Saturday, 7 April 2018

Wrangel Island, No & Seabed, Yes: ?


Seabed mining is an emerging industrial activity (Kyoda 2017, Economist [1]). It is at the margin of commercial exploitation (Tasof 2017, Hoyt et al. 2017, World Bank [2]). A nascent regulatory framework is prepared by the International Seabed Authority applying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 

 Against this background, this essay describes some generic features of seabed mining. It will address neither specific technological choices the environmental conditions at a given mining site. Mining at the seabed has challenging societal, technical and environmental features. Therefore, the question, what advice offer best practices for terrestrial mining sites, drives the thread of my thoughts [3].


In qualifying terms, seabed mining entails operating remotely controlled technology in a sensitive environment that is difficult to monitor and inaccessible (Van Dover 2011, Sharma 2015, Lallier and Maes 2016, Campbell et al. 2016, Brown 2017, Aleynek et al. 2017, Durden et al. 2018). When analysing the societal activity 'seabed mining' regarding system features then it comes likely that it will show systemic ‘wicked behaviours’ of its natural, technological and governance sub-systems (Kowarsch et al. 2016, Alford and Head 2017). To establish sound technical, operational and regulatory specifications for seabed mining, that is to set up its system governance, is challenging, even without systemic ‘wicked behaviours'. To illustrate the challenge, best practices for operating a terrestrial mining site may offer guidance such as ‘a practice that is not acceptable for a terrestrial mining site is neither acceptable for a marine mining site’.

To imagine a lively scenario, one may consider an open-pit mine in the high Arctic, for example at the Wrangle Island, as follows: - to operate at the surface in harsh environment that is difficult to monitor; - to operate a remote place that temporarily gets inaccessible; - to use new technology with high capability of autonomous operations; - to undertake human intervention only through remote control; and - to apply a recently developed regulatory framework. 

I wonder, whether under such circumstances mining the Wrangel Island would happen, at all. Consequently, what about mining at the seabed, now? 

However, when going to mine the Wrangle Island responsibly, then best mining practices would consider the lifetime of the mine, from exploration through the operation to closure as well as treats the societal contexts of mining (Nurmi 2017). Furthermore, such best practices, often called 'responsible mining', also advocate a participatory approach to regulation, governance and operational decision making. Such practices often are labelled as 'social licence to operate' (Boutlier 2014, Moffat and Zang 2014, Buhmann 2016, Falk 2016, Filer and Gabriel 2017). 

Thus, best terrestrial mining practices take governance issues and governability into primary focus. 

As learned elsewhere (Hämäläinen 2015, Head and Xiang 2016, Termeer et al. 2016), participatory approaches are an essential means to maintain governability capabilities in spite of systemic wicked behaviours. Such capabilities include adaptive, deliberative and participatory practices, reflexivity and variety of frames, resilience to uncertainties, responsiveness and capability to observe, revitalisation to unblock unproductive patterns, rescaling as well as cross-scale interactions. The governance system in place for regulating and surveillance of mining sites at the seabed, that is, the International Seabed Authority and national regulators for the Exclusive Economic Zone, likely will be unable to handle systemic wicked behaviour. Their design did not have this purpose in mind. Consequently, practices of 'social licence to operate' could help governing seabed mining appropriately. However, such methods are not straight forward as Filer and Gabriel (2017) discuss given the SOLWARA mining site off Papua New Guinea that is licensed to Nautilus Minerals Ltd.

In the absence of better approaches, robust participatory system governance of seabed mining would address differences in value systems, insights into different interests, and sharing of available knowledge among stakeholders as well it could offer the capacity building for third parties, an involvement of civil society and operational security for commercial and regulatory parties. Finally, a process of a 'social licence to operate' involving a wide range of stakeholders would allow to pick up the first paradigm that resources at the sea bottom are part of the common heritage of humankind (van Doorn 2016, Jaeckle et al. 2017). Hence, installing an ethics-based approach of ‘responsible seabed mining' could be part of comprehensive system governance for ‘blue growth' and ‘sustainable development'.


[1] Economist 2018, Race to the Bottom; [2] World Bank 2016, Precautionary Management of Deep Sea Mining Potential in Pacific Island Countries; [3] Martin Bohle 2018, Responsible mining at the Wrangel Island and the Seabed

Literature: 

Hoyt, S. P., H, P. L., Thebaud, O., & Van Dover, C. L. (2017). Addressing the Financial Consequences of Unknown Environmental Impacts in Deep-Sea Mining. Annales Des Mines - Responsabilité et Environnement, 1(85), 43–48. Retrieved from https://www.cairn.info/revue-responsabilite-et-environnement-2017-1-page-43.htm

Jaeckel, A., Gjerde, K. M., & Ardron, J. A. (2017). Conserving the common heritage of humankind - Options for the deep-seabed mining regime. Marine Policy, 78(January), 150–157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2017.01.019

Kyoda. (2017). Japan successfully undertakes large-scale deep-sea mineral extraction. Retrieved from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/09/26/national/japan-successfully-undertakes-large-scale-deep-sea-mineral-extraction/#.WgvnOUribWU

Tasoff, H. (2017). The Wild West of deep-Sea Mining. Kakai Magazine. Retrieved from www.hakaimagazine.com

van Doorn, E. (2016). Environmental aspects of the Mining code: Preserving humankind’s common heritage while opening Pardo’s box? Marine Policy, 70, 192–197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2016.02.022

Van Dover, C. L. (2011). Tighten regulations on deep-sea mining. Nature, 470(7332), 31–33. https://doi.org/10.1038/470031a


Other literature sources used to write the blog:
Aleynik, D., Inall, M. E., Dale, A., & Vink, A. (2017). Impact of remotely generated eddies on plume dispersion at abyssal mining sites in the Pacific. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 16959. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-16912-2
Alford, J., & Head, B. W. (2017). Wicked and less wicked problems: a typology and a contingency framework. Policy and Society, 36(3), 397–413. https://doi.org/10.1080/14494035.2017.1361634
Boutilier, R. G. (2014). Frequently asked questions about the social licence to operate. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 32(4), 263–272. https://doi.org/10.1080/14615517.2014.941141
Brown, C. L. (2017). Deep sea mining and robotics: Assessing legal, societal and ethical implications. In 2017 IEEE Workshop on Advanced Robotics and its Social Impacts (ARSO) (pp. 1–2). IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/ARSO.2017.8025201
Buhmann, K. (2016). Public Regulators and CSR: The “Social Licence to Operate” in Recent United Nations Instruments on Business and Human Rights and the Juridification of CSR. Journal of Business Ethics, 136(4), 699–714. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2869-9
Campbell, L. M., Gray, N. J., Fairbanks, L., Silver, J. J., Gruby, R. L., Dubik, B. A., & Basurto, X. (2016). Global Oceans Governance: New and Emerging Issues. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 41(1), 517–543. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-102014-021121
Durden, J. M., Jones, D. O. B., Murphy, K., Jaeckel, A., Van Dover, C. L., Christiansen, S., … Durden, J. M. (2017). A procedural framework for robust environmental management of deep-sea mining projects using a conceptual model. Marine Policy, 84(August), 193–201. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2017.07.002
Falck, W. E. (2016). Social licencing in mining—between ethical dilemmas and economic risk management. Mineral Economics, 29(2–3), 97–104. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13563-016-0089-0
Filer, C., & Gabriel, J. (2017). How could Nautilus Minerals get a social licence to operate the world’s first deep sea mine? Marine Policy, (October), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2016.12.001
Hämäläinen, T. J. (2015). Governance Solutions for Wicked Problems: Metropolitan Innovation Ecosystems as Frontrunners to Sustainable Well-Being. Technology Innovation Management Review, 5(10), 31–41. Retrieved from https://timreview.ca/sites/default/files/article_PDF/Hämäläinen_TIMReview_October2015.pdf
Head, B. W., & Xiang, W.-N. (2016). Why is an APT approach to wicked problems important? Landscape and Urban Planning, 154, 4–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2016.03.018
Kowarsch, M., Garard, J., Riousset, P., Lenzi, D., Dorsch, M. J., Knopf, B., … Edenhofer, O. (2016). Scientific assessments to facilitate deliberative policy learning. Palgrave Communications, 2, 16092. https://doi.org/10.1057/palcomms.2016.92
Lallier, L. E., & Maes, F. (2016). Environmental impact assessment procedure for deep seabed mining in the area: Independent expert review and public participation. Marine Policy, 70, 212–219. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2016.03.007
Moffat, K., & Zhang, A. (2014). The paths to social licence to operate: An integrative model explaining community acceptance of mining. Resources Policy, 39(1), 61–70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resourpol.2013.11.003
Nurmi, P. A. (2017). Green Mining - A Holistic Concept for Sustainable and Acceptable Mineral Production. Annals of Geophysics, 60(7). https://doi.org/10.4401/ag-7420
Sharma, R. (2015). Environmental Issues of Deep-Sea Mining. Procedia Earth and Planetary Science, 11, 204–211. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proeps.2015.06.026
Termeer, C. J. A. M., Dewulf, A., Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S. I., Vink, M., & van Vliet, M. (2016). Coping with the wicked problem of climate adaptation across scales: The Five R Governance Capabilities. Landscape and Urban Planning, 154, 11–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2016.01.007



Sunday, 25 February 2018

The smile of... 'The Imaginator'

New complexities, irritating disruptions of trusted practices, and accelerating change seem to characterise our times. Uncertainty about the future is acknowledged by many. The rate of change is unmeasured; hence it is felt. Curiously, artists, intellectuals and laypersons, each seem self-de-rooted.

Hence, what is 'The New' that is up to us, in a world of somehow self-driving cars, subsistence fishermen and first climate refugees? Our views focus' on the next corner, the next turn of a road. Where are the signposts? Who has a sketch of the roads ahead? Does vision lack? What marks the debates? The technology-fascinated disagree. Yet, their vision is just 'scale-up', massively to reach a singularity. Does this change in quantity leads to new quality? Hence, is Mr Hegel calling?

Questions to the participants at #SGSCULTURE #593:
What will our planet look like in 2050 or 2100?
Who or what will control our lives?
What will it mean to be human?
[*]

Let's drop the big stone, the rock, the landslide into the deep water, and observe the waves. What to envision for the years 2050 to 2100, times when my children and grandchildren will be getting old, respectively?

Ten statements are offered here. Each implies a considerable alteration of the present state of people's dealings; some deem clear-cut some are underlying. How would artists, designers and culture-activists anchor them in emerging trends? What seeds they could plant to give them lives.

  1. People overcame the multiple societal-environmental emergencies of the 2030-ties; then life-expectancy had stalled globally. During this crisis, luckily the use of arms of mass destruction got hindered; although some 'conventional warfare' occurred.
  2. By 2050, collaborative Earth System Governance has emerged and the life-expectancy (number of healthy years) of people started to increase again.
  3. In most regions, the species extinction rates got capped. The deterioration of the vital global ecosystems has halted.
  4. In 2100, the global human population has stabilised at little less than 11 Billion people; slow decline seems possible now. Open societies have led to about equal levels of development in all urbanised regions.
  5. Networks and circular supply-chains enforce participatory handling of societal-environmental problems including large-scale migration of people.
  6. Joint efforts are ongoing to relocate people from the ocean shorelines (and some other now uninhabitable zones); 'managed human retreat' because of sea-level rise and 'rebuilding of (coastal) urban areas' is a global policy.
  7. The rate of change of societal-environmental systems has been capped, and the diversity of the 'human niche' is made a 'species goal'.
  8. Most production systems use processes that are derived from synthetic biology with embedded quantum-technologies.
  9. Since 2050, emotions emerged spontaneously in complex information systems, and since then they consolidated into stable societal features. Since then, such 'feeling systems' and the various (collective and individual) 'people-tool systems' got a dedicated legal status in most countries.
  10. Our outpost on Moon and Mars may be reopened soon after the burial of the bodies of the early colonists on Earth.


Such a new may stretch our imagination to the breaking point. Hence, Irritation! That's the purpose. The eyes stay shut, facing 'The New', listening to the orange clockwork.

For many of our fellow citizens, 'The Future', with capital "F", is the march towards "About-the-Same". It may be a bit more of the same. For most people, The Future is nothing that is 'made'. It is something to be endured. And, disasters or war deem ready to disrupt its regular gait. It is this aeon-old view, "Nihil sub sole novum" (nothing new under the sun) that for many provides a sense of security. Astonishingly, 'The Future' is a reference frame. It embeds our myopic starring at the next turn of events. Yet, what to do when this reference frame seems to change, to wobble and, hence gets uncertain. Then, menacingly, 'The Unknown' frames the stages of our plays. Irritatingly, 'The Counter-Intuitive' seems to consolidate out of our plays. Threateningly, they block the way back. The horsemen of the modern apocalypse, 'The New', 'The Unknown', and 'The Counter-Intuitive' threat with insecurity, loss of competences, altered divisions of societies, and lost sense!

Some people relish the 'The New', 'The Unknown', and 'The Counter-Intuitive'. Artists, Explorers, Scientists feel a deep sensual pleasure when confronting them, as a person and as citizens. The artist's psyche, the explorer's spirits, the innovator's minds, the researcher's souls are resources vibrating with imagination and passion. Hence, nutured by them the citizenries may confront Quantum-Technology, Earth System Sciences, Artificial Intelligences, and Synthetic Biology. Then the citizenries will draft the new 'guides to these galaxies'. They will tell, whether '42' is still the right answer, why your towel might be sufficient, and who moved the restaurant(s) at the end of the universe(s)? [**]

Only as citizens, the artists, cultural practitioners, inventors and scientists can push the boundaries of the human imagination. As citizens, jointly they may move beyond the familiar and transcend the borders towards the future. But, are they ready to assume this task? Do they invest collaboratively in path-changing discoveries, different fates of our planet, and charting pathways to liveable futures? Only then, 'The New', 'The Unknown', and 'The Counter-Intuitive' will face the broad, vigorous smile of 'The Imaginator' - Surrender!

[*] This post is the second 'modulation' of the scene setter for the Salzburg Global Seminar #593 "The shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future" (Salzburg, 20-25 February 2018). This text was drafted after the seminar during my travel home. The first 'modulation' of the scene setter had been published as the post “The New, The Unknown, and The Counter-Intuitive” before the seminar. Hence, borrowing a notion from music, these posts may be seen as a prose-variations of the theme of the seminar.

[**] See plots in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams.


Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The New, The Unknown and The Counter-Intuitive

#SGSCULTURE @SalzburgGlobal 
 [*]
What will our planet look like in 2050 or 2100? 
Who or what will control our lives? 
What will it mean to be human?
In times characterised by complexity, disruption and unprecedented speed of change, uncertainty about the future is staring us in the face; with a bold smile displaying its teeth. It is 'The New' looking at us!. 

'The New', our big, common, they-did-it Future stretches our imagination; possibly, to the breaking point.  Irritation! They! We!


In past times, and for many people still today, Future, with capital "F", was the march towards "About-the-Same". Natural disasters and war may disrupt its gentle pace. The Future did not seem to be something 'new & made'; expectations and plans belong to the private sphere, the 'little future'. Instead, 'the Future' is something to be endured when things turn out badly. Otherwise 'the Future' was perceived as a known reference frame for embedding the 'little futures'. Yet, what to do when this frame changes, wobbles and gets uncertain? Disaster looms! 

