Age of Awareness
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Age of Awareness

Considering Appropriate spatial-temporal Scale — bigger and faster isn’t always better!

An excerpt from ‘Exploring Participation’ (D.C.Wahl, 2002)

“Nature’s processes are inherently scale linking, for they inherently depend on the flow of energy and materials across scales. … Global cycles link organisms together in a highly effective recycling system crossing about seventeen tenfold jumps in scale, from the ten-billionth of a meter (the scale of photosynthesis) to ten thousand kilometres (the scale of the Earth itself).”139

“Scale-linking systems imply a holism in which everything influences, or potentially influences everything else — because everything is in some sense constantly interacting with everything else. Nature is infused with the dynamical interpenetration of the vast and minute, an endless dervish mixing. Matter and energy continually flow across scales, the small informing the large and the large informing the small …

Unless we work with nature’s own finely tuned scale-linking systems we endanger the stability of life on the planet… If we are to properly include ecological concerns within design, we must take seriously the challenge offered by scale linking. We need to discover ways to integrate our design processes across multiple levels of scale and make these processes compatible with natural cycles of water, energy, and material.”140

— Van der Ryn & Cowan

Sim Van der Ryn’s Ecological Learning Curve (Source)

“Ecosystem ecologists… have made it plain for a long while that some of the most telling properties of ecological systems emerge from the interactions between the slow-moving and the fast moving processes and processes that have large spatial reach and processes that are relatively localized. Those interactions are nonlinear …and maintain the resilience of ecological systems.”145

— Gunderson & Holling

“Increasing velocity and scale tends to increase the complexity of social and ecological arrangements and reduce the time available to recognize and avoid problems. Cures for problems caused by increasing velocity often set in motion a cascading series of other problems. As a result, we stumble through a succession of escalating crises with diminishing capacity to act intelligently. … At a local scale the effect is widening circles of disintegration and social disorder. At the global scale, the rate of change caused by increasing velocity disrupts biological evolution and the biogeochemical cycles of the earth.”147

— David W. Orr

“What is the meaning of democracy, freedom, human dignity, standard of living, self-realization, fulfilment? Is it a matter of goods or people? Of course it is a matter of people. But people can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups. Therefore we must learn to think in terms of an articulated structure that can cope with a multiplicity of small scale units.”148

— E.F. Schumacher

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Daniel Christian Wahl

Catalysing transformative innovation, cultural co-creation, whole systems design, and bioregional regeneration. Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures