostrobus tolerates waterlogged soil, but does not require it. Hence, Glyptostrobus seems to be a good candidate species for a Pilot Program.

On a note of wider practicality-- the type of value known as "applied science" -- the Glyptostrobus genome may reveal many evolutionary secrets, which might help us adapt to changing climatic conditions.

Already, the moisture-loving Glyptostrobus has helped reveal mechanisms used by plant species to adapt to drought conditions during earlier periods of global climate change. This PNAS study examined Glyptostrobus to understand how "Cenozoic climate change shaped the evolutionary ecophysiology" of modern conifers to adapt to more arid climates.

The Glyptostrobus genome also might provide useful building blocks to help agricultural Food Security, and even to promote new renewable energy biofuels.

Scientists examining the genome of another relict plant discovered an important case of "Convergent Evolution" -- an "alternative tool" that life invented millions of years ago. As reported in this NSF press release, When Plants "Think" Alike: New genetic evidence shows that the same trait developed independently on separate branches of the evolutionary tree,

"We're excited about this work ... because it demonstrates that basic research on plants not used in agriculture can provide important fundamental findings that are of practical benefit."

"Because [it] is a relict of an ancient vascular plant lineage, its genome sequence will provide the plant community with a resource unlike any other, as it will allow them to discover the genetic underpinnings of the evolutionary innovations that allowed plants to thrive on land, including lignin."

"Different forms of lignin are present in crop plant cell walls; engineering plants to express specifically syringyl lignin ... is an important next step for advancing second generation biofuel production."


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Values in a Brave New World of Geo-Engineered "Nature":
Orienting a Moral Compass for "Human Nature"

In modern societies, human beings are partly manufactured products -- we are molded by infrastructure, and trained by products. The path of least resistance is cultural drift: people tend to blindly adapt to limited choices on the "Behavioral-Economic Menu" of economic niches and technological roles. Peasants adapted to the Enclosure Movement.

In modern societies, people adapt to Automation and Intellectual Property Regimes
that replicate their skills and Enclose their knowledge.   Joseph Schumpeter's notion of Creative Destruction understood that Human Niche-Construction had become a self-cannibalizing process:   Some people and institutions do Human Niche Construction.   Others have Human Niche Reconstruction done to them.

The motto of the 1933 "Century of Progress" World's Fair was,   "Science discovers, industry applies, and man adapts himself to or is molded by ... Science and Industry."   Henry David Thoreau recognized this dynamic in 1845, writing in his Journal that, "Men have become the tools of their tools".   In 2010, Economic Nobel-prizewinner Joseph Stiglitz wrote, "We allowed markets to blindly shape our economy, but in doing so, they also shaped our society. · · · Are we sure that the way ... they have been molding us is what we want?"

Three   "Technological tipping points"   have shaped, molded, and re-structured "Nature", "Culture", and individual "Human Nature" -- the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the Digital Revolution.

These have caused us to cross Climatological tipping points. Perhaps the most insightful term to describe our latest juncture in human history is the "Feedback Revolution":   Feedback rates, scales, and complex consequences have radically increased.

Other insightful terms are:   the "Full World" revolution (per Herman Daly circa 1972),
the "Limits to Growth" revolution (per Dana Meadows in 1972), and the "Limits to Hubris"
revolution (to honor Mohandas Gandhi's 1908 prophetic warning:   "If it took Britain
the exploitation of half the globe to be what it is today, how many globes would India need?"
).

We must recognize that ongoing processes of Human Niche Construction involve a Co-Evolution of Technology, individual Neurobiology, and collective Culture.
Each has different interactive Feedback rates and scales with "Nature".

Individually and collectively, in complex ways, our increasing immersion in digital media is mediating our relations with the environment, and rewiring our brains and our culture.

Compared to previous Niches inhabited by humanity in various "Built Environments", modern urbanized and digitized life modes indeed constitute an "Extinction of Experience" and produce a Nature-deficit Disorder.   We experience an "Information Explosion" of entertainment trivia and scientific drivel.   But the Information Implosion critiques -- by computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum in 1991, and plant geneticist Wes Jackson in 1987 ("Altars of Unhewn Stone: Science and the Earth") -- provide more Reality-based measures that consider information in terms of quantity and quality, values, and the rate and scale of consequences.

Is humanity up to the challenges of this new "Feedback Revolution", in which we have trapped ourselves? Will "Science and Technology" save us -- the utopian "technological fix"?   Is "Religion" a reliable savior?   Or should we worship "The Market"?

Perhaps, we should worship Sanity -- partly for its scarcity value.
In a 1946 Preface to his 1932 "Brave New World", Aldous Huxley wrote that it was crucial to understand the relationship between Sanity, Science, and Adaptation:

"I remain ... sadly certain ... that sanity is a rather rare phenomenon.
I am convinced that it can be achieved and would like to see more of it. · · ·
Between the   [techno-dystopia of Brave New World]   and the primitive   [lifestyle chosen by Huxley's character, the 'Savage']   would lie the possibility of sanity   · · ·   [in which]   Science and technology would be used as though ... they had been made for man, not (as at present and still more so in the Brave New World) as though man were to be adapted and enslaved to them."

We can adapt to almost anything, but should we?

Re-evaluating
the
In Situ -- Ex Situ
Conservation Paradigm

"Ex Situ conservation has traditionally been relegated to a subsidiary position ...
However, the
possibility of being able
to conserve all species in
their natural surroundings

-- the underlying principle
    of  In Situ conservation
--
is increasingly
being questioned
in today's reality.

Firstly, there is the impact of climate change, ... Secondly, the concept of 'wilderness' is being challenged by the documentation of the widespread impact of human activity on habitats across the globe and through time. ...
The fixed concept of
'natural surroundings'
may therefore be
approaching meaningless

for a number of species."

We hear simplistic arguments about whether or not we should engage in Climate Geo-engineering.   But of course, we already are Geo-engineering our Climate -- via deforestation, fossil fuel burning, fracking's fugitive methane emissions, etc.   (The Precautionary Principle suggests that -- rather than indulging our addiction to technological hubris, we should learn to, "First, do no harm".)

A lower-volume debate portrays In-situ / Ex-situ biodiversity conservation as a dichotomy between "Natural habitats" vs. "Cultural theme parks". But, given the fact that humanity is in the midst of an irreversible experiment in planetary Geo-engineering, it should be clear that -- within the medium-term of decades -- every In-situ site will be "terraformed" into an Ex-situ condition.   If an In-situ site is to remain "Natural", it will probably require Artificialhabitat Niche-prosthetic engineering.   Either we choose to play God, or -- by default cultural drift -- the "Creative Destruction" of human security ecology will play Satan:

Climate change, alone, will transform Biodiversity hotspots. Moreover, a PNAS study predicts climate change will increase the risk of African civil war by over 50% in 2030. That's without adding Africa's projected 500 million more people in 2030 (a 1.2 billion increase globally). Biodiversity hotspots worldwide -- that already hosted 81% of Wars since 1950 -- will be further disrupted by human conflict ecology, as the Military Advisory Board warned Congress:

In Oct. 2009, Dr. Thomas Fingar, former Chair of the U.S. National Intelligence Council, hinted at the immense human security ecology implications of upcoming Climate-driven Migrations:

"The National Intelligence Assessment on the geopolitical implications of global climate change ... remains classified ... I had two reasons for opposing declassification of this report. The first was the desire not to complicate diplomatic efforts to develop coping strategies by publishing the names of the countries, governments, and societies that we judged to be least capable of coping with the effects of climate change. ... The second reason was that I did not want to fire the starting pistol for the flight out of countries where we predicted impacts beyond the coping ability of their governments. To be blunt, I did not want to trigger an exodus before countries had a chance to devise strategies and mechanisms to keep people in or out of particular regions."

Within the medium-term of decades, many "Institutional structures ... could disintegrate". And every In-situ site will be "terraformed" into an Ex-situ condition.   If an In-situ site is to remain "Natural", it may also require ArtificialSecurity-ecology engineering of the "Human Terrain".   General Anthony Zinni -- former Commander of U.S. CENTCOM, and former Ethics Chair at the Virginia Military Institute -- warned that delaying greenhouse gas reductions would only raise the price of our tradeoffs:  

Geo-engineering is underway:   Decisions will be made, and decisions will be avoided. Humanity will bring to this task unlimited renewable resources -- Arrogance, Deception, Denial, Distraction, Evasion, Greed, Hubris, Hypocrisy, Selfishness, and Short-sightedness.

Who will influence this Geo-engineering decisionmaking? What character virtues (and vices) will constitute their core?   What Values will guide them, and ground them in Reality-based Knowledge?

Most urban dwellers no longer know the value of grounding themselves in the remaining patchwork of (relatively) natural ancestral niches, on which the (relative) Sanity of our culture depends -- but from which it is now being uprooted.

Since urban Modern Man will not go to the mountain, I propose we bring the mountain to Modern Man:   I propose we cultivate Sanity by pairing people with guide plants -- in the form of Endangered Penjing Potted Landscapes. We must connect cognitively-fragmented and uprooted urban habitat micro-niches, with the Ground Truths and Sanity Value context of our endangered macro-environment.


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