Through aeons, a 'little new' percolated slowly into the societies, once a while. It came in tiny drips of innovation, in small numbers of new things, and was made by some strange people, only.   Daily practice and experiences gently chewed the 'little new', and persecuting the innovator did the rest, when needed. Hence, neither the size of the 'little new' nor its approach velocity could challenge the status quo. During the 20th Century, this century-lasting pattern got modulated. The collective experiences of people wobbled. The aeon-old common experience of the "Nihil sub sole novum" (nothing new under the sun) faded. The 'culture of growth' [1], which had matured in Europe since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, had broken into the daily drain-drain of people. Initially, it offered just "more of About-the-Same" [2]. Now, after the turn of the 20th Century, even this quite modern pattern of experiences is going out of the picture [3].  'The Unknown' comes on the stage. Even worth, it consolidates on stage irritatingly emerging from within our ongoing plays. The size of change to come and its velocity of approach challenge the conventional actors, profoundly. 

Only some people relish 'The Unknown'. The art-of-the-new-Possible, with capital "P" gives 'The Unknown' a deep sensual pleasure.  For many, however, 'The Unknown' means insecurity, loss of competences, altered divisions of societies, lost sense! Uncertainty makes it so much harder to embrace the own future with a little self-confidence.
meaning and excitement to their lives.  When facing it then the explorer's spirits, the innovator's minds, or the researcher's souls vibrate with passion. Giving sense to their lives.

The shock of change can paralyse rather than energise. Making sense of 'The Unknown' lying ahead, looming around will become ever more demanding. Science reaches further out, deep into 'The Counter-Intuitive'; as Quantum-Technology, Earth System Sciences, Artificial Intelligence, Synthetic Biology and Big Data will transform daily life. Where are the 'guides to these galaxies?' Is '42' still the right answer? Will my  towel be sufficient? Who moved the restaurant(s) at the end of the universe(s)? [**]

Artists, cultural practitioners, inventors and scientists push the boundaries of the human imagination. Together they facilitate the making of 'The New'. Jointly they move beyond the familiar and transcend the borders towards the future. To be curious about what is new and emergent that is part of their lives. Driven by their imagination, they invest collaboratively into path-changing discoveries, different fates of our planet, and charting pathways to liveable futures! 'The New', 'The Unknown', and 'The Counter-Intuitive', they all face this broad, vigorous smile of 'The Imaginator': Surrender!



[*] This post is 'modulating' the scene setter for the Salzburg Global Seminar #593 (20-25 February 2018). Borrowing a notion from music: this post may be seen as a variation of the theme of the seminar #593, "The shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future." Due to this drafting process the text contains unmarked sections that are copied from the description of the seminar. The reader is invited to compare the variations and the original tune. 


[**] The questions refer to different plots in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams.

[1] Mokyr, J. (2016). A Culture of Growth - The Origins of the Modern Economy. Princton: Princton University Press.

[2] Sachs, W. (1990). On the Archaeology of the Development Idea. Interculture 23(4):1-37.

[3] Ellis, E.C: (2013). Used Planet: A global history. PNAS 110(20):7978-7985.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

A hybrid Earth - Art, Culture & Engineers

How to handle the shock of the new? 
How do arts, technology and making sense of the future link?
Four line of thoughts #SGSCULTURE, @SalzburgGlobal.
[*]


The author at Senaatintori
 Helsinki (Finland)
Nowadays, people are altering the Earth at an accelerating pace. A new, disrupted world is in the making; research & supply-chains ahead, politics lagging behind.
Since aeons, people have built on Earth their 'sociocultural-ecological niche' through purposefully engineering their environments to sustain their existence and reproduction. Starting from the fringes, in deep time, now human activity substantially shapes the dynamics of Earth. People's activities mark the globe at least since the industrial revolution. Taking this perspective I like to argue that, since the onset of agriculture in the Neolithic age, 'design and engineering' has been an all-purpose cultural activity of people to shape their 'sociocultural-ecological niches' to maintain their well-being, mutual care, and reproduction.




Tell the people, they are marvellous niche-builders!


What people like to happen, what they fear and what they cherish, that is at the core of their cultures. It gets pictured in their visual arts and other means to express feeling, perceiving and sense-making. Hence, culture and arts describes the sociocultural-ecological niches of our species, in history, today and as vision of the future.

The history of altering Earth exhibit complex social and cultural processes. For example, Denevan [1992, 2011] illustrates what happened in the Americas, Purdy [2015] describes the USA, Fressoz [2012] studies France, and Chew and Sarabia [2016] or Kowarsch [2016] describe an extended historical period or the philosophical context, respectively.



Sculpture "Emiigrants on Fish" - Carl Milles,
Milles Garden - Stockholm (Sweden)

People are marvellously ingenious, also when altering the Earth. To that end they deploy three dominant traits of our species. First, all people - even the artists - seem to be engineers or designer who are determined to carve out a sociocultural-ecological niche from Earth. Second, people 'consist of abstract information, including the distinctive ideas, theories, intentions, feelings and other states of mind that characterize' them and shapes their thoughtful insights [Deutsch, 2011, p.130]. Third, whatever people engineer (or design) that they do conceive through mutual sharing of insights into sense-making. Hence, humankind's multiple cultures inevitably lead to various 'particularly engineered systems for producing, distributing and consuming goods and services'. In making these systems, people face choices and constraints; that may take physical or mental form. 


The individual and collective responses to the global and self-inflicted altering of Earth are various. They may be visionary, confident, or concerned. However, they also include 'cognitive dissonance', or manifest as doomsday scenarios and denial of change. Addressing people's concerns appropriately through action, including politics, require shaping public and individual discourses. Discourse is a prerequisite for handling 'weird(ing) power relations enlivened by times of radical uncertainty' [Sweeney, 2014, p. 10], hence, doing politics. The discourse should be non-technical, non-expert. Rather, they must relate to people's preferences and world-views. Hence, they have to have a cultural meaning and have to relate to collective sense-making.

At very first view, people express their preferences and world-views through their lifestyles. However, the genuine societal expression of preferences and world-views is the particular engineering / design (and 'modus operandi') of the production systems and consumption patterns that support people in maintaining their lifestyles. The 'engineering/design and operation of production systems and consumption patterns' in turn shape the intersection of societies with the biotic and abiotic environments of Earth. Whatever shape these intersections may take given the scientific-technical means and economic resources, essential for the respective design-decision will be people's world-views, their preference regarding their lifestyles, and their values.
 
People's preferences and values are shaped by and expressed through art, for example, narratives, that is here, tales about the purpose of actions and views about 'what is right'. Nowadays, as global change is intentional and massive, the arts shall capture the underpinning social and cultural features, such as preferences of people, their world-views, and reflect general purpose. Furthermore, the arts should extend the discussions between specialists beyond the respective realms of professional competence and influence the sense-making of how to design production systems and consumption patterns.


We, the Terra-Former.

What's the New?
Examples to illustrate the perspective of the central role of engineering/design in our cultures are many.

Civil engineering builds visible intersections of the Earth and (economic) activities of people, for example, dredging a waterway, building a bridge or constructing a hydroelectric power plant and other more subtle changes of Earth's geomorphology.

A less visible although powerful intersection of the Earth and (economic) activities of people are the various production systems and consumption patterns, which couple through fluxes of matter and energy.

Urban dwellings may serve as a further example; they constitute a visible intersection with the biogeosphere, and massive fluxes of energy and matter couple them to the Earth. For example, cities are receiving drinking water and ejecting wastewater, receiving electric power or fuels and ejecting heat, receiving food and ejecting manufactured goods that at the end of their life-cycle are discarded or recycled elsewhere on the globe.

An effective terra-engineering, that is 'design at a planetary scale', is taking place on Earth to sustain a human population of 9 to 11 Billion people by the end of the century. That's the New!



Bingo, Geo-Bio-Noosphere!

