Toward an ethics of niche construction

THIS POST IS PART OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE ANTHROPOCENE PROJECT—SEE THIS DESCRIPTION OF OUR SUBMISSION.   Human beings are niche constructors par excellence—posts by Kiza and Ingo have presented this fact of nature. But what are the moral implications of that fact, if any?

“Niche Construction”

CITATION: F. John Odling-Smee, Kevin N. Laland, Marcus W. Feldman. 1996. The American Naturalist, Vol. 147, No. 4, pp. 641-648. ON-LINE AVAILABILITY: JSTOR Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2463239 Laland Lab Niche Construction site publications page: http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/niche/files/2015/08/Publication20.pdf ABSTRACT: Organisms, through their metabolism, their activities, and their choices, define, partly create, and partly destroy

Niche Destruction: The (civic) republican niche (Part 2)

[Part 1 of this post appears here.] A desolate, uncultivated countryside; a burning village; ruined houses; marauding soldiers—these are the first things visitors to the council chambers in 14th century Siena would have seen of

Cities as Human Niches: Against the ‘Natural City’

We welcome to the blog Nir Barak, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for the next in our series on Environmental Political Theory. The city is in some sense our niche; we belong there, and no one can achieve full humanity without it. (Holmes Rolston III[1]) In this post, I want to turn our gaze […]

“The cognitive niche: Coevolution of intelligence, sociality, and language”

CITATION: Steven Pinker. 2010. PNAS, vol. 107, suppl. 2, pp. 8993–8999. ON-LINE AVAILABILITY: doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914630107. ABSTRACT: Although Darwin insisted that human intelligence could be fully explained by the theory of evolution, the codiscoverer of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, claimed that abstract intelligence was of no use to ancestral humans and could only be explained […]

Our Pandemic and Siena’s Plague: Looking Outside Lorenzetti’s Fresco

The COVID-19 spring, and now summer, of 2020 has kept me thinking about something with which I have been preoccupied for about a year now: the fresco series by Ambrogio Lorenzetti known as the Allegory of Good and Bad Government, painted in 1338-39 in the council chamber in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena. Last fall […]

Plastics and Animal Communication in the Anthropocene

Ubiquitous plastic in the environment is a hallmark of the Anthropocene (Waters et al. 2016). Wildlife routinely ingest, becoming entangled in, and are impaired by plastic pollution, creating a pressing global problem (e.g., Vegter et al. 2014). While undoubtedly an environmental crisis, these acute impacts are not my focus. I am interested in a more […]

“The Politics”

CITATION: Aristotle. 1981. Tr. T.A. Sinclair, rev. T.J. Saunders. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ON-LINE AVAILABILITY: Internet Classics Archive version (tr. Jowett) at http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.html ABSTRACT: In The Politics Aristotle addresses the questions that lie at the heart of political science. How should society be ordered to ensure the happiness of the individual? Which forms of government are best and […]

“Designing Autonomy: Opportunities for New Wildness in the Anthropocene”

CITATION: Cantrell, B., Martin, L.J., and Ellis, E.C. 2017. Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 156–66. ON-LINE AVAILABILITY: DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2016.12.004 ABSTRACT: Maintaining wild places increasingly involves intensive human interventions. Several recent projects use semi-automated mediating technologies to

Surviving the Anthropocene Part 2: Of Omega Points and Oil

My previous post lamented the flawed presentation of climate change at the David Koch-funded Hall of Human Origins and suggested that a spiritual-scientific ideology, traceable in part to Teilhard de Chardin, infuses the Smithsonian’s Human Origins initiative and related events. In this follow-up, I take a closer look at this ideology and its connection to […]