[permaculture] The Heretic - Was Thoughts on PDCs

Ben Martin Horst ben.martinhorst at gmail.com
Sat Dec 12 22:33:04 EST 2009

On Sat, Dec 12, 2009 at 4:25 PM, Tripp Tibbetts <slowfoodguy at yahoo.com>wrote:

> Is it possible that after millions of years of expansion and growth, that
> energy descent and permanent (for our purposes) economic contraction are
> enough to trigger a speciation event?

Expansion and growth of the sort we're used to only really began with
agriculture (around 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, more recently
elsewhere), and there have been significant declines since then, notably
during the Black Death. There was very slow population growth during the
millennia preceding agriculture, but it's currently a matter of debate in
anthropological circles as to whether that growth had leveled off some time
before agriculture's adoption, or whether the pressures of continued growth
had some impact on the initial adoptions of agriculture.

In any case, whether the coming energy descent is enough to drive a
speciation event likely depends on how catastrophic (from a population
perspective) the decline is. If it's gradual enough that population has a
chance to decline fairly slowly, then I'd say speciation isn't likely. If,
however, a sudden collapse leads to major disruptions in global and local
food production, leading to a major die-off scenario, the situation might be
different. Extinction might be one possible outcome. Or, if remnant
populations are isolated enough from each other that there is little genetic
transfer, speciation is possible.

> Could that not be viewed as a new age?  I understand that that's heresy in
> the Mollison-esque circles of permaculture, but I just wonder if this isn't
> perhaps one of the most important single factors in human evolution to
> date.  If you subscribe to a punctuated equilibrium model of evolution, it
> seems reasonable enough to view current global energetics changes as a
> massive driving force for deep changes in Homo sapiens mental construct.

I suppose one might describe the development of new species of *Homo* as a
"new age," but I don't really see it relating to a teleological, spiritual,
or Aquarian "New Age" of the sort that has been *en vogue* in some circles
since the '60s. If *Homo sapiens* develops into new species, I find it
likely that any changes will be rooted in the same physical processes
evolution has always been rooted in, not the spiritual, psychic, or
metaphysical transformations I've frequently heard proclaimed by New Age
folks as imminent.

If one accepts even a fraction of the hominin species described by
paleontologists, it's fairly clear that the current lack of multiple species
within our genus and clade is somewhat unusual. As recently as a couple tens
of thousands of years ago, we shared the planet with at least two other
species of humans (*H. neandertalensis* in Europe and *H. floresiensis* on
Flores in Indonesia). Viewed in that light, it wouldn't surprise me in the
least if, a couple million years from now, there are multiple human species
in different regions; it's even conceivable that human species might overlap
in range, occupying different ecological niches (in the same manner that
chimps and gorillas overlap in equatorial Africa).

All of this, of course, is rampant speculation, but I'd wager that if humans
of any form exist a hundred thousand or a million years from now, they will
not have *transcended *the physical world, as the New Age movement and
countless other religions throughout the years have predicted. Rather, they
will have* descended* back into the world, becoming intimate with flora,
fauna, and fungi once again, just as our own uncivilized (as in
"un-citified") ancestors once were. Indeed, one might view permaculture as
the project of returning humans to intimacy with the physical world,
consciously embedding ourselves in our local ecologies. Of course, it is
only by being embedded in our ecosystems that we can evolve alongside our
fellow beings. The alternative -- the one civilized culture is now pursuing
at breakneck pace -- is extinction.


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