Obviously, culture and arts are parts of the Earth.
But, how does culture, arts relate to Earth?
To keep it simple, the Earth is composed of three spheres, a 'geosphere' of abiotic features, a 'biosphere' of biotic features, and a 'noosphere' of cognitive features. The meaning of notions 'geosphere' and 'biosphere' seem evident. To match to these two notions, what is meant by 'noosphere' needs re-focussing compared to its habitual (metaphysical) meaning.
 
The notions 'biosphere' and 'geosphere' are built in a similar manner. On one side they refer to physical features of the Earth, respectively biotic and abiotic objects that alter in time and space. On the other side, they refer to processes that govern the interaction of these physical features (objects) in space and time. To relate culture and arts to 'biosphere' and 'geosphere', the notion 'noosphere' should be re-coined referring also to particular 'physical features' (objects) and 'processes'.

The 'physical features' of the 'noosphere' are the artefacts that people make, not limited to but including 'engineered/designed systems for production and consumption'. The 'processes' in the 'noosphere' are the thoughtful insights of people about how to design, use and deploy these artefacts. Obviously, culture and arts are part of these thoughtful insights. Hence, the re-coined notion noosphere refers to physical features (artefacts, engineered systems) and processes (the intentional use of these artefacts).

The notions 'biosphere', 'geosphere' and 'noosphere' describe Earth as being composed of physical features and processes that govern interactions. Culture and arts are part of these processes. Consequently, a description of the Earth deems possible in which culture and arts are integral parts; 'a kind of hybrid Earth, of nature injected with human will, however responsible or irresponsible that will may have exercised' [Hamilton and Grinevald, 2015, p.68].


The Culture of “Ingenieurskunst" **

How does culture and arts relate to the engineering/design
of production systems and consumption patterns?
The engineering/design of production systems and consumption patterns happens in a double framework. The first framework is set by the scientific-technological means, which are deployed within the available economic resources. The second framework is set by the "narratives" about what an engineered/designed system/pattern shall deliver.

The construction and operation of any 'engineered / designed system / pattern' links people's activities to the Earth, either in a direct physical manner or through fluxes of energy and matter, or through both. The 'engineering / design
narrative' describes people's sense-making of their sociocultural-ecological niche. Hence, the engineered / designed system, as well as the particular operation procedures for its use, depend on natural and technical constraints, on economic means, and on societal choices.

For example, the design of the high-water spillway of a hydroelectric power plant applies safety rules and the laws of hydrodynamics. The retention of water in the lake behind the dam is managed in function of the hydrological regimes, the intended use of water downstream of the dam, and the needs of the society for electrical power. The design and operation of an engineered / designed system in is about the appropriation of resources, that is value-driven societal choices to allocate opportunities.

Summarizing, the engineering / design of the intersections of people's activities and the Earth is much more than science, technology and economy. The intersections are as much a reflection of our value systems, cultural choices, lifestyles, virtues and good courses of action. It is in addressing these matters of sense-making that cultures and arts play their role as essential cognitive features of our species.



* The essay is a contribution to the Salzburg Global Seminar (593) The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future; 20-25 February 2018; #SGSCULTURE.  The essay is derived from reflections in my paper Ideal-Type Narratives for Engineering a Human NicheGeosciences 2017,7(1), 18; doi:10.3390/geosciences7010018. Copyright / pictures: The author.

** The notion of 'engineering' is referred to in French and German as 'genie civil' and 'Ingenieurskunst', respectively. Rather than the English 'engineering', the corresponding French or German notions historically connote a more substantial concept,  'the ingenious civil' or 'the arts of engineering', respectively. Hence, both notions refer to the design and operation of purposely built and often larger-scale environments of artefacts.


Publications that were used to write this post:.


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Anshelm, J.; Hansson, A. Battling Promethean dreams and Trojan horses: Revealing the critical discourses of geoengineering. Energy Research & Social Science 2014, 2, 135–144, doi:10.1016/j.erss.2014.04.001.
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