Consilience Think Tank | November 8, 2019

Our discussion will focus on systems thinking—a sustainability-science approach that seeks to understand emergent properties arising from the interactions between different components of the complex, multidimensional problems facing humanity, the gravest ones being climate disruption and the underlying ecological crisis. The disciplinary sciences and the academic institutions that house them (Hawaii being far from the exception) are still largely affected by reductionist, atomized thinking that fails to consider the structures, goals and values that underpin the complex problems at deeper levels. Such science practices result in short-term symptom-treatment (if any) and arbitrary disregard for the root causes that remain intact and continue to generate negative impacts with renewed severity. Beyond commonplace condemnations of the business-as-usual approaches, what do we have and what is needed to produce deep sustainability interventions that hold promise for transformational change?

Good reads

Matsutake is the most valuable mushroom in the world―and a weed that grows in human-disturbed forests across the northern hemisphere. A tale of diversity within our damaged landscapes, The Mushroom at the End of the World follows one of the strangest commodity chains of our times to explore the unexpected corners of capitalism. Here, we witness the varied and peculiar worlds of matsutake commerce: the worlds of Japanese gourmets, capitalist traders, Hmong jungle fighters, industrial forests, Yi Chinese goat herders, Finnish nature guides, and more. These companions also lead us into fungal ecologies and forest histories to better understand the promise of cohabitation in a time of massive human destruction.

By investigating one of the world's most sought-after fungi, the book presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.

The world's most popular products, from the iPhone to Google Search, were funded not by private companies, but the taxpayer.

In this sharp and controversial international bestseller, an award-winning economist debunks the pervasive myth that the government is sluggish and inept, and at odds with a dynamic private sector. She reveals in detailed case studies that the opposite is true: the state is, and has been, our boldest and most valuable innovator. Denying this history is leading us down the wrong path. A select few get credit for what is an intensely collective effort, and the US government has started disinvesting from innovation. Mazzucato teaches us how to reverse this trend before it is too late.

Pulse of the planet

Brazil's Amazon rainforest has experienced a record number of wildfires this year. Statistics maintained by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) based on satellite data show that 80,626 fires were detected across all of Brazil between January 1 and August 26, 2019, a 78 percent increase on 2018. The Amazon accounts for about half of the territory where the fires are burning. Smoke from the fires blotted out the sun in Sao Paulo on August 19th, plunging the city into darkness.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been heavily criticized for his environmental policies, dismissed the data, stating that it is the queimada season, a time in which farmers clear their land with fire. Scientists have stated that deforestation has accelerated since Bolsonaro took office in January.

Recommended links

Italy to become first country to require climate